SFF books in 2021: What the GdM team can’t wait to read next year

Welcome to 2021, where the SFF books we’re excited about are just as good as those we loved from 2020, but hopefully with the world not on fire or drowning in plague this time! Prepare your TBR pile, because it is about to get an absolute hammering.Here are the SFF books in 2021 that our team cannot wait to get their hands on to read and review.

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

Picked by Nate Aubin

The blacktongue thiefSet in a world of goblin wars, stag-sized battle ravens, and assassins who kill with deadly tattoos, Christopher Buehlman’s The Blacktongue Thief begins a ‘dazzling’ (Robin Hobb) fantasy adventure unlike any other.

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.

Read The Blacktongue Thief

Sistersong by Lucy Hounsom

Picked by Fabienne Schwizer

Sistersong535 AD. In the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, King Cador’s children inherit a fragmented land abandoned by the Romans.

Riva, scarred in a terrible fire, fears she will never heal.
Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, when born a daughter.
And Sinne, the spoiled youngest girl, yearns for romance.

All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold – a last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. But change comes on the day ash falls from the sky, bringing Myrddhin, meddler and magician, and Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear the siblings apart. Riva, Keyne and Sinne must take fate into their own hands, or risk being tangled in a story they could never have imagined; one of treachery, love and ultimately, murder. It’s a story that will shape the destiny of Britain.

Read Sistersong by Lucy Hounsom

Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

Picked by Tom Smith

Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.

The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.

The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.

Read Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

Unfortunately, you’ll need to wait for the pre-order for this one, but keep a close eye out!

The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley

Picked by Julia Frazer

The Annurian Empire is disintegrating. The advantages it used for millennia have fallen to ruin. The ranks of the Kettral have been decimated from within, and the kenta gates, granting instantaneous travel across the vast lands of the empire, can no longer be used.

In order to save the empire, one of the surviving Kettral must voyage beyond the edge of the known world through a land that warps and poisons all living things to find the nesting ground of the giant war hawks. Meanwhile, a monk turned con-artist may hold the secret to the kenta gates.

But time is running out. Deep within the southern reaches of the empire and ancient god-like race has begun to stir.

What they discover will change them and the Annurian Empire forever. If they can survive.

Read The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley

Library of the Dead by T. L. Huchu

Picked by James Tivendale

The Library of the DeadSixth Sense meets Stranger Things in T. L. Huchu’s The Library of the Dead, a sharp contemporary fantasy following a precocious and cynical teen as she explores the shadowy magical underside of modern Edinburgh.

When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

When ghosts talk, she will listen…

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children–leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.

She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan…), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down.

Read The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu

The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch

Picked by Charles Phipps and Eugene Vassilev

Locke Lamora, thief, con-man, pirate, political deceiver is back, and now he must become a soldier.

A new chapter for Locke and Jean and finally the war that has been brewing in the Kingdom of the Marrows flares up and threatens to capture all in its flames.

And all the while Locke must try to deal with the disturbing rumours about his past revealed in The Republic of Thieves. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of right and wrong is one thing. Fighting a war when you don’t know the truth of yourself is quite another. Particularly when you’ve never been that good with a sword anyway…

(I’m also well aware we’ve picked this book two or three years straight now … Ed.)

Read The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch

Unfortunately, you’ll need to wait for the pre-order for this one, but keep a close eye out!

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

Picked by Elizabeth Tabler

She Who Became the SunMulan meets The Song of Achilles; an accomplished, poetic debut of war and destiny, sweeping across an epic alternate China.

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu uses takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

A lush, fresh literary voice merges with commercial appeal in this accomplished debut. Powerful and poetic, beautiful and brutal, She Who Became the Sun is a bold reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty.

Read She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

Mortis by John French

Picked by Chris Napier

MortisThe victories of Saturnine and the sacrifices of the Eternity Wall space port have faded into the hope of yesterday. Denied but not defeated, the traitors intensify their assault on the Imperial Palace. With the principal space ports in Horus’ hands, the Warmaster now drains the heavens of his reserves. As the pressure of the assault increases, the power of Chaos waxes. The waking lives of the defenders are filled with despair, while their dreams pull them in search of a false paradise. As the fabric of the defences fails and the will of those who stand on them cracks, Horus commands the Titans of the Legio Mortis to breach the walls. Against them stands the might of Mercury Wall and the strength of the Legio Ignatum. Ancient rivals, the god-engines of both Legions meet in battle, while within the walls a few desperate individuals seek a way to turn back the tide of the warp’s malign influence. Across Terra lost warriors and travellers make their way through wastelands and gardens of horror, towards home and an unknown future.

Read Mortis by John French

Letters from the Well in the Season of the Ghosts by Raymond St. Elmo

Picked by Ryan Howse

Letters from the wellMaddy Rupert has a summer job in her dull home town of Hell, Texas. Assisting at the post office, known for receiving very strange letters. People around the world write to the dead, sending last laughs and sad ‘told you so’s. Maddy’s a quiet kid; if grownups want to pay her to drop the letters down a well shaft, she’ll nod her head and get it done.

An easy, dull summer… till letters start coming up from the well. Addressed to Maddy Rupert.

 

 

 

Read Letters from the Well in the Season of the Ghosts by Raymond St. Elmo

The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie

Picked by Mike Myers

Chaos. Fury. Destruction.

The Great Change is upon us…

Some say that to change the world you must first burn it down. Now that belief will be tested in the crucible of revolution: the Breakers and Burners have seized the levers of power, the smoke of riots has replaced the smog of industry, and all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.

With nothing left to lose, Citizen Brock is determined to become a new hero for the new age, while Citizeness Savine must turn her talents from profit to survival before she can claw her way to redemption. Orso will find that when the world is turned upside down, no one is lower than a monarch. And in the bloody North, Rikke and her fragile Protectorate are running out of allies… while Black Calder gathers his forces and plots his vengeance.

The banks have fallen, the sun of the Union has been torn down, and in the darkness behind the scenes, the threads of the Weaver’s ruthless plan are slowly being drawn together…

Read The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie

Unfortunately, you’ll need to wait for the pre-order for this one, but keep a close eye out! The cover also isn’t available (image from the Sharp Ends print interior).

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

Picked by Jodie Crump

From holy cup comes holy light;

The faithful hands sets world aright.

And in the Seven Martyrs’ sight,

Mere man shall end this endless night.

It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León is a silversaint: a member of a holy brotherhood dedicated to defending realm and church from the creatures of the night. But even the Silver Order couldn’t stem the tide once daylight failed us, and now, only Gabriel remains.

Imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:

The Holy Grail.

Read Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff

Unfortunately, you’ll need to wait for the pre-order for this one, but keep a close eye out!

She Dreams in Blood by Michael R. Fletcher

Picked by Chris Haught

Drawn by the shards of his obsidian heart, Khraen follows the path south. The islands, largely ignored by the Wizard’s Guild, have become a refuge for the unwanted of the world. Necromancers and sorcerers rule warring tribes haunted by the ghosts of savage and primal gods.

With each fragment Khraen discovers more of the man he was.

There was an Empire.

There was a god.

And she dreamed in blood.

Read She Dreams in Blood by Michael R. Fletcher

Unfortunately, you’ll need to wait for the pre-order for this one, but keep a close eye out! The cover also isn’t available (image from the Evil is a Matter of Perspective print interior).

Legacy of Light by Matthew Ward

Picked by Adrian Collins

Warfare, myth and magic collide in Legacy of Light, the spectacular conclusion to Matthew Ward’s acclaimed Legacy trilogy.

For the first time in many years, the Tressian Republic and the Hadari Empire are at peace. But war never sleeps.

In Tregard, Empress Melanna Saranal struggles to protect a throne won at great cost.

In Tressia, Lord Protector Viktor Droshna seeks to harness forbidden power to restore all he’s lost.

As the sins of the past are once more laid bare, every road leads to war. Darkness gathers, alliances shatter and one final battle looms. What hope remains, lies within the light.

Read Legacy of Light by Matthew Ward

Unfortunately, you’ll need to wait for the pre-order for this one, but keep a close eye out!

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Adrian Collins

Adrian Collins runs Grimdark Magazine and loves anything to do with telling darker stories. Doesn't matter the format, or when it was published or produced--just give him a grim story told in a dark world by a morally grey protagonist and this bloke's in his happy place. Add in a barrel aged stout to sip on after a cheeky body surf under the Australian sun, and that's his heaven.