It’s time for my absolute favorite post: my most anticipated releases for 2021! Specifically, I’m only going to talk about books that are releasing from January through June, because a) this post would be insanely long otherwise, and b) most of the post-June releases don’t have covers yet.
So there are FORTY SIX books here, and this isn’t even everything on my TBR, just the ones I’m most excited for. And this is after I’ve become way more circumspect about adding new books to my TBR; you’ll notice, for example, that as I’ve lost interest in YA fantasy, there’s only one or two YA fantasy releases here, and yet still I’ve somehow managed to accumulate a ridiculous number of books in this post. Alas.
Every seven years, the Agon begins. As punishment for a past rebellion, nine Greek gods are forced to walk the earth as mortals, hunted by the descendants of ancient bloodlines, all eager to kill a god and seize their divine power and immortality. Long ago, Lore Perseous fled that brutal world in the wake of her family’s sadistic murder by a rival line, turning her back on the hunt’s promises of eternal glory. For years she’s pushed away any thought of revenge against the man–now a god–responsible for their deaths. Yet as the next hunt dawns over New York City, two participants seek out her help: Castor, a childhood friend of Lore believed long dead, and a gravely wounded Athena, among the last of the original gods. The goddess offers an alliance against their mutual enemy and, at last, a way for Lore to leave the Agon behind forever. But Lore’s decision to bind her fate to Athena’s and rejoin the hunt will come at a deadly cost–and still may not be enough to stop the rise of a new god with the power to bring humanity to its knees.
Like I said, I’ve been drifting from YA fantasy recently, and yet this book still sounds very appealing. I’ve also seen a few quotes here and there that make this seem like it leans more adult than YA, and I’m always curious about Greek mythology retellings. Plus this book is so hyped, it is inevitable that I will end up giving it a shot.
Persephone Station, a seemingly backwater planet that has largely been ignored by the United Republic of Worlds becomes the focus for the Serrao-Orlov Corporation as the planet has a few secrets the corporation tenaciously wants to exploit. Rosie–owner of Monk’s Bar, in the corporate town of West Brynner, caters to wannabe criminals and rich Earther tourists, of a sort, at the front bar. However, exactly two types of people drank at Monk’s back bar: members of a rather exclusive criminal class and those who sought to employ them. Angel–ex-marine and head of a semi-organized band of beneficent criminals, wayward assassins, and washed up mercenaries with a penchant for doing the honorable thing is asked to perform a job for Rosie. What this job reveals will effect Persephone and put Angel and her squad up against an army. Despite the odds, they are rearing for a fight with the Serrao-Orlov Corporation. For Angel, she knows that once honor is lost, there is no regaining it. That doesn’t mean she can’t damned well try.
Sci-fi of this type can sometimes be a hit or miss for me, but this just sounds so weird and cool, and to be honest, the cover is doing a lot of work convincing me to pick this up. I’ve also been wanting to expand my sci-fi horizons lately and this seems perfect.
The Ruthless Lady’s Guide to Wizardry
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.
This author’s debut was also on my list of anticipated releases and I still have yet to read it even though I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy it, just as I’m sure I’ll enjoy her sophomore novel. I love this kind of light, fluffy fantasy. Also, standalone fantasy!!! Female bodyguards!
The Brass Queen
In 1897, a fiery British aristocrat and an inept US spy search for a stolen invisibility serum that could spark a global war. Miss Constance Haltwhistle is the last in a line of blue-blooded rogue inventors. Selling exotic firearms under her alias, the ‘Brass Queen,’ has kept her baronial estate’s coffers full. But when US spy, Trusdale, saves her from assassins, she’s pulled into a search for a scientist with an invisibility serum. As royal foes create an invisible army to start a global war, Constance and Trusdale must learn to trust each other. If they don’t, the world they know will literally disappear before their eyes.
I’ll read pretty much anything set in the Victorian era, and this just sounds absolutely wild and very weird, which is perhaps why it’s coming out from an indie publisher. I’ve seen this labeled Gaslamp Fantasy, which I adore.
The Mask of Mirrors
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.
I adore Orbit and everything about this sounds captivating! Love the concept of people wearing masks in a fantasy world and all the political intrigue of aristocrats. And I love a con woman main character! Plus this cover is just *chef’s kiss*
In the Garden of Spite
They whisper about her in Chicago. Men come to her with their hopes, their dreams–their fortunes. But no one sees them leave. No one sees them at all after they come to call on the Widow of La Porte. The good people of Indiana may have their suspicions, but if those fools knew what she’d given up, what was taken from her, how she’d suffered, surely they’d understand. Belle Gunness learned a long time ago that a woman has to make her own way in this world. That’s all it is. A bloody means to an end. A glorious enterprise meant to raise her from the bleak, colorless drudgery of her childhood to the life she deserves. After all, vermin always survive.
I loved this author’s debut novel You Let Me In, which is half the reason I’m picking this up, but I’m also fascinated by a book about a female serial killer. It’s based on a real person too; Belle Gunness was a Norwegian-American serial killer active in the Midwest between 1884 and 1904.
Hall of Smoke
Hannah M. Long
Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside. While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller, atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path, Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour. Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer. Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.
Sentient gods, zealots, demons, and a warrior priestess all feature in this hyped fantasy. I skimmed an excerpt on Tor and it seems intriguing!
Daughters of Night
London, 1782. Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline ‘Caro’ Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she finds a well-dressed woman mortally wounded in the bowers of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The Bow Street constables are swift to act, until they discover that the deceased woman was a highly-paid prostitute, at which point they cease to care entirely. But Caro has motives of her own for wanting to see justice done, and so sets out to solve the crime herself. Enlisting the help of thieftaker, Peregrine Child, their inquiry delves into the hidden corners of Georgian society, a world of artifice, deception and secret lives. But with many gentlemen refusing to speak about their dealings with the dead woman, and Caro’s own reputation under threat, finding the killer will be harder, and more treacherous than she can know.
I keep meaning to read more historical fiction, and I figure I could start with something salacious. After the Victorian Era, I’m most fascinated by the late Georgian era, particularly the history of prostitution during that time. So a book set in London during the Goergian era with a lady detective about the murder of a prostitute seems like it would be right up my alley.
A Dowry of Blood
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’m always here for any sort of Dracula retelling or spin-off, and I’m getting some villain romance vibes off of this, so I am very excited.
What Big Teeth
Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Eleanor Zarrin has been distanced from her wild family for years. When she returns home after a violent incident at boarding school, trying to fit back into the space she left is harder than she thought. Eleanor is left to fend for herself within her family of monsters. But when a mysterious figure arrives at their family estate, she must find a way to overcome the monster invading her home or risk becoming a monster herself.
This cover is WILD and I love it; if the book is anywhere near as wild I’m sure I’ll love it to. I’ve been getting more into YA horror recently and I’m very curious to see if we’re dealing with literal or metaphorical monsters.
Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying–and failing–to prove it. When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can’t, she must finally leave them alone. But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her–to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.
Like many people, I read and enjoyed Sadie and have been meaning to pick up something else by this author. Also like most people, I am fascinated by cults, so a book about cults by the same author who wrote the dark shit that was Sadie sounds amazing.
Eve has a carefully curated online life, works occasionally, and texts constantly with her best friend, Ezra. Basically, she is an archetypal L.A. millennial. She has also been carrying on a year-long conversation with her deceased friend Miggy over text. But when Ezra goes missing on the anniversary weekend of Miggy’s death, Eve feels like her world is shattering. Over a frantic weekend Eve investigates Ezra’s disappearance, scouring social media for clues, while drowning her anger and anxiety in drinks, drugs, and spiritual cleansing. Eve starts to spiral as her friends try to convince her that she’s overreacting, and ghosts–both real and metaphorical–continue to haunt her. When she uncovers clues to a life Ezra kept hidden, Eve starts to question how much she really knows about her best friend… and herself.
SO I read this author’s debut The Ghost Network years ago and really loved it. This one seems to have some similarities in terms of plot, as both center around a disappearance. Sounds like it could be a clever thriller.
Love Is an Ex-Country
As an American raised for a time in Egypt, and finding herself captivated by the story of a celebrated Egyptian belly dancer’s journey across the United States in the 1940s, [Jarrar] sets off from her home in California to her parents’ in Connecticut. Coloring this road trip are journeys abroad and recollections of a life lived with daring. Reclaiming her autonomy after a life of survival—domestic assault as a child, and later, as a wife; threats and doxxing after her viral tweet about Barbara Bush—Jarrar offers a bold look at domestic violence, single motherhood, and sexuality through the lens of the punished-yet-triumphant body. On the way, she schools a rest-stop racist, destroys Confederate flags in the desert, and visits the Chicago neighborhood where her immigrant parents first lived.
I’m always adding memoirs to my TBR and then never reading them, but I feel like I might prioritize memoirs by Arab women, because I’m always curious to see how other Arab women’s experiences compare to mine. I follow Jarrar on Twitter and she’s incredibly outspoken, but I read a fiction work of hers and wasn’t a huge fan, so it’ll be interesting to read her memoir!
The Witch’s Heart
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.
I feel like this book came out of nowhere and now it’s super hyped! I’ve never read any Norse myth retellings but I’m intrigued by Loki and of course I love anything about witches so I’m excited!
The Black Coast
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.
Again, I love what Orbit puts out, and this sounds like a very classic and straightforward fantasy and sometimes that’s exactly what I need.
St. Martin’s Press
For 150 years, high above rocky Scottish cliffs, Caldonbrae Hall has sat untouched, a beacon of excellence in an old ancestral castle. A boarding school for girls, it promises that the young women lucky enough to be admitted will emerge “resilient and ready to serve society.” Into its illustrious midst steps Rose Christie: a 26-year-old Classics teacher, Caldonbrae’s new head of the department, and the first hire for the school in over a decade. At first, Rose is overwhelmed to be invited into this institution, whose prestige is unrivaled. But she quickly discovers that behind the school’s elitist veneer lies an impenetrable, starkly traditional culture that she struggles to reconcile with her modernist beliefs—not to mention her commitment to educating “girls for the future.” It also doesn’t take long for Rose to suspect that there’s more to the secret circumstances surrounding the abrupt departure of her predecessor—a woman whose ghost lingers everywhere—than anyone is willing to let on. In her search for this mysterious former teacher, Rose instead uncovers the darkness that beats at the heart of Caldonbrae, forcing her to confront the true extent of the school’s nefarious purpose, and her own role in perpetuating it.
I haven’t had too much luck with the Dark Academia genre, but I always have hope! I like the Gothic sounds of this one, and I’m getting Rebecca vibes, so hopefully this book lives up to that!
An imposing, isolated hotel, high up in the Swiss Alps, is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But she’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when she receives an invitation out of the blue to celebrate her estranged brother’s recent engagement, she has no choice but to accept. Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge. Though it’s beautiful, something about the hotel, recently converted from an abandoned sanatorium, makes her nervous – as does her brother, Isaac. And when they wake the following morning to discover his fiancée Laure has vanished without a trace, Elin’s unease grows. With the storm cutting off access to and from the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic. But no-one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they’re all in . . .
One of my favorite thriller tropes is the “we’re snowed in with no access to the outside world and there’s been a murder!” It’s like a bottle episode, but a book! Plus this hotel is creepy and used to be a sanatorium, so I’m hoping for some good disturbing shit.
Park Row Books
With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that. This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows. In New York, she’s able to ignore all the annoying questions about her future plans and falls hard for her creative and beautiful wife, Yuki Yamamoto. But when reality comes crashing in, Grace must face what she’s been running from all along—the fears that make us human, the family scars that need to heal and the longing for connection, especially when navigating the messiness of adulthood.
Romance is another genre that’s been hit or miss for me, but I actually haven’t read any mainstream f/f romance, so I’m really excited to try this one, especially since the two main characters are not white!
A Desolation Called Peace
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.
I really enjoyed A Memory Called Empire; Martine’s writing is dense and rich and so clever. This second installment takes on the First Contact trope, and I am so excited to see how Martine handles that.
John Joseph Adams Books
As a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Hetty Rhodes helped usher dozens of people north with her wits and magic. Now that the Civil War is over, Hetty and her husband Benjy have settled in Philadelphia, solving murders and mysteries that the white authorities won’t touch. When they find one of their friends slain in an alley, Hetty and Benjy bury the body and set off to find answers. But the secrets and intricate lies of the elites of Black Philadelphia only serve to dredge up more questions. To solve this mystery, they will have to face ugly truths all around them, including the ones about each other.
I absolutely love the sound of this historical murder mystery starring black characters! I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like this.
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 really, really enjoy political fantasy as opposed to action-and-adventure fantasy, so I think this book about a clever and quiet heroine attempting to solve a political conspiracy is going to appeal to me!
Down Comes the Night
Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself. When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom. As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms.
I really like Wednesday Books, who tend to do older YA, and I love the sound of Gothic fantasy romance. I’ve been seeing a lot of hype surrounding this particular book from people whose tastes I share so I have high hopes!
Anuradha D. Rajurkar
Rani Kelkar has never lied to her parents, until she meets Oliver. The same qualities that draw her in–his tattoos, his charisma, his passion for art–make him her mother’s worst nightmare. They begin dating in secret, but when Oliver’s troubled home life unravels, he starts to ask more of Rani than she knows how to give, desperately trying to fit into her world, no matter how high the cost. When a twist of fate leads Rani from Evanston, Illinois to Pune, India for a summer, she has a reckoning with herself–and what’s really brewing beneath the surface of her first love.
Literary fiction and I don’t always get along, but I tend to like lit fic that is about ethnic identity and cultural differences. Plus this cover is gorgeous.
Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought. Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne. Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.
Orbit again! I love the idea of a soldier being thrust into a political conspiracy and having to navigate those waters. And I think this has an f/f romance!
The Widow Queen
The bold one, they call her—too bold for most. To her father, the great duke of Poland, Swietoslawa and her two sisters represent three chances for an alliance. Three marriages on which to build his empire. But Swietoslawa refuses to be simply a pawn in her father’s schemes; she seeks a throne of her own, with no husband by her side. The gods may grant her wish, but crowns sit heavy, and power is a sword that cuts both ways.
So, this feels like historical fiction to me, but it’s being published by Tor, so there might be some kind of fantasy element? I’m not totally sure. Swietoslawa was a real person, one who I’ve always been interested in. This also feels vaguely Lear-ish to me, with three sisters and an ailing father and a fight for the throne. I’ve never read a work translated from Polish before either!
Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss. You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after. Utter nonsense. Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either. Until I met her. Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse. But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world. Nonsense again. Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—I am the villain.
An f/f villain romance! I’m not always the biggest fan of fairy tale retellings, but I’m interested enough in the potential relationship dynamics that this is super compelling.
The Helm of Midnight
Marina J. Lostetter
In a daring and deadly heist, thieves have made away with an artifact of terrible power–the death mask of Louis Charbon. Made by a master craftsman, it is imbued with the spirit of a monster from history, a serial murderer who terrorized the city with a series of gruesome murders. Now Charbon is loose once more, killing from beyond the grave. But these murders are different from before, not simply random but the work of a deliberate mind probing for answers to a sinister question. It is up to Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators to enter the mind of madness to stop this insatiable killer while facing the terrible truths left in his wake.
A serial killer in a fantasy world! Love it! It’s so rare to read a fantasy that isn’t focused on war or rebellion or something to do with a royal family, so I am extremely excited for this.
The Light of the Midnight Stars
Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles – and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. Each one is blessed with a unique talent – whether it be coaxing plants to grow, or predicting the future by reading the path of the stars. When a fateful decision to help an outsider ends in an accusation of witchcraft, fire blazes through their village. Rabbi Isaac and his family are forced to flee, to abandon their magic and settle into a new way of life. But a dark fog is making its way across Europe and will, in the end, reach even those who thought they could run from it. Each of the sisters will have to make a choice – and change the future of their family forever.
This sounds vaguely like Spinning Silver, which I loved; it feels like it’s going to be a very interesting blend of beautifully written literary fiction, historical fiction, and fantasy, and I love the focus on sisters and the hint of witchcraft.
The Forest of Stolen Girls
Feiwel & Friends
Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask. To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well. Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.
Loved this author’s debut historical murder mystery and am super excited for this one!
A Master of Djinn
P. Djeli Clark
Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer. So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage. Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems.
P. Djeli Clark’s short story A Dead Djinn in Cairo, on which this novel is based, is one of my favorite things ever. It’s set in an AU Cairo and is written with such careful attention paid to Egyptian cultural nuances, and Agent Fatma is such a goddamn badass, and I have been hoping and praying for more from that world and here is a full length novel! This is probably my most anticipated read of the whole year; I think this is the first time in my life I’ve pre-ordered a brand new hardcover book. (I also have an eARC, so now I have to decide whether to dive right in or wait to experience the finished copy. A great dilemma to have!)
Black Water Sister
Jessamyn Teoh is closeted, broke and moving back to Malaysia, a country she left when she was a toddler. So when Jess starts hearing voices, she chalks it up to stress. But there’s only one voice in her head, and it claims to be the ghost of her estranged grandmother, Ah Ma. In life Ah Ma was a spirit medium, the avatar of a mysterious deity called the Black Water Sister. Now she’s determined to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the god–and she’s decided Jess is going to help her do it. Drawn into a world of gods, ghosts, and family secrets, Jess finds that making deals with capricious spirits is a dangerous business. As Jess fights for retribution for Ah Ma, she’ll also need to regain control of her body and destiny. If she fails, the Black Water Sister may finish her off for good.
Zen Cho is one of my favorite authors, period, and her Sorcerer to the Crown series is one of my favorites. I’m excited to see her take on contemporary fantasy!
Son of the Storm
Suyi Davies Okungbowa
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 will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore.
And Orbit yet again! They’re really on a roll here. Love that we have so many books by POC as well! Political intrigue and conspiracies and a scholar main character!
In the Ravenous Dark
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.
I have to say, what first drew me to this book was not the summary but the incredible cover. But the concept is also absolutely fascinating; to be guarded by spirits if you have magic? How unique! Add palace intrigue to that and I’m sold!
The Lights of Prague
In the quiet streets of Prague all manner of otherworldly creatures lurk in the shadows. Unbeknownst to its citizens, their only hope against the tide of predators are the dauntless lamplighters – a secret elite of monster hunters whose light staves off the darkness each night. Domek Myska leads a life teeming with fraught encounters with the worst kind of evil: pijavice, bloodthirsty and soulless vampiric creatures. Despite this, Domek find solace in his moments spent in the company of his friend, the clever and beautiful Lady Ora Fischerová– a widow with secrets of her own. When Domek finds himself stalked by the spirit of the White Lady – a ghost who haunts the baroque halls of Prague castle – he stumbles across the sentient essence of a will-o’-the-wisp, a mischievous spirit known to lead lost travellers to their death, but who, once captured, are bound to serve the desires of their owners. After discovering a conspiracy amongst the pijavice that could see them unleash terror on the daylight world, Domek finds himself in a race against those who aim to twist alchemical science for their own dangerous gain.
I have a thing for stories set in Prague; I’ve never been but there’s just something about Prague in literature that is endlessly compelling to me. But this is also about vampires! And conspiracies! And monster hunters! And yet another gorgeous cover.
Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating
Page Street Kids
Everyone likes Humaira “Hani” Khan—she’s easy going and one of the most popular girls at school. But when she comes out to her friends as bisexual, they invalidate her identity, saying she can’t be bi if she’s only dated guys. Panicked, Hani blurts out that she’s in a relationship…with a girl her friends absolutely hate—Ishita “Ishu” Dey. Ishu is the complete opposite of Hani. She’s an academic overachiever who hopes that becoming head girl will set her on the right track for college. But Ishita agrees to help Hani, if Hani will help her become more popular so that she stands a chance of being elected head girl. Despite their mutually beneficial pact, they start developing real feelings for each other. But relationships are complicated, and some people will do anything to stop two Bengali girls from achieving happily ever after.
Really enjoyed this author’s debut, The Henna Wars, and I think this one will be just as cute; I always want to read a fluffy YA contemporary in the warmer months and this will be perfect.
The Blacktongue Thief
Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path. But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark. Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants. Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.
This sounds so good! I’m getting Locke Lamora vibes, even though I’ve never actually read Locke Lamora. Also doesn’t Galva sound absolutely badass? A handmaiden of the goddess of death? Survivor of the goblin wars (and apparently goblins eat human flesh)? Sounds like epic fantasy at its best! And I think – dare I hope – that this is a standalone?
The Chosen and the Beautiful
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.
The Great Gatsby is literally the only classic I liked in high school, so I will definitely read a retelling by an Asian author starring an Asian character! I always thought Jordan Baker was an underutilized character in the original novel so I’m excited to see what direction this goes.
One Last Stop
St. Martin’s Griffin
Cynical twenty-three-year old August doesn’t believe in much. She doesn’t believe in psychics, or easily forged friendships, or finding the kind of love they make movies about. And she certainly doesn’t believe her ragtag band of new roommates, her night shifts at a 24-hour pancake diner, or her daily subway commute full of electrical outages are going to change that. But then, there’s Jane. Beautiful, impossible Jane. All hard edges with a soft smile and swoopy hair and saving August’s day when she needed it most. The person August looks forward to seeing on the train every day. The one who makes her forget about the cities she lived in that never seemed to fit, and her fear of what happens when she finally graduates, and even her cold-case obsessed mother who won’t quite let her go. And when August realizes her subway crush is impossible in more ways than one—namely, displaced in time from the 1970s—she thinks maybe it’s time to start believing.
I very much enjoyed Red, White, and Royal Blue (like the rest of the known world), and while the time travel premise of this actually makes me hesitate, I like McQuiston’s depiction of queer relationships enough to ignore that and focus on the romance itself.
What We Devour
Undertaker Lorena knows what her future holds—she’ll finish her apprenticeship, marry her best friend Julian, and live in a land ruled by a bloodthirsty family convinced they alone can keep ancient demons from descending on the kingdom. But when Julian receives news that his father has been convicted of crimes against the crown, the two head to the capital to help. When Lorena is kidnapped by Crown Prince Alistair, she learns he’s not the violent inheritor rumors have painted him to be. He explains that the sacrifices are a necessary evil—the demons are very real and require more and more blood to keep them at bay. As a rebellion grows more certain, Lorena becomes less sure of her loyalties. Should she trust the boy she thought she loved and the world she thought she knew? Or should her loyalties lie with the centuries-old legends of the boy she barely knows who has everything to lose?
Okay, so mostly, I’m really excited for this book because I keep seeing snippets the author is posting on Twitter, and this feels like it’s going to be very dark and bloody, which I love. I keep meaning to read something by Linsey Miller but still haven’t gotten around to it!
A Dark and Secret Place
Crooked Lane Books
When prodigal daughter Heather Evans returns to her family home after her mother’s baffling suicide, she makes an alarming discovery–stacks and stacks of carefully preserved letters from notorious serial killer Michael Reave. The “Red Wolf,” as he was dubbed by the press, has been in prison for over twenty years, serving a life sentence for the gruesome and ritualistic murders of several women across the country, although he has always protested his innocence. The police have had no reason to listen, yet Heather isn’t the only one to have cause to re-examine the murders. The body of a young woman has just been found, dismembered and placed inside a tree, the corpse planted with flowers. Just as the Red Wolf once did. What did Heather’s mother know? Why did she kill herself? And with the monstrous Red Wolf safely locked inside a maximum security prison, who is stalking young women now? Teaming up with DI Ben Parker, Heather hopes to get some answers for herself and for the newest victims of this depraved murderer. Yet to do that, she must speak to Michael Reave herself, and expose herself to truths she may not be ready to face. Something dark is walking in the woods, and it knows her all too well.
Jen Williams is the author of two relatively well-known high fantasy series (neither of which I’ve read but I do own the first book in one of them), so this is a very interesting pivot for her! I’m absolutely enthralled by the concept, and so far I’ve heard only good things!
Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
The story begins in 1618, in the German duchy of Wurttemberg. Plague is spreading. The Thirty Years’ War has begun, and fear and suspicion are in the air throughout the Holy Roman Empire. In the small town of Leonberg, Katharina Kepler is accused of being a witch. Katharina is an illiterate widow, known by her neighbors for her herbal remedies and the success of her children, including her eldest, Johannes, who is the Imperial Mathematician and renowned author of the laws of planetary motion. It’s enough to make anyone jealous, and Katharina has done herself no favors by being out and about and in everyone’s business. So when the deranged and insipid Ursula Reinbold (or as Katharina calls her, the Werewolf) accuses Katharina of offering her a bitter, witchy drink that has made her ill, Katharina is in trouble. Her scientist son must turn his attention from the music of the spheres to the job of defending his mother. Facing the threat of financial ruin, torture, and even execution, Katharina tells her side of the story to her friend and next-door neighbor Simon, a reclusive widower imperiled by his own secrets.
I could love this or hate this; it sounds totally bizarre and obscure and I really just stumbled across it on Netgalley. It’s not the usual sort of book I would pick up, but I love stories about witches, and something about it sounds so strange and unusual I can’t help but be drawn to it. It will all depend on the writing: if it’s not too whimsical I might love this!
The Jasmine Throne
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.
I AM SO EXCITED FOR TASHA SURI’S NEW SERIES. I read and ADORED the Books of Ambha; I love the way Suri writes romance and just the way she writes in general. Her fantasy always feels quiet but compelling and very lush.
The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels
Cecilia Bassingwaite is the ideal Victorian lady. She’s also a thief. Like the other members of the Wisteria Society crime sorority, she flies around England drinking tea, blackmailing friends, and acquiring treasure by interesting means. Sure, she has a dark and traumatic past and an overbearing aunt, but all things considered, it’s a pleasant existence. Until the men show up. Ned Lightbourne is a sometimes assassin who is smitten with Cecilia from the moment they meet. Unfortunately, that happens to be while he’s under direct orders to kill her. His employer, Captain Morvath, who possesses a gothic abbey bristling with cannons and an unbridled hate for the world, intends to rid England of all its presumptuous women, starting with the Wisteria Society. Ned has plans of his own. But both men have made one grave mistake. Never underestimate a woman. When Morvath imperils the Wisteria Society, Cecilia is forced to team up with her handsome would-be assassin to save the women who raised her–hopefully proving, once and for all, that she’s as much of a scoundrel as the rest of them.
Again, romance is a hit or miss, particularly historical romance, and I don’t know why I thought this was a fantasy at first? I mean, I think I saw “assassins and cannons” and just made that assumption. Still, I like that there seems to be three main characters here, which could make for an unusual dynamic.
The Tangleroot Palace: Stories
Briar, bodyguard for a body-stealing sorceress, discovers her love for Rose, whose true soul emerges only once a week. An apprentice witch seeks her freedom through betrayal, the bones of the innocent, and a meticulously-plotted spell. In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex. A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of traveling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods. Concluding with a gorgeous full-length novella, Marjorie Liu’s first short fiction collection is an unflinching sojourn into her thorny tales of love, revenge, and new beginnings.
I absolutely adore the Monstress series, which is written by Marjorie Liu; it has some of the best worldbuilding I’ve ever seen, so it’s only natural I would be excited for Liu’s short story collection.
For The Wolf
As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods. Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again. But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.
I love this cover SO much. I’m actually not entirely sure if this is meant to be a Red Riding Hood retelling – it probably is, but it’s likely going to veer very far from the original tale. From the snippets I’ve seen I sense a lot of dark humor and angsty romance so I’m excited!
Elfreda Raughn will avoid pregnancy if it kills her, and one way or another, it will kill her. Though she’s able to stomach the 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.
I have yet to read this author’s first novel The Border Keeper, which received a lot of praise, but this one sounds like it’s more up my alley anyway. Intrigue and secret societies and espionage, yes!
So those are my most anticipated releases! There’s far too many of them, but comment and let me know which of these are also on your list of anticipated releases, or if you’ve been prompted to add any of these!
4 thoughts on “Anticipated 2021 Releases (January-June)”
So many good books coming out next year! I’m especially looking forward to the Orbit ones; they’ve yet to disappoint me. I also love fairy tale retellings so I’m really looking forward to Malice, too.
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Orbit is always so on point when it comes to fantasy! I don’t know how I’m going to read all of these AND read my backlog!
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What a great list, thanks for sharing all of these! I’ve not been super excited about 2021 releases up to this point but I just added several of these to my TBR- Down Comes the Night, The Lights of Prague, American Betiya, The Chosen and the Beautiful- they sound great! I actually hadn’t even heard of most of these yet; I think the only one already on my list was Casey McQuiston’s upcoming release, which I am totally hyped for!
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YES, I love adding to people’s TBRs!
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