Fantasy books give readers the opportunity to escape to another world. The best fantasy books of 2021 made me fall in love with their worlds.
In 2020, I rediscovered my love for fantasy books and reading. In 2021, I nurtured that love! I read almost 40 books this past year. I’ve narrowed those 40 down to my ten favorite fantasy books, or series, of 2021. My favorite thing about reading fantasy is the opportunity to escape to another world. Worlds full of magic, adventure, and possibility. Generally, I read Young Adult novels, but this year I explored more adult fantasy as well. While some of the content can be a little graphic, I enjoy how adult fiction has more realistic elements. The stakes can be higher and more mature because the readers are more mature. Add these books to your reading list for the new year! They are the best fantasy books of 2021!
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The Best Fantasy Books of 2021
House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City)
House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas was my first, and most favorite, book of 2021. It is the first in her Crescent City series. The Crescent City books are adult fantasy with gore, coarse language, and sexual situations. They also take place within the same universe as the A Court of Thorns and Roses and Throne of Glass series. Maas is extremely talented at building fantasy worlds that you can truly get lost in.
The main character of the novel is Bryce Quinlan, a half-human half-Fae living in Crescent City. Crescent City is modeled after a modern-day metropolis, but full of magical creatures. Bryce finds herself caught up in a murder mystery. She is placed under the protection of an angel (kind of like a cop) named Hunt. The two slowly realize that Bryce’s situation is even more perilous than they originally thought.
This book was phenomenal! I was hooked right off the bat! Each character is wonderfully written. It’s impossible not to grow attached to them! I loved this book so much, I bought a t-shirt for it! The second book in the series comes out in February 2022. I cannot wait!
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab is a hauntingly beautiful story about living life to the fullest. In a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a bargain with Death. She receives eternal life but is cursed to never be remembered.
I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did. It is beautifully written and spins a story of complex emotions. The book simultaneously makes me want to travel and explore, but also to relax and savor the small moments of life. It’s a beautiful story about what it truly means to live. And how anyone can impact the world around them. This book contains scenes that deal with depression and suicide.
Throne of Glass Series
After I read Sarah J. Maas’ other books I couldn’t get enough. I read all seven Throne of Glass books in just a few weeks! Again, Maas shows off her ability to build a beautiful fantasy world. The world of Adarlan becomes more complex with each book. Everything you think you know about the characters is pushed and questioned as the series continues. I couldn’t put these books down because I was sucked into the story.
The books follow the story of Celaena Sardothian. Celaena was the kingdom’s most deadly assassin before she was captured and forced into slavery in the salt mines. She is offered her freedom by the prince of Adarlan. But her freedom is contingent on her winning a contest and becoming the kingdom’s Royal Assassin. When her fellow competitors start turning up dead, Celaena must uncover the truth about the kingdom and herself.
The Last Hours Series (Chain of Gold and Chain of Iron)
I accidentally stumbled upon The Last Hours series by Cassandra Clare. I was looking for her other series, The Infernal Devices, but my library did not have them available. So, I decided to give The Last Hours a try instead. It turns out The Last Hours is essentially a sequel series to The Infernal Devices. But they don’t need to necessarily be read in order. The Last Hours is the story of a group of young Shadowhunters. Shadowhunters are essentially descendants of Angels, charged with protecting humanity from Demons. However, demons aren’t the only threat to this young group of Shadowhunters. There is something dark and mysterious happening as well.
I absolutely adore almost every character in Chain of Gold and Chain of Iron. The books are mostly told from the perspectives of Cordelia Carstairs, her best friend Lucie Herondale, and Lucie’s brother James. But their friends and other siblings are just as important to the story. Clare does an amazing job of making the reader care about each character. I love them all! The final book in the series doesn’t come out until the end of 2022.
A Psalm of Storms and Silence
A Psalm of Storms and Silence by Roseanne A. Brown is the sequel to A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. It’s the second of a fantasy duology set in a world based on West African folklore. It continues the stories of Malik and Karina from where the first book left off. These characters share a deep connection but are unsure as to why. Their ancestors were rivals, but the past holds more complications than they ever thought possible. They both must grow and discover who they truly are before it’s too late. This book contains depictions of depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
I was obsessed with A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, and this sequel did not disappoint. The setting and inclusion of African folklore is so unique to the fantasy genre. It’s a refreshing break from the norm. I loved watching the characters grow and evolve over the course of the story. The story is full of so much heartbreak, but also hope.
Fable (and Namesake)
Fable is a YA fantasy book by Adrienne Young. It’s the story of a young girl that was abandoned by her “pirate” father on a dangerous island. She meets the young crew of a trading ship and is swept up into the adventure of a lifetime. She also discovers a lot of secrets about her father, mother and herself along the way.
This book was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick in 2020. And it is easy to see why. It’s a beautiful coming of age story wrought with adventure and emotion. I read this book and Namesake, the sequel, in about a week. I just couldn’t put them down. The story is full of so many twists and turns! Definitely a must read!
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn was the last book that I read in 2021. And it did not disappoint! It is a modern fantasy based on the legends of King Arthur, Excalibur and Merlin. The book takes place in modern day Chapel Hill, North Carolina at the University of North Carolina. It is the story of a Black teenage girl named Bree. Following the death of her mother, Bree finds herself caught up in a secret society of demon hunters descended from the knights of King Arthur.
This book is eye-opening and fantastic. It doesn’t dance around the existence of slavery and the generational trauma that Black people experienced. Instead, the crimes of the past are brought into the full light. Fantasy books don’t always do that. But in all honesty, of course a secret society of descendants of English nobility would be a bunch of white people. White people that owned and exploited POC to keep their titles and wealth. The brutal honesty really sets this book apart. It’s a must read!
The Grishaverse (Shadow and Bone, Six of Crows, King of Scars)
Like so many others, I got sucked into The Grishaverse after the release of the Shadow and Bone series on Netflix. The Grishaverse is the fantasy world created by Leigh Bardugo. It is made up of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, Six of Crows duology and King of Scars duology. While I didn’t love every book in the Grishaverse, I did love the characters and the world Bardugo created! I just had to keep reading to find out how everyone’s stories ended.
The first series, Shadow and Bone, is the story of Alina Starkov. She is a young soldier in the Ravkan army. Her country of Ravka is ripped in two by the dark powers of the Shadow Fold. However, it is revealed that Alina may have the power to save them all.
The Six of Crows duology takes place in the city of Ketterdam. Ketterdam exists in the same universe as Ravka, and events from Shadow and Bone are frequently referenced. Six of Crows is the story of a young crew of thieves led by the infamous Kaz Brekker. They are an unlikely team that grow into a family of sorts. These books and characters were my favorites overall. It’s like a fantasy version of Ocean’s 11. The characters all have soul and are hilarious together.
Finally, the King of Scars duology. These books focus on secondary characters from Shadow and Bone as well as Six of Crows. These characters are tasked with the job of reuniting a broken Ravka following the events of the other series. I adore a good crossover, and this duology is just that. It’s full of familiar faces and new adventures.
A Court of Silver Flames
A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas is the fourth novel in the A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR) series. It is the culmination of the series’ evolution into adult fantasy. This book is incredibly graphic sexually. However, beyond the sex is the amazing story of overcoming loss and dealing with PTSD. This kind of book isn’t usually my jam, but I’m so hooked on the characters and world of ACOTAR that I can’t stop reading this series.
A Court of Silver Flames follows the story of Nesta, Feyre’s older sister. She is known for being harsh and unkind. The book really dissects her personality and trauma that molded her into this person. The book has all of the ACOTAR favorites, plus a few new characters. I’m very excited to see where this next part of the series goes.
Children of Blood and Bone
Children of Blood and Bone is a fantasy YA novel written by Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi. It’s the story of a young girl with magical abilities that lives in a country where magic is suppressed. She is presented with the opportunity to restore the magic, but the journey to do so is wrought with dangers.
Similarly to A Song of Wraiths and Ruins, I love the African influences in this novel. It paints such a beautiful picture of a universe barely explored in the fantasy genre. I was drawn in by the culture, the characters and the amazing world that Adeyemi builds. The sequel to this book, Children of Virtue and Vengeance is filled with twists and turns that make for a very exciting read! I will admit, I find myself so annoyed and angry with some of the characters in the second book. But that is a sign of great writing! I care about them so much that they can make me angry!
Reading is such an amazing escape! I’ve fallen in love with so many different characters and worlds this past year! It’s an amazing experience to start and new book and find yourself transported somewhere else. These were hands-down the best fantasy books of 2021 for me!
If you enjoyed any of my favorite fantasy books from 2021, be sure to check out my favorites from 2020!