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Celeste’s Top 21 Books of the Year (2021)

Celeste’s Top 21 Books of the Year (2021)


At last, 2021 is drawing to a close.  Or, as I like to call it, 2020 part 2.  While the year wasn’t the best, I did have a pretty great reading year.  According to Goodreads, I read 110 books this year.  According to my own spreadsheet, I read 192.  That 82 book difference is comprised largely of various long, spicy romance series that I didn’t want to have to review because I was consuming them so quickly, so I made the decision to not include them on Goodreads.  But I wanted to acknowledge them here.  This was the year of the romance novel for me.  Romance has never been my genre of choice, but I found so much solace in it this year.  For the first time, I truly understand why there are so many dedicated romance readers out there, and now I happily consider myself one of them.  Four novels on this list are romances, in fact.

While I read a metric ton of romance, I think I read fairly widely this year.  This list includes fantasy, mystery, thriller, horror, sci-fi, and literary fiction.  One of the biggest common denominators on this list is actually Greek mythology.  I’ve always loved mythology, and this year I read some amazing books retelling some of those myths in fun and refreshing ways.  This is something I hope to find even more of next year.

As always, I’m following Petrik’s example here.
– One entry per author. (But not always only one book.  I’m cheating this year.  You’ll see what I mean.)
– Rereads aren’t included.
– The books on this list were new to me, not necessarily new. They might not have been published this year, but this was my first time reading them.
– All of these books were either 4.5 or 5 star reads for me.

Links to my Goodreads reviews of each book will be included below. And now, without further ado, here are my favorite books of 2021!


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Book Review: The Crippled God (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #10) by Steven Erikson

Book Review: The Crippled God (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #10) by Steven Erikson

The Crippled God by Steven Erikson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 10 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy, fantasy

First published:  March 2011 by Bantam (UK) and Tor (US)


The Crippled God is a breathtaking conclusion to an outstanding series; Malazan Book of the Fallen is a masterpiece of its genre and has affirmed its place as my favourite epic grimdark fantasy series.

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Book Review: Dust of Dreams (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #9) by Steven Erikson

Book Review: Dust of Dreams (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #9) by Steven Erikson

Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 9 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy, fantasy

First published:  2009 by Bantam (UK) and 2010 by Tor (US)


The denouement of the Malazan Book of the Fallen is so long that it had to be written over two enormous books. Dust of Dreams is the first act of this grand finale and it was glorious!

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Book Review: Toll the Hounds (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #8)

Book Review: Toll the Hounds (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #8)

Toll the Hounds by Steven Erikson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 8 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy

First published:  2008 by Bantam (UK) and Tor (US)


In a series replete with epic endings, Toll the Hounds offered, to date, the most epic one of all. It is with much joy that upon rereading I could upgrade this book as one of my favourites.

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Book Review: Reaper’s Gale (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #7)

Book Review: Reaper’s Gale (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #7)


Reaper’s Gale by Steven Erikson

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars.

Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 7 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy

First published:  2007 by Bantam (UK) and 2008 by Tor (US)


I will not be the first to extoll the astounding breadth and depth of the Malazan world with its extensive history, a multitude of races, richly diverse cultures and a huge cast of characters. I may also not be the first to admit how lost I sometimes feel, wandering through this labyrinth of intricate worldbuilding.

Reaper’s Gale was the first volume in the Malazan Book of the Fallen which, to my delight, continued directly from the previous book. There was no whiplash from the sudden change in plot lines from one book to the other in the past six books. Almost all the subplots from the previous novels led into this one with a lot of known main characters showing up one way or another, all of which descended upon the Letherii Empire.

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Book Review: The Bonehunters (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #6)

Book Review: The Bonehunters (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #6)

The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 6 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy

First published:  2006 by Bantam (UK) and 2007 by Tor (US)


Malazan Book of the Fallen really hit its stride coming into its sixth chapter of this massive tale. However, now that we have moved past the midway point of the series, it will get more and more difficult to compose a review without giving away too much. As such, you may see the length of these reviews getting shorter as I progress towards the finale.

Firstly, I have to say that in The Bonehunters, Erikson started to reveal a larger picture of the intricate tapestry that he has so masterfully woven. Almost every character that we have met from the beginning and their respective arcs or subplots were coming together to form a more cohesive narrative across all the volumes of the series so far. While the prose maintained its dense philosophical slant, the books were progressively getting easier to read. Easier being solely relative to its predecessors.

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Book Review: Midnight Tides (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #5)

Book Review: Midnight Tides (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #5)

Midnight Tides by Steven Erikson

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars.

Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 5 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy

First published:  2004 by Bantam (UK) and 2007 by Tor (US)


Betrayal. Lies. Greed. Power.

These are the dominant themes presiding over Midnight Tides, the excellent fifth chapter of Malazan Book of the Fallen, which opened with a Prologue dated back to the Time of the Elder Gods, providing yet another history lesson into this deeply complex world.

One would expect that progressing through the series should only get easier right? It seems though that Erikson decided to up the ante for worldbuilding by bringing the reader to a completely new far-flung continent and an entire cast of new characters. There is only ONE name that is familiar in the Dramatis Personae, one whom we met in the previous book – Trull Sengar. It turns out that Midnight Tides was dedicated to relate the story of how Trull ended up being in his dire position as we’ve seen in the Prologue of House of Chains.

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Book Review: House of Chains (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #4)

Book Review: House of Chains (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #4)

House of Chains by Steven Erikson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 4 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy

First published:  2002 by Bantam (UK) and 2006 by Tor (US)


There will be slaughter. Yet another apocalypse on Raraku’s restless sands. It is as it should be.

Retribution is at hand for the rise of the Seven Cities rebellion as the new Adjunct to the Empress arrives to lead the Malazan army to face Sha’ik and her Army of the Apocalypse. The Holy Desert of Raraku continues to emanate despair, even more so now than ever after the Chain of Dogs left in its trails the miasma of vengeance and grief.

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Book Review: Memories of Ice (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #3)

Book Review: Memories of Ice (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #3)

Memories of Ice by Steven Erikson

My rating: 6 of 5 stars.

Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 3 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy

First published:  2001 by Bantam (UK) and 2006 by Tor (US)


The harder the world, the fiercer the honour.

This in-world quote succinctly explained why Memories of Ice is one of my favourite volumes of my favourite grimdark epic fantasy series.  It is the reason why I even read grimdark in the first place, given that I am so easily assailed by emotions that one wonders why I willingly put myself through such heartbreak. So bear with me throughout this series when I keep waxing lyrical about how humanity manifests its most awe-inspiring qualities in the face of relentless hardship and horrors of a world ravaged by conflict.

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Book Review: Deadhouse Gates (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #2)

Book Review: Deadhouse Gates (Malazan Book of the Fallen, #2)

Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Series: Malazan Book of the Fallen (Book 2 of 10)

Genre: Epic fantasy, grimdark fantasy

First published:  2000 by Bantam (UK) and 2005 by Tor (US)


For those who have read Gardens of the Moon and thought it was relatively tame for a grimdark fantasy series, Deadhouse Gates will change your mind. This sequel took the series to new heights and was also when I begun to wholly understand Erikson’s opening quote in the debut. The grimness, violence and brutality in this book made me rethink of how I viewed A Song of Ice and Fire.

The events at the end of Gardens of the Moon saw the Bridgeburners splitting up, with the bulk of squad remaining on Genabackis with Dujek Onearm and Whiskeyjack to face the threat of the Pannion Domin. Meanwhile Fiddler and Kalam headed off to Seven Cities, where the Bridgeburners were forged, and which is on the brink of rebellion as the Seventh Year of Dryjhna, the Apocalypse, approaches. When the Book of Dryjhna is delivered into the hands of the Sha’ik, the spirit of the goddess will embody this prophetess and the Whirlwind together with the rebellion will rise.

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