Goodreads Choice Awards? Not in this economy.
Okay, okay, I know the GR Choice Awards did happen. And I know they’re kind of a mess, as usual. But you know what clearly really matters? The best books of 2021. My best books of 2021, to be specific. 😤 That’s right, Meeghan @ Meeghan Reads clearly intended this to be all about my opinions here, and boy, do I have them prepared and ready to go!
Full disclosure: I will not be swayed on any of these selections, unlike most T5T posts. This is the definitive list. Just the way it is, folks!
The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
Of all the books I’m including today, The Girls I’ve Been is my absolute favorite of the year. It gets pride of place for its brilliant non-linear storytelling, coupled with a truly nuanced exploration of trauma and its consequences, as well as a cast that makes each terrifying moment of a bank heist electric.
Also, the love interest is brilliant, supportive, loves vintage clothes, and knows a possibly concerning amount about arson. What’s not to love?
(And yes, this book also reminds me of Leverage in so, so many ways, which is another reason it’s my Number One this year. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!)
Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao
If you want brutal, Iron Widow has it. From the opening pages, it grabbed me by the throat and refused to let go, no matter how dire things got. Xiran Jay Zhao’s debut is powerful in every way, from the massive mechas to Zeitan’s indomitable fury to the blend of Chinese culture and sci-fi together as one. For every success, Zeitan finds a greater challenge to overcome, and I’m still floored from the final few chapters whirling by as they did.
Whatever comes next in the Iron Widow series, I want to be there, and I want front row seats. Even if it hurts.
Witchshadow by Susan Dennard
Anyone who’s been around Hail & Well Read for long enough probably knows that the Witchland series is one of my favorites. It’s a rare long YA fantasy series (Witchshadow is the fifth, counting Sightwitch, which I always count despite TorTeen marketing it as an optional novella), and Susan Dennard’s worldbuilding never fails to make me jealous. She builds and builds and builds so much, and the Witchlands would be my number one candidate to turn into an open-world video game if I had a say in that kind of thing.
Plus, Witchshadow is finally my girl Iseult’s time to shine, and she comes into her own in ways that had me tearing up. I love her so much, folks! I really do!
Cap it off with some reveals that made the wait well worth it, and you have a book that’s left me on the edge of my seat. I can’t wait for the final Witchlands book, but I’m also scared for how it’s going to end!
Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft
A little bit gothic, a little bit romance, a little bit fantasy… Down Comes the Night is a wintery blend of it all, and I loved it whole-heartedly! Healer characters are some of my favorites, right up there with protector types, and Wren ended up being precisely the kind of protagonist I like rooting for. Of course a novel about a girl who dares to choose hope and compassion in the face of war makes my list of best books of 2021!
Plus, the enemies to lovers is exquisite. Do this trope right, and you have me, hook, line, and sinker. What can I say? I’m reliable. Or maybe just predictable.
The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst
The Bone Maker is for all the readers who ever wondered what happens to the Chosen One after the world is saved. For once, we get to see what happens to the heroes when heroes are no longer needed. We get to see how their bonds have grown (or frayed) over the years, how their traumatic experiences have shaped their lives.
Plus, we also get ridiculously clever necromancy, a supportive but sensible husband to the sometimes impulsive lead, a wild child hero, and another supportive but sensible husband out here trying to make the world a better place for his kids. All of these retired heroes taking up the mantle again, standing in the face of world-shattering evil, but this time with the aches and pains of middle age as well as the pressure of fame and trauma alike?
Who am I kidding? Just go get a copy and read it for yourself! I promise it’s worth it, even if you’re only in it for the cool bone magic. It’s really cool bone magic.
And that’s a wrap on 2021! The five best books in indisputable print. I am not accepting criticism at this time, or at any future time. Why would I, when this list is so darn good?
Anyhow, if you need me, I’m preparing for the inevitable crush of 2022, and tempting myself with rereads of all of the best books of 2021 instead. New Year’s Schmoo Year’s, am I right?
I’m definitely right.