Most anticipated SFF releases of 2021

I love December in the bookish world – everybody is talking about their favourite books (I am still hoping for a few amazing books, so I will post in January) and about the books they are most looking forward to. The last few years I tried to write about my most anticipated books twice a year (for the first and the second half of the year) but as I am back at work from June on (then obviously with a child), I am unsure whether I will manage (I did not this year). Thus I decided to post more than one list now and include books for the whole of 2021. First up are the books I am currently aware of and excited for that can be categorized as SFF (the spectrum runs more from fantasy to speculative romance, rather than proper science fiction). I organized them by publication date; clicking on the covers will lead you to the books’ Goodreads pages.

Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder #1) by Ilona Andrews (published by NYLA, January 12th 2021)
A new book in the Kate Daniels world? Sold. I don’t know much more but already preordered it. I will eventually read everything Ilona Andrews’ have ever written but the Kate Daniels series has my favourite worldbuilding.

Hall of Smoke by H. M. Long (published by Titan Books, January 19th 2021)
I only read as far as the first half sentence of the blurb before requesting this book on NetGalley: “Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream.” I love books featuring gods (see my recommendation post here), which will be completely obvious by the end of this post. Early reviews are favourable and I hope to agree. I do not read enough epic fantasy given how often I adore it.

The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost #1) by C. L. Clark (published by Orbit, March 23rd 2021)
What first piqued my interest is the, frankly, disgustingly perfect cover – I mean, just look at that perfection. I also enjoy the author’s presence on twitter and I am always up for kickass women in my fantasy. And two morally grey women fighting and possibly falling in love? Sign me right up.

The Helm of Midnight (The Five Penalties #1) by Marina J. Lostetter (published by Tor Books, April 13th 2021)
I happen to really like books that combine more than one genre – when it comes with speculative elements, especially when it’s done in an epic fantasy kind of world, especially so. Thus my interest was already piqued when I realized this was serial killer novel fantasy. That the cover is beautiful didn’t hurt either. I am very excited for the magical homicidal death mask angle and the hints of a plotline and mythology.

Son of the Storm (The Nameless Republic #1) by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (published by Orbit, May 11th 2021)
I adore fantasy novels that explore the idea that mythologies might have been passed on wrong – and the idea of an island nation that other places insist does not exist with magic of its own sounds like absolute catnip to me. Add shape-shifters and forbidden magic and I am all in. For some reason I never got around to Okungbowa’s debut even though it features gods, so if I like this one, I’ll surely go back and remedy that.

The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley (published by Bloomsbury, May 25th 2021)
To be totally honest, I requested an ARC of this mostly because it was compared to David Mitchell and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. Like I said, I like genre-bending books and I am always looking for something like Mitchell’s writing. This is apparently an alternative history, science-fiction, time-travel kind of book – this will either work brilliantly for me or not at all. I am excited.

A Dance of Smoke and Steel (A Gathering of Dragons #3) by Milla Vane (published by Berkley, June 8th 2021)
I loved both books in the series so far (I haven’t yet read the novella because I am pacing myself). This is the dark and gritty fantasy romance of my heart. I thought the romance worked better in the first book but the world got way more exciting in the second part. Again, this features actual gods, mythology that differs depending on who is telling it, and kickass women – this series is basically custom-made for me. This might be the last book in the series but I am kind of hoping not because there is so much world yet left unexplored.

For the Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten (published by Orbit Books, June 15th 2021)
I am easily swayed by comp titles, it seems. This one has been compared to Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale, both of which I adored, so this seems like it will be right up my alley. Fairytale re-tellings can be brilliant if they are done right – this seems to be a spin on Red Riding Hood and the wolf is not a monster but a man. Sign me right up, this sounds wonderful.

She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor #1) by Shelley Parker-Chan (published by Tor Books, July 20th 2021)
Speaking of re-tellings, this is based on Mulan which on its own would have been interesting but the setting during the Ming dynasty intrigues me to no end. I will have to see how I get on with the “pretending to be her own brother” part of the plot, as lying often makes me anxious but everything else sounds just too amazing.

Last Guard (Psy-Changeling Trinity #5) by Nalini Singh (published by Berkley, July 20th 2021)
I cannot wait for this. I loved the first arc of this long-running series and I am excited to see where Nalini Singh takes her story next. I can always trust in her ability to spin stories I enjoy and her worldbuilding is impeccable. I should also be up to date with her other series (Guild Hunter) come next year, so I am also excited for the next book there.

The Thousand Eyes (The Serpent Gates #2) by A. K. Larkwood (published by Tor Books, August 24th 2021)
I am SO excited for this. I adored the first book in the series (review) and loved where it left off. I love the way Larkwood blends fantasy with science fiction, I obviously adore the way she employs mythology, I thought the first book was perfectly plotted, and I just think this could be absolutely perfect. (No cover yet; link to Goodreads here.)

Which SFF books are you most excited for?

Wrap Up February 2020 or where did the month go?

I had an incredibly bad reading month, quantity wise. For some reason or other, I was not able to just sit down and read. Parts were due to the incredible high workload I have (I need to get SO much done before I go on leave in April), parts were just general none-interest. I did love or really enjoy every book I finished though, so there is that.

Books I read in February:

  1. Follow Me To Ground by Sue Rainsford: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe: 5 out of 5 stars
  3. A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons #1) by Milla Vane: 4 out of 5 stars (mini-review)
  4. How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones: 4 out of 5 stars
  5. The Man Who Saw Everything by Deborah Levy: 5 out of 5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

Say Nothing. I cannot recommend this book highly enough – I thought I would like it, I did not realize how very much I would love it. The Man Who Saw Everything was a close second though – I really appreciated this clever, clever, clever book.

Stats(ish):

I read three books written by women and two written by a male authors. Three of the books I read on audio and two as ebooks. I read one literary fiction novel, one short speculative literary fiction novel, one fantasy book with a strong focus on romance, one memoir and one non-fiction title.

Currently Reading:

If I don’t finish The Illness Lesson this weekend, I will call it quits. I think it is partly responsible for my slump – because it is an arc and somewhat lific adjacent, I feel too guilty to start another book before finishing it but I am also really, really not enjoying it. Love her or Lose Her is surprisingly boring for a Tessa Bailey novel but I am determined to stick with it – I do want to know how they resolve their issues. I got sidetracked by Verge’s arrival (and should be finished with it soon), so I have not picked up Orange World in weeks. The two fantasy books are just really long.

Books I should get to soon:

It’s Women’s Prize longlist time! I am so excited and cannot wait to dive into whatever this will bring. Here are some longlist predictions to give an indication what might be to come: Emily’s, Naty’s, Jess’, and my own.

Mini-Reviews: First books in SFF romance series

I am very good at starting series and not so good at finishing them. This means that I have started four new SFF romance series in the last two months that I can now write mini reviews for but have not read a single sequel yet. I am, however, planning on continuing will all the series because I did like each first book enough to want to see where the story goes next.

Tempting Danger (World of the Lupi #1) by Eileen Wilks

81617This book is more on the urban fantasy than paranormal romance spectrum but what we get of the couple really worked for me. Lily Yu is a police detective investigating a murder, Rule Turner is one of the suspects – this is, admittedly, a fairly common storyline for UF, but I really enjoyed the world and most importantly Lily Yu who is prickly and clever and just kickass. The “mating” angle is approached with about as much horror by Yu as I would approach it and I appreciated that – and I appreciated that Turner gives her as much room to come to terms with what this mating means for her as he can give her.

3 out of 5 stars

Polaris Rising (Consortium Rebellion #1) by Jessie Mihalik

45030061._sy475_The strongest part of this space opera kind of romance is the chemistry between the two main characters. The world building is nothing super spectacular but exciting enough for me to want to keep reading, my usual problems with scifi were not as strong, and Ada¬† is a kickass space princess. She is my favourite kind of heroine: seriously kickass, snarky, but also vulnerable. I appreciated the emphasis on consent and the way the relationship developed – and that these two difficul people at least tried to communicate with each other. The narrative voice did not always work for me (probably because I could not help compare it to Kate Daniels’ voice in Ilona Andrews’ series) but I am excited to see where the story goes next.

3 out of 5 stars

Dragon Bound (Elder Races #1) by Thea Harrison

40385273._sy475_This one is pure and simple popcorn paranormal romance and I had so much fun reading it. I liked the world with its many warring factions and different kind of mythical creatures enough to overlook a lot of what was trope-y here – and if the ending had not pivoted to one of my all-time least favourite plotpoints, my overall rating would have been higher. I enjoyed the “fated mates” romance angle and liked that Dragos really tries to treat Pia the best possible way and to learn from his mistakes. As always, I like how kickass Pia is once she stops hiding from what she is, I am easily pleased like that.

3.5 out of 5 stars

A Heart of Blood and Ashes (A Gathering of Dragons #1) by Milla Vane

46021762._sy475_The dark, angsty, brutal fantasy romance of my dreams. While Maddek is often kind of awful, he does admit when he is wrong and gives good grovel, but the star of the show is definitely Yvenne, an unlikely warrior-queen who just kicks ass in all the ways I adore while being different from the usual heroines. The world-building is impeccable and always congruent with the character development in a way that I really appreciated. The language is interesting and kind of old-timey in a way that just completely worked for me. I cannot wait for the next book in the series to come out.

Content warning: rape (world building), torture, gore, forced abortion, dismemberment, abuse, so much blood

4 out of 5 stars