After much deliberation (and three days wrangling WordPress’s terrible new block editor), I’ve finally managed to narrow down my top 21 books of 2020!
Yes, I may have intended it to be 20, and yes a few of them are series rather than individual books, but I couldn’t work out what to cut! I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of amazing reads this year – well over 90 five stars, out of my 350 books – so this was very difficult, but I think these really are the crème de la crème of my reading 2020. They’re in no particular order, and not sorted by genre or age range, so please enjoy the jumble!
Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe
This beautiful middle grade tale of a young witch out to make her name by helping the people of a seaside town has strong Kiki’s Delivery Service vibes, but is very much an original tale. I fell in love with Eva’s pluck and determination – check out my review!
Our Bloody Pearl by DN Bryn
This book totally took me surprise – I went in expecting a rollicking tale of bloodthirsty sirens and pirates out for revenge, and although that was amply provided, it also offers a genuinely sweet tale of acceptance, love, and found family. Add in awesome queer and disabled rep and you’ll see why I want everyone to read this – more details in my review!
My Life As A Cat by Carlie Sorosiak
This gorgeous middle grade book will break your heart and put it back together again, and make you fall in love with a cat who is more than he seems. Have tissues or a furry friend ready to mop up your tears – here’s my review!
Regency Belles of Bath series by Jenni Fletcher
I couldn’t choose between the first two books in this biscuit-based Regency romance series – both are charming, witty, and hunger-inducing delights. Here’s my review of An Unconventional Countess and here’s the review for Unexpectedly Wed to the Officer so you can decide for yourself – or read both!
Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran
Simply the best political YA fantasy I’ve read, full of intrigue and the difficulties of learning how to rule a corrupt kingdom. I loved the detailed statecraft and dastardly political machinations, and the cherry on top was the f/f romance – my full review is here.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson
I finally forced myself to read Sorcery of Thorns after putting it off because I was scared I’d hyped it up too much – but I absolutely hadn’t. This is wonderful fantasy romance with exactly the kind of hot magician hero I like – my review is here.
Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold
I wasn’t a fan of Bujold’s The Curse of Chalion when I read it at university, so I’d been avoiding the Penric novellas – but it turns out they are exactly the kind of fun, fluffy fantasy I’m always craving! This story of an eager young gentleman who is accidentally possessed by a snarky demon imbued with the personalities of her previous dozen female hosts leads to hijinks and very low-scale, personal fantasy adventure – just what I love.
Tea and Sympathetic Magic by Tansy Rayner Roberts
Another piece of excellent fluffy fun is this Regency fantasy novella with a wonderfully capable heroine and snappy dialogue. I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel to read whenever I need a bit of escapism!
Starfell: Willow Moss and the Forgotten Tale by Dominique Valente
The second book of Willow Moss’s adventures continues the wonderfully magical feel. Come for the grumpy not-a-cat and no-nonsense witches, stay for the feels as Willow learns to embrace her differences and play to her strengths – full review is here.
Frostgilded by Stephanie Burgis
There were two books in this series released this year, too – Frostgilded slightly edged out Moontangled just because as the epilogue, it gave the perfect cosy, romantic send off to this great Regency fantasy series from my favourite author. Review here.
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Not a new book, but new to me – I loved this fantasy romance. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I ended up falling in love with the depth and originality of this – plus the central relationship is really shippable! Check out my review.
Flying Witch by Chihiro Ishizuka
This is going in as a recommendation for the whole manga series, not just one volume – if you like slice-of-life fantasy or Ghibli vibes, you’ll love this cute story as much as me. Nothing really happens other than Makoto going through her witch training and making friends in rural Japan, but it’s utterly delightful because of that.
The Wicked Wild Highlanders series by Suzanne Enoch
I couldn’t pick a favourite out of this series if you forced me, and since I got to read an ARC of book three early, both Scot Under the Covers (review here) and Hit Me With Your Best Scot fell into this year. So much banter. So much swoony romance. Such good puns. One of my favourite ever series!
When She Was Naughty by Tessa Dare
I read the majority of Tessa’s work this year after she hired me to provide content warnings for her books, and I am finding it really hard to pick a favourite, so the most recent short story is going in this list as it made me grin from ear to ear. But many others deserve to be here, particularly Say Yes To the Marquess and A Week To Be Wicked!
The Winter Duke by Claire Eliza Bartlett
This was a good year for political YA fantasy! Despite my usual dislike of anything set in an icy land, I ended up hugely enjoying this fairy tale-esque story of a princess who never expected to take the throne – check out my full review here.
The Theft of Sunlight by Intisar Khanani
This isn’t technically out until next year, so I haven’t put my review up yet, but this is just as great, if not better, than Thorn, which was one of my top books of 2018 (review of that here). I read the rereleased version of Thorn this year, plus the two short stories that also make up this series, Brambles and The Bone Knife, and they are all fantastic, smart YA fantasy that doesn’t shy away from darkness, but offers a lot of hope.
Marshmallow Pie the Cat Superstar series by Clara Vulliamy
This fun and fluffy chapter book series is so delightful! You should check out my review here if you like cats even a little bit, because the voice of Marshmallow Pie is so spot on for a proud and wonderful cat! This is one of my favourite kids’ series I’ve ever discovered while blogging, and I can’t wait for book 3 this month.
If Darkness Takes Us by Brenda Marie Smith
I picked this post-apocalyptic story up on a whim from NetGalley and it absolutely blew me away. I’m still thinking about it. My review goes into more depth, but this has such amazing emotional impact – if you have a need for sci-fi that centres an older woman and showcases the different ways women can be strong, you have to read this.
May Day by Josie Jaffrey
This will probably be considered biased because I did help edit and proof this book, but I absolutely adore this vampire detective story. It’s my favourite of all of Josie’s books partly because of the Oxford setting, partly because of the exciting mystery, and partly because of badass protagonist Jack, who gets caught up in a bi love triangle full of extraordinary sexual tension.
The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart
This is great multi-POV fantasy full of adventure, magic and revolution – and one of the best animal sidekicks I’ve ever read. I saw a lot of hype and went in cautiously, but I was swept away and ended up giving it ten cats out of five in my review.
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
Controversy aside, I LOVED this book. I gave it eleven out of five stars in my review. It’s just the kind of snarky, marvellous fantasy I love, with a prickly protagonist and hugely intricate school setting. I saw a lot of myself in the main character, and the ending left me gasping for the sequel!
And that’s it! Do you have thoughts on any of these? I’d love to hear about your favourites of the year so drop them in the comments or let me have your links if you did a post!