Random (but not really)

Sunday, December 26, 2021

The Books of 2021: Fantasies

Several of these are also romances, because as said before, I needed happy endings and HEAs.

A Marvellous LightA Marvellous Light (2021) Freya Marske (The Last Binding) 9/10

Historical, Mystery, LGBT, Boinking

Robin accidentally ends up as the magical liaison to the prime minister when the previous liaison disappears.

This is a problem because (like most of the public) Robin was unaware that magic was real.

Robin had never tried to deliberately clear his mind. He had the absurd image of taking a broom to waves on a seashore, trying to sweep the water back out across the stones.

I am very fond of historical LGBT romances, since the setting gives the characters a reason not to discuss their feelings (what with it leading to pillory (or worse) if discovered) and this does that well, along with interesting world building, and a good mystery.

It’s not action/adventure and a bit slower in places, but that was just fine with me.

Paladin's GraceThe Saint of Steel series by T. KingfisherPaladin’s Grace (2020) 8.5/10, Paladin’s Strength (2021) 8.5/10, Paladin’s Hope (2021) 8/10

Fantasy, Romance, LGBT, Boinking

This series is about paladins to a dead god, who were taken in by the Temple of the White Rat–at least those who survived their god’s death were.

Paladins were never a class I had any interest in, however, she has created a group of delightful ones.

“Istvhan, you ever kill someone with an ice swan?” he whispered.

“I clubbed someone unconscious with a frozen goose once. That’s similar?”

The Bishop suffered a mysterious coughing fit.

“No, you had to use the goose as a bludgeon, didn’t you? For the swan, I figure you’d snap the head off and try to stab with the neck.”

“Hmmm…” Istvhan eyed the ice sculpture speculatively. “It’s pretty big. And not well balanced.”

“I figure you’d have to go two-handed with it.”

“I think I’d grab one of the candelabras instead. Some of those are nice and heavy.”

“Far too unwieldy. I could take you apart with the ice swan while you were still trying to get the candelabra off the ground.”

This series is fun–although I felt like the third book was the weakest in the series. But despite that, start with Paladin’s Grace and read forward, because even her weakest book in the series was quite good.

WonderstruckWonderstruck (2021) Allie Therin (Magic in Manhattan) 8/10

Historical, LGBT, Boinking

Third book in the series closes the story arc. Rory is struggling now the antique shop is gone, and they still haven’t found the man murdering for magic.

One of the things I particularly like about Rory and Arthur is that neither wants to take advantage of the other, which leads to a lot of misunderstandings, but they are the normal kinds of misunderstandings.

“We don’t owe our hearts to people who hurt us, even if they’re our blood.”

This is one of the many books I loved this year that was set in the Interwar period, when so much of the world was changing.

The Noblemans Guide to Scandal and ShipwrecksThe Nobleman’s Guide to Scandal and Shipwrecks (2021) Mackenzi Lee (Montague Siblings) 8/10

Historical, YA

The third (and seemingly final) book in the series, it can stand on its own, but is more poignant seeing Monty and Felicity twenty years later.

It’s also about grief and guilt and mental illness and love.

“God, is this going to take years?”

“It’s going to take your whole life,” Felicity says. “But it doesn’t have to be the defining element of it.

Although you can read this as a stand-alone, the previous two books are very good, and well worth reading, and I highly recommend them. Just be aware that if you start with the first book, Monty is complicated, and it took quite a while for me to warm up to him.

What Abigail Did That SummerWhat Abigail Did That Summer (2021) Ben Aaronovitch (Rivers of London) 8.5/10

Supernatural Mystery, YA

This book is set at the time as Foxglove Summer. Abigail speaks to foxes and wants more than anything to learn magic.

This could be read as a stand-alone I believe, because Abigail is only peripheral to the River of London novels, although she does have her own place in the comics and short stories.

The fox is sitting in my lap and still nuzzling my chin, which is beginning to vex me so I tell it to stop.

“Don’t you like that?” says the fox. The voice is slightly wheezy and pitched high. I suspect this is a vixen. “In training they said it promoted co-operation in humans.”

If you’ve not read any of the books in the Rivers of London series, this might be a good place to dip a toe in and see if you like it. That said, my favorite way to enjoy this series is listening to Kobna Holdbrook-Smith be Peter Grant.

Out of House and HomeOut of House and Home (2021) Drew Hayes (Fred the Vampire Accountant) 8/10


The seventh Fred book find Fred & Crystal married and back home. Except that the invading vampire clan wants Fred gone, and is willing to burn down Charlotte to do it.

This series remains delightful. I mean…

With a quick recovery, Amy turned hard on the steering bars of her goat, setting a good angle on the goal and whipping her crosse forward.

You shouldn’t start here, but all the books are available and on Hoopla if not at your library.

Cry Wolf
Cry Wolf (2021) Charlie Adhara (Big Bad Wolf) 8/10

Supernatural, LGBT, Boinking

The fifth book in the Big Bad Wolf series. Part of the story is wedding planning, part of the story is Eli wanting Cooper to solve a mystery for him.

Also, this book has one of the best disclaimers I’ve read in ages.

Any resemblance to actual persons or events is coincidental. Though if you do know of a criminal plot involving werewolves that has taken place at any of these locales, that is a coincidence I would love to know about.

Don’t start here. Start at the first book, A Wolf at the Door (which is available on Hoopla) because the character arcs are really wonderful.

White Trash WarlockWhite Trash Warlock (2020) David R. Slayton (Adam Binder) 8/10

Supernatural, LGBT

I love the world building here, as it’s not like anything else I’ve read before (though there are bits and pieces that remind me of other magic systems). I also love that the story doesn’t shy away from showing real poverty–the kind with beat up trailers and broken windows covered with cardboard and tape and the cheapest foods at the store.

The parking meters had mouths where their coin slots should be. They undulated like hungry snakes, begging for coins. “How many of you can do that?” he asked. He fed the meter a few quarters. Contented, it tried to lick his face before closing its eyes and drifting to sleep like a cat in the sun.

The second book came out this year, however, I am very angry at it, because it ended on a big cliffhanger. Yet, I’m still planning on buying the third book as soon as it comes out.

Recipe for a CurseRecipe for a Curse (2021) Lissa Kasey (Romancing a Curse) 8/10

Supernatural, LGBT, Boinking

I actually got this free, and was expecting a mediocre short story. Instead a got a novella with marvelous world-building and complex characters.

Also, one of the main characters is a chef, so lots of food and cooking.

People didn’t like to think their quiet towns or pockets of wealth housed those with food insecurity, but I’d found that it was a reality everywhere. Even in upstate New York, buried in a small tourist area with large plots of land.

This is a pandemic story, which not everyone might be ready for, but I thought it was very well done.

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