There were so many fantastic adult book releases this year, that this list was originally going to be 10, but I couldn’t narrow it down that far. So, welcome to my 20 Best Adult Book Releases of 2021 list. Every book on this list was absolutely brilliant.
Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee
Jade Legacy is the finale to the Green Bone Saga, a brilliant, complex adult fantasy series that blends powerful close-knit families, detailed politics, martial arts, and magic. This was the perfect ending.
Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.
The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.
The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.
Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo
The one’s a slow-burn southern gothic that tackles grief, obsession, longing, queer masculinity, and gorgeously messy characters. The main character unravels the truth of his best friends death while coming to terms with the fact that their relationship wasn’t strictly platonic, and what that means.
Andrew and Eddie did everything together, best friends bonded more deeply than brothers, until Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, only days before Andrew was to join him in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew a horrible inheritance: a roommate he doesn’t know, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.
As Andrew searches for the truth of Eddie’s death, he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trusted most, discovering a family history soaked in blood and death. Whirling between the backstabbing academic world where Eddie spent his days and the circle of hot boys, fast cars, and hard drugs that ruled Eddie’s nights, the walls Andrew has built against the world begin to crumble, letting in the phantom that hungers for him.
A Dowrry of Blood by S.T. Gibson
A gorgeous, dreamy slow-paced gothic story that examines abuse, devotion, and power amongst queer, polyamorous vampires. Dracula’s first bride, Constanta, is the narrator, as she struggles to break free from someone she loves.
A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A Dowry of Blood is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation.
Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets.
With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.
She Who Became The Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan
This book reimagines the tale of the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty. With a brilliantly complex examination of gender, queerness, and disability alongside prose that drips with beauty, this isn’t one you want to miss
“I refuse to be nothing…”
In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…
In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.
When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.
After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.
The Councillor by E.J. Beaton
A Machiavellian fantasy with an intriguing bisexual scholar protagonist tasked with choosing the next monarch. The Councillor is a must-read for fans of political intrigue, forbidden magic, and secret agendas.
When the death of Iron Queen Sarelin Brey fractures the realm of Elira, Lysande Prior, the palace scholar and the queen’s closest friend, is appointed Councillor. Publically, Lysande must choose the next monarch from amongst the city-rulers vying for the throne. Privately, she seeks to discover which ruler murdered the queen, suspecting the use of magic.
Resourceful, analytical, and quiet, Lysande appears to embody the motto she was raised with: everything in its place. Yet while she hides her drug addiction from her new associates, she cannot hide her growing interest in power. She becomes locked in a game of strategy with the city-rulers – especially the erudite prince Luca Fontaine, who seems to shift between ally and rival.
Further from home, an old enemy is stirring: the magic-wielding White Queen is on the move again, and her alliance with a traitor among the royal milieu poses a danger not just to the peace of the realm, but to the survival of everything that Lysande cares about.
In a world where the low-born keep their heads down, Lysande must learn to fight an enemy who wears many guises… even as she wages her own battle between ambition and restraint.
In The Watchful City by S. Qiouyi Lu
This novella is a sparkling jewel of a read, with gorgeous writing and a vivid futuristic, biocyberpunk world that truly feels alive. As the main character finds aer horizon expand through folkloric tales, the reader is drawn into the complex themes and worldbuilding.
Adult Sci-Fi Fantasy
The city of Ora uses a complex living network called the Gleaming to surveil its inhabitants and maintain harmony. Anima is one of the cloistered extrasensory humans tasked with watching over Ora’s citizens. Although ær world is restricted to what æ can see and experience through the Gleaming, Anima takes pride and comfort in keeping Ora safe from all harm.
All that changes when a mysterious visitor enters the city carrying a cabinet of curiosities from around the world, with a story attached to each item. As Anima’s world expands beyond the borders of Ora to places—and possibilities—æ never before imagined to exist, æ finds ærself asking a question that throws into doubt ær entire purpose: What good is a city if it can’t protect its people?
A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine
The sequel to A Memory Called Empire is a very different yet equally fantastic book with a first contact situation that prompts the question, ‘how do you communicate with something that doesn’t use language?’.
An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options.
In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity.
Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever.
Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon
A book that defies all attempts to categorise it, Sorrowland is an intensely political read that examines queerness, racism, human experimentation, resistance, and nature. It’s dark, it’s messy, it’s traumatic, and it’s filled with the tiniest sparks of hope.
Adult Speculative Fiction
Vern – seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised – flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world.
But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes.
To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future – outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it.
A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske
A sparkling, brilliant book that expertly combines historical, fantasy, and romance elements to create the perfect read. If himbo x nerd is a dynamic you could get behind, this one’s for you.
Adult Historical Fantasy Romance
Robin Blyth has more than enough bother in his life. He’s struggling to be a good older brother, a responsible employer, and the harried baronet of a seat gutted by his late parents’ excesses. When an administrative mistake sees him named the civil service liaison to a hidden magical society, he discovers what’s been operating beneath the unextraordinary reality he’s always known.
Now Robin must contend with the beauty and danger of magic, an excruciating deadly curse, and the alarming visions of the future that come with it—not to mention Edwin Courcey, his cold and prickly counterpart in the magical bureaucracy, who clearly wishes Robin were anyone and anywhere else.
Robin’s predecessor has disappeared, and the mystery of what happened to him reveals unsettling truths about the very oldest stories they’ve been told about the land they live on and what binds it. Thrown together and facing unexpected dangers, Robin and Edwin discover a plot that threatens every magician in the British Isles—and a secret that more than one person has already died to keep.
The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
A gothic horror set in a secondary world resembling historical England, this story includes a marriage of convenience between Jane, an autistic woman with a love for numbers, and Augustine, a kind man with an occult secret.
Adult Fantasy Horror
Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town. Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him.
By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to. Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.
No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull
This book uses fragmented stories to reveal a larger, overarching plotline in a world where monsters have recently been exposed. The way it dealt with monsters as a politically marginalised group was a fantastic method of inspecting social issues.
Adult Contemporary Fantasy Horror
One October morning, Laina gets the news that her brother was shot and killed by Boston cops. But what looks like a case of police brutality soon reveals something much stranger. Monsters are real. And they want everyone to know it.
As creatures from myth and legend come out of the shadows, seeking safety through visibility, their emergence sets off a chain of seemingly unrelated events. Members of a local werewolf pack are threatened into silence. A professor follows a missing friend’s trail of bread crumbs to a mysterious secret society. And a young boy with unique abilities seeks refuge in a pro-monster organization with secrets of its own. Meanwhile, more people start disappearing, suicides and hate crimes increase, and protests erupt globally, both for and against the monsters.
At the center is a mystery no one thinks to ask: Why now? What has frightened the monsters out of the dark?
The world will soon find out.
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
This slow-paced, Indian-inspired fantasy is rich with brilliant worldbuilding, magic, and themes of empire, oppression, and revolution. More morally grey sapphics is always wonderful, and Tasha Suri knows how to deliver.
Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.
Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.
But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.
The Fallen by Ada Hoffmann
In this sequel to The Outside, neurodivergent scientists struggle to support a community oppressed by the A.I. gods that rule over the galaxy. As they hurtle towards the possibility of violent rebellion, they wonder how this can be achieved if their goal is to help, not hurt.
The laws of physics acting on the planet of Jai have been forever upended; its surface completed altered, and its inhabitants permanently changed. The artificially intelligent Gods that ruled the galaxy, fearing heresy and chaos, have become the planet’s jailers. Tiv Hunt once trusted these Gods absolutely, but now her world has changed and her allegiance has shifted.
Now Tiv spends her days helping the last remaining survivors of Jai. Everyone is fighting for their freedom against unthinkable odds, and they call out for drastic action from their saviour, Yasira. But she has become deeply ill, debilitated by her Outside exposure, and she struggles to keep breathing let alone lead a revolution.
Hunted by the Gods, and Akavi, the disgraced angel, Yasira and Tiv them must delve further than ever before into the maddening mysteries of their fractured planet in order to save – or perhaps destroy – their fading world.
Winter’s Orbit by Everina Maxwell
Romance blossoms between two men in an arranged marriage of political convenience. This book is perfect for romance readers who want to dip their toes into sci-fi, or sci-fi readers who want a more romance-focused read.
Adult Sci-Fi Romance
While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.
But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.
The Wolf and the Woodsman by Ava Reid
A Jewish-inspired fantasy with a strong folkloric feel to it, the writing in this book is gorgeous. It also features a wonderfully enjoyable enemies-to-lovers relationship
In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.
But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.
As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and Gáspár need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all.
For The Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten
This book has a dark, fairytale feel to it reminiscent of Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast. With an intense sisterly relationship, religious fantasticism, a wonderful romance, and a bloodthirsty forest, this is one you don’t want to miss.
The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.
For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.
As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.
Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.
But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.
Blackheart Knights by Laure Eve
A Camelot story where knights ride on motorbikes through a gritty, punk world. This story is slow-paced, character-focused, and filled with casual queerness.
Power always wins.
Imagine Camelot but in Gotham: a city where knights are the celebrities of the day, riding on motorbikes instead of horses and competing in televised fights for fame and money.
Imagine a city where a young, magic-touched bastard astonishes everyone by becoming king – albeit with extreme reluctance – and a girl with a secret past trains to become a knight for the sole purpose of vengeance.
Imagine a city where magic is illegal but everywhere, in its underground bars, its back-alley soothsayers – and in the people who have to hide what they are for fear of being tattooed and persecuted.
Imagine a city where electricity is money, power the only game worth playing, and violence the most fervently worshipped religion.
Welcome to a dark, chaotic, alluring place with a tumultuous history, where dreams come true if you want them hard enough – and are prepared to do some very, very bad things to get them
Yours, Insatiably by Aveda Vice
This is a monster romance between an autistic corporate succubus and a non-binary, goth fae. It’s a brilliant high heat story that centres honest communication and fantastic character development.
Adult Monster Romance
Avirin understands hunger.
With her ravenous desire to succeed, it’s no surprise she hides her monstrosity from the world. Easier said than done once she sleeps with her infuriating coworker and lets her succubus secret slip. But it’s a one-time thing; she’s not jeopardizing her career over a night with Pye…
No matter how much she can’t stop thinking about it.
Pye understands hunger, too.
Being famished for something they can’t have, mouth watering at the sight of her…but Pye and Avirin agreed to be friends, and since faeries can’t lie, he’ll keep his late-night thoughts to himself. But when Pye introduces Avirin to the world of monsters she’s long avoided, they both have a hard time forgetting what they did together…
And a harder time remembering why they can’t cross that line again.
The Helm of Midnight by Marina J. Lostetter
A dark fantasy filled to the brim with an interesting magic system, ominous secrets, in-depth worldbuilding, and engaging characters. The multiple perspectives and timelines come together in an expertly woven web of intrigue.
In a daring and deadly heist, thieves have made away with an artifact of terrible power–the death mask of Louis Charbon. Made by a master craftsman, it is imbued with the spirit of a monster from history, a serial murderer who terrorized the city with a series of gruesome murders.
Now Charbon is loose once more, killing from beyond the grave. But these murders are different from before, not simply random but the work of a deliberate mind probing for answers to a sinister question.
It is up to Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators to enter the mind of madness to stop this insatiable killer while facing the terrible truths left in his wake.
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark
A North-African inspired sapphic fantasy that delves into themes of colonialism and rebellion. The tactical depth, the strength of the themes, the compelling characters, all of these features come together to make a truly fantastic read.
Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.
Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.
Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.
8 thoughts on “My 20 Best Adult Book Releases of 2021”
this was such a fun post to read through! i’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed a marvellous light, that one and more you mentioned have definitely been added to my TBR list! 😊
LikeLiked by 1 person
thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I hope you love A Marvellous Light and all of the other books you added to your tbr! 🥰
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great list! I still have to read quite some of these though! I’m hoping to read Summer Sons befor the end of the year!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you! I hope you love summer sons! And all the other ones you’re interested in when you get round to them!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Excellent list! Thanks for sharing your best adult releases of 2021.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thank you 🥰✨
LikeLiked by 1 person