Summer 2021 has come and gone, and with it, so many new books that it’s impossible to keep up. I’m here to update you on some of the best novels you might have missed. Read on!
Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch by Rivka Galchen: June 8
In 1618 Germany, plague is spreading, the Thirty Years’ War is underway and Katharina Kepler is accused of being a witch. She’s a widow known for her herbal remedies and successful children, as well as a fair amount of nosiness. But when a neighbor accuses Katharina of making her ill, she must tell her side of the story before it’s too late.
Rivka Galchen‘s second novel draws inspiration from historical documents about the real Katharina Kepler, an illiterate German woman accused of being a witch. Galchen’s depiction of Katharina adds a level of absurdist comedy to her trials; she’s bold and outspoken, with unflattering nicknames for those who annoy her.
At the same time, she’s a brave, kind friend and loving mother and an accomplished entrepreneur. With Everyone Knows Your Mother Is a Witch, Galchen masterfully presents a humorous and relevant take on a little-known historical figure.
Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim: July 6
Princess Shiori has always kept her forbidden magic a secret. But on the day of her betrothal ceremony, it all comes out. At first, she thinks her mistake will postpone the wedding she never wanted, but instead, it draws her stepmother Raikama’s attention.
Raikaman has powerful magic too, and she curses the princess and her brothers. She transforms each prince into a crane, and every word Shiori says will kill one of them. Exiled, voiceless and alone, Shiori searches the kingdom for a way to free her brothers from their curse, and only she can set the realm to rights. To do so, she must embrace the magic she’s been taught to hate her whole life, no matter what it costs her.
This novel is a gorgeous young adult retelling of “The Wild Swans” with Asian folklore mixed in. Elizabeth Lim creates a detailed and elegant plot, turning expected fairytale archetypes around with a vivid setting and well-realized characters.
Strange Beasts of China by Yan Ge: July 13
In the City of Yong’an, humanoid beasts live alongside humans, many of them barely noticeable. Aided by her former professor and his cryptic assistant, an amateur cryptozoologist attempts to categorize them. She spends her time building relationships with and learning truths about individuals and is slowly drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of her city.
While only translated into English in summer 2021, Strange Beasts of China originally came out in 2005 as a serial aimed at students. As a result, each chapter reads like a self-contained story. Together, it becomes a bestiary and revelation of the narrator’s relationship with herself, her past and community.
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera: August 17
Petra Peña wanted to be a storyteller, but the world is ending. She and her family are among a small group of scientists and their children chosen to journey to a new planet and save the human race. Hundreds of years later, Petra wakes to realize she’s the only person who remembers Earth. Someone has taken over the ship during its journey, bent on erasing humanity’s past. Can Petra alone carry her people’s stories and hope for the future?
In The Last Cuentista, author Donna Barba Higuera masterfully blends science-fiction, fantasy and Mexican folklore into an unforgettable story. Through Petra, she showcases the importance of cultural memory and familial bonds, particularly in the progression of humanity. A captivating new story about knowing where you come from and having the free will to decide where you’re going to go. It’s one of summer 2021’s best new releases.
The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley: September 7
Iris is used to being considered strange. She’s an African tightrope dancer in Victorian London, always leered at by British audiences eager for spectacle. But she’s even more bizarre than she appears at first glance: Iris cannot die.
Missing her memories and obsessed with discovering her past, Iris meets Adam Temple of the mysterious Enlightenment Committee. This group claims to decide who lives and who dies when the world ends. The deeper she gets in the Committee, the more she remembers — but what if the truth is best left forgotten?
The Bones of Ruin is fast-paced and visceral, with Sarah Raughley tackling deep subjects. It’s an intense YA historical fantasy with a compelling, unique lead, extraordinary magical powers and secret underground societies.
There you have it! Five of the best, most underrated summer 2021 books. How many have you read, and how many do you think should be on this list? Let us know below!
This article was originally published on 10/4/21.