LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 20: Joe Abercrombie attends the 2012 Orion Authors’ Party at the Natural History Museum at the Natural History Museum on February 20, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Orion Books)
Let’s face it: last year was hard for everyone, from individuals stuck in their homes to businesses trying to stay afloat in a volatile environment. For instance, it was about as difficult a year as it gets to publish a book. While book sales actually rose in 2020 (up 8.2% print, 15.5% for ebooks, and 16.5% for audiobooks), the majority of fiction sales were comprised of backlist titles and authors, aka stuff that was out before 2020. In-person events like book signings and conventions that typically lend visibility to new books were cancelled or went virtual. Even those coveted book store displays were pretty ineffective for most of 2020, since, you know, going to the store wasn’t really in the cards for much of the year. It was hard for anyone to release a book in 2020, and doubly hard for debut authors.
The flip side of this coin is that you, the voracious reader, may have missed some absolute gems last year. Some of those gems might even have sequels on the way.
So we’ve gathered together 15 of the best sci-fi and fantasy books from 2020 that might have passed you by. These tales represent a range of science fiction and fantasy subgenres, so no matter what your taste, you’re likely to find a new favorite here. Some are by authors who just broke down the doors of the publishing industry in 2020; others are new series by old hands.
Let’s take a look!
Miss out on my chat w/ 'The Bone Shard Daughter (The Drowning Empire #1)' author @AndreaGStewart. No problem! YouTube was nice enough to auto-upload it for your viewing pleasure😉
Access it here: https://t.co/5xBReBnnXb@orbitbooks @HachetteUS @HachetteBooks @HachetteAudio pic.twitter.com/BmvMy0deC1
— Boss David @ FanFiAddict (@DWalters29) June 4, 2020
This was my personal favorite book that I’ve read from 2020 — but in keeping with the theme of this article, I actually only discovered it recently. That feels like an absolute crime considering how good The Bone Shard Daughter is. It combines elements of epic fantasy and horror in such a unique and fresh way that it stands out even among the many excellent books that have come out in the genre in recent years.
Here’s the official description:
The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.
The Bone Shard Daughter is one of the most unique fantasy books I think I’ve ever read, in no small part due to the narrative structure the author employs. The two “main” characters of the story are written from a first person perspective…while the rest are told in the more traditional third person limited point of view so popular in modern fantasy. If this sounds like it might be jarring, rest assured: it only enhances the story. It’s a very hard thing for a writer to pull off, and Stewart does it amazingly well.
But hey, you’re not into all that nitty gritty writing stuff. You just want a good story! The Bone Shard Daughter delivers on that end as well. It’s set in a fantasy world on a moving archipelago, where the people of the Empire are forced to give a shard of their skull to the government in a bloody ceremony when they’re children. In turn, the emperor uses these bone shards to create monstrous constructs. And when I say monstrous, I mean it. The Bone Shard Daughter dips into horror in ways that few fantasy books do, right down to its biggest twists…which we can’t talk about here because SPOILERS, but dear god they hit heavy. The magic systems are excellent, combining some magical elements that are as strictly ordered as computer code with other more mystical elements that imbue the world with a huge sense of wonder.
Oh, and it features what might be the most endearing animal companion of any fantasy book in recent memory.
When I said there were hidden gems last year, this book was right at the forefront of my mind. The second book in the trilogy, The Bone Shard Emperor, hits shelves on November 9.
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