Following a look at last year’s top mysteries, it’s time to check out the fantasy novels that were the most popular in 2021. Based on circulation figures at the library where I work, these were the most checked out titles in 2021.
10. The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu & A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas — It’s a tie for 10th place! The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories features a collection of Liu’s award-winning and award-finalist stories, including “The Paper Menagerie” which is the only story to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. In A Court of Frost and Starlight, the Winter Solstice is approaching and High Lady Feyre must navigate a festive atmosphere that can’t keep the shadows of the past and far-reaching effects from impacting the future. The 4th book in the Court of Thorns and Roses series.
9. Fairhaven Rising by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.—The 22nd book in the long-running and bestselling Saga of Recluce series. 16 years ago, the town of Fairhaven was founded, but the town’s success has become “an impediment to the ambition of several rulers, and the mages protecting the town are seen as a threat.”
8. The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo—In this award-winning tale, a young royal will bend history to her will and rise to become empress.
7. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller—Miller’s debut novel, first published in 2012, is an epic love story, an action-packed adventure, and riveting page turner. This literary retelling of the legend of Achilles and the Trojan War proves the enduring appeal of Greek myths.
6. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan—The first book in the epic Wheel of Time series landed in the top ten reads of 2021 due to the anticipation for the Amazon Original series that debuted in November 2021. The story begins with Moiraine and her quest “to find the one prophesized to stand against The Dark One.”
5. The Magicians by Lev Grossman—Despite the TV series adaptation ending in 2020 or perhaps because of it, this 2009 urban fantasy returned the top ten reads list. A brilliant high school math genius is admitted to an elite college of magic.
4. Battle Ground by Jim Butcher—In the 17th and most recent entry in the Dresden Files series, the Last Titan has declared war on the city of Chicago, and Harry is on a mission to stop her.
3. Cursed Luck by Kelley Armstrong—A curse weaver and a luck worker join forces to locate the mythical Necklace of Harmonia in this first book in a new series by urban fantasy author Armstrong.
2. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch—An orphan dodges death and slavery to become a thief under the tutelage of a gifted con artist in the mysterious island city of Camorr. This 2006 debut novel is the first in the Gentleman Bastard series.
And the Number One Fantasy of the Year is …
- Million Dollar Demon by Kim Harrison — Urban fantasy wins! In the 15th book in the Hollows series, a new master vampire sees eliminating Rachel Morgan as the key to consolidating power in the city of Cincinnati. 15th book in the Hollows series.
And there you have it, the most popular fantastic reads of 2021. It’s always interesting to see titles more than a year or two old ranking on the top ten list. This typically seems to happen with a book that’s a classic of the genre or the book is the basis for a TV or film adaptation that is in progress or forthcoming. Sometimes it’s because a new book by the author leads readers to seek out earlier works.
So I’m somewhat baffled by Miller’s The Song of Achilles and especially by Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora. There’s just no obvious reason why these two particular titles were so popular in 2021. Miler’s most recent novel was the Greek myth inspired Circe, published in 2018, and Lynch’s most recent book was The Republic of Thieves in 2013. His next book in the Gentleman Bastard series is still listed as forthcoming. And I haven’t heard or seen anything about either property being adapted for film or TV. So who knows?
So are you delighted or disappointed by the top fantasy reads of 2021? How many have you read? Which books made your 2021 top ten list? What are your speculations for 2022 and fantasy reading resolutions for the new year?