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 official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday involved participants listing the top books on their Summer 2021/22 to-read-list. However, I already produced that list a few weeks ago, so I thought I would take this opportunity to continue my foray into highlighting the absolute best books of 2021. This is an end of year tradition I do each year with several Top Ten Tuesday list, and I started this year’s version last week when I listed some of the best pre-2021 releases I checked out this year. In a continuation of my end of year highlights, for this week’s list I have decided to look at my absolute favourite debut novels of the year.
I mentioned multiple times throughout the year that 2021 was a pretty awesome year for debuts and boy did I mean it. There were an incredible number of new authors releasing some impressive and entertaining debut novels this year, and I was lucky enough to receive a huge bundle of them to review. I always love checking out new authors as they produce their first book or take a foray into a whole new genre, and I was blown away with some of the talent this year. As such, I am really glad that I can highlight some of the absolute best in this Top Ten list.
To be eligible for this list, the book had to be either the first novel from a new author released in 2021, or a novel that was extremely different from an author’s previous work (their debut in the genre). I ended up reading a huge collection of debuts this year, so I had a bit of a hard time coming up with the list, as there were a lot of good options. I was eventually able to whittle it down to a manageable list of 10, with my typical generous Honourable Mentions section. The result was an excellent list that I feel perfectly captures my favourite debuts of the year and highlights them accordingly. So, let us see what made the cut.
An interesting and fast paced thriller debut that follows a pilot whose family is kidnapped in order to force him to crash his plane. Intense and exciting.
Small Acts of Defiance was a great Australian historical drama from new author Michelle Wright set in occupied Paris. This book had a brilliant and powerful story about resistance no matter the odds and is really worth checking out.
This year urban fantasy author Paul Crilley came up with a new writing handle, Paul Herron, to produce his first thriller, Breakout, a fast-paced and ultra-exciting novel about an inmate trying to escape a flooded prison filled with the worst killers in the country. One of the most action-packed novels of the year, this was an interesting change of pace from Crilley, so I am treating it as a debut.
One of the more interesting historical fiction debuts of 2021 was City of Vengeance by D. V. Bishop. This cool book follows a historical investigation in Renaissance Florence and proved to be an intriguing and dark murder mystery with some clever flashes to a real historical case.
Top Ten List:
The first book on this list is the brilliant and compelling thriller debut, The Frenchman by Jack Beaumont. Written by a former French intelligence operative, The Frenchman has an exciting tale of intrigue, espionage, and betrayal, as a French spy attempts to gain information on a chemical plant in Pakistan while also trying to balance his professional and personal lives. An outstanding and clever novel with a ton of realism to it.
Readers were treated to a fantastic fantasy debut this year from the author M. A. Carrick, with The Mask of Mirrors, a complex and powerful read about a con artist attempting to infiltrate high society in a corrupt and dangerous fantasy city. Carrick is actually the joint pen name of established authors Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, but as this is their first collaboration and they are using a pseudonym to do so, I am treating it as a debut from a new author. This was an excellent fantasy debut, and I was lucky enough to recently receive a copy of the sequel, The Liar’s Knot, which I am hoping to read very soon.
After previously writing fantasy fiction with her family, the incredibly talented Louise Carey had her solo debut this year with Inscape, a compelling and exciting cyberpunk, dystopian thriller. Set in a future world where everyone has advanced technology loaded into their brains, this book follows a young corporate agent as she attempts to discover who is attacking her parent company. Containing a brilliant story and a great new universe, this was a fantastic read that is really worth checking out.
One of the most highly anticipated debuts of 2021 was She Who Became the Sun by Australian author Shelley Parker-Chan. Set in the chaotic Yuan dynasty of China, this book follows a girl who takes up the identity of her dead brother to steal his great destiny. A clever reinvention of a famous Emperor’s rise to power, containing some intriguing gender swapping and fantasy elements, She Who Became the Sun rightly deserves all the praise it received, as it is a fun and amazing book.
Another great debut from an Australian author, The Councillor was a captivating and impressive fantasy novel that I deeply enjoyed. Following a troubled palace scholar who rises to a position of power after the death of her queen, The Councillor is filled with a ton of captivating political intriguing, fascinating magic, and some complex and manipulative characters. An awesome and powerful read, I cannot wait to see where Beaton takes this great series next.
Written as part of the Necromunda sub-series in the Warhammer 40,000 universe, Fire Made Flesh is Denny Flowers’ first full-length novel, and it takes the reader on a wild adventure to a haunted and chaotic underground settlement where various eccentric beings fight for power. A really entertaining read that fits perfectly into the cool Necromunda setting, I deeply enjoyed this novel and it was one of the craziest books I read all year.
There was no way I could exclude the outstanding young adult thriller, Lies Like Wildfire from this list. Lies Like Wildfire was Jennifer Lynn Alvarez’s first foray away from middle-grade fiction and features an incredible plot about a group of friends who accidently start a devastating wildfire and attempt to cover up their actions. A powerful and dramatic novel filled with lies, betrayals and jealousy, Lies Like Wildfire was an exceptional read, and I cannot wait to see what Alvarez writes next.
Easily one of the best debuts of 2021 was the excellent Among Thieves by M. J. Kuhn. Essentially a compelling fantasy heist novel, this book follows several unique and entertaining characters as they attempt to steal a powerful artefact from an impregnable magical fortress. However, every member of the crew has their own motivations for being there, and all of them are planning to betray the rest. This was an outstanding and deeply entertaining read which really sets Kuhn up as a rising star in the fantasy genre.
I had an absolute blast reading The Apollo Murders, the first fictional book from astronaut turned author Chris Hadfield. Set in 1973, this book envisions a 18th, fictional Apollo mission, filled with all manner of espionage, disaster, and stowaway Soviet cosmonauts. Incredibly intense and loaded with a fantastic amount of information about space flight, The Apollo Murders was an amazing read and I deeply enjoyed all the different genres that Hadfield was able to feature in his debut novel.
The final debut on this list was the clever supernatural murder mystery, The Dying Squad by Adam Simcox. Following a dead police detective and his feisty ghost partner as they attempt to solve the protagonist’s murder, this was an excellent and clever read that I had a wonderful time with.
Well, that is the end of this list. As you can, there were some incredible debut novels that came out this year and I had a blast getting through all of them. Each of the above debuts are really worth checking out, and I had an amazing time exploring these talented authors’ first forays into fiction. I am really excited to see what these authors produce next, and I have a feeling that quite a few are going to become major figures in their genres.