2021 Fantasy Series Recommendations — Escape into Other Worlds
by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
Last week, we released an episode recommending some favorite fantasy and dystopian reads. (You can check it out here.) So, I thought I'd zoom in on fantasy for this week's bookish fave.
Fantasy is one of my go-to genres. It's there when I need a comfort read, when I want to escape, when I want to challenge myself. Often, fantasy authors are taking on real-world issues under the guise of leaving the real world.
While the list of fantasy books I'd recommend is almost endless, I thought I'd offer up some of the best fantasy I've read in 2021. Some of these are books I've talked about already—a lot—but I can't help but shout them out one more time.
First, I want to shout out three fantasy authors with some long series that you can dive into. For those of you who don't like a series, these may seem overwhelming, but when you want to immerse yourself in some amazing world building, you can't go wrong here. I read (at least!) one book from each of these authors this year, so they've been at the forefront of my mind.
Leigh Bardugo, who you may know from the recent adaptation of her work, has said that she's done—for now—with the Grishaverse, so you'll know exactly what you're getting into when you start. Her YA series include the Shadow and Bone trilogy (Amazon | Bookshop.org), the Six of Crows duology (Amazon | Bookshop.org), and the King of Scars duology (Amazon | book one - Bookshop.org). She's also started an adult series with Ninth House (Amazon | Bookshop.org). All of Bardugo's books center nuanced characters and challenging moral questions. (Here's my review of Rule of Wolves.)
Cassandra Clare is prolific—there are nine separate but linked series in the Shadowhunters world!—so it's hard to know where to start. While the series do connect, so there is a benefit to reading them in order, you really could pick up anywhere. I'd recommend starting at the beginning with The Mortal Instruments series (Amazon | Bookshop.org). If you're craving an adaptation, I'd recommend the Shadowhunters series, which aired on Freeform. It's quite, quite different, but it's a lot of fun. Ashley talked about Clare's second series, the Infernal Devices, here.
Sarah J. Maas has two series I'd recommend, Throne of Glass (Amazon | Bookshop.org), which is complete with seven books, and A Court of Thorns and Roses (Amazon | Bookshop.org), which is still in progress and currently has five books. These books feature strong women in difficult situations that require them to consider the burden of power, intricate worlds, and some fabulous, steamy romance. (Here's my review of A Court of Silver Flames.)
If you're looking for a shorter series, here are some I'd recommend:
Tracy Deonn's Legendborn (Amazon | Bookshop.org) — It can be so nice to get in on the ground floor of a series, so check out book one before the second book is published in 2022. I reviewed the book here, and it's also part of my favorites book list: read that post here.
Brigid Kemmerer's Cursebreakers series — This one starts with A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Amazon | Bookshop.org). Ashley recommended this one, too—read what she said here, and here's my review of book three, A Heart So Fierce and Broken!
Finally, don't sleep on the array of middle-grade fantasy series that are coming out of the Rick Riordan Presents imprint. This year, I read Yoon Ha Lee's Dragon Pearl (Amazon | Bookshop.org), but you can listen to our discussion about the imprint as a whole in this episode.
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