Favorite Reads 2021- Part 4: Fantasy

We’re at the final day of my favorite reads list of the year. I used to read fantasy when I was in my early teens, and then I just stopped. I only started reading it a few years ago, and quickly remembered why I love the genre so much. I’m proud that I had so many great fantasy books to pick from for my favorites, so let’s get to it.


The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry, CM Waggoner
Historical Fantasy/LGBTQ+
Amazon, Bookshop, B&N
My Review

About the Book:
Dellaria Wells, petty con artist, occasional thief, and partly educated fire witch, is behind on her rent in the city of Leiscourt—again. Then she sees the “wanted” sign, seeking Female Persons, of Martial or Magical ability, to guard a Lady of some Importance, prior to the celebration of her Marriage. Delly fast-talks her way into the job and joins a team of highly peculiar women tasked with protecting their wealthy charge from unknown assassins.
 
Delly quickly sets her sights on one of her companions, the confident and well-bred Winn Cynallum. The job looks like nothing but romance and easy money until things take a deadly (and undead) turn. With the help of a bird-loving necromancer, a shapeshifting schoolgirl, and an ill-tempered reanimated mouse named Buttons, Delly and Winn are determined to get the best of an adversary who wields a twisted magic and has friends in the highest of places.

The Binding, Bridget Collins
Historical Fantasy, LGBTQ+
Amazon, Bookshop, B&N
My Review

About the Book:
Imagine you could erase grief.
Imagine you could remove pain.
Imagine you could hide the darkest, most horrifying secret.
Forever.

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice amongst their small community, but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.

An unforgettable novel of enchantment, mystery, memory, and forbidden love, The Binding is a beautiful homage to the allure and life-changing power of books—and a reminder to us all that knowledge can be its own kind of magic.

The Ladies of the Secret Circus, Constance Sayers
Historical Fantasy
Amazon, Bookshop, B&N
My Review

About the Book:
Paris, 1925: To enter the Secret Circus is to enter a world of wonder—a world where women weave illusions of magnificent beasts, carousels take you back in time, and trapeze artists float across the sky. Bound to her family’s circus, it’s the only world Cecile Cabot knows until she meets a charismatic young painter and embarks on a passionate affair that could cost her everything.

Virginia, 2004: Lara Barnes is on top of the world until her fiancé disappears on their wedding day. When her desperate search for answers unexpectedly leads to her great-grandmother’s journals, Lara is swept into a story of a dark circus and ill-fated love.

Soon secrets about Lara’s family history begin to come to light, revealing a curse that has been claiming payment from the women in her family for generations. A curse that might be tied to her fiancé’s mysterious disappearance

Spellmaker, Charlie N. Holmberg
Historical Fantasy
Amazon, B&N
My Review

About the Book:
England, 1895. An unsolved series of magician murders and opus thefts isn’t a puzzle to Elsie Camden. But to reveal a master spellcaster as the culprit means incriminating herself as an unregistered spellbreaker. When Elsie refuses to join forces with the charming assassin, her secret is exposed, she’s thrown in jail, and the murderer disappears. But Elsie’s hope hasn’t vanished.

Through a twist of luck, the elite magic user Bacchus Kelsey helps Elsie join the lawful, but with a caveat: they must marry to prove their cover story. Forced beneath a magical tutor while her bond with Bacchus grows, Elsie seeks to thwart the plans of England’s most devious criminal—if she can find them.

With hundreds of stolen spells at their disposal, the villain has a plan—and it involves seducing Elsie to the dark side. But even now that her secret is out, Elsie must be careful how she uses the new abilities she’s discovering, or she may play right into the criminal’s hands.

Once Upon a River, Diane Sutterfield
Historical Fantasy
Amazon, Bookshop, B&N
My Review

About the Book:
On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

Those who dwell on the river bank apply all their ingenuity to solving the puzzle of the girl who died and lived again, yet as the days pass the mystery only deepens. The child herself is mute and unable to answer the essential questions: Who is she? Where did she come from? And to whom does she belong? But answers proliferate nonetheless.

Three families are keen to claim her. A wealthy young mother knows the girl is her kidnapped daughter, missing for two years. A farming family reeling from the discovery of their son’s secret liaison stand ready to welcome their granddaughter. The parson’s housekeeper, humble and isolated, sees in the child the image of her younger sister. But the return of a lost child is not without complications and no matter how heartbreaking the past losses, no matter how precious the child herself, this girl cannot be everyone’s. Each family has mysteries of its own, and many secrets must be revealed before the girl’s identity can be known.

Star Mother, Charlie N. Holmberg
Mythology/Fairy Tale
Amazon, Bookshop, B&N
My Review

About the Book:
When a star dies, a new one must be born.

The Sun God chooses the village of Endwever to provide a mortal womb. The birthing of a star is always fatal for the mother, and Ceris Wenden, who considers herself an outsider, sacrifices herself to secure her family’s honor and take control of her legacy. But after her star child is born, Ceris does what no other star mother has: she survives. When Ceris returns to Endwever, however, it’s not nine months later—it’s seven hundred years later. Inexplicably displaced in time, Ceris is determined to seek out her descendants.

Being a woman traveling alone brings its own challenges, until Ceris encounters a mysterious—and desperate—godling. Ristriel is incorporeal, a fugitive, a trickster, and the only being who can guide Ceris safely to her destination. Now, as Ceris traverses realms both mortal and beyond, her journey truly begins.

Together, pursued across the Earth and trespassing the heavens, Ceris and Ristriel are on a path to illuminate the mysteries that bind them and discover the secrets of the celestial world.

A Spindle Splintered, Alix E. Harrow
Novella/Fantasy/LGBTQ+
Amazon, Bookshop, B&N
My Review

About the Book:
It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no-one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Salvage Alix E. Harrow
Short Story
Amazon, B&N

About the Book:
Oona’s blood is a river delta blending east and west, her hair red as Tennessee clay, her heart tangled as the wild lands she maps. By tracing rivers in ink on paper, Oona pins the land down to one reality and betrays her people. Can she escape the bonds of gold and blood and bone that tie her to the Imperial American River Company?

The Angel’s Wrath, Julia DeBarrioz
Paranormal
Amazon, Etsy
My Review

About the Book:
After the success of the Outliers’ Revolution, things are far from settled for Don Diego and the vampire coven of Santa Fe. Trouble lurks around every corner this holiday season: an impending duel with a deadly mercenary from Spain with whom Diego shares a violent past, and vampires from Washington D.C. who want control of the entire country. An outsider attacking citizens of The City Different threatens to break the truce with the Preternatural Control Team before it’s barely begun. An inhuman art thief is pinching important paintings, including a priceless Cézanne from Diego’s own wall. But worst of all in the new alcalde’s estimation, Dakota’s globe-trotting ex has returned from the jungles of Guatemala, and Diego knows Henrik Heyerdahl’s renewed interest in his consort is anything but platonic. The archeologist is hiding something, and it’s possible he has brought his own supernatural troubles back from the Mayan ruins of the Petén.

When Don Edgar makes an attempt on Dakota del Toro’s life, the bounty hunter shoots her way out, but finds herself suspended from PCT. The future of her career rests in her superior’s hands, and John Steele seems all too eager to extort her into signing up for Knighthood. Determined not to be a pawn in a Super Secret Monster Hunting Society’s game, Dakota digs in her heels, though new powers and the continuation of dreams that feel more and more like memories pull her toward something that feels alarmingly like destiny. Diego knows more than he will say, and Dakota recklessly gambles on the millennia-old demon Sri Devendra for answers. Whether he will help her, or he has his own agenda, is anyone’s guess…

Cryptonalia, Patrick Canning
Fantasy-Humor
Amazon, Bookshop
My Review

About the Book:
Jim and his friends have just gotten the hang of the game known as Cryptofauna (in which players with special abilities influence major and minor events around the globe), when something brand new gets tossed into the mix: Cryptonalia. Is it a festival? Some kind of deadly Olympics? Whatever it is, Cryptonalia only happens once every hundred years, and its astonishing grand prize has the potential to change everything, everywhere, forever.

Jim’s stiffest competition is a woman named Praxis, who carries a five-foot longsword and has some disturbingly-reasonable ideas about Cryptofauna being completely evil. Jim will soon have to decide if the game that once saved his life is actually doing much more harm than good, and what he’s going to do about it.

Either way, the party of the century is here, and you’re invited…


It’s a great list, right? It’s so hard for readers to narrow down their favs, and that’s obviously true for me considering I had to make this a four-part post. Have you read any of the books I’ve posted or added some to your TBR?

2 thoughts on “Favorite Reads 2021- Part 4: Fantasy

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