It’s December, which means it’s time for the best of everything this year had to offer. Most of the books on these lists will surprise no one. These are my favorite books of 2021: the books I couldn’t stop thinking about, the books I hand-sold to everyone I met. This post features five of my favorite fantasy books of 2021, full of magic and wondrous worlds.
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston – January 19
When Amari’s brother Quinton goes missing, she can’t figure out why no one else is worried. After weeks without hearing from him, she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet. What she finds inside changes everything; Quinton was an agent for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, and he nominated her to follow in his footsteps. Amari is thrust into a world where dragons, banshees and more are real and dangerous.
Amari and the Night Brothers is a fantastic, entertaining middle-grade debut. B.B. Alston added all the right elements, emphasizing friendship, perseverance and self-confidence combined with literal Black Girl Magic. Readers of all ages will enjoy this book and should pick it up!
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark – March 23
All Touraine knows is the life of a conscripted soldier, raised to die for her empire. Her loyalties, however, are tested when she must put down a rebellion in the homeland she barely remembers. There she meets Luca, heir to the conquering throne. Luca needs someone to sway the revolution toward peace if she wants to keep her tenuous claim to power, and Touraine is the perfect player for the part.
This book broke me (no pun intended). It is so angsty and emotional and just so good! The Unbroken takes on so much, exploring the complications and horrors of colonialism and focusing on the emotional experiences of the people caught up in the empire. The Unbroken isn’t just one of my favorite fantasy books of 2021; it’s probably one of my favorite books of all time.
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark – May 11
After throwing off British colonial rule with the help of the Djinn, in 1912, Cairo is thriving. Egypt is a steampunk superpower, full of magic and clockwork angels, aerial trams and airships. In the middle of it is Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi, the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities.
When all members of a secret brotherhood turn up brutally murdered, Fatma falls into a plot to fully open the veil between the magical and mundane realms and bring demons back into the world.
A Master of Djinn takes place after P. Djèlí Clark‘s three short stories and novellas set in the same universe. He brings the characters all together here in a way that both delights fans and entices new readers. This novel has murder, magic and mayhem alongside incredibly cool and entertaining characters.
I’m looking forward to reading more stories set in this world.
The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo – June 1
With ease, Jordan Baker slips in and out of people’s lives and homes. She is wealthy and talented but also queer, Asian and adopted. She wastes her days with her friend Daisy Buchanan and attends parties at the Gatsby mansion, all the while trying to determine her place in the world.
The Chosen and the Beautiful is a unique adaptation of The Great Gatsby, taking place over the same sweltering, climactic summer. It touches on queerness, racism and immigration in ways the original never could. Nghi Vo‘s first novel is gorgeously written and unapologetically queer. It’s perfect for classics fans and magic lovers alike.
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske – November 2
The last of my favorite fantasy books of 2021 (but only because of its November release date) is Freya Marske‘s debut novel A Marvellous Light. In a similar vein to other books in the “fantasy of manners” genre, the magic, while impressive, takes a backseat to the relationships between characters.
An accident of bureaucracy sees Robin Blythe appointed as liaison to a hidden magical society. While this role leads to a painful, possibly deadly curse, it also throws him into Edwin Courcey’s life. The two opposites discover a plot threatening magic in Britain and beyond.
A Marvellous Light is more of a slow-burn romance than anything else. Yes, it features magic, conspiracies and even murder, but it’s also spicy. Marske doesn’t shy away from sex scenes in this soft jock/grumpy librarian pairing and focuses, most of all, on her characters. This book is the start of a planned trilogy, so keep an eye out for the rest of the series!
These are just my favorite fantasy books of 2021; stay tuned for even more favorite books of the year before December is over!