With the pandemic still going on, and leaving home still incredibly dangerous for some folk, 2021 has been a good year for finding a decent book or two. Having been unable to leave the house for much of the year I’ve found myself reading a lot more than normal (which was already a lot), so have been wracking my brain to create a list of the 10 books that stood out the most. After a lot of thought, and a changed mind or two, I can present you with ten books from 2021 that you absolutely need to check out.
The Forever Sea – Joshua Phillip Johnson (Titan Books)
The first book in a new fantasy series, The Forever Sea is one of the more imaginative and beautiful fantasy stories in years.
Set in a world where vast seas of grass and plants thousands of feet deep are explored by floating ships, the story follows Kindred, a young woman who finds her life forever changing when her grandmother steps off her ship to disappear into to grass below.
What follows is an adventure that sees the crew of Kindred’s ship fleeing from pirates, fighting strange creatures that lurk beneath the grass, and searching for a fabled floating city that might be able to give them refuge. Along the way Kindred will discover ancient mysteries, and terrifying magic, that will push her to her limits.
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Litany of Dreams: An Arkham Horror Novel – Ari Marmell (Aconyte Books)
One of the new novels set within the Arkham Horror game universe, this creeping horror story is inspired by the works of Lovecraft, and sets out to unsettle it’s reader with its twisted and disturbing imagery.
Following the disappearance of a student at the Miskatonic University his roommate, Elliot Raslo, sets out to find out what happened to him. Unfortunately for Elliot, he’s being haunted by some strange chanting that only he can hear; a chanting that his friend heard before he vanished.
His investigation leads him to a small community deep in the swamp, a community that is under siege by strange terrors. Along the way he teams up with a Greenland’s Inuk warrior in Arkham searching for a stolen artefact that might be connected to the strange events.
The Book of the Baku – R.L. Boyle (Titan Books)
The Book of the Baku is one of the more affecting horror books that I’ve read in a long time.
Thanks to its disturbing, creepy nightmare-like imagery it really gets under the skin; but it’s the emotional story we get along the way that really hits the hardest.
The story follows Sean, a young teen who’s had to move in with his grandfather following some tragic event. As Sean hasn’t spoken a word in month, we watch as his grandfather tries to get him to open up, forming a relationship with him as best he can.
Searching through his grandfather’s book collection one day Sean finds a book written by his grandfather, The Book of the Baku, a collection of terrifying short stories. As Sean reads the book his reality begins to twist, his grandfather seems to change, and the nightmares from the book begin to stalk him.
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The Final Child – Fran Dorricott (Titan Books)
A new psychological thriller set in the heart of England The Final Child sees Harriet, a young aspiring writer, looking into the case of a child kidnapper and serial killer from almost twenty years prior.
Her cousins being two of the victims of ‘The Father’, Harriet wants to try and tell the stories of his victims. This leads her to trying to speak to Erin, the only person to ever escape ‘The Father’.
Whilst their relationship fails to start on the best note, the two of them are soon drawn together as Erin begins to receive strange messages and sinister presents. She’s sure she’s being watched, and begins to suspect that perhaps ‘The Father’ isn’t gone as everyone thought. Together, the two of them have to try and get to the bottom of this dangerous mystery; all whilst exploring their growing romantic feelings for each other.
Horseman: A Tale of Sleepy Hollow – Christina Henry (Titan Books)
Decades after the stories of Sleepy Hollow began with the tales of the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane, the townspeople of Sleepy Hollow find their town coming under siege from some dark force within the surrounding woodlands once again.
When Ben, the fourteen-year-old grandson of Brom Bones, finds the headless body of a boy in the woods it begins a new mystery, one that has Ben questioning everything he thinks he knew about his family and the legends of the Horseman.
With dark forces seeming to have an eye on Ben, he also has to contend with his grandmother, who seems intent on forcing Ben to act like the girl he was born as; but he knows in his heart he’s a boy, and will do whatever it takes to make his family see it too.
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Sherlock Holmes & The Three Winter Terrors – James Lovegrove (Titan Books)
James Lovegrove returns to write another wintery Sherlock Holmes treat in Sherlock Holmes & The Three Winter Terrors, a book that brings together three cases from across the career of the legendary detective, that test his abilities, and push his disbelief in the supernatural to its limits.
A tragic accident in a private prep school in 1889; a wealthy business owner frightened to death by a ghost in his own home in 1890; and a scientist found killed and gnawed on by a suspected cannibal on his country manor in 1894.
What brings these cases together? Why is the same family seemingly followed by tragedy? And can Holmes get to the bottom of it all?
Truth of the Divine – Lindsay Ellis (Titan Books)
Following on from last year’s Axiom’s End, Ellis’ second book continues the story of Cora, a young woman whose life was forever changed when an alien life-form, Ampersand, entered her life.
Following the traumatic events of the last book, the entire world now knows that alien life exists, and this knowledge seems to be close to causing a dangerous revolution.
Whilst the world argues about the existence of aliens and if these newly discovered beings deserve to receive rights, Cora fights the demons that have been haunting her since she almost died.
Her and Ampersand are doing their best to put their lives back together and survive the best they can when a new threat arrives; a threat that could completely break them both.
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Beyond: The Founding of Valdemar – Mercedes Lackey (Titan Books)
Author Mercedes Lackey returns to her long running Valdemar series, going back in time to show readers how this kingdom came into being.
Set within the Eastern Empire, readers follow Kords, the Duke of Valdemar, as he tries to protect the people of his land from the machinations of the Emperor; a man who cares nothing for the common people and is happy to see people die for his own ambitions.
Having hidden illegal mages within his Dutchy for years, Kordas has long been searching for a way to save his people. And thanks to a breakthrough, he may have discovered a means to transport his people to a distant land far from the Emperor’s reach. Working in secret, the people of Valdemar put the pieces of their escape together; but when Kordas is summoned to the capital their entire plan might come crashing down.
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Cult of the Spider Queen: An Arkham Horror Novel – S.A. Sidor (Aconyte Books)
Cult of the Spider Queen takes the Arkham Horror series in a new direction as the action shifts away from Massachusetts to the deep jungles of the Amazon.
When a reporter at the Arkham Advisor, Andy van Nortwick, receives a package in the post with a roll of film and the cryptic message ‘Maude Brion is very much alive!’ it leads him to learn of a film crew going missing in the Amazon a year ago.
Putting together a team to try and find the missing people, Andy travels deep into the foreboding rainforest. But even with experts in the field, nothing could prepare them for what they find waiting for them. Strange ships crewed by unearthly beings, spirits that haunt their dreams, distortions in time and space, and the Spider Queen herself; a huge, monstrous creature that hunts her way through the jungle, searching for her next meal. With elements from classic adventure movies, and a set-up that begins like a found footage movie, Cult of the Spider Queen is a heart pounding read.
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The Rebels of Vanaheim: A Marvel Legends of Asgard Novel – Richard Lee Byers (Aconyte Books)
Set within the world of Marvel’s Thor, the latest entry in the Legends of Asgard series follows the heroic warrior Heimdall and the Valkyrie Uschi as they travel home to the land of Vanaheim in order to take a rest and visit their families. However, once they arrive in their homeland they find their people under siege from the vicious draugr, powerful undead creatures.
Working alongside their families, and the god Frey, the two warriors find themselves having to fight for their lives against a foe that refuses to die and spreads across the land like a deadly infection, turning the people of Vanaheim into the creatures.
However, the draugr aren’t the only threat the two of them find; as they uncover a mystery that could plunge the realms of Vanaheim and Asgard into vicious war with each other. With a tight focus on characters, some tense and spooky horror, and an intricate plot, The Rebels of Vanaheim is the best entry in the series yet.