If there is one thing we can say about 2020, it’s that it has been the perfect year to dive into fantasy (if you have not done so already). Quarantine has made us all crave an even greater escape, so let’s take a look at the top ten fantasy novels that helped us do exactly that this year.
10. From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Armentrout’s utterly addicting novel tells the story of a young maiden and a fallen kingdom. However, civilities and rules have become somewhat blurred down at the bottom, so in addition to the thrill of the kingdom’s climb back to the top and a few terrifying creatures, there is also a steamy love story between the maiden and her guard. Can she really perform her duty while loving him, though?
9. The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune
Believe it or, this novel gave me a hint of Walter Mitty vibes when the protagonist, Linus, goes from living a quiet life with his cat to travelling for a top secret assignment given by upper, upper management. His task is to determine if six children in an orphanage could lead to the end of the world, but they are not ordinary children, instead being of all different mystical races.
8. Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
May I just say hats off to Aiden Thomas on their debut novel and its success. It is not often that an author finds themselves on the New York Times Bestselling list with their first published work, but it comes as no surprise when you read their book. Cemetery Boys is about a trans, Latinx boy who becomes determined to prove himself as a brujo, therefore leading him to try to find and set free the ghost of his murdered cousin. The ghost, however, is not that of his cousin and refuses to leave.
7. Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
The first of what will become the Between Earth and Sky series, the New York Times bestselling author seamlessly brings her inspiration from the Pre-Columbian American Civilizations into this work of prophecies and magic. It takes place in Tova, a holy city in which the winter solstice is a largely celebrated event, although this years solstice comes with complications. A ship is set for Tova carrying a man who appears to be harmless, but we all know better than to believe that.
6. The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
A different take on Salem witches, Harrow’s novel turns back to the infamous town about 200 years after the Trials. Witching is not what it used to be before that horrible time, having since been reduced to a couple of silly charms. Three sisters, however, join a suffragist group, prompting them to rediscover the old ways of witches. Of course, doing so puts targets on their backs, shifting them into a time of newfound sisterly bonds and forged alliances, as well as old magic.
5. The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
“With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama,” The Empress of Salt and Fortune packs all of this into the short page limitations of a novella. It depicts an unlikely friendship between the emperor’s wife and her handmaiden, creating the perfect foundation for a feminist fantasy narrative. Together, they reshape history for women in China.
4. A Deadly Education: A Novel by Naomi Novik
While the two are not the same whatsoever, it made me think of if the classes at Hogwarts were to be taught in the Forbidden Forest. A Deadly Education does not actually take place in a dark and dangerous forest (though the creatures are in abundance within the walls of the school anyway), but the stakes are high as failure inherently means death. That is until El arrives, at least, who could rid the school of the monsters, but doing so might result in her killing her peers as well.
3. The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin
The City We Became is another book which will become the first of a series, and in this case the series is called Great Cities. I am naturally drawn to any books that take place in New York City, but Jemisin puts a new twist on this as he uses the idea of cities having souls as the jumping-off point for his fantasy novel. Since New York City has its five burrows, that means New York has multiple, mutually exclusive souls that guide it in different directions. They must all protect New York, though, as it has been threatened by ancient evil spirits.
2. House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas
Maas has truly outdone herself with this one, as she takes the classic tale of a fallen angel given a task in exchange for their wings and turns it around to be a task clouded by darkness. Usually, these tales involve love and kindness, but this time the angel must help a girl named Bryce to identify her friends’ killer. There is already a supposed murderer behind bars, but when similar crimes have started up again, Bryce has had to become the primary investigator. I am impatiently waiting for the next book to follow this as part of the new Crescent City series.
1. The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V. E. Schwab
Never did I expect a fantasy writer today to reference Doctor Faustus, so I was very impressed by Schwab’s choice to depict a young woman in 1714 making a similar bargain in order to live forever. Even more shocking, though, was it to read how nearly 300 years later, amid a beautiful and enduring adventure that is Addie LaRue’s life, someone had remembered her name.
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