Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics. The task for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday was originally to list the reasons why I love reading, however I am going to go off topic and instead look at something else. We have just crossed into the second half of 2021, which has already proven to be a pretty fantastic year for books. I have read some incredible novels so far this year, including impressive standalone books, amazing new entries in established series and fantastic debuts. Because of this, I thought that I would take the time to work out what my top ten favourite books from the first half of 2021 were.
Once I knew what I wanted to pull together for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, I started taking a hard look at all the different novels that I have read this year. To be eligible, a book had to be released in (or extremely close to) the first half of this year. I have also excluded any books released during this period that I have not so far read, although a couple of releases I have my eye on might have appeared on this list if I had had the chance to read them before now.
Coming up with this list proved to be a rather bigger task than I originally intended, as I ended up amassing nearly 20 different releases, all of which I consider to be some pretty outstanding reads. I ended up being able to eventually whittle this down to an acceptable Top Ten list, although I did include my typical generous honourable mentions section. I am rather happy with how this list turned out, although I am surprised at some of the great releases that ended up being excluded. Still, the books below represent what I considered to be some of the best books from the first half of 2021, and I would strongly recommend each and every one of them. So let us see what made the cut.
Top Ten List (no particular order):
The first book on this list is the incredible and wildly addictive fantasy masterpiece, The Two-Faced Queen by Nick Martell. Serving as the sequel to last year’s amazing The Kingdom of Liars (which was one of my favourite books, audiobooks, and debuts of 2020), The Two-Faced Queen continues the compelling adventures of its angsty and relatable protagonist, Michael Kingman, as he attempts to uncover the mysteries and conspiracies of his home city. Containing a wild mass of unique opponents, plots and hidden secrets, this book holds your attention from beginning to end and is one of the best sequels I have ever read.
Next up we have the obligatory Star Wars entry on this list, Victory’s Price by Alexander Freed. While there have been several other great Star Wars releases this year (Light of the Jedi and Greater Good were both fantastic), none of them were as impressive as Victory’s Price. Serving as the third and final entry in the Alphabet Squadron series (which previously featured Alphabet Squadron and Shadow Fall), this incredible book features a powerful, character driven narrative that provides readers with tragedy, amazing character development and a full-on war story amid the Star Wars universe. Beautifully written and incredibly moving, Victory’s Price perfectly wraps up the Alphabet Squadron trilogy and is one of the best Star Wars novels out there.
Epic spy thriller author Mark Greaney returns with the 10th book in his outstanding Gray Man series, Relentless. I have been deeply enjoying the Gray Man novels over the last couple of years (check out my reviews for Mission Critical and One Minute Out), so I knew I was going to be in for a good time with Relentless. This was another particularly thrilling tale of international espionage and plots, as Court Gentry and his comrades go up against a sinister, world-changing conspiracy. A fantastic and action-packed read that comes highly recommended.
Next of this list we have the fantasy novel that everyone was talking about this year, The Shadow of the Gods by John Gwynne. Set in a Norse inspired dark fantasy world shattered by warring gods, The Shadow of the Gods contains a powerful and addictive narrative which sets three amazing protagonists on quests for redemption, honour, and family. Containing some extraordinary world building, great characters, and a really impressive story, this was one of the best fantasy books of the year, and I loved every second I spent reading it.
Superstar author Miles Cameron made his science fiction debut earlier this year with the captivating Artifact Space. Containing an epic voyage throughout the stars, Artifact Space was an awesome read, that takes its damaged protagonist to some amazing places as they try to save their ship from a dangerous alien conspiracy.
I doubt anyone is too surprised that the latest Usagi Yojimbo volume has appeared on this list. Written by one of my favourite authors, Stan Sakai, this latest volume of the long running series was extremely moving and deeply compelling, as Usagi goes through some harsh adventures near his long-avoided home province. With incredible art, powerful character work and some very elaborate stories, this was another excellent addition to one of the best comic series out there.
Another new to me author who blew me away this year was the outstanding Andy Weir, who produced one of the best science fiction novels of 2021. Project Hail Mary contains an extraordinary tale of an amnesiac scientist sent out into space to find out how to save the sun from burning out. Containing a deeply enjoyable and addictive story, I powered through Project Hail Mary in no time at all and loved every second of it. One of the easiest books of 2021 to recommend, you must check Project Hail Mary out.
After deeply enjoying her 2020 novel, Race the Sands, I was eager to explore another fun standalone fantasy novel from bestselling author Sarah Beth Durst, and boy was I in for a treat with The Bone Maker. This clever novel follows five former heroes who are once again drawn into a deadly battle for their nation. Readers will fall in love with the novels damaged heroes, especially after they once head the call to battle, even after all the loss and trauma they have suffered.
Now, technically this novel was released in 2020, however, considering it only came out 31 December (which was technically 1 January 2021 in Australia), I am choosing to count this as a 2021 release instead. Colonyside is the third novel in the fantastic and impressive Planetside science fiction thriller series. Following on from the amazing Planetside (one of the best books of 2018) and Spaceside (one of the best books of 2019), Colonyside places its infamous protagonist in the middle of another dangerous conspiracy, as he searches for a missing person on a hostile alien planet. A masterful and thrilling novel, I deeply enjoyed this amazing book.
The final entry on this list is the outstanding Protector from Conn Iggulden, which follows on the from the great 2020 novel, The Gates of Athens. Featuring an awesome story about some of the key battles between the Greeks and the Persians, this was a fantastic piece of historical fiction that is really worth reading.
That is the end of this list. As you can see, I have already read some amazing and epic books so far in 2021 and we are only halfway through the year. I am pretty happy with how this list turned out, especially as it features some extraordinary reads. It will be interesting to see which of these books ends up being amongst my top reads of 2020, and while I would assume all the above will make the cut, there is some pretty hefty competition coming up in the second half of 2021. Let me know what you think about the books that made my Top Ten list, and also let me know what your favourite releases from the first half of 2020 are.