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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Mihir's Top Reads of 2021

 


Usually I’m very excited for my listing my top reads but again this year, my reading numbers weren’t up to the mark of what I wish they would be. Therefore, this year instead of numbering my top reads, I am just listing them.

So here we go with the top reads of 2021 (in random order):



The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker – This was hands down one of my most anticipated sequels since the first book was released over 8 years ago. Plus Helene Wecker didn’t disappoint (like say Patrick Rothfuss), The Hidden Palace is a sequel that adds more to the story, the characters and the overall world. I am a Wecker fan for life.



Pawn’s Gambit by Rob J. Hayes – This was an incredible read that combined a redemption story, a contest of the Gods & a Machiavellian chess game all into one terrific story. This standalone sequel set in the same world as Never Die focused on a minor character from it and was everything I hoped it would be.



The Maleficent Seven by Cameron Johnston – This book is an understated gem, focusing on a group of conquerors who have returned from their horrific pasts to potentially save the world from an even more heinous evil. Cam Johnston had a lot of fun with his mix of dark humour, action and a climax that would outdo Quentin Tarantino. A standalone that is well worth your time.



Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews – What can I say about my favourite husband-wife writing duo, they managed to write a sequel to their amazing debut series and made it stand on its own. Blood Heir focusses on Aurelia Ryder & gives us an Atlanta that is post Kate Daniels but no less troublesome. Add in an apolcalpse loving deity and a murder mystery, this new series starter was just perfect for me to jump back into a world that I’ve loved.



The Shadows Of Dust by Alec Hutson – This was a fascinating science fantasy western that I’m surprised more readers aren’t talking about. Featuring a giant space-faring turtle and a duo of space travelers, this western/thriller was possibly one of the most original books I have ever read in my life. With a climax that you have to read to believe, Alec Hutson proves himself an epic fantasy writer to watch out for!



The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst – After last year’s Race The Sands, I was very curious to see what SBD would write next. She followed that book with The Bone Maker a standalone book that explores the concept of heroes who are asked to help again after they defeated the big evil. With some big ideas and the duality of “evil”, Sarah Beth Durst again highlights what a wonderful writer she is.



Dark Sea’s End by Richard Nell – It’s always hard for readers to start a new trilogy after finishing a classic one. I believe it’s doubly hard for the writer who has written an acclaimed one like the Ash And Sand trilogy. Richard Nell admirably twists expectations with this fast-paced adventure fantasy, proving once again that he is a writer that can always be expected to do what readers do not quite expect.


              
 
Raven’s Ruin by J. A. Andrews – I have been reading JA Andrews’ Keepers Origin trilogy beginning with Dragon’s Reach last year and with Raven’s Ruin, JA Andrews proves that epic fantasy can be fun and enigmatic at the same time. Mixing classical fantasy tropes with political intrigue, Raven’s Ruin was a fantastical sequel that makes the trilogy ending Phoenix Rising a must read when it is released later this year.



Norylska Groans by Michael R. Fletcher & Clayton Snyder – This was an exciting collaboration and FBC’s SPFBO finalist for 2021. Norylska Groans is an exciting fantasy-crime noir hybrid set in a cold northern city in a facsimile of Tsarist Russia. Messrs. Fletcher & Snyder have written dual POVs and created the city of Norylska that is a character in itself. Darkly humourous, gory & dripping in tension, this standalone story was a near-perfect collaboration between two dark fantasy authors to create something new.



The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix – This book is a bit more meta than the author’s previous books and serves as an excellent culture commentary on the 80s horror movies and the tropes they employed. Served with Grady Hendrix’s characteristic humour, an anti-hero final girl this book was definitely one that was a pleasure to read.

 



Top 2021 Debut Reads (in random order):
 


The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson – This was a debut, which somehow slipped under my radar when it was first released. Focusing on a world with a miles deep sea of grass, Kindred is a sailor & hearthfire keeper who’s forced to search for her grandmother. Mixing themes of environmental collapse, epic fantasy & family, Joshua Phillip Johnson’s debut is a wonderous book that more readers need to read and be in awe of.
 


She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-ChanSWBTS is a five star debut that wows on every level. Mixing themes of prophecy alongside spectacular characterization, the story of Zhu Chongba is one that will confound readers while making them root for him (her). This story about a girl who decides to absorb her brother’s glorious prophesied future is one that will have its fans & detractors but none can doubt the author’s skills.
 


Seven Deaths Of An Empire by G. R. Matthews – This debut featured two of my favourite things, an action-packed plot and a Romanesque secondary fantasy world. G. R. Matthews encapsulates plenty of Sword & Sorcery tropes in this epic fantasy story and whilst also adding a healthy dose of political intrigue/machinations. Seven Deaths Of An Empire was a fabulous story and I for one can’t wait to read the next chapter in the Six Kingdoms lands.
 


Legacy Of The Brightwash by Krystle MatarKrystle Matar’s debut is another wonderous genre-mixing debut that makes me glad for indie fantasy. Set in a Gaslamp world with magic & political tensions. Krystle Matar’s story explores some dark themes but also has a good dash of romantic tension & heroic fantasy to lighten the load. Legacy is another SPFBO finalist and I for one am really excited to see how it fares.
 


We Men Of Ash And Shadow by H. L. Tinsley – Now this was a fascinating grimdark debut that eschewed many of the tropes that the subgenre is well-known for. Holly Tinsley tells the story of Vanguard and several other fascinating individuals in a city that’s about to be torn up for socio-political reasons. A low fantasy that straddles the line between crime and fantasy, this was another debut worthy of a mention.

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