Hoohoo, friends of the blade!
I love doing best ofs but apparently I never do them on my blog and instead only write them down for myself in my reading journal. After posting on in 2017 and 2020, it’s time for the blog return of the bookish best of for 2021.
But first, let’s look at some stats. My reading goal was 75 books, a number I felt good with, something I could reach easily without putting pressure on myself. In the end, I read a total of 87 books and I’m very happy with that number. I know, I know, it’s not important how many books someone reads. But it’s important to me that I read as much as possible because I love it so much and want to spend my time reading.
Not included in these 87 books are books I read for uni and more specifically, my MA thesis, even though I read quite a few books and articles there as well.
The 87 books together had 34.483 pages which I think are a lot of pages.
9 books were rereads and won’t count in the Best Of. I reread the first three books of The Bone Season series and reread All for the Game two times, once in June and once in October.
Both the shortest and longest books I read were by R.F. Kuang, the shortest being The Drowning Faith with 15 pages and the longest being The Dragon Republic with 658 pages.
Now, let’s go and have a look at the actual Best Of. Grab a cup of your favourite hot beverage, get comfortable and let’s start.
BEST DEBUT AUTHOR
Everina Maxwell & Babsi Schwarz
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell was one of my favourite books of 2021. I just loved the characters and the writing so much and the author has created an absolute masterpiece here.
Babsi Schwarz had her debut in Germany this year with Meer der Legenden: Nixenwunsch. It’s such a wonderful story about love and strength and standing up for yourself and your loved ones. Babsi definitely has a lot of potential and I can’t wait to read more of her words.
Rin (The Dragon Republic / The Burning God by R.F. Kuang)
Darcy Phillips (Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales)
Roh (A Lair of Bones / With Dagger and Song by Helen Scheuerer)
Someone’s making another appearance! I already put Rin down as a favourite character in my 2020 Best Of, but she deserves another mention because in book 2 & 3 of the Poppy War series, The Dragon Republic and The Burning God, I loved her even more. She’s morally grey, fierce, selfish yet caring for her people, so full of power and determined. On a scale of joy to pain, reading about her is either one of those things but there is nothing inbetween. Actually, it’s not a scale. It’s just joy or pain.
Then we have Darcy Phillips from Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales. I love her so much because I can identify with her so well. All her doubts and fears are very familiar. I also liked how she’s continuously learning.
Another protagonist I love was Roh from the Curse of the Cyren Queen series by Helen Scheuerer. Roh is also on the morally grey side and if Rin is determination personified, Roh is the little sister. She stops at nothing to get what she wants and to find the answers she needs. I loved her development and her growth A LOT.
Jenny Shindanai (Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta)
Belet (City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda)
I have to admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of Gearbreakers nor its protagonists but I LOVED Jenny. She’s basically a mad, unhinged scientists who also like to punch everyone around her. Or kill them. She’s very protective of her loved ones and I always imagine her with a bit of a mad smile on her face and winking while walking away from an explosion. You know that The Lonely Island song “cool guys don’t look at explosions”? That’s how I imagine Jenny.
Belet is the adoptive daughter of the goddess of love and war, Ishtar. She grows up around magic and weaponry and things usual people would think are myths. She’s good with swords and at talking back and getting Sik, the protagonist of City of the Plague God, where he needs to be, both mentally and physically. I loved her so much and I really hope I get to see more of her!
The Fencing Team (Fence by C.S. Pacat, Johanna the Mad & Sarah Rees Brennan)
Miriam & Kyra (Run Away by Anabelle Stehl)
This year, I became very obsessed with the graphic novel series “Fence” by C.S. Pacat. Then Sarah Rees Brennan came along with two novels about the team and I uhhh… there are amazing friendship pairs but then the team as a whole (and actually the whole school they go to) is one big found family and I’m here for it. 100%.
Miriam and Kyra have such a wonderful friendship. They’ve known each other for quite a while and are flatmates and share most things with each other. They give advice and accept each other the way they are, they have fun together but also rush to each other’s aid if necessary. I really loved reading their conversations and the deep platonic feelings they have for each other.
BEST ROMANTIC SHIP
Arcturus Mesarthim & Paige Mahoney (The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon)
Nasir & Zafira (We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal)
Kiem & Jainan (Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell)
Listen. If I had to read about one single ship for the rest of my life it would probably be Arcturus and Paige. Not only do I love them SO MUCH, they’ve also grown on me over years. I forgot when I started reading The Bone Season but it might have been in 2015 or 2016 and over the years those characters have become a part of me. And uhhhhh… them being domestic in Paris? Caring for each other? Never do I need anything else, just let them be happy and content and live a nice life cooking for each other. Thanks.
Ohhh Nasir and Zafira, my loves. Enemies to lovers to ???? to lovers. Both of them can’t talk about their feelings very well and it shows. But the longing between them, the glances when the other isn’t looking, trying to protect each other while also fighting a war? Yeah, give me all the angst and uncertainty and the fierce love. Nice.
Kiem and Jainan ahhh. They’re such a good pair. They’re opposites stuck together but you know how they say opposites attract? Kiem is a chaotic idiot, a whirlwind of being too much of everything while Jainan is quiet and has an awful past. The two of them together bring out the best in the other, they help each other and while they need some time to get to know and understand each other, they grow closer and closer and finally open up and it’s such a wonderful pair.
BEST WORLD BUILDING
The Green Bone Saga by Fonda Lee
The Poppy War series by R.F. Kuang
*Bangs fist on table* Time to talk about two of my favourite series that have the best fucking worldbuilding.
Yes, I am talking about The Poppy War and The Green Bone Saga yet again. But those two series are just. So good. Amazing. With complex, really well thought-out and thought-through world building. *Chef’s kiss*
There are so many details in both of them, from religion to society to economy and relationships between people and countries. Especially The Green Bone Saga feels weirdly real. Temples and gods and education, knowledge and warfare and poverty, gangsters and empresses and ministers, politics and magic and consquences of people’s actions. Everything is inside those novels. Everything. I don’t know what else to do except lie down and marvel at the minds of Fonda Lee and Rebecca Kuang because they have created masterpieces and I am in awe.
HONORARY MENTIONS – 5 STAR READS
Do you have a Bookish Best Of? Which books would you choose for these categories? What do you think of my picks?
Until next time,
AHH yes perfect on paper! so happy to see this book on your list here, i really loved the main character in this story, too… and the story as a whole, ahah, it was fantastic, really. I’m so glad to see Lucky Girl on here, too! Very curious about this book 🙂
yes, Perfect on Paper was just absolutely amazing! I loved it so much 🙂
Lucky Girl is such a fantastic book. Kit Sweetly (Jamie Pacton’s debut) is as well, I love them both with all of my heart!