Serena’s Favorite Reads of 2021: Picks 5-1

Another a year, another almost impossible task trying to each choose our Top 10 Reads of the year! For me, the word “favorite” is an important part of this list. As I go through the last year’s worth of reading, I often found that some books would strike particular chords within me more deeply than others, even if, quality-wise, another book might be stronger. Of course, this just makes it all that much harder to put them in any order. But here it goes! Today I’m going to countdown my favorites reads, ten to six. And since it’s the end of the reading year, don’t forget to enter our 12 Days of Christmas Giveaway!

5. “Forestborn” by Elayne Audrey Becker

I get the feeling that this book has flown largely under the radar of the mainstream reading community, and that’s so, so sad! I really loved this first installment in a new fantasy duology. There are many familiar elements (persecuted magical beings, royal figures who are more than they seem, an enemies-to-lovers romance), but Becker strings all of these elements together in such a way that the story still felt fresh and new. Her writing was also perfectly suited for my preferences, being both lyrical and character-focused. I pretty much binge read this book and am anxiously awaiting the second book’s release in 2022. Those who like fairytale-like fantasy stories and a solid romance, definitely check this one out!

“Forestborn” Review

4. “A Desolation Called Peace” by Arkady Martine

“A Desolation Called Peace” Review

This is the second time that Martine has been featured on one of these lists for me. And it just goes to show the strength of her writing and of this duology that her second book, “A Desolation Called Peace,” has actually climbed up the ranking! I enjoyed this one even more than “A Memory Called Empire.” Having already gotten much of the character introductions done and the basic world-building laid out, it was clear that Martine felt free to truly explore the moral, cultural quandaries at the heart of this universe she had imagined. I always enjoy science fiction that pushes the boundaries on first contact scenarios with new alien species, and Martine does that here with spades. If you liked “A Memory Called Empire” and haven’t gotten around to this one yet for some reason, what are you waiting for?

3. “Black Sun” by Rebecca Roanhorse

“Black Sun” Review

I find this one particularly amusing. If you read the review, you’ll see it’s that unicorn of a book where Kate and I really come down on opposite sides (well, we probably would do that rather often if we both regularly read out of our preferred genres, but that’s really neither here nor there). As far as our category system goes, this book can be found under the tag “Rating 6” AND “Rating 10.” Which is just strange! As you may have guessed, I was the one who rated it 10. I enjoyed all three of the POV characters, even when some of them were on opposing sides of the brewing conflict. The world-building was fantastic and unique, and I always enjoy a good political fantasy. This is definitely one to check-out if you’re looking for an action-packed story and three excellent main characters.

2. “The Last Graduate” by Naomi Novik

“The Last Graduate” Review

No one will be shocked to see this one on this list, or even to see it high up on the list. I don’t think there’s been a year that Novik has released a new book and it hasn’t made my “Top 10.” Man, it was such a long wait for this book to release! Not only did I get an advance copy of the first book which set the waiting time as even longer, but this book’s publication date was set back from its original. But it finally arrived and was everything I could have asked for! El was back in all of her snarky glory. Orion was back in all of his clueless glory. And now in their final year, the stakes were even higher. Alas, the book did end on a pretty massive cliffhanger, so the horrid wait for the final installment has already begun. September can’t come soon enough!

1. “Vespertine” by Margaret Rogerson

“Vespertine” Review

Perhaps even crueler than the cliffhangers that Naomi Novik tends to write is the long wait time I had to endure before Margaret Rogerson released her next book! It’s been years, I tell you! But it did not disappoint and, what’s more, seems to be the start of a series? Maybe? It also works as a stand-alone book, which is one of the things I’ve loved about Rogerson’s work in the past. This story has all of the trade-mark aspects that I’ve loved from this author: a fantastic leading lading, hilarious banter, and an imaginative new fantasy world. Fans of her work should definitely check out and, heck, any fantasy fan should check out ALL of her work!

So there’s my complete list! What were your top five reads of 2021?

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