Thursday, December 30, 2021

Top 5 Books I Read in 2021 (and 2020?)

This is a subjective list of my favorite reads of 2021. I read more this year than I ever have before: 200 books! It was a little hard to narrow it down, but these are the five novels (and series because I'm a cheater) that have stuck with me the most throughout this year, in no particular order

1. The Daevabad Trilogy by S. A. Chakraborty
When a con woman in 18th century Cairo accidentally unleashes a warrior djinn, he takes her on an adventure to the mythical city of Daevabad in this adult fantasy full of magic and romance. 
This series was truly a surprise because I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. I have not enjoyed desert fantasy in the past so I thought this series would be the same experience, but it was absolutely different and totally opened my eyes to all the wonderful adult desert fantasy stories out there. I gave the first book four stars and the second and third books five stars. I will be rereading this someday, and I'm looking forward to anything S. A. Chakraborty releases in the future. 

2. The Loom Saga by Elise Kova
I've been meaning to read Elise Kova for a couple of years now, so I decided this was going to be the year I finally gave her a try. Upon the recommendation from a friend, I checked out the completed Loom Saga, a dark adult steampunk fantasy full of alchemy, adventure, and romance. 
Ari is the most notorious thief in the land and works to defy the Dragon King who controls all the engineering guilds on Loom. When Ari encounters a dragon named Cvareh, her first instinct is to kill him and harvest his organs, but she instead decides to team up with him against the Dragon King after he offers her a boon she can't refuse. This is one of the most unique fantasy stories I've ever read. I gave each book five stars, and now I want to read every story Elise Kova has ever written. 

3. The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart
This is the second book in the Drowning Empire trilogy, so I will explain the plot of the first book, The Bone Shard Daughter, to avoid spoilers. 
The story follows Lin, the daughter of the emperor, who practices forbidden bone shard magic behind her tyrant father's back, as well as Jovis, a smuggler looking for his lost wife while working in a rebellion against the emperor. This Asian-inspired adult fantasy series has unforgettable characters, a richly imagined setting, and a unique magic system. I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying this story. This installment is full of adventure, political intrigue, betrayal, a new kind of magic as well as the original bone shard magic, and a little bit of romance. While I liked the first book, I loved the second book, which I rated five stars, and now I can't wait for the third installment next year. 

4. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
Brandon Sanderson is one of my very favorite authors, so I was very excited to continue on with the Stormlight Archive this year. I loved this book much more than the first installment, The Way of Kings. This book focuses on Shallan, my favorite character in the series, and is truly one of the most well-constructed books I think I've ever read. I don't even know how to begin explaining this series since it's so massive, but basically it's the largest and most fun epic fantasy series you will ever read. There is an intricate and intense magic system, unparalleled and expansive worldbuilding, realistic and flawed characters, and an exciting plot with twists and reveals all throughout the story. I loved watching each character's progression in this book and seeing how Sanderson instills hope in his stories even in the midst of pain and turmoil. Just go read it; you won't regret it. 

5. Spellmaker by Charlie N. Holmberg
Spellmaker is the conclusion to the Spellbreaker Duology, a cozy mysterious historical fantasy romance. Elsie is an unregistered spellbreaker, and if she gets caught then she'll be imprisoned. So when she's on a secret assignment and the handsome spellmaker Mr. Kelsey spots her trying to undo a spell on his house, he makes a bargain with her in exchange for his silence about her abilities. But what starts as a formal arrangement turns into a budding romance as these two set out to solve a magical mystery together. I don't care for historical fiction, so the fact that this series is more romantic and fantastical than it is historical is really appealing to me. And the romance is fun and swoon-worthy while still being clean and proper. I read both books in this series this year, but it was Spellmaker, my fifth book by Charlie Holmberg, that made the difference for me and cemented her as one of my favorite authors. I really love her writing style and how she always writes fun and lighthearted adult fantasy with clean romances and a soft mystery aspect as well. There's something for everyone here! 

That's it for my top five (or more) books of 2021. It was very hard to narrow down this list because I read some truly amazing books this year. Which one of these catches your eye the most? 

Also, while I was compiling this list, I noticed that I still had this post sitting in draft form from a whole year ago, so here's a bonus list: my top five reads of 2020, since I apparently never got around to posting it. 

1. Thunderhead (and The Toll) by Neal Shusterman 
2. Lightfall: The Girl and the Galdurian by Tim Probert
3. Wounded Magic by Megan Crewe
4. Most Likely by Sarah Watson
5. A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green 

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