Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2021

An imprisoned princess, the multiverse, and customized dragons. The best science fiction and fantasy novels of 2021.

Clark, C.L. The Unbroken. Orbit. ISBN 9780316542753.

This rich North Africa–inspired debut follows Touraine and Luca, two women navigating the complexities of rebellion, colonization, and romance. Touraine was stolen from Qaza¯ li and forced into life as a soldier for the very empire that ripped her from her people. Luca is the princess of the empire who believes that by crushing the Qaza¯ li rebellion she can secure the throne for herself. Amid secrets and indoctrination, the two lovers must determine where their loyalties truly lie.

Harrow, Alix E. A Spindle Splintered. Tordotcom. ISBN 9781250765352.

This retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” takes the original fairy tale and sets it in the multiverse. Zinnia is terminally ill and knows she won’t see another birthday, but when she pricks her finger and travels through various universes, she meets other iterations of sleeping beauties and finds herself both saving and being saved by the powerful queer women she meets.

Koboldt, Dan. Domesticating Dragons. Baen. ISBN 9781982125110.

This quirky sf tells the story of Noah Parker, a genetic engineer who gets a job at a new tech company determined to create custom dragons for each household. As Noah gets closer to the genetic code of the reptilian companions, the humorous tale takes a turn to explore darker concepts of greed, humankind’s right to interfere with the natural, and the immense lengths tech companies will go to in order to secure a profit.

Maxwell, Everina. Winters Orbit. Tor. ISBN 9781250758859.

After the death of Prince Taam, the leader of the Iskat Empire must find a new political marriage to stabilize interplanetary relations. Thus, her grandson Kiem is betrothed to Taam’s widower, Jainan. From here, the two men must work together to uncover the secrets surrounding Taam’s death and save the galaxy from war. Complete with slow-burn, queernorm romance, this sf is a promising debut.

Parker-Chan, Shelley. She Who Became the Sun. Tor. ISBN 9781250621801.

This queer, fantasy alternate history of the founder of the Ming dynasty is exciting, thought-provoking, and tragic in turn. In 14th-century China, Zhu Chongba is destined for greatness. But when he is murdered, it is his sister who must take on his identity and become a monk. When her monastery is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against their Mongol colonizers, Chongba is willing to do whatever it takes to survive.

Suri, Tasha. The JasminThrone. Orbit. ISBN 9780316538510.

Malini is a princess, imprisoned by her despotic brother in a defunct temple. Priya is her servant, though she bears powerful magic that she must keep hidden. When Priya’s secret gets out, she and Malini go on an epic quest to achieve their individual goals—to find her lost family and overthrow the dictator, respectively. Their romance is tender, the action is heart-pounding, and the Indian-inspired culture is richly expressed.

Turnbull, Cadwell. No Gods, No Monsters. Blackstone. ISBN 9781982603724.

Upon investigating the murder of her brother, a Black man shot by the police, Laina discovers there is more to her world than meets the eye. Beings such as were- wolves are real and are fighting for acceptance and rights through visibility and pro-monster organizations. Social justice, otherness, and discrimination are discussed through the lens of enchanting fantasy.

Weir, Andy. Project Hail Mary. Ballantine. ISBN 9780593135204.

Ryland Grace is in a bit of a precarious situation as he awakens from a long-term slumber to find that he is aff licted with severe amnesia. Yet despite his memory loss and the mystery surrounding the two dead bodies in his ship, he is the planet’s last hope. This story of endurance, science, tricky pasts, and humor even in the darkest times will have readers rooting for Ryland’s, and Earth’s, survival.

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