Best Fantasy of 2021
Including She Who Became the Sun, The God is Not Willing, A Marvellous Light and The Shadow of the Gods
"For fans of Tolkien, for fans of literature, for fans of Arthurian Tradition, and for those just wanting to get an idea of alliterative verse and historical narratives, The Fall of Arthur by J.R.R. Tolkien is a tremendous book. The primary story presented in the alliterative poem is itself worth the price of entry – to enjoy the beautiful style of writing employed to tell what is a captivating story. Even if you don’t read the accompanying essays, The Fall of Arthur is absolutely worth your time and money."
The world first publication of a previously unknown work by J.R.R. Tolkien, which tells the extraordinary story of the final days of England’s legendary hero, King Arthur.
The Fall of Arthur, the only venture by J.R.R. Tolkien into the legends of Arthur King of Britain, may well be regarded as his finest and most skilful achievement in the use of the Old English alliterative metre, in which he brought to his transforming perceptions of the old narratives a pervasive sense of the grave and fateful nature of all that is told: of Arthur’s expedition overseas into distant heathen lands, of Guinevere’s flight from Camelot, of the great sea-battle on Arthur’s return to Britain, in the portrait of the traitor Mordred, in the tormented doubts of Lancelot in his French castle.
Unhappily, The Fall of Arthur was one of several long narrative poems that he abandoned in that period. In this case he evidently began it in the earlier nineteen-thirties, and it was sufficiently advanced for him to send it to a very perceptive friend who read it with great enthusiasm at the end of 1934 and urgently pressed him ‘You simply must finish it!’ But in vain: he abandoned it, at some date unknown, though there is some evidence that it may have been in 1937, the year of the publication of The Hobbit and the first stirrings of The Lord of the Rings. Years later, in a letter of 1955, he said that ‘he hoped to finish a long poem on The Fall of Arthur’; but that day never came.
Associated with the text of the poem, however, are many manuscript pages: a great quantity of drafting and experimentation in verse, in which the strange evolution of the poem’s structure is revealed, together with narrative synopses and very significant if tantalising notes. In these latter can be discerned clear if mysterious associations of the Arthurian conclusion with The Silmarillion, and the bitter ending of the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, which was never written.
In a land where three suns almost never set, a ruthless assassin continues her quest for vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.
Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church hierarchy think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending the men who destroyed her familia; in fact, she’s told directly that Consul Scaeva is off limits. But after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia's suspicions about the Red Church’s true motives begin to grow.
When it’s announced that Scaeva will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end him. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between love and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.
"Godsgrave completely exceeded my expectations. I thought I knew where this was all going but I really didn’t have a clue. Darkdawn, the final book in the trilogy, is out later this year and I can’t wait to read it. This ended on such a monumental cliff-hanger. If Jay Kristoff writes with the same level of imagination and originality as he has here, this could be one of the best trilogies fantasy has ever seen."
A corrupted city. A dark dream of power. Luke is a prisoner, condemned for a murder he didn’t commit. Abi is a fugitive, desperate to free him before magic breaks his mind. But as the Jardines tighten their grip on a turbulent Britain, brother and sister face a fight greater than their own. New alliances and old feuds will remake the nation, leaving Abi and Luke questioning everything – and everyone – they know. And as Silyen Jardine hungers for the forgotten Skill of the legendary Wonder King, the country’s darkest hour approaches. Freedom and knowledge both come at a cost. So who will pay the price?
"I had to keep reading as I wanted to know what would happen next, whether the rebels plotting to overthrow the established way of life will succeed, or if they will be put down once and for all. There is such a rich history to this series that is still slowly being revealed. I genuinely can’t wait to read what happens next in this entertaining world."
The finale of this story was utterly breathtaking. Nona is one of my favourite characters in fiction. Lawrence has created one of the most engaging fantasy worlds that my mind has allowed me to visit.
The precarious equilibrium among the four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise. Kell - once assumed to be the last surviving Antari -begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. Lila Bard, once a commonplace but never common thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery and the Night Spire crew are attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible, as an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown and a fallen hero is desperate to save a decaying world...
Painstakingly restored from Tolkien’s manuscripts and presented for the first time as a continuous and standalone story, the epic tale of Beren and Lúthien will reunite fans of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings with Elves and Men, Dwarves and Orcs and the rich landscape and creatures unique to Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The tale of Beren and Lúthien was, or became, an essential element in the evolution of The Silmarillion, the myths and legends of the First Age of the World conceived by J.R.R. Tolkien. Returning from France and the battle of the Somme at the end of 1916, he wrote the tale in the following year. Essential to the story, and never changed, is the fate that shadowed the love of Beren and Lúthien: for Beren was a mortal man, but Lúthien was an immortal Elf. Her father, a great Elvish lord, in deep opposition to Beren, imposed on him an impossible task that he must perform before he might wed Lúthien. This is the kernel of the legend; and it leads to the supremely heroic attempt of Beren and Lúthien together to rob the greatest of all evil beings, Melkor, called Morgoth, the Black Enemy, of a Silmaril. In this book Christopher Tolkien has attempted to extract the story of Beren and Lúthien from the comprehensive work in which it was embedded; but that story was itself changing as it developed new associations within the larger history. To show something of the process whereby this legend of Middle-earth evolved over the years, he has told the story in his father's own words by giving, first, its original form, and then passages in prose and verse from later texts that illustrate the narrative as it changed. Presented together for the first time, they reveal aspects of the story, both in event and in narrative immediacy, that were afterwards lost.
"I recommend this book to those that have read many of Tolkien’s works. If you enjoyed Tolkien’s poetry editions, such as Beowulf a Translation and a Commentary and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, along with the books set in middle-earth then this will undoubtedly be for you. However, readers who are expecting to just enjoy a prose story will, ultimately, be disappointed with the content here."
Thirty years ago Ineluki, the Storm King, was destroyed and his armies scattered. Osten Ard has been at peace ever since, ruled by Simon Snowlock, kitchen boy made king, and Miriamele, King Elias' only child. But now age weighs upon their reign. Simon's dreams have deserted him, old allies die and betrayal and assassination threaten. His son and heir John Josua is years dead and his grandson, Morgan, is a wastrel. A journey of redemption and discovery beckons in the darkening world.
And in the frozen North, in Nakkiga, the mountain fortress, Ineluki's ally, the Norn Queen, wakes from her deep, decades-long sleep and tells her followers that she will sleep no more. Humanity must be destroyed. Her sorcerers will bring a demon back from death, her warriors will seek the world for living dragon's blood...
And finally the greatest artefact of all, the Witchwood Crown, will be hers.
"It’s a book driven by cultural clashes and racial wars. The world is stark and grey, and I’m not entirely sure who to root for. It’s highly compelling fantasy, go read it! " Sean Barrs, Fantasy Book Review
‘An exciting new writer – sharp, compelling and original’ Mark Lawrence
Years have passed since the Vagrant journeyed to the Shining City, Vesper in arm and Gamma’s sword in hand.
Since then the world has changed. Vesper, following the footsteps of her father, journeyed to the breach and closed the tear between worlds, protecting the last of humanity, but also trapping the infernal horde and all those that fell to its corruptions: willing or otherwise.
In this new age it is Vesper who leads the charge towards unity and peace, with seemingly nothing standing between the world and a bright new future.
That is until eyes open.
And The Seven awaken.
A modern Britain. An age-old cruelty. Britain's magically skilled aristocracy compels all commoners to serve them for ten years - and now it's the Hadleys' turn. Abi Hadley is assigned to England's most ruthless noble family. The secrets she uncovers could win her freedom - or break her heart. Her brother Luke is enslaved in a brutal factory town, where new friends' ideals might cost him everything. Then while the elite vie for power, a young aristocrat plots to remake the world with his dark gifts. As Britain moves from anger to defiance, all three must take sides. And the consequences of their choices will change everything, forever.
"In the end I was left emotionally spent and wanting another book to read immediately so that I can find out more about this amazing world that Vic James has envisioned. Extremely impressed is all I can really say. I recommend this to everyone regardless of what genre is your favorite. Even though it would be classified as Dystopian, the story is so well-written and compelling that any reader can appreciate and enjoy it."
"The Fifth Empire of Man is amazing. Intricate with stunning dialogue. Expertly edited (I noticed one tiny mistake in these 400-pages). It's surely only a matter of time before one of the big-5 fantasy publishers knocks on Hayes' door. In my mind, Hayes does grimdark better than Abercrombie with characters just as memorable. Be one of the cool kids who reads this series before it gets popular because I guarantee it will. Oh yeah, it's about pirates, mate!"
The Pirate Isles are united under Drake Morrass’ flag, but the war has only just begun. There’s still a long way to go before he’s able to call himself King, and traitors at every turn. The Five Kingdoms and Sarth have assembled a fleet of ships unlike any the world has ever seen and they intend to purge the Pirate Isles once and for all by fire and steel. Revenge, never far from Keelin Stillwater’s mind, is finally within his grasp and he sets sail to the Forgotten Empire. But more than dense jungles and ruined cities await him there. Vengeful gods and malignant spirits now call those cursed lands home, and they are not wisely disturbed. Meanwhile, Elaina Black tries to secure herself powerful allies and the forces those allies can spare. She’s set her course on the throne: either by Drake’s side or over his dead body.
This is quite a dark story full of gritty and macabre deaths aplenty with a good, but not an overwhelming amount of adrenaline fueling action. Certain sections are superbly intense though and this book is highly unpredictable. It features twists, betrayal, political disputes and half the time when I thought I had analysed where the story was going, I was then blindsided or completely shocked by a revelation. The publisher stated that this as being "gritty epic fantasy for fans of Mark Lawrence and Scott Lynch" and I cannot disagree.
Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, is on the brink of fulfilling his dead King's dream: Aline is about to take the throne and restore the rule of law once and for all. But for the Greatcoats, nothing is ever that simple. In neighbouring Avares, an enigmatic new warlord is uniting the barbarian armies and even worse, he is rumoured to have a new ally: Falcio's old nemesis Trin. With the armies of Avares at her back, she'll be unstoppable. Falcio, Kest and Brasti go racing north to stop her, but in those cold, treacherous climes they discover something altogether different - and far more dangerous: a new player plans to take the throne of Tristia, and the Greatcoats, for all their determination and skill, may not be able to stop him.
"If I could recommend one series from the last five years that I hold up as the most action-packed and emotionally-riveting, I would be hard-pressed to look past Sebastien de Castell’s The Greatcoats Quartet."
Jen Williams “The Ninth Rain” is unlike anything I have ever read. For a fantasy lover, it’s one of those rare books that pulls at your heartstrings but also at the knowledge that it’s okay to be imperfect, inquisitive and slightly mad.
Vlad Taltos is an Easterner - an underprivileged human in an empire of tall, powerful, long-lived Dragaerans. He made a career for himself in House Jhereg, the Dragaeran clan in charge of the empire's organized crime. But the day came when the Jhereg wanted Vlad dead, and he's been on the run ever since. He has plenty of friends among the Dragaeran highborn, including an undead wizard and a god or two. But as long as the Jhereg have a price on his head, Vlad's life is... messy. Meanwhile, for years, Vlad's path has been repeatedly crossed by Devera, a small Dragaeran girl of indeterminate powers who turns up at the oddest moments in his life. Now, Devera has appeared again - to lead Vlad into a mysterious, seemingly empty manor overlooking the Great Sea. Inside this structure are corridors that double back on themselves, rooms that look out over other worlds, and - just maybe - answers to some of Vlad's long-asked questions about his world and his place in it. If only Devera can be persuaded to stop disappearing in the middle of his conversations with her...
"Even if you shrug at supernatural murder mysteries, Brust deserves reading as a master-class on voice. Compare his narrator in The Phoenix Guards — featuring the Dragaeran historian Paarfi's curious priorities and comedic circumlocution — with Vlad. Then read some Paarfirotica. You could just revel in the voice, but this is like drinking alone: you’re better off with friends. In a high fantasy adventure, those friends are typically adversaries, supernormal threats, world-altering stakes, and characters you care about facing problems whose solution reveals the protagonist’s true self. In Vallista, Brust provides."
Prince FitzChivalry Farseer's daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river. Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade's protégé Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee's only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles. Their mission for revenge will become a voyage of discovery, as well as of reunions, transformations and heartrending shocks. Startling answers to old mysteries are revealed. What became of the liveships Paragon and Vivacia and their crews? What is the origin of the Others and their eerie beach? How are liveships and dragons connected? But Fitz and his followers are not the only ones with a deadly grudge against the Four. An ancient wrong will bring them unlikely and dangerous allies in their quest. And if the corrupt society of Clerres is to be brought down, Fitz and the Fool will have to make a series of profound and fateful sacrifices.
"This review isn’t for those new to this series, it is for those who, like me, want to know if this denouement provides the fitting ending we all so desperately craved. I believe it does, it may not be my favourite Elderlings book and series but it is a touching and satisfying end to the life, loves and adventures of FitzChivalry Farseer."
A spectacular adventure that knows no bounds, and characters that will pull at your heart strings and your tear ducts. I can’t wait for the final book to come out, until then, Helcate.
This book truly is grimdark of the highest order with one of the most complex, beautiful and destructive characters ever written. Queen of Grimdark is a pseudonym well earned. If you mixed beauty, darkness, complexity, death and poetry then you would have something that is a lot like Smith Spark's debut.
Including She Who Became the Sun, The God is Not Willing, A Marvellous Light and The Shadow of the Gods
Including The Unspoken Name, Age of Empyre, The Once and Future Witches and The Trouble with Peace
Including A Brightness Long Ago, The Raven Tower, The 10,000 Doors of January and Beneath the Twisted Trees
Including Circe, The Ember Blade, The Fall of Gondolin and The Poppy War
The fantasy books we enjoyed most in 2017
The fantasy books we enjoyed most in 2016
The fantasy books we enjoyed most in 2015
The fantasy books we enjoyed most in 2014