Welcome to my first ‘Top 10’ countdown post! I’m still deliberating over my top 10 books of 2020, so I thought I’d look ahead to next year instead.
It took all my self-control not to break the rule of 10 on my first go, since there are so many fantastic books coming out. To help me whittle down my list, I haven’t included any sequels unless they are standalone. I’ve also included five honourable mentions. It’s technically a list of Top 15 most anticipated of 2021, but don’t tell anyone.
Being a countdown, I’ve saved the best for last. Let me know how your list of anticipated reads compares!
Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Expected Publish Date: 20 April 2021
Page Count: 544 pages
Iraya Adair has spent her life in a cell. Heir of an overthrown and magically-gifted dynasty, she was exiled from her home on the island nation of Aiyca when she was just a child. But every day brings her closer to freedom – and vengeance.
Jazmyne Cariot grew up dressed in gold, with stolen magic at her fingertips. Daughter of the self-crowned doyenne, her existence is a threat to her mother’s rule. But unlike her sister, Jazmyne has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.
Sworn enemies, the two witches enter a deadly alliance to take down the woman who threatens both their worlds.
But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain – except the lengths Iraya and Jazmyne will go to win this game.
Two witches. One motive. And a very untrustworthy alliance.
Why I’m excited: The blurb sounds promising, though a little light on detail. This one is a bit of a cover pick, but a Jamaican-inspired fantasy setting sounds exciting!
In Deeper Waters by F. T. Lukens
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Expected Publish Date: 20 April 2021
Page Count: 320 pages
Prince Tal has long awaited his coming-of-age tour. After spending most of his life cloistered behind palace walls as he learns to keep his forbidden magic secret, he can finally see his family’s kingdom for the first time. His first taste of adventure comes just two days into the journey, when their crew discovers a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel.
Tasked with watching over the prisoner, Tal is surprised to feel an intense connection with the roguish Athlen. So when Athlen leaps overboard and disappears, Tal feels responsible and heartbroken, knowing Athlen could not have survived in the open ocean.
That is, until Tal runs into Athlen days later on dry land, very much alive, and as charming—and secretive—as ever. But before they can pursue anything further, Tal is kidnapped by pirates and held ransom in a plot to reveal his rumored powers and instigate a war. Tal must escape if he hopes to save his family and the kingdom. And Athlen might just be his only hope…
Why I’m excited: There turned out to be a surprising number of YA novels on my list, given that I’ve only ever dabbled in the genre. I did read Wranglestone by Darren Charlton earlier this year, a post-apocalyptic book featuring a m/m romance, and really enjoyed it. It made me realise I’ve only read a couple of books featuring a gay, male relationship front and centre, and both of those featured fae which isn’t my thing. I’ve been hoping to find more books like it, so I hope I enjoy this one just as much!
The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker
Expected Publish Date: 8 June 2021
Page Count: 496 pages
Chava is a golem, a woman made of clay, able to hear the thoughts and longings of the people around her and compelled by her nature to help them. Ahmad is a jinni, a perpetually restless and free-spirited creature of fire, imprisoned in the shape of a man. Fearing they’ll be exposed as monsters, these magical beings hide their true selves and pretend to be human—just two more immigrants in the bustling world of 1900s Manhattan. Having encountered each other under calamitous circumstances, Chava and Ahmad’s lives are now entwined—but they’re not yet certain of what they mean to each other.
Each has unwittingly affected the humans around them. Park Avenue heiress Sophia Winston, whose brief encounter with Ahmad left her with a strange illness that makes her shiver with cold, travels to the Middle East to seek a cure. There she meets a tempestuous female jinni who’s been banished from her tribe. Back in New York, in a tenement on the Lower East Side, a little girl named Kreindel helps her rabbi father build a golem they name Yossele—not knowing that she’s about to be sent to an orphanage uptown, where the hulking Yossele will become her only friend and protector.
Spanning the tumultuous years from the turn of the twentieth century to the beginning of World War I, The Hidden Palace follows these lives and others as they collide and interleave. Can Chava and Ahmad find their places in the human world while remaining true to each other? Or will their opposing natures and desires eventually tear them apart—especially once they encounter, thrillingly, other beings like themselves?
Why I’m excited: The Golem and the Jinni is one of those books that is equally comfortable on the SFF or literary fiction shelf. While the main characters are both beings of magical origin, what I loved the most about the first book was the vivid portrayal of pre-WWI New York. Seen through Chava’s eyes, Manhattan is both terrifying and magical, a melting pot of cultures and new things to discover. But neither Chava nor Ahmad can ever hope to fit in with the rest of humanity, so I’m excited to see what Wecker does with this second instalment, even after eight years!
Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Expected Publish Date: 29 June 2021
Page Count: 416 pages
The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.
Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.
As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer–as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…
Why I’m excited: Okay, so, apparently queer YA is my thing now. Plus I’m a sucker for a badass cover. Add in mechas and a comparison to Red Rising and Pacific Rim – say no more. The 19-year-old author of Gearbreakers has already sold film rights, so I guess it’s not just me!
The Wide Starlight by Nicole Lesperance
Expected Publish Date: 16 Feb 2021
Page Count: 320 pages
Never whistle at the Northern Lights, the story goes, or they’ll sweep down from the sky and carry you away.
Sixteen-year-old Eline Davis knows it’s true. She was there ten years ago, on a frozen fjord in Svalbard, Norway, the night her mother whistled at the lights and then vanished.
Now Eli lives an ordinary life with her dad on Cape Cod. But when the Northern Lights are visible over the Cape for just one night, she can’t resist the possibility of seeing her mother again. So she whistles—and it works. Her mother appears, with snowy hair, frosty fingertips and a hazy story of where she’s been all these years. And she doesn’t return alone.
Along with Eli’s mother’s reappearance come strange, impossible things. Narwhals swimming in Cape Cod Bay, meteorites landing in Eli’s yard, and three shadowy princesses with ominous messages. It’s all too much, too fast, and Eli pushes her mother away. She disappears again—but this time, she leaves behind a note that will send Eli on a journey across continents, to the northern tip of the world
Why I’m excited: This one might turn out to be for a younger audience, but the description sounds incredibly moving. It also reminds me a lot of A Hundred Words for Snow, a one-woman show I saw a few years ago, and probably the best theatre I’ve ever experienced.
The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Expected Publish Date: 18 Feb 2021
Page Count: 290 pages
When a freak technological failure halts traffic to and from the planet Gora, three strangers are thrown together unexpectedly, with seemingly nothing to do but wait.
Pei is a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, torn between her duty to her people, and her duty to herself.
Roveg is an exiled artist, with a deeply urgent, and longed for, family appointment to keep.
Speaker has never been far from her twin but now must endure the unendurable: separation.
Under the care of Ouloo, an enterprising alien, and Tupo, her occasionally helpful child, the trio are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they might be to one another.
Why I’m excited: Umm it’s Becky Chambers, why wouldn’t I be?
Star Eater by Kerstin Hall
Expected Publish Date: 22 June 2021
Page Count: 416 pages
Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she is able to stomach her gruesome day-to-day duties, the reality of preserving the Order’s magical bloodline horrifies her, but the Sisters of Aytrium have sworn to pay a price for the safety of their nation.
Elfreda wants out, whatever the cost.
So when a shadowy cabal approaches her with an offer of escape, she leaps at the opportunity. As their spy, she gains access to the highest reaches of the Order, and enters a glittering world of opulent parties, subtle deceptions, and unexpected bloodshed.
A phantasmagorical indictment of hereditary power, Star Eatertakes readers deep into a perilous and uncanny world where even the most powerful women are forced to choose what sacrifices they will make, so that they might have any choice at all.
Why I’m excited: The blurb sounds awesome, and early reviews indicate this is a fantastically dark read (the word ‘bloody’ is used a lot). It sound similar to the The First Sister, sharing a comparison to The Handmaid’s Tale, but I’m confident it will be a unique story. Also, it has cannibal nuns. Two thumbs up already.
Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
Expected Publish Date: 11 May 2021
Page Count: 480 pages
In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands- which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist- and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields.
Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso and Lilong will set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.
Why I’m excited: PRETTY COVER! 😍 Also, according to Tor.com, the author describes his new trilogy as a “love letter to all of us who know the magic that makes West-Africa tick — the lore and music, the harmattan and petrichor, the jollof rice and fried plantain,” and that it’ll include music, a quest, and unreal creatures.” Have a read of the prologue here!
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Expected Publish Date: 02 Feb 2021
Page Count: 448 pages
The Iskat Empire rules its vassal planets through a system of treaties – so when Prince Taam, key figure in a political alliance, is killed, a replacement must be found. His widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with the disreputable aristocrat Kiem, in a bid to keep rising hostilities between two worlds under control. But Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and when Jainan himself is a suspect, he and Kiem must navigate the perils of the Iskat court, solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war . . .
Why I’m excited: It was a toss up between Winter’s Orbit and the next book for my most anticipated 2021 release. I’m excited for this novel for the same reasons as In Deeper Waters, except this one has the advantage of being described as a queer romantic space opera similar to Ancillary Justice, Gideon the Ninth and A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. Yes puhLEASE. I’ll definitely be purchasing the US edition pictured above.
A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark
Expected Publish Date: 11 May 2021
Page Count: 400 pages
Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.
So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world fifty years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.
Alongside her Ministry colleagues and a mysterious person from her past, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…
Why I’m excited: I feel like 2020 was the year Book Twitter re-discovered the brilliance of Clark’s novellas ahead of Ring Shout‘s release. Now we finally get a novel-length story from Clark, set in his alternate Cairo, no less! If you’re not excited for this one, you really should check out his backlist.
And that’s my top 10! As promised, here’s a few more books I’m looking forward to:
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