I’ve read a lot of amazing books in 2021, and I may have some new additions to my all-time favorites list. But the list of all-timers is a lot shorter than the list of authors who have me really excited for their next projects. So let me take a moment to share some sci-fi/fantasy authors I read in 2021 that have me moving the rest of their catalogs to the top of my TBR. With apologies to short fiction authors, I’m focused on longer work here because I there are just too many new-to-me short story authors I enjoyed this year. Many of those were in my mid-year short fiction favorites post, and many more will be in my upcoming Hugo long list draft post.
Twice is Confirmation
There are a number of authors I had read and liked who moved much farther up my TBR by demonstrating they could repeat the quality I’d seen before.
This section starts with Daniel Abraham, who wrote my three favorite novels of 2020 and proved he could land the plane with my favorite novel of 2021: The Price of Spring. It’s one thing to develop a fascinating concept, but bringing it to a finish is another thing entirely, and Abraham succeeded with flying colors in The Long Price Quartet. I’ve already secured an ARC of his next fantasy project, and I’m also looking for a free moment to check out The Dagger and the Coin.
I read and loved Children of Time back before I started blogging, but it was hard to tell whether I’d found a new author to follow or just someone who happened to hit on one particularly interesting concept. Elder Race–my favorite novella of 2021–emphatically ended that debate, although his extensive catalog does make it hard to choose which book to read next.
Like Abraham, Bancroft showed that he could finish with the outstanding finale to The Books of Babel. The combination of creativity and stunning, timeless prose is enough to have me first in line for his next project.
Like with Tchaikovsky, I read and loved his most famous work (in this case, The Ballad of Black Tom) before I started blogging. But reading The Devil in Silver confirmed that I need to make LaValle a priority. The fantasy elements are light, but the prose, character work, and social commentary are all top notch. The only question is whether or not I make it to The Changeling before he releases something new to catch my eye.
My First Won’t Be My Last
Legendborn was the best young adult fantasy novel I read in 2021, with excellent character work, a fascinating story, and a powerful and nuanced exploration of the echoes of injustice and trauma from the past into the present. There’s no way the sequel can recapture the wonder of discovery delivered in her debut, but Deonn has more than earned another look, and I’m excited to see where she’ll take the now-established world.
The Nothing Within blended sci-fi and fantasy in an Amish-inspired post-apocalyptic dystopia with compelling characters and plot and a fantastic narrative voice. I don’t know if he’ll return to this world or create another, but either way, I’m going to take a long look at what comes next.
The Space Between Worlds was an outstanding multiverse sci-fi thriller (and I’m on the record as being hard to impress with thrillers) with unusual nuance and depth. It was enough for my first-place vote for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and I’ll be here for whatever she comes out with next.
The Empress of Salt and Fortune was a well-deserved winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novella, and the combination of Vo’s gorgeous prose and carefully crafted oblique epic that doesn’t leave a word out of place has me excited to check out her next work.
S. Qiouyu Lu
In the Watchful City tells a series of heart-wrenching stories with consistently gorgeous prose. I don’t know what æ plans next, but I’ll have an eye on it.
I read the first two entries of The Poppy War Trilogy this year, and I’m certainly ready to get to the third.
Porque No Los Dos?
I hadn’t read any Kingfisher before this year, but between a gripping portal fantasy/horror and one of my absolutely favorite YA/MG fantasy novels, she’s proven well worth my time. Like Tchaikovsky, the main question is which to read next–I’ve already acquired two more of her books, but she’s releasing them faster than I can read them.
I continued Sherwood Smith’s Inda and Rosemary Kirstein’s Steerswoman series, and while neither ascended to a level higher than what I’d read before, both have me plenty excited to continue. Similarly, I’ve just read two entries of one series by Mary Robinette Kowal, but they’ve been good enough to seek out her other work.
I fell in love with the short fiction writing of Ken Liu and Sarah Pinsker and need to find the chance to try their extended work.
The flashes of brilliance in Simon Jimenez’ debut has me intrigued to check out his next work–even if I didn’t hit this one with a five-star rating. I’m similarly intrigued by Tade Thompson after enjoying both of his works I read this year (especially the second). And my first experience with Guy Gavriel Kay indicates that I’ll probably like more of his work, although I’m not sure where to go next after reading a book often cited as his best.
I adored Susanna Clarke‘s Piranesi and would have her on the list if not for the fact that I’ve been told on multiple occasions that her award-winning debut is very much not up my alley. I also really enjoyed my first read by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, but in a way that gives me no idea whether I’d like their other work.