Book Recs of 2021

“We are none of us perfect, and no one expects perfection. But when you have hurt people, you must allow them their anger. Otherwise it will only become another thing you have tried to take away.”

Chain of Iron, Cassandra Clare

We finally come to that time of the year again – rounding up all of the best books to declare our recommendations for our friends to read. Of all the books I read from January to December, there were a few surprising discoveries that I am eager to share! This is a list of fantasy and romance, all of which were originally recommendations from my mutuals…aside from the obvious continuation of my faves (Leigh, Cassie, Sabaa). All of these books were 4-5 stars in my mind, others could exceed that rating system…who knows.

Without further adieu and passing moment, my recommendations can only begin with the first read and descend to the most recent!

Chain of Iron – Cassandra Clare

“Love is not always a lightning bolt. Sometimes it is a creeping vine. It grows slowly until suddenly it is all that there is in the world.”

Chain of Iron takes residence at the top of this list as one of the many rereads I completed this year. Since its release in March, I have been scrambling for more content, diving back into a second or possibly third read to immerse myself in this story. The structure of this particular world in The Last Hours trilogy is fascinatingly beautiful. I can imagine the art and beauty of fashion and architecture. The characters are wonderfully written and each brings a unique perspective to build London’s shadowhunter society. You have no idea how ready I truly am for the final book in November of 2022…nor how devasted I was to find out a few months earlier that it was not debuting in March of 2022. ALAS, I must wait for the conclusion to Cordelia, James, and Matthew’s story; my sweet, Matthew. Poor boy has gone through enough. I just hope his ending is fulfilling. I just know the scenes in France are going to be beautiful. Wonders of how the story will resume are piling in my mind.

A Sky Beyond the Storm – Sabaa Tahir

“I wish I could live a thousand lives so I could fall in love with you a thousand times”

A Sky Beyond the Storm is a beautifully tragic conclusion to the quartet written by Sabaa Tahir. It’s intense and traumatic for the characters, as expected from a Tahir book. What were you expecting otherwise? Safe to say, each of the main characters receives a sound conclusion to their story, although the angst drags. Oh, how I love angst. If I were to rank the books in the quartet: Ember, Torch, Sky, Reaper. Now, that may be contentious, but for a few factors of angst, drama, and suspense, my ranking of the books is justified. OVERALL, I adore Sabaa’s writing and look forward to future projects from her. The very idea of a Pakistani author in Fantasy is wonderful to me, as my father is Pakistani. Its truly great to see this representation in authors and the book community! Continue!!!

The Final Empire + The Well of Ascension – Brandon Sanderson

“Elend: I kind of lost track of time…
Breeze: For two hours?
Elend: There were books involved.”

We finally get to the big one! It took me a year after purchasing the book set to open up the books and yet again, I am not even surprised. It seems I’m always delaying reading these books and then I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed them. While I haven’t gotten very far into the final book of this trilogy, the first and second had me hooked after two hundred pages. As expected from high fantasy, it takes a bit to set up the world and magic system, but once you’ve got the gist of it, The Mistborn Trilogy will have its gripes on you. Its very unique in its magic system and tone, although reminiscent of other media I’ve seen, so if you enjoyed Merlin, The Witcher, A Darker Shade of Magic…then maybe its something you should check out! The second book is what did it for me! The central protagonist, Vin, and the action were the key features that drew me further into this story. Highly recommend, readers!!

We Hunt the Flame + We Free the Stars – Hafsah Faizal

“If I told you my name, would you bow?” His voice was soft. A melancholy caress. He lifted his chin when understanding dawned on her face. “Or would you flee?”

Now, this! This one is close to my heart!

OOOOOH did I enjoy this duology! A quick breakdown of all you need to know: Ancient Arabian fantasy, enemies to lovers with a huntress, and the assassin prince of darkness. Hafsah’s writing is exquisite. The shorter chapters make sure that you’re completely focused on the story, and it builds nicely to a cliffhanger which carries right on in We Free the Stars. What truly drove my recommendation is the slow burn between the protagonists. The humor, action, and incorporation of Arabic into the story are attractive sub-parts I have to mention. I’d love to read more stories written and featuring POC characters, so please recommend them on my page (@a.wandering.reader on Instagram).

The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern

“Not all stories speak to all listeners, but all listeners can find a story that does, somewhere, sometime. In one form or another.”

There is a particular magical wonder in Morgenstern’s writing that is reminiscent of stories like the Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, and Inkheart. The Starless Sea is unlike any book I’ve read in that its whimsical nature continued on and built until you were left wondering what was true and what was fiction. I adored the changing perspective of our protagonist from unwilling passenger and follower, to an explorer who dives straight into the stories to solve the mystery of The Starless Sea and its unlikely investigators. The Starless Sea and the Harbor itself were characters in their own respect. Definitely my favourite Morgenstern story.

The Love Hypothesis – Ali Hazelwood

“Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man”

For the favourite romance of the year! It’s a New York bestselling debut novel! I read this twice already! It’s such a cute romance with all of its sciencey- references (feels great to understand all of it as a STEM major myself, hehe). The Reylo inspiration is wonderful as I am a huge Star Wars fan). The elevating drama with each scene was delightful! Very reminiscent of typical ff, which, of course, the story is based off. If you’re looking for a light-hearted book to jump into on an afternoon or evening, or even a quiet morning, pick up The Love Hypothesis.

It Ends With Us – Colleen Hoover

“All humans make mistakes. What determines a person’s character aren’t the mistakes we make. It’s how we take those mistakes and turn them into lessons rather than excuses.”

It Ends With Us will hook you onto this book, for sure! Honestly, there is never a good place to stop reading as the story just carries over quite nicely with each chapter. Be aware of the trigger warnings for domestic violence. This book encompasses the haunting experiences of trauma and toxic relationships, the highs and lows. I went in, thinking it was a romance novel, surprised to learn it’s a deeply moving contemporary about knowing one’s limits. The main character Lily’s determination was refreshing to see as she firmly held to her beliefs. Colleen knows what she is doing, I applaud her for the expertly written stories that have many enraptured, I’m sure.

November 9 – Colleen Hoover

“You’ll never be able to find yourself if you’re lost in someone else.”

November 9 is an incredible journey featuring the unconventional love story of two young individuals seeking out themselves during the formative years of their lives. Agreeing to meet on the same day, we get an insight into Fallon and Ben’s growth during their early years of adulthood. More often than not, I’m left disappointed by titles that lack that ‘umph’ once you reach the end. Co Ho never misses though.. The recurring motif of Nov 9 was just so impactful and glorious once you reach the end. This story is truly beautifully tragic because of the elevating angst and distance that grows along with it. It’s an easily consumable story with sweet tropes and I’m sure, more than enough tears to share around.

That concludes my list of the year, leave a comment on my Instagram and hit that follow button to receive a notification when I upload! Have a great new year, readers!
A Wandering Reader