It’s a new year so time for me to share my favourite books of 2021 before I leap into reading this year’s offerings. 2021 galloped by and threw many obstacles my way, but it produced some amazing books though for me, the world of witches and magic have shone above the rest.
In no particular order here are my best books of 2021:
2022 looks like it will also be a wonderful year for magic and romance with the publication of the final instalment of the Practical Magic series, The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman and the future publication of Miranda Dickinson’s The Start of Something.
What were your favourite reads in 2021 and what are you looking forward to this year? Let me know in the comments below.
A huge thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources, Random Things Tour, all the publishers who have supported my blog and allowed me early access to these wonderful books and of course, you my readers.
I’m thrilled to have been asked to help celebrate this year’s #SFFRomFest and chat about my favourite fantasy and sci-fi romances. As many of you know I love books involving magic, witchcraft or the paranormal and a romantic thread always makes them extra special.
What has been your favourite SFF Romance from 2021 so far?
I hate questions like this because this year has produced some amazing and unique novels in the fantasy genre making it difficult to choose just one so I may have to cheat. Sorry!
A true fantasy romance that stands out is Caedis Knight’s Witches of Barcelona, the second novel in the Blood Web Chronicles. It follows Saskia, a low level witch on her investigations into the murky world of the paranormals. It’s hot and sizzles in all the right places with a varied cast of characters and thrilling plot. The world building is fully developed, imaginative and with many twists and turns it kept me on the toes. My review can be found here.
Another novel I adore and cannot get out of my mind is Midnight in Everwood by M.A Kuzniar. It’s not out until the end of this month and I feel privileged to have read an advanced copy – thank you so much, Harper Voyager. Based on The Nutcracker ballet, Marietta is a heroine to admire and again, the depth and layers of the world the author has created drew me in and I did not want to leave despite the dangers faced there. It’s a tale of obsession, desire for independence and self-discovery bundled up with magic and illusions. Everyone who loves ballet or fantasies such as Caraval are in for a treat. The physical copies are also stunning and I can’t wait to own one.
Which subgenre of SFF Romance do you tend to read most and what do you love about it?
I love magical realism and witchlit – stories that are based in reality but overlayed by magic and imagination such as portals to other worlds or characters with secret abilities. I find them more accessible than high fantasy, easy to visualise and I love the added excitement of knowing I could visit places mentioned if I wish. For example, I fell in love with Oxford through the Discovery of Witches and a tour is on my wishlist. I long to explore The British Library thanks to the wonderful worldbuilding in Threadneedle by Cari Thomas.
I also have a love of time slip novels such as those by Barbara Erskine, who is the queen of this genre. They tap into my love of history and the supernatural. I find I learn more about the obscure times and personalities this way rather than a textbook.
What was the first SFF Romance you can remember reading?
It has to be The Changeover by Margaret Mahy. Forget Twilight the chemistry between the two main characters, Laura and Sorenson Carlisle is perfect and the scene of her changing to be a witch is sensual and alludes to so much.
The first adult SFF romance I remember is TheLady of Hay by Barbara Erskine which I borrowed from my mum after she raved about it, but another memorable novel from my teenage years is Past Forgetting by Alexandra Thorne. It’s a time slip novel involving a dress I longed to own and the aurora borealis. Duncan Carlisle is a hero to swoon after.
What SFF Romance do you always recommend?
Currently, it is Midnight in Everwood but there is also Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy which blends my love of witchcraft, libraries and different species together. Caedis Knight’s Blood Web Chronicles are great for those who like romances that sizzle, and Kelley Armstrong is also one of my favourite authors to recommend. I’m not very good at choosing one thing, am I? There are just too many wonderful books and authors out there to love.
What SFF Romance is next on your TBR pile?
The next on my list is the last instalment of The Indigo Chronicles, Children of Shadows by N. Simmonds.
I’ll be joining in with the festival more on my Instagram account but if you want to discover more bloggers favourites or add to your TBR pile use the hashtag #SFFRomFest in your favourite social media outlet.
What are your favourite fantasy or sci-fi romance novels?
Finally, it is my turn to review Threadneedle by Cari Thomas and take part in this magical blog tour with Random Things Tour. For those who regularly follow my blow, you know much I love magic and witchcraft fiction so I could not resist the invite to read this advanced copy when I read the blurb. Scroll down to see if it met my expectations.
Book Review: Threadneedle by Cari Thomas
Author: Cari Thomas
Genre: YA fantasy, witchlit
Release date: 27th May 2021
Anna’s aunt has always warned her of the dangers of magic. Its twists. Its knots. Its deadly consequences. Now Anna counts down the days to the ceremony that will bind her magic forever. Until she meets Effie and Attis. They open her eyes to a London she never knew existed. A shop that sells memories. A secret library where the librarian feeds off words. A club where revellers lose themselves in a haze of spells. But as she is swept deeper into this world, Anna begins to wonder if her aunt was right all along. Is her magic a gift…or a curse? Told through spells created with knots and threads, this is a story that is both innovative and based in traditional witchcraft.
Where do I start? The physical copy of this book is a joy to hold with its red edges and stunning, vibrant cover. On opening, there is map and I’m a sucker for maps in books, they lure you into a story and add to the excitement of discovering the setting. It adds to the promise that there is a treat inside, and this novel doesn’t fail to deliver. It left me with a crushing book hangover for days.
Threadneedle is intense with a background tension which builds up to a crescendo of a climax that I would never have guessed, despite all the clues cleverly threaded throughout. It’s beautiful, and dark with impressive magical world building blended into reality. The depth and multi-layering means it could easily reread* and allow the reader to discover more about the characters and setting. Some of the imagery of the magic and punishments endured is so powerful it made me believe the book was created by magic itself. It is immersive so I felt Anna’s emotions – her confusion and pain while living with her controlling Aunt and her wonderment at the magic beneath her fingertips and in the locations she visits when she meets Effie. They are deliciously imaginative especially the library for witches and the second-hand shop. Part school drama, it is reminiscent of Heathers, The Craft and Stephen King’s Carrie but has an original feel. The characters are unique, memorable and made me think they were real while reading and beyond.
I love witch and magic themed books but this one is worlds ahead of the best. It has left me reeling in shock and in awe. It left me wanting to read more and I can’t wait to read more from this author. Not since the first reading of Deathly Hallows in the midst of Harry Potter mania has a book hit the spot like this. In fact, forget Hogworts I want to go on a tour of the Threadneedle locations.
Would I recommend?
Yes, it has become one of my favourite books and I know it will be on permanent loan from the Enchanted Emporium bookshelf by young and old customers. If you love witchlit, magic or a good YA fantasy this is a must to try. I long to be with fellow book lovers to talk about this for hours. It’s that type of book you don’t want to keep to yourself deserves to be loved, unravelled, discussed and then reread. *I have read it twice but also listening to it on Audible.
Cari Thomas has always loved magic, inspired by her upbringing among the woods and myths of Wales’ Wye Valley. She studied English and Creative Writing at Warwick University and Magazine Journalism at The Cardiff School of Journalism. Her first job was at teen Sugar magazine where she ran the book club and quickly realized she wanted to be the one writing the books instead. She went on to work at a creative agency, spending her spare time researching magic and accumulating an unusual collection of occult books. She wrote her debut novel Threadneedle while living in London, wandering the city and weaving it with all the magic she wished it contained. She now lives in Bristol with her husband and son, who bears the appropriately Celtic name of Taliesin.
A note from Cari Thomas:
I remember the old family stories about my Great Aunt Mary. A fiercely independent, enigmatic woman who was said to be a witch. Perhaps it was these early stories seeping into my subconscious, perhaps it was devouring The Worst Witch, or growing up in rural Wales surrounded by myth and fairy tales, or maybe it was just me, but from a young age I developed a fascination for all things witches and magic. But let’s not forget that the witch’s hut always sits outside of the village for a reason. In my research, I became just as obsessed with magic’s opposite forces – repression, fear, suspicion and prejudice. After all, if my Great Aunt Mary had been alive a few centuries earlier she may well have been burnt at the stake.
Witch hunts became an area of fascination for me and the more I read the more outraged I became – how powerful, outspoken women and men, or people of the pagan faith, or simply outsiders, have time and time again been suppressed, silenced and extinguished from society. How the power structure of the day meant that it was near impossible for them to have a voice and to defend themselves.
Why was it such people terrified those in power? Why were we not taught more about this dark period of history? Why did the themes feel like they still resonated so strongly today? I explore these tensions in Threadneedle- the freedoms of magic set against a fear of witches and feminine power; schoolgirls forced to take on the injustices of the world one spell at a time. The sheer joy of writing the book came in bringing these tensions into the modern world and particularly into the London setting we think we know.
Ultimately, this is where the heart of the story lies: in feminine power and sisterhood. It brings together an unlikely set of outsiders, who together must navigate their way through the light and dark of being a young woman in today’s world. A world that is more complex than ever and yet still plagued by many of the same issues that my Great Aunt Mary would have faced, and all the witches who came before her.