Unmissable Fantasy & SciFi of 2021! (Jan-June)

Posted 5th January 2021 by Siavahda in Book News, Lists, Queer Lit / 1 Comment

Today was SUPPOSED to be a Top Ten Tuesday day, with the prompt ‘Most Anticipated Releases for the First Half of 2021’. The problem is, no matter what I tried, there was no way I could cut my list of books down to just ten!

So here, instead, are ALL the fantasy and sci fi books of the first half of 2021 that you simply must preorder immediately!

January

Across the Green Grass Fields (Wayward Children, #6) by Seanan McGuire
Representation: Intersex MC
Published on: 12th January 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

A young girl discovers a portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns in Seanan McGuire's Across the Green Grass Fields, a standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-wining Wayward Children series.

“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”

Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.

When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to "Be Sure" before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.

But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

To be honest, all I need to know is that this is a new installment in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series: it doesn’t matter to me whether we’re getting a story with new characters or ones we already know, or where it belongs in the internal chronology of the series, or what. McGuire is one of my favourite writers, and her Wayward Children books are one of my very, very favourite series in all the multiverse.

But even if both those things weren’t so, it sounds like Across the Green Grass Fields is going to be stunning, so, you know. Hit the preorder button already!

The Ruthless Lady's Guide to Wizardry by C.M. Waggoner
Representation: F/F or wlw
Published on: 12th January 2021
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

A charming historical fantasy with a tender love story at its core, from the author of Unnatural Magic.

Hard-drinking petty thief Dellaria Wells is down on her luck in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees a want ad for a female bodyguard, and she fast-talks her way into the high-paying job. Along with a team of other women, she’s meant to protect a rich young lady from mysterious assassins.

At first Delly thinks the danger is exaggerated, but a series of attacks shows there’s much to fear. Then she begins to fall for Winn, one of the other bodyguards, and the women team up against a mysterious, magical foe who seems to have allies everywhere.

Waggoner’s debut novel, Unnatural Magic, made it onto my Best of the Decade list, so there was never any question of me not snapping this up. It sounds like it’s going to be utterly wonderful, and I can’t wait! Luckily, we don’t have to wait very much longer now – it’ll be released in a couple of weeks – but I’m counting the days!

The Mask of Mirrors (Rook & Rose, #1) by M.A. Carrick, Marie Brennan
Representation: Queernorm world, Nonbinary, Secondary trans character
Published on: 21st January 2021
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy
Goodreads

Nightmares are creeping through the city of dreams...

Renata Viraudax is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadezra -- the city of dreams -- with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune and her sister's future.

But as she's drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as corrupt magic begins to weave its way through Nadezra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled -- with Ren at their heart.

Darkly magical and intricately imagined, The Mask of Mirrors is the unmissable start to the Rook & Rose trilogy, a rich and dazzling fantasy adventure in which a con artist, a vigilante, and a crime lord must unite to save their city.

Mask of Mirrors is a collaboration between Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, and this is how they described their book:  ‘It has fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, and miracles, and we’re only sorry we didn’t manage to get a giant in there; maybe we can make somebody really tall during editorial revisions? Also the kind of worldbuilding that happens when you let two anthropologists off their leashes. It has a con artist, a vigilante, and capers as flirtation. It has normalized queerness and weird dream shit because we love that stuff, yo. It has noble politics and street gangs and deception…’

I mean, come on. This ticks all of my boxes. I’m four pages into my arc and already swooning. This is definitely one to watch out for!

Wings of Ebony (Wings of Ebony, #1) by J. Elle
Representation: Black MC, cast of colour
Published on: 26th January 2021
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Goodreads

In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry--and with evil sinking its claws into humans and gods alike, she'll have to unearth the magic of her true identity to save both her worlds.

Perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Tomi Adeyemi, and The Hunger Games.

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue's taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

I first saw this pitched as Black girl magic + Wonder Woman and you know what? That’s all I need to hear. I’ve been looking forward to this one for so long!

And if you still need convincing, you can read an excerpt here!

A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
Representation: Bisexual MC, M/F/F/M polyamory
Published on: 31st January 2021
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

I’ll be honest, I don’t care for Dracula the novel. Dowry of Blood, though, is the queer and polyamorous story of Dracula told from the perspective of one of his wives, and as I have been honoured with an arc of this I can tell you that it is incredible. The prose is ornate and delicious, and if you’re worried about horror I can promise that it’s really not terribly dark and gory. I’ll be writing up a full review later, but I really must insist that this is a book to check out!

February

A Summoning of Demons by Cate Glass
Published on: 1st February 2021
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy
Goodreads

Cate Glass's A Summoning of Demons marks the thrilling conclusion for the Chimera team, a ragtag crew who use their forbidden magic for the good of the kingdom.

Catagna has been shaken to its core.

The philosophists insist that a disastrous earthquake has been caused by an ancient monster imprisoned below the earth, who can only be freed with magic. In every street and market, the people of Catagna are railing against magic-users with a greater ferocity than ever before, and magic hunters are everywhere.

Meanwhile, Romy has been dreaming.

Every night, her dreams are increasingly vivid and disturbing. Every day, she struggles to understand the purpose of the Chimera's most recent
assignment from the Shadow Lord.

As Romy and the others attempt to carry out their mission, they find themselves plunged into a mystery of corruption and murder, myth and magic, and a terrifying truth: the philosophists may have been right all along.

I’ve utterly adored Glass’ Chimera series, and I’m dreading it coming to an end – but if the story is going where I think it’s going, this final installment is going to be both epic in scope and epic in awesome.

This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria
Representation: Asexual MC
Published on: 2nd February 2021
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

Orphaned and forced to serve her country’s ruling group of scribes, Karis wants nothing more than to find her brother, long ago shipped away. But family bonds don’t matter to the Scriptorium, whose sole focus is unlocking the magic of an ancient automaton army.

In her search for her brother, Karis does the seemingly impossible—she awakens a hidden automaton. Intelligent, with a conscience of his own, Alix has no idea why he was made. Or why his father—their nation’s greatest traitor—once tried to destroy the automatons.

Suddenly, the Scriptorium isn’t just trying to control Karis; it’s hunting her. Together with Alix, Karis must find her brother…and the secret that’s held her country in its power for centuries.

My ears always perk up when I hear about asexual characters – I’m ace myself and it’s always fun to read about characters like you, isn’t it? But I’m also intrigued by the story’s set-up – it sounds like a cross between the Jewish folklore of a golem and the Terracotta Army of China, so I really can’t wait to see how it plays out!

The Witch's Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
Representation: Bisexual MC, F/F or wlw
Published on: 9th February 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

When a banished witch falls in love with the legendary trickster Loki, she risks the wrath of the gods in this moving, subversive debut novel that reimagines Norse mythology.

Angrboda's story begins where most witches' tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.

Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin's all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.

With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she's foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.

Witch’s Heart showed up on my radar because I’ve been thinking about Loki as a figure for pop culture magic, so I was looking for fiction where he featured. Initially I had no idea this was F/F, but that’s just a bonus! And I am so here for mothers who’ll take on the world for their kids. I’m extra excited for this one.

The Velocity of Revolution by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Representation: Queer MC, Polyamory
Published on: 9th February 2021
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

From the author of the Maradaine saga comes a new steampunk fantasy novel that explores a chaotic city on the verge of revolution.

Ziaparr: a city being rebuilt after years of mechanized and magical warfare, the capital of a ravaged nation on the verge of renewal and self-rule. But unrest foments as undercaste cycle gangs raid supply trucks, agitate the populace and vandalize the city. A revolution is brewing in the slums and shantytowns against the occupying government, led by a voice on the radio, connected through forbidden magic.

Wenthi Tungét, a talented cycle rider and a loyal officer in the city patrol, is assigned to infiltrate the cycle gangs. For his mission against the insurgents, Wenthi must use their magic, connecting his mind to Nália, a recently captured rebel, using her knowledge to find his way into the heart of the rebellion.

Wenthi's skill on a cycle makes him valuable to the resistance cell he joins, but he discovers that the magic enhances with speed. Every ride intensifies his connection, drawing him closer to the gang he must betray, and strengthens Nália's presence as she haunts his mind.

Wenthi is torn between justice and duty, and the wrong choice will light a spark in a city on the verge of combustion.

Velocity didn’t register for me until KA Doore featured it on their (life-saving, pore-cleansing, utterly unmissable) list of Queer Adult SFF releases on twitter. But queer found family? Polyamory? Magic motorbikes? Oh hell yes!

(Someone should tell the publisher that it’s dieselpunk, not steampunk, though!)

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within (Wayfarers, #4) by Becky Chambers
Representation: Unspecified queer characters
Published on: 16th February 2021
Genres: Sci Fi
Goodreads

With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.

At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

Does the Wayfarer series need any introduction? These are soft, quiet hopepunk books that have rightfully entranced just about everyone who’s ever picked them up. Alas, Chambers has said this will be the last of the series, but that just makes it extra-special, right?

The Black Coast (The God-King Chronicles, #1) by Mike Brooks
Representation: Queer characters
Published on: 16th February 2021
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Goodreads

Epic world-building at its finest, in an upcoming author’s fantasy debut. The Black Coast is the start of an unmissable series filled with war-dragons, armoured knights, sea-faring raiders, dangerous magic and crowd-pleasing battle scenes.

When the citizens of Black Keep see ships on the horizon, terror takes them, for they know who is coming: for generations, Black Keep has been raided by the fearsome clanspeople of Iwernia. Saddling their war dragons, the Naridans rush to defend their home only to discover that the clanspeople have not come to pillage at all. Driven from their own homeland by the rise of a daemonic despot who prophesies the end of the world, they have come in search of a new home. Meanwhile the wider continent of Narida is lurching toward war. Black Keep is about to be caught in the cross-fire of the coming war for the world – if only its new mismatched society can survive.

I became obsessed with Black Coast after watching Brooks read an excerpt on youtube, and hearing that there were going to be both dragons and queerness. Well, I was approved for an arc yesterday, and the very first page had me hooked. The prose is stunning and I adore the worldbuilding already; it seems like it’s going to be every bit as good as it sounds.

The Shadow War by Lindsay Smith
Representation: Queer cast
Published on: 23rd February 2021
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

Inglourious Basterds meets Stranger Things in this dark and thrilling tale of power, shadow, and revenge set during World War II.

World War II is raging, and five teens are looking to make a mark. Daniel and Rebeka seek revenge against the Nazis who slaughtered their family; Simone is determined to fight back against the oppressors who ruined her life and corrupted her girlfriend; Phillip aims to prove that he's better than his worst mistakes; and Liam is searching for a way to control the portal to the shadow world he's uncovered, and the monsters that live within it--before the Nazi regime can do the same. When the five meet, and begrudgingly team up, in the forests of Germany, none of them knows what their future might hold.

As they race against time, war, and enemies from both this world and another, Liam, Daniel, Rebeka, Phillip, and Simone know that all they can count on is their own determination and will to survive. With their world turned upside down, and the shadow realm looming ominously large--and threateningly close--the course of history and the very fate of humanity rest in their hands. Still, the most important question remains: Will they be able to save it?

Queer teens using dark magic to fight the Nazis??? I’ll take ten copies, please!

Escaping Exodus: Symbiosis by Nicky Drayden
Representation: Cast of colour, matriarchy, polyamory, bisexual
Published on: 23rd February 2021
Genres: Sci Fi, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

The Compton Crook Award-winning author weaves her trademark blend of science fiction and dark humor in this dazzling story that continues the imaginative saga begun in Escaping Exodus, in which a society lives in the belly of a beast—and an entire civilization's survival depends on a pair of uneasy allies who must come together for one epic battle.

Nearly a thousand years removed from Earth, the remnants of humanity cling to existence inside giant, space faring creatures known as the Zenzee. Abused and exploited by humans for generations, these majestic animals nearly went extinct, but under the command of its newly minted ruler, Doka Kaleigh, life in the Parados I has flourished. Thanks to careful oversight and sacrifice by all of its crew, they are now on the brink of utopia, and yet Doka’s rivals feel threatened by that success.  The Senate allowed Doka to lead their people believing he’d fail spectacularly—a disaster that would cement the legitimacy of their long-standing matriarchy. Despite vocal opposition and blatant attacks on his authority, Doka has continued to handle his position with grace and intelligence; he knows a single misstep means disaster. When a cataclysmic event on another Zenzee world forces Doka and his people to accept thousands of refugees, a culture clash erupts, revealing secrets from the past that could endanger their future. For Doka, the stakes are bigger and more personal than ever before—and could cost him his reign and his heart. 

He has fallen for the one woman he is forbidden to love: his wife, Seske. 

Doka and Seske must work closely together to sway the other Zenzee worlds to stop their cycles of destruction. But when they stumble upon a discovery that can transform their world, they know they must prepare to fight a battle where there can be no winners, only survivors. 

Symbiosis is the sequel to Drayden’s Escaping Exodus, which followed the princess of a matriarchal culture that lived inside giant space-faring animals. Escaping Exodus had a lot going on, and the ending came with a bang, so I’m massively excited to see what’s next for these characters and their culture.

A Dark and Hollow Star (A Dark and Hollow Star, #1) by Ashley Shuttleworth
Representation: Queer cast
Published on: 23rd February 2021
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

The Cruel Prince meets City of Bones in this thrilling urban fantasy set in the magical underworld of Toronto that follows a queer cast of characters racing to stop a serial killer whose crimes could expose the hidden world of faeries to humans.
Choose your player.

The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.

For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it.

I loved the sound of this even before that jaw-dropping cover was revealed, but I’ve got to be honest, I’m judging the book by the cover in the best way. I’ve heard nothing but praise for this from early reviewers, and the premise sounds like a take on urban fantasy I can really get behind.

March

The Councillor by E.J. Beaton
Representation: Bisexual MC, queernorm world, secondary M/M
Published on: 2nd March 2021
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

This Machiavellian fantasy follows a scholar's quest to choose the next ruler of her kingdom amidst lies, conspiracy, and assassination.

When the death of Iron Queen Sarelin Brey fractures the realm of Elira, Lysande Prior, the palace scholar and the queen’s closest friend, is appointed Councillor. Publically, Lysande must choose the next monarch from amongst the city-rulers vying for the throne. Privately, she seeks to discover which ruler murdered the queen, suspecting the use of magic.

Resourceful, analytical, and quiet, Lysande appears to embody the motto she was raised with: everything in its place. Yet while she hides her drug addiction from her new associates, she cannot hide her growing interest in power. She becomes locked in a game of strategy with the city-rulers – especially the erudite prince Luca Fontaine, who seems to shift between ally and rival.

Further from home, an old enemy is stirring: the magic-wielding White Queen is on the move again, and her alliance with a traitor among the royal milieu poses a danger not just to the peace of the realm, but to the survival of everything that Lysande cares about.

In a world where the low-born keep their heads down, Lysande must learn to fight an enemy who wears many guises… even as she wages her own battle between ambition and restraint.

I’m reading this one at the moment, and folx…it’s brilliant. I love everything about it; the worldbuilding, the prose, the characters, the casual way Beaton treats queerness…it’s intricate and delicious and I can’t turn the pages fast enough. If you like fantasy politics with a side helping of critiquing the class system, this is definitely for you!

A Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan, #2) by Arkady Martine
Representation: F/F or wlw
Published on: 2nd March 2021
Genres: Sci Fi, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.

In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.

Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever.

Martine went onto my auto-buy list after the first book in this series, A Memory of Empire, which had some of the most interesting sci-fi worldbuilding I’ve ever seen and appropriately poetic prose. Desolation comes hard on the heels of Memory, and I can’t wait to see how Teixcalaan deals with the mic-drop Mahit dealt them at the end of the last book – or how Martine brings that fantastic talent for worldbuilding to actual, non-human aliens!

Sweet & Bitter Magic by Adrienne Tooley
Representation: F/F or wlw
Published on: 9th March 2021
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

In this charming debut fantasy perfect for fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Girls of Paper and Fire, a witch cursed to never love meets a girl hiding her own dangerous magic, and the two strike a dangerous bargain to save their queendom.

Tamsin is the most powerful witch of her generation. But after committing the worst magical sin, she’s exiled by the ruling Coven and cursed with the inability to love. The only way she can get those feelings back—even for just a little while—is to steal love from others.

Wren is a source—a rare kind of person who is made of magic, despite being unable to use it herself. Sources are required to train with the Coven as soon as they discover their abilities, but Wren—the only caretaker to her ailing father—has spent her life hiding her secret.

When a magical plague ravages the queendom, Wren’s father falls victim. To save him, Wren proposes a bargain: if Tamsin will help her catch the dark witch responsible for creating the plague, then Wren will give Tamsin her love for her father.

Of course, love bargains are a tricky thing, and these two have a long, perilous journey ahead of them—that is, if they don't kill each other first.

That cover would have sold me even if the premise didn’t grab my attention – which it absolutely does. I’m really hoping that Tooley’s prose is the lush descriptive kind that the cover implies, but either way, I’m excited to get to read it.

The Queen's Weapons (The Black Jewels #11) by Anne Bishop
Representation: MCs of colour
Published on: 9th March 2021
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy
Goodreads

Enter the dark and sensual realms of the Black Jewels, a world where power always has a price, in this sweeping story in the New York Times bestselling fantasy saga.

They are Warlord Princes, men born to serve and protect. They are the Queen's Weapons, men born to destroy the Queen's enemies--no matter what face that enemy wears.

Daemonar Yaslana knows how to be bossy yet supportive--traits he shares with his father, the Demon Prince, and his uncle, the High Lord of Hell. Within his generation of the family, he assumes the role of protector, supporting his sister Titian’s artistic efforts and curbing his cousin Jaenelle Saetien’s more adventurous ideas. But when a young Eyrien Queen, someone Titian thought was a friend, inflicts an emotional wound, Daemonar's counterattack brings him under the tutelage of Witch, the Queen whose continued existence is known only to a select few.

As Daemonar is confronted by troubling changes within and around the family, he sees warnings that a taint in the Blood might be reappearing. Daemonar, along with his father and uncle, must uncover the source of a familiar evil--and Daemon Sadi, the High Lord of Hell, may be forced into making a terrible choice.

The Black Jewels trilogy was one of my formative fantasy reads, and I was as ecstatic as every other fan when Bishop came back to the series years after saying she was done. The previous book seems to be setting up something potentially big and epic, so I really want to see if I’ve guessed right – about so many things! – in Weapons. Plus, you know; I’m just dying to get back to these characters that I adore so much!

April

First, Become Ashes by K.M. Szpara
Representation: Unspecified queer characters
Published on: 6th April 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

The Fellowship raised Lark to kill monsters.His partner betrayed them to the Feds.But Lark knows his magic is real, and he'll do anything to complete his quest.

K. M. Szpara follows Docile, one of the most anticipated science fiction novels of 2020, with First, Become Ashes, a fantastic standalone adventure that blends pain and pleasure and will make readers question what is real, and what is magical.

Lark spent the first twenty-four years, nine months, and three days of his life training for a righteous quest: to rid the world of monsters. Alongside his partner Kane, he wore the cage and endured the scourge in order to develop his innate magic. He never thought that when Kane left, he'd next see him in the company of FBI agents and a SWAT team. He never dreamed that the leader of the Fellowship of the Anointed would be brought up on charges of abuse and assault.

He never expected the government would tell him that the monsters aren't real--that there is no magic, and all the pain was for nothing.
Lark isn't ready to give up. He is determined to fulfill his quest, to defeat the monsters he was promised. Along the way he will grapple with the past, confront love, and discover his long-buried truth.

Apparently First, Become Ashes comes with even more content warnings than did Docile, Szpara’s debut, but I’m still dying to get my grubby mits on it. The premise sounds incredibly interesting and honestly, at this point I’ll read anything Szpara deigns to share with the rest of us.

May

Son of the Storm (The Nameless Republic, #1) by Suyi Davies Okungbowa
Representation: Cast of colour
Published on: 11th May 2021
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Goodreads

From one of the most exciting new storytellers in epic fantasy, the first book in the Nameless Republic trilogy is a sweeping tale of violent conquest and forbidden magic set in a world inspired by the pre-colonial empires of West Africa.

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.

I ended up really enjoying Okungbowa’s debut, David Mogo, Godhunter, which was a mash-up of urban and mythological fantasy set in Nigeria. Son of the Storm looks to be full-on epic fantasy, and I’m absolutely in love with that blurb and that cover. (Two moons! There are two moons!!!)

Angel of the Overpass (Ghost Roads, #3) by Seanan McGuire
Published on: 11th May 2021
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Goodreads

Lady of shadows, keeper of changes, plant the seeds of faith within me, that I might grow and flourish, that I might find my way through danger and uncertainty to the safety of your garden. Let my roots grow strong and my skin grow thick, that I might stand fast against all who would destroy me. Grant to me your favor, grant to me your grace, and when my time is done, grant to me the wisdom to lay my burdens down and rest beside you, one more flower in a sea of blooms, where nothing shall ever trouble me again.

Rose Marshall died when she was sixteen years old and on her way to her high school prom. She hasn’t been resting easy since then—Bobby Cross, the man who killed her, got away clean after running her off the road, and she’s not the kind of girl who can let something like that slide. She’s been looking for a way to stop him since before they put her body in the ground.

But things have changed in the twilight world where the spirits of the restless dead continue their “lives.” The crossroads have been destroyed, and Bobby’s protections are gone. For the first time, it might be possible for Rose to defeat him.

Not alone, though. She’ll need every friend she’s managed to make and every favor she’s managed to add to her account if she wants to stand a chance…and this may be her last chance to be avenged, since what is Bobby Cross without the crossroads?

Everything Rose knows is about to change.

I’m not generally a fan of ghosts – they bore me to tears most of the time – but I fell really hard for McGuire’s Ghost Roads series and I’m delighted we’re getting another installment. Honestly, the blurb doesn’t matter to me at all; I just want to get back to Rose and her friends and the incredible ghost roads!

In the Ravenous Dark by A.M. Strickland, AdriAnne Strickland
Representation: Pansexual MC, lesbian love interest, secondary nonbinary character, F/F or wlw, polyamory M/F/F
Published on: 18th May 2021
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

A pansexual bloodmage reluctantly teams up with an undead spirit to start a rebellion among the living and the dead.

In Thanopolis, those gifted with magic are assigned undead spirits to guard them—and control them. Ever since Rovan’s father died trying to keep her from this fate, she’s hidden her magic. But when she accidentally reveals her powers, she’s bound to a spirit and thrust into a world of palace intrigue and deception.

Desperate to escape, Rovan finds herself falling for two people she can’t fully trust: Lydea, a beguiling, rebellious princess; and Ivrilos, the handsome spirit with the ability to control Rovan, body and soul.

Together, they uncover a secret that will destroy Thanopolis. To save them all, Rovan will have to start a rebellion in both the mortal world and the underworld, and find a way to trust the princess and spirit battling for her heart—if she doesn’t betray them first.

Strickland described Ravenous Dark thusly;

‘This book involves blood magic, death magic, a spooky underworld, and ghostly guardians. It stars a young woman (19), Rovan, who falls for her hated guardian, gets entranced by a beguiling princess at the same time, and starts a revolution in both the living world and the underworld.

This book is queer. It has a pansexual main character (though that word isn’t used on page in this Greco-Roman-inspired fantasy world), a lesbian love interest, an asexual and nonbinary major supporting character (they/them pronouns used throughout, no misgendering), multiple f/f relationships and a m/f/f relationship. Queerness isn’t really an issue in the world unless it messes with heirs/lines of succession and then it’s policed a bit, but don’t be too concerned about major homophobia or transphobia since it’s generally accepted. It also has the queer found family of my heart, which makes this book one of my favorites. That, and it’s super weird. Get ready for a blood-spattered, kiss-filled roller coaster ride.’

What else could you possibly need to know?

The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum
Representation: Nonbinary gender system
Published on: 18th May 2021
Genres: Sci Fi, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

In a far-future society where biotechnology has revolutionized gender, young Fift must decide whether to conform or carve a new path.

In the distant future somewhere in the galaxy, a society has emerged where everyone has multiple bodies, cybernetics has abolished privacy, and individual and family success within the rigid social system is reliant upon instantaneous social approbation.

Young Fift is an only child of the staid gender, struggling to maintain their position in the system while developing an intriguing friendship with the poorly-publicized bioengineer Shria–somewhat controversial, since Shria is bail-gendered.

In time, Fift and Shria unintentionally wind up at the center of a scandalous art spectacle which turns into the early stages of a multi-layered revolution against their strict societal system. Suddenly they become celebrities and involuntary standard-bearers for the upheaval.

Fift is torn between the survival of Shria and the success of their family cohort; staying true to their feelings and caving under societal pressure. Whatever Fift decides will make a disproportionately huge impact on the future of the world. What’s a young staid to do when the whole world is watching?

I haven’t seen a lot of people talking about this one, nor any reviews for it, but after seeing the author talking about it on twitter I knew I needed to add this one to by tbr. I’m always fascinated by new takes on gender, and especially on how our concepts of gender might evolve in the future. This sounds like it’s going to be an interesting take!

June

The Witch King (The Witch King, #1) by H.E. Edgmon
Representation: Trans MC, M/M or mlm
Published on: 1st June 2021
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

To save a fae kingdom, a trans witch must face his traumatic past and the royal fiancé he left behind. This debut YA fantasy will leave you spellbound.

Wyatt would give anything to forget where he came from—but a kingdom demands its king.
In Asalin, fae rule and witches like Wyatt Croft…don’t. Wyatt’s betrothal to his best friend, fae prince Emyr North, was supposed to change that. But when Wyatt lost control of his magic one devastating night, he fled to the human world.

Now a coldly distant Emyr has hunted him down. Despite transgender Wyatt’s newfound identity and troubling past, Emyr has no intention of dissolving their engagement. In fact, he claims they must marry now or risk losing the throne. Jaded, Wyatt strikes a deal with the enemy, hoping to escape Asalin forever. But as he gets to know Emyr, Wyatt realizes the boy he once loved may still exist. And as the witches face worsening conditions, he must decide once and for all what’s more important—his people or his freedom.

This is another of those books I’ve been waiting years for, ever since Witch King showed up on goodreads, and it’s definitely one of the bigger reasons I’m excited for this year’s line-up!

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo
Representation: Queer Asian MC
Published on: 1st June 2021
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

Immigrant. Socialite. Magician.

Jordan Baker grows up in the most rarefied circles of 1920s American society—she has money, education, a killer golf handicap, and invitations to some of the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age. She’s also queer, Asian, adopted, and treated as an exotic attraction by her peers, while the most important doors remain closed to her.

But the world is full of wonders: infernal pacts and dazzling illusions, lost ghosts and elemental mysteries. In all paper is fire, and Jordan can burn the cut paper heart out of a man. She just has to learn how.

Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents this classic of the American canon as a coming-of-age story full of magic, mystery, and glittering excess, and introduces a major new literary voice.

Listen, I swooned for both Vo’s novellas, I can’t even believe how blessed we are to be getting a full novel from her! I couldn’t give less of a damn about Great Gatsby, but Vo’s retelling sounds far more my thing, and married to her mindblowing prose??? Yes please!

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston
Representation: F/F or wlw, love interest of colour
Published on: 1st June 2021
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time.

Red, White and Royal Blue, McQuiston’s debut, made me smile like nothing else and became an instant fave, so of course I’m excited for this! Especially for the queer history aspect to it; I’m sure I’m going to ship the main characters so hard, but I’m also really hyped for a non-whitewashed exploration of the queer rights movement. And I’m pretty confident this is going to be another book that makes me smile so hard I hurt myself.

Future Feeling by Joss Lake
Representation: Trans cast
Published on: 1st June 2021
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

An embittered dog walker obsessed with a social media influencer inadvertently puts a curse a young man—and must adventure into mysterious dimension in order to save him—in this wildly inventive, delightfully subversive, genre-nonconforming debut novel about illusion, magic, technology, kinship, and the emergent future.

The year is 20__, and Penfield R. Henderson is in a rut. When he’s not walking dogs for cash or responding to booty calls from his B-list celebrity hookup, he’s holed up in his dingy Bushwick apartment obsessing over holograms of Aiden Chase, a fellow trans man and influencer documenting his much smoother transition into picture-perfect masculinity on the Gram. After an IRL encounter with Aiden leaves Pen feeling especially resentful, Pen enlists his roommates, the Witch and the Stoner-Hacker, to put their respective talents to use in hexing Aiden. Together, they gain access to Aiden’s social media account and post a picture of Pen’s aloe plant, Alice, tied to a curse:

Whosoever beholds the aloe will be pushed into the Shadowlands.

When the hex accidentally bypasses Aiden, sending another young trans man named Blithe to the Shadowlands (the dreaded emotional landscape through which every trans person must journey to achieve true self-actualization), the Rhiz (the quasi-benevolent big brother agency overseeing all trans matters) orders Pen and Aiden to team up and retrieve him. The two trace Blithe to a dilapidated motel in California and bring him back to New York, where they try to coax Blithe to stop speaking only in code and awkwardly try to pass on what little trans wisdom they possess. As the trio makes its way in a world that includes pitless avocados and subway cars that change color based on occupants’ collective moods but still casts judgment on anyone not perfectly straight, Pen starts to learn that sometimes a family isn’t just the people who birthed you.

Magnificently imagined, linguistically dazzling, and riotously fun, Future Feeling presents an alternate future in which advanced technology still can’t replace human connection but may give the trans community new ways to care for its own.

This sounds like incredibly weird, delightful fun, and I love books that take witches and magic and mix them up with things like instagram and influencers. And all this chaos over an aloe plant??? I preordered and I’m not even a little bit sorry.

The Jasmine Throne (Burning Kingdoms, #1) by Tasha Suri
Representation: Cast of colour, F/F or wlw
Published on: 10th June 2021
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri's The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess's traitor brother.

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

Suri’s Books of Ambha duet was breathtakingly beautiful, poignant, and powerful, so you can bet I’m counting the days until Jasmine Throne! This sounds like another epic fantasy without a white person in sight, and anything but your cliche Medieval Europe setting – and we get an F/F romance! Honestly, at this point Suri’s just spoiling us.

The Hidden Palace (The Golem and the Jinni, #2) by Helene Wecker
Representation: MCs of colour
Published on: 8th June 2021
Genres: Historical Fantasy
Goodreads

In this enthralling historical epic, set in New York City and the Middle East in the years leading to World War I— the long-awaited follow-up to the acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Golem and the Jinni—Helene Wecker revisits her beloved characters Chava and Ahmad as they confront unexpected new challenges in a rapidly changing human world.

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?

The Golem and the Jinni is a favourite of mine, and I’m really excited to see where Wecker takes these characters in a sequel. Arabic mythology + Jewish folklore + historical fantasy? Yep, yep, yep! I’m just going to have to make sure I reread the first book in time for Hidden Palace‘s release day!

Star Eater by Kerstin Hall
Representation: Bisexual MC
Published on: 22nd June 2021
Genres: Epic Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Goodreads

She swallowed a star, and the Sisterhood called her the Eater.

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 Eater takes 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.

I’ve been anxiously awaiting anything Hall might grace us with since her debut novella Border Keeper, which I adored beyond the ability of words to describe. And now we’re getting a full novel?! About what Hall describes as a ‘matriarchal theological bureaucracy’? YES. SO MUCH YES!

(Also, I’m so happy – like, RIDICULOUSLY happy – to see stars associated with fantasy instead of sci fi. I love stars and star-magic and I’m sad we don’t get more of it!)

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison
Published on: 22nd June 2021
Genres: Secondary World Fantasy
Goodreads

A standalone novel in the fantastic world of Katherine Addison's award-winning The Goblin Emperor.

When young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had killed his father and half-brothers in The Goblin Emperor, he turned to an obscure resident of his court, a Witness for The Dead named Thara Celehar.

Now, far from the court, Thara Celehar lives in quasi-exile, neither courtier nor prelate, serving the common people of the city. He lives modestly, communicating with the dead as is his duty.

But his decency and fundamental honesty will not permit him to live quietly. Celehar will follow the truth wherever it leads him no matter who may be implicated in murder, fraud, or ancient injustices.

I feel a little sorry for Addison, because after the immense amount of love The Goblin Emperor received, Witness of the Dead has a lot to live up to. But I’m really excited to be coming back to this world, and to get more of Addison’s beautiful writing, even if this book doesn’t follow Maia. You can bet I’ll be jumping into this head-first on release day!

The Last Graduate (The Scholomance, #2) by Naomi Novik
Representation: Biracial MC
Published on: 29th June 2021
Genres: Fantasy
Goodreads

A budding dark sorceress determined not to use her formidable powers uncovers yet more secrets about the workings of her world in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education, the start of Naomi Novik's groundbreaking crossover series.

At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year--and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules . . .

I really, really, REALLY loved the first book in this series, A Deadly Education, so of course I’m dying (…bad pun is bad) to find out how El and her friends make it through their final year at the Scholomance! And, you know, anxious to make sure they all do make it through their final year, which is far from guaranteed…

There are still MORE incredible books coming in the second half of the year, but those will have to wait for their own list!

So! Did you discover any new must-haves on this list? Did I miss some you’re excited for? Let me know!

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