Powder & Page’s Best Books of 2021

I’ve enjoyed looking through everyone else’s Best Of lists and decided I’d do my own version this year! The books below are listed in the order I read them and are primarily books I’ve rated 5 stars throughout the year, with a small handful of my favorite 4.5 star reads thrown in to round out the number. If you’d like to check out my full reviews, they’re all linked below!

 

The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly
Political intrigue, witches and wizards, totally unputdownable!

The Councillor by E.J. Beaton
Epic amounts of political intrigue, murder mystery, amazing main and secondary characters

Odin’s Child by Siri Pettersen
Inspired by Norse mythology, translated from Norwegian, incredible world-building, subverted my expectations

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Inspired by the civilizations of Pre-Columbian Americas, brutal first chapter, really cool magic

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne
Viking inspired fantasy, bad-ass characters, surprisingly heartwarming found families trope

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
First contact with aliens, surprisingly heartwarming, humorous, must save humanity!

The Library of the Dead by T.L. Huchu
A girl who can speak to the dead, an occult library, vibrant characters, and disturbing Lovecraftian monsters

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman
Snarky, memorable main character, excellent audio narration, horrific goblins, and an uncanny blind cat

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
Satisfies those  dark academia cravings, awkward romance, epic heroism, and the threat of the graduation gauntlet full of terrifying monsters

The Empire’s Ruin by Brian Staveley
Epic scenery, scary beasties, bad-ass characters, builds super well on the previous books set in the same world

 

Angel Killer by Andrew Mayne
Edge of your seat thriller, awesome introduction to Jessica Blackwood, borders on the supernatural

The Forever King by Ben Galley
Seriously deep lore, ultra cool magic (the mages have magical books inked onto their skin!), classic epic fantasy themes, tons of cool magical races

The Bone Ship’s Wake by RJ Barker
Incredible series finale, emotional gut punch ending, and sea dragons

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
Fun spin on the Sleeping Beauty story, incredible friendship, and girls refusing to accept ‘fate’ without a fight

Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff
The moody, goth vampire tome I’ve been waiting my whole life for, solid world-building, such dramatic characters

The Liar’s Knot by M.A. Carrick
Secret societies, vigilante heroes, TWO awesome magic systems, and the fashion is to die for. Also, PEABODY.

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
Compelling mystery that feels lighthearted despite the murder, elderly folks solving murders, surprisingly humorous, excellent audiobook narration

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody
Extra dark riff on the magical tournament trope, grimdark for young adults, explores what people will do in order to survive, so much drama!

Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier
Incredible standalone low fantasy book, jaw-dropping plot twists, one of the best YA books I’ve ever read

Engines of Empire by R.S. Ford
January 2022 release, fantastic world building, semi-industrialized world, political intrigue. Full review coming soon!

The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly

Published: January 12, 2021

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Series: Warrior Witch #1

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 384 (Hardcover)

My Rating: 4.5/5.0

Synopsis:

A princess with a powerful and dangerous secret must find a way to save her country from ruthless invaders in this exciting debut fantasy, the first novel in a thrilling duology packed with heroism, treachery, magic, and war.

Askia became heir to the Frozen Crown of Seravesh because of her devotion to her people. But her realm is facing a threat she cannot defeat by sheer will alone. The mad emperor of the Roven Empire has unleashed a horde of invading soldiers to enslave her lands. For months, her warriors have waged a valiant, stealth battle, yet they cannot stop the enemy’s advancement. Running out of time, she sets sail for sun-drenched Vishir, the neighboring land to the south, to seek help from its ruler, Emperor Armaan.

A young woman raised in army camps, Askia is ill-equipped to navigate Vishir’s labyrinthine political games. Her every move sinks her deeper into court intrigues which bewilder and repel her, leaving her vulnerable not only to enemies gathering at Vishir’s gates, but to those behind the palace walls. 

And in this glittering court, where secrets are worth more than gold, Askia fears that one false step will expose her true nature. For Askia is a witch gifted with magical abilities—knowledge that could destroy not only her life but her people. As her adversaries draw closer, Askia is forced to make an impossible choice—and no matter what she decides, it may not be enough to prevent Seravesh’s fall.


This was one of my most anticipated releases of early 2021 and I’m SOOO HAPPY it lived up to my expectations! At first it came off as a little young adult and I wasn’t so sure about it, but the book quickly found its stride and I fell in love. The Frozen Crown is an awesome political-centric fantasy and has seriously whetted my appetite for more books focused on statecraft and the nuanced maneuverings of those involved.

Princess Askia is heir to a crown she does not possess. Her kingdom has been taken by a treacherous cousin on behalf of the sorcerer king of Roven and she is on the run with her fiercely loyal armsmen. Her quest to retake her kingdom leads her across the sea to the Empire of Vishir, where she spent many years of her childhood… until her parents were murdered by religious zealots and she was tortured on the suspicion of being a witch. By returning to Vishir she must face not only the most powerful man in the world and beg for help, but also the people who were responsible for the most traumatic events in her life. The political game is on and Askia is floundering, sinking, but she must save her people at all costs.

This book was absolutely brilliant. I was on the edge of my seat and was finding any excuse or task to keep listening to it. Let’s just say my house was pretty clean that week! This has to be one of the first books I’ve come across where the main character was practical enough to push her heart aside and actually consider marriage to someone for an alliance. What a relief – a character can’t say they would do anything to save their people and then not actually take advantage of a marriage alliance! Oh, and I can’t forget that she actually beheaded her friend who tried to assassinate her. It was terrible, but he tried to kill her for Roven to save his own kin. Askia was awesome – a skilled warrior, an elegant figure, and a death witch. Yes, a death witch, meaning she can see and speak to the dead. Or at least that’s all she knew how to do at the beginning of the book. 

The Frozen Crown may end up being one of my favorite books of the year even though it’s only February. Only time shall tell, but my level of excitement for the next book is like wayyyy up there. The political aspect of this book was well done – Askia was obviously out of her depth, but she learns and begins to play the game. She deals with her enemies for the sake of saving her people, tamping down her own feelings for the sake of those she loves. The ending was quite the cliffhanger, so I’m really going to need the next book ASAP!

Stacking the Shelves: 2/6/21

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly (or in my case monthly) meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and it’s all about sharing the books you’ve added to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. You can include books you buy in a physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts, and of course ebooks!


Received for Review:

Odin’s Child by Siri Pettersen
I have had my eye on this book series for years, knowing next to nothing about it other than the covers looked cool. FINALLY it is being translated to English and I can check it out! It’s the story of a girl who has never quite belonged to the world she’s in because she was brought from another. Thanks to Arctis for the eARC.

The Fall of Koli by M.R. Carey
Can’t wait to see how this post-apocalyptic fantasy trilogy wraps up. It’s been a wild adventure, with deadly trees, roving gangs, and ancient tech. What sort of foolish endeavors will Koli embark on now? Thanks to Orbit for the eARC.

The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne
How could I resist the opportunity to snag a copy of this? The cover is truly amazing and I hope that there really are dragons in the book. The synopsis is pretty vague – jarls carving out territory and names for themselves after the gods fall from their perches. Many thanks to Orbit for the eARC!

Fortress of Magi by Mirah Bolender
This series hasn’t gotten much hype at all, but I’ve really enjoyed it and can’t wait to see how it wraps up in this book. Can the city of Amicae be saved from the awakened hive of magical monsters? Thanks to Tor for the eARC!

Siege of Rage and Ruin by Django Wexler
I actually received a physical copy of this from Tor Teen but I’m writing this late at night and don’t feel like taking a picture of it. I read this right after getting it and thought it was a solid conclusion – review coming soon!

My Purchases:

I haven’t purchased many books lately aside from those acquired using Audible credits. I’ve recently picked up The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly and In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce

Currently Reading: 1/18/21

The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly
I didn’t manage to snag an early copy of this so I picked up the audiobook after release. The reviews are pretty promising and though I’m only a few chapters in, I like it! Magic, political maneuvering, and a young queen fighting to save her people. 

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec
I think I’ll give this a try this week. I’m genuinely looking forward to this, but I may decide to pick up something lighter and more contemporary. This is the story of the witch Angrboda, her family, and the lengths she will go to protect them.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Frozen Crown by Greta Kelly

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme originally hosted on Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. This is a great way to share upcoming released you’re excited about!


Cover- The Frozen Crown

I initially skimmed past this when I was browsing Goodreads, but I keep seeing the lovely cover and I keep clicking on it!! It’s kind of growing on me and the synopsis sounds like something I’d really enjoy – courtly intrigue, secret magical abilities, and I’m hoping for some romantic TENSION. Did I mention the lovely cover? The city reminds me of depictions of Darujhistan from the Malazan books and well, I’m a big nerd for those. This will be released January 2021!