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My Top Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reads of 2020

My Top Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reads of 2020

I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy books every year, but every so often there’s a title that truly stands out in its ability to stir my soul and make me think. This year, six books hit these criteria for me. Here are my top sci-fi and fantasy reads of 2020, in no particular order.

While I did read all these books for the first time this year, not all of them were published in 2020, just FYI. Also, I’m a lesbian, which informs my reading choices to a certain extent. More than half of these titles are queer in some way.

No matter who you are, though, these are all phenomenal sci-fi and fantasy books that I highly recommend.

The Midnight Lie by Marie RutkoskiThe Midnight Lie

This sapphic romantic fantasy was some of the most fun I’ve had with a book in a long time. I positively devoured it, sneaking away from responsibilities to read “just one chapter” whenever I could.

This book is set in the same universe as The Winner’s Curse, though you do not need to read that book (or its sequels) to follow along. It tells the story of a young woman, who meets a mysterious traveler in the shadows of a dark prison cell, and gets caught up in a dangerous world of magic and secrecy.

With gorgeous, poetic prose and atmospheric storytelling, this book tells a swoon-worthy romance with butch/femme dynamics. And speaking as a butch lesbian myself, the representation of the butch love interest really resonated with me.

You can purchase the book here.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden ThomasCemetery Boys

Cemetery Boys was one of those delightful examples of a release that deserved every bit of hype it got. Yadriel is a Latinx trans teen who wants to prove to his magic-wielding family that he is a brujo (not a bruja). To prove himself, he tries to summon the ghost of his murdered cousin.

Yadriel manages to summon a ghost, but there’s only one problem — he summoned the wrong one. Now he has another, yet rather attractive ghost to deal with, on top of a mystery to solve before time runs out.

Cemetery Boys has an original magic system based on Latin American culture and folklore, focused especially on the holiday of Día de los Muertos. The gay romance tugged at my heartstrings and — dare I admit — even brought me to tears. Ultimately it’s a light, sweet, hopeful story — the kind of joyful queer narrative we don’t get enough of.

You can purchase the book here.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn MuirGideon the Ninth

Often pitched as “lesbian necromancers in space,” this dark space fantasy is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Gideon is a swordswoman trying to escape her grisly life of servitude among unfriendly necromancers and creepy nuns. She finally has a chance when her childhood nemesis, Harrowhawk, brings her along on a mission for the interplanetary empire.

Magnificent awards await both of them, if they can put aside their differences long enough to work together. But a sinister, ancient force rumbles in the dark, set on stopping them.

Gideon the Ninth is a fantastic, oddly disturbing adventure filled with animated skeletons, sword fights, quotable banter, and characters you can’t help but love, despite all their many flaws.

The main character, Gideon, is another masc lesbian character that I felt a deep connection with this year. Two amazing pieces of representation in one year — I feel spoiled!

Note that while I read this book for the first time in 2020, it was published in 2019. The sequel, Harrow the Ninth, is out now. I need to get my hands on it ASAP!

You can purchase the book here.

Maestros by Steve SkroceMaestros

Maestros is the only comic I read this year that landed in my all-time favorites pile. Be forewarned, it’s definitely not for everyone; this comic is incredibly graphic and disturbing in places. It’s not a story for kids.

But for those who aren’t too put off by gory and mature imagery, you’re in for a real treat. Maestros is the irreverent, sarcastically-told story of Will, a PTSD-ridden college student who has been exiled to earth after disobeying his father, a cruel magician king from another world (and a large source of his trauma).

When the royal family is suddenly murdered, Will finds himself the unlikely inheritor of the kingdom, and of the god-like powers of the Maestro. He immediately sets out trying to change the world with the social justice values he learned from earth. But sadistic and horrifying enemies lie in wait to stop him and drag both worlds into chaos.

Will is an endearing hero who wants to do the right thing, but has to confront both the fallout of cruelty and the corruption of power — and how both forces can make villains out of any of us.

You can purchase the book here.

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max GladstoneThis Is How You Lose the Time War

This is another book I read this year where it’s hard to compare it to anything else. This Is How You Lose the Time War is a sci-fi novella and a sapphic romance, told in the form of letters between two time-traveling operatives on opposite sides of a war. Yeah, like I said… there’s really nothing else like it.

At first enemies and rivals, the two operatives shift into mutual respect, then friendly affection, and slowly, a deep and tender yearning. But when their respective sides catch wind of what’s happening, both operatives find themselves in grave danger. They must decide what they’re willing to risk — and lose.

This Is How You Lose the Time War is as much a story as it is an experience. At first, the world will feel confusing, but as you adjust to the unique rhythm and poetic style of storytelling, the power of it will shine through. It’s an aching, passionate story that will leave you heartsore.

You can purchase the book here.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke and Bone

This is the oldest book on the list, originally published in 2011. (However, a 10th-anniversary edition of the trilogy just came out, with gorgeous new covers; check it out!)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, along with the two sequels in the series, positively gutted me. It has one of the most heart-wrenching love stories I’ve ever experienced. I haven’t been so devastated by a book in years.

Also, this trilogy is a very cool portal fantasy, with epic undertones and world building that just totally captivated me and made my imagination tingle. Powerful warrior angels with fiery wings? Chimera with all sorts of animal-human combinations? An entire world, apart from our own, where both angels and chimera originate and are locked in a brutal, ancient war? Yes, please!

The story follows Karou, an art student in Prague with a host of increasingly-fantastical secrets: Her blue hair actually grows out of her hair that color, she was raised by monsters, and she travels the world via magical portals stealing teeth for a macabre purpose even she doesn’t know.

One day she meets a brooding stranger from another world, and she can’t shake the sense that something about him is familiar. Soon she spirals into a world of deeper secrets, and when she uncovers her own terrible suppressed past she begins to wish she hadn’t.

Ultimately, the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series is a complex, stirring adventure that unflinchingly confronts the horrors of war and cycles of violence. Though it’s a story filled with non-human characters, it asks the fundamentally human question: How do you stop an ancient cycle of hate and revenge? How do you build a better, more peaceful world, even when your enemy has committed the unforgivable — and even when your enemy is as close as a lover?

Get the book here.

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As a devout reader of fantasy novels, Brianna has always felt the call to put pen to paper and will be embarking on her greatest adventure yet — releasing her debut novel, City of Reckoning in 2021. When she’s not writing, she can be found behind the camera directing films or behind the computer screen working on multimedia design projects. Brianna’s path has led her to contribute digital illustrations to SBA.gov and motion graphics for a multitude of nonprofits, and freelancing while traveling the world. Follow along to see what’s next on her journey at briannadasilva.blog.

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