QTL – The Most Anticipated Books Of 2021

This week 2020 is finally rolling to a close and we have been spending some time resting, recuperating, and catching up on a number of books from this year. Yet, the show must go on and we have been furiously planning a site refresh and scheduling all of our content for 2021. In the midst of doing all of this we built a pretty comprehensive calendar of all the fantasy, sci-fi, and other books we want to keep an eye on – and discovered that 2021 is shaping up to be a very strong year for books. This is nice, given how difficult 2020 has been. While we were making this list, we figured it might be fun to highlight some of our most anticipated books for those of you who don’t want to spend a week digging through every single publisher release schedule. We have listed them in release order, not in order of excitement. We have provided cover art where available.

maskofmirrors-cover-664x1024-11) Mask of Mirrors by MA Carrick – release date 1/19/2021 by Orbit: Renata Viraudax is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadezra — the city of dreams — with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house and secure her fortune and her sister’s future. But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as corrupt magic begins to weave its way through Nadezra, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled — with Ren at their heart.

51nihz4w52l2) The Galaxy and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers – release date 2/16/2021 by Harper Voyager: With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop. At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through. When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

51ucj27xfcl3) A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine – release date 3/2/2021 by Tor Books: An alien armada lurks on the edges of Teixcalaanli space. No one can communicate with it, no one can destroy it, and Fleet Captain Nine Hibiscus is running out of options. In a desperate attempt at diplomacy with the mysterious invaders, the fleet captain has sent for a diplomatic envoy. Now Mahit Dzmare and Three Seagrass—still reeling from the recent upheaval in the Empire—face the impossible task of trying to communicate with a hostile entity. Whether they succeed or fail could change the fate of Teixcalaan forever.

97812507570504) The Helm of Midnight by Marina J Lostetter – release date 4/13/2021 by Tor Books: In a daring and deadly heist, thieves have made away with an artifact of terrible power–the death mask of Louis Charbon. Made by a master craftsman, it is imbued with the spirit of a monster from history, a serial murderer who terrorized the city with a series of gruesome murders. Now Charbon is loose once more, killing from beyond the grave. But these murders are different from before, not simply random but the work of a deliberate mind probing for answers to a sinister question. It is up to Krona Hirvath and her fellow Regulators to enter the mind of madness to stop this insatiable killer while facing the terrible truths left in his wake.

61bym0xuusl5) Perhaps the Stars by Ada Palmer – released on 6/1/2021 by Tor Books: The long years of near-utopia have come to an abrupt end. Peace and order are now figments of the past. Corruption, deception, and insurgency hum within the once steadfast leadership of the Hives, nations without fixed location. The heartbreaking truth is that for decades, even centuries, the leaders of the great Hives bought the world’s stability with a trickle of secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction could ever dominate. So that the balance held. The Hives’ facade of solidity is the only hope they have for maintaining a semblance of order, for preventing the public from succumbing to the savagery and bloodlust of wars past. But as the great secret becomes more and more widely known, that facade is slipping away. Just days earlier, the world was a pinnacle of human civilization. Now everyone, Hives and hiveless, Utopians and sensayers, emperors and the downtrodden, warriors and saints scramble to prepare for the seemingly inevitable war.

42291958._uy1550_ss1550_6) Play of Shadows by Sebastian de Castell – released on 6/24/2021 by Jo Fletcher Books: Damelas Shademantaigne picked a poor night to flee a judicial duel. He has precious little hope of escaping the wrath of the Vixen, the most feared duellist in the entire city, until he stumbles through the stage doors of the magnificent Operato Belleza and tricks his way into the company of actors. An archaic law provides a temporary respite from his troubles – until one night a ghostly voice in his head causes Damelas to fumble his lines, inadvertently blurting out a dreadful truth: the city’s most legendary hero may actually be a traitor and a brutal murderer. With only the help of his boisterous and lusty friend Bereto, a beautiful assassin whose target may well be Damelas himself, and a company of misfit actors who’d just as soon see him dead, this failed son of two Greatcoats must somehow find within himself the courage to dig up long-buried truths before a ruthless band of bravos known as the Iron Orchids come for his head.

813aula04fl7) The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik – released on 7/6/2021 by Del Rey Books: At the Scholomance, El, Orion, and the other students are faced with their final year—and the looming specter of graduation, a deadly ritual that leaves few students alive in its wake. El is determined that her chosen group will survive, but it is a prospect that is looking harder by the day as the savagery of the school ramps up. Until El realizes that sometimes winning the game means throwing out all the rules. The next installment of last years incredibly popular deadly education.

desert-torn-asunder-final-lg-768x1159-18) A Desert Torn Asunder by Bradley Beaulieu – released on 7/13/2021 by DAW: The final book in The Song of the Shattered Sands series closing an epic fantasy saga for the ages, filled with rich worldbuilding and pulse-pounding action. The plans of the desert gods are coming to fruition. Meryam, the deposed queen of Qaimir, hopes to raise the buried elder god, Ashael, an event that would bring ruin to the desert. Ashael means to journey to the land that was denied to him an age ago, no matter the cost to the desert. It now falls to Çeda and her unlikely assortment of allies to find a way to unite not only the desert tribes and the people of Sharakhai, but the city’s invaders as well. Even if they do, stopping Ashael will cost them dearly, perhaps more than all are willing to pay.

9) The Pariah by Anthony Ryan – released on 8/24/2021 by Orbit: Born into the troubled kingdom of Albermaine, Alwyn Scribe is raised as an outlaw. Quick of wit and deft with a blade, Alwyn is content with the freedom of the woods and the comradeship of his fellow thieves. But an act of betrayal sets him on a new path – one of blood and vengeance, which eventually leads him to a soldier’s life in the king’s army. Fighting under the command of Lady Evadine Courlain, a noblewoman beset by visions of a demonic apocalypse, Alwyn must survive war and the deadly intrigues of the nobility if he hopes to claim his vengeance. But as dark forces, both human and arcane, gather to oppose Evadine’s rise, Alwyn faces a choice: can he be a warrior, or will he always be an outlaw?

10) The Wisdom of Crowds by Joe Abercrombie – released on 9/16/2021 by Gollancz: Chaos. Fury. Destruction. The Great Change is upon us. Some say that to change the world you must first burn it down. Now that belief will be tested in the crucible of revolution: the Breakers and Burners have seized the levers of power, the smoke of riots has replaced the smog of industry, and all must submit to the wisdom of crowds.

978125021734911) Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune – released on 9/21/2021 by Tor Books: When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead. Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over. But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life. When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

And here are some additional books that we are super hyped about that don’t have details out yet:

  • Blood of the Chosen by Django Wexler
  • Fury of a Demon by Brian Naslund
  • Furious Heaven by Kate Elliott
  • Leviathan Falls by James SA Corey
  • Fall of Babel by Josiah Bancroft

Tiamat’s Wrath – Welcome To The End Game

51xnnd8dqtlI have been reading The Expanse for almost a decade, and for almost a decade it has consistently and reliably brought joy into my life. As such, there are few things I look forward to more every year than my next dose of The Expanse – until now. The feelings of joy and excitement when I look at these books have slowly morphed into anxiety and dread. It isn’t because the books have gotten worse, they are still brilliant pillars of sci-fi excellence. It isn’t because there is something better that has taken their throne, they are still the leading providers for me of great books. It’s because, to quote Doctor Strange, “we are in the endgame now”. The hundreds of plot threads and characters that the Corey duo have littered throughout their series are coming together as we enter the second to last book. Tiamat’s Wrath is just as powerful, emotional, and enjoyable as its seven older siblings – but I couldn’t help but think as I read it that now I only have a single core Expanse book left.

For those of you who haven’t read through book seven, I would turn back now and reconsider your life choices. There are no spoilers for Tiamat’s Wrath in this review but it is impossible to talk about the plot without spoiling older books to a degree. Wrath picks up right on the tail end of its predecessor, Persepolis Rising, and starts with a major character death on literally the first line. Yeah, that’s a really good metaphor the emotional roller coaster that is this book so strap the fuck in. Wrath focuses on humanity following the rise of Laconia and explores how our collective race reacts to yet another massive change in the structure of galactic power. It is a fairly bleak picture. Our “heroes” have been reduced to covert guerilla fighters who must strike from the shadows with the effectiveness of an ant tanking on a tank, while the Laconia explores ring systems looking for what killed the Protomoleculians.

The book is told from the perspective of Naomi, Bobbie, Alex, the returning Doctor Elvi (from Cibola Burns), and a new character Teresa who happens to be Duarte’s daughter. As always, the characters are just phenomenal and I am more attached to some of them than members of my own family. As I talked about in my Persepolis review, the cast is getting old – Corey paints a vivid picture of a generation that is running out of time metaphorically and literally as they get on in years. Wrath’s themes revolve a lot around people who are questioning if their fight is still worth it after all these years. The book is draped in this pervasive atmosphere of exhaustion, and it bleeds into the reader as you embark on what feels like a final journey with old friends.

While the book is just one emotional kick in the shin after another on the character front, Wrath also finally pulls the curtain back on the two alien races we have been guessing about since book one. You learn a buttload about both the Protomoleculians, and the race that killed them, and it serves beautifully to set us up for the grand finale. It feels weird that Corey has managed to cram so much excellent worldbuilding into the EIGHTH book in a series, but the two of them never seem to stop. The action is fantastic, as always, and the book ends with one of the most exciting and prolonged fights of the entire series. All in all, this is probably one of my favorite Expanse books. My only real criticism is that our current arch-villain, Admiral Duarte, doesn’t feel as magnificent or clever in Wrath as I would have hoped. Duarte makes some questionable choices in Wrath that felt a little out of character and more based on Corey moving the plot where they wanted it to go. However, this was a small complaint on an otherwise stellar book.

Tiamat’s Wrath continues The Expanse’s tradition of excellent character-based storytelling. It is truly a marvel that after eight books Ty Franck and Danial Abraham’s story is as captivating as it was almost a decade ago. I cannot contain my excitement over finding out how the Expanse is going to end, nor my impending feeling of dread that it will soon be over. Please do yourself a favor and go read this book/series. The Quill to Live collectively cannot recommend it more.

Rating: Tiamat’s Wrath – 9.5/10
-All Of Us

Persepolis Rising – New Year, Same Great Expanse

Happy new year everyone. With the coming of 2018 everyone is looking forward to new experiences, new resolutions, and new books/series. Meanwhile, I am jumping back into a tried and true series, The Expanse, to start the year off on a high note. I take great comfort in knowing that no matter how hard my year gets, I will almost always get an Expanse novel to comfort me at some point., This time we are taking a look at Persepolis Rising, the seventh of nine in this sweeping science fiction series. This review will have some mild spoilers for the previous six books, so if you haven’t read them I would turn back now… and go read them. Why haven’t you read them yet? They are amazing.


So Persepolis Rising, or as I like to call it – new Mars rising – picks up thirty years after the events of Babylon’s Ashes, which was a bit much to process right off the bat. Everything and everyone has gotten old, from Holden and his crew to the Rocinante itself. It was a bit of a shock honestly, and was definitely something that took a large amount of getting used to. I was not ready to hear about Bobbie and Amos having joint trouble after years of kicking ass, I wanted them to remain eternally useful. The aging of the Rocinante was weirdly something that upset me a ton. I had grown complacent in book, after book, of the magical stolen ship being able to pull up and be the the biggest gun around – and I loved it. So seeing everything I love get old and obsolete sucked. Especially when Duarte and his new sovereign empire of Laconia come a knocking.

As our heroes and their tech reach the end of their lifetime, Duarte and his new people return with tech far beyond anything anyone has seen. Apparently seeing himself as some sort of Hitler/Jesus hybrid, Duarte sends his armies through the portals to both opress and force the rest of humanity into his authoritarian dictatorship… and also to “save” them. The theme of Persepolis Rising is the old, who are obsolete and broken, vs the new, who are young and fresh. The book has great commentary on the value of experience, the difficulty of fighting an enemy who are several eras ahead of you in technology, and the follies and innocence of youth.

If I am being honest, this book felt a little weird on the heels of Babylon’s Ashes thematically. Thirty years is a HUGE time gap, more than the total amount of time taken up by all six other books. Most of the book follows Holden and his Crew on Medina station, trying to sabotage the Laconian occupation through basically terrorism – to mixed results. Since one of the morals of the last two expanse books was that terrorism is bad, I felt myself very conflicted. I suspect that this inverse of ideas was intentional, but this is the first Expanse book that did not feel like a fluid and natural follow up to the previous. In addition to this, Persepolis Rising felt more like the set up for the final Expanse trio of books, than a self contained story like its predecessors. Duarte seems to be the final villain of The Expanse (though I will not be surprised if he is killed and something worse shows up for the finale), and this book is basically his introduction.

The disconnect between Babylon’s Ashes and the lack of a fully contained story place Persepolis Rising on the lower end of my Expanse book rating. It doesn’t quite have the same power or punch as its siblings. That being said, it is also an Expanse book and will definitely be in my top books of 2018. Go check it out as soon as possible and welcome our new Laconian overlords.

Rating: Persepolis Rising – 9.0/10

-Andrew

Five Reasons Why You Should Be Reading The Expanse

corey_babylonsashes_hcI recently finished Babylon’s Ashes (which was fantastic), by James S. A. Corey, and was moved to take a moment to talk about The Expanse in case there is anyone out there not currently reading it. For those of you unfamiliar with The Expanse, it is a mega space opera set over nine books that are still being published, of which Babylon’s Ashes is the sixth. The series is one of my favorites, and below I am going to simply outline a list of reasons that you should be reading it so that it can be one of your favorites too. For those of you looking for a Babylon’s Ashes review, I do not have one for reasons outlined below, but it is suffice to say that it is excellent.

 

  • It is basically Game of Thrones in Space – This is a gross oversimplification, but an analogy that is actually useful in this instance. The Expanse is a space opera, which essentially means that the sci-fi is window dressing. The story is all about the excellent characters that litter the books. Much like GoT, the books are all about the individual stories of the people who make up a larger world, and their personal struggles bring the plots to life. It is very accessible to all readers as it appeals to both readers who don’t like science fiction and those looking for an introduction to the genre – making it a series for everyone.
  • The aforementioned characters are amazing – As mentioned in the previous reason, these books are about people – and boy is there a diverse cast. The Expanse has someone for everyone and one of the most eclectic and interesting casts I have ever encountered. There are multiple POV’s per book, with only one carried over from novel to novel. This allows the story to give you a center-thread to orient yourself from, while also exposing you to a huge cast with tons of different perspectives and identities. In addition, not only is the cast diverse, it is also extremely memorable – creating some of my favorite characters of all time. If you read these books and don’t like Chrisjen Avasarala I am going to assume you are a robot.
  • The books are all self contained, but also have a continuous plot – Several people have mentioned to me that the reason they haven’t picked up The Expanse is that it is not complete. Starting unfinished series can blow when you are left with cliffhangers every year, but The Expanse gives you a satisfying and self-contained story every time. Each of the books is about humanity tackling a new and interesting problem thrown at it. These include: war, the unknown, politics, poverty, new frontiers, the military, terrorists, and almost always some sort of extinction level threat. Each book feels distinct from the rest, but also passes the touch of an overarching backbone of the plot. While the series isn’t finished yet, each year I get a book that leaves me satiated, but excited for the sequel.
  • They are consistently on time and consistently good in quality – Speaking of release schedules, these books almost always come out annually. There has only ever been one delay, and it was just for a few months while one of the authors finished a different series. The books are published on one of the the most predictable schedules I have seen and it keeps me pumped for their release month every year. More importantly, all the books are excellent. Babylon’s Ashes was probably in my bottom half of the six books released so far, and I still would give it at least a 9/10. It is unbelievable how these authors can continuously deliver quality time after time and I trust that they will be able to finish up the final three in the same pattern.
  • James S. A. Corey is a pen name for two authors, and they both bring their A game to the story – Corey is actually two people, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Abraham is an extremely creative writer who is known for his strange book premises and unpredictable plot lines. However, his writing can also be occasionally a little dull and slow, making it hard to appreciate his creativity. Ty Franck is a sci-fi author known for his action sequences and pulse pounding scenes, but can occasionally let the action get in the way of story. Together, the two of them eliminate their weaknesses and amplify their strengths, creating some of the best prose I have read in the genre.

These books are good, really good, to the point where I can never bring myself to review them after I finish because the post would just be “yea it’s still amazing”. On top of being an amazing, huge, and engrossing book series – there is now a TV show on Syfy that does it justice and expands the world further. On top of that, Corey regularly releases novellas and short stories from the universe – sometimes for free – that expand it further and are great reads. So if you have reservations of reading The Expanse, or were holding off for some reason, or simply haven’t picked up the most recent book – go check it out. The world is getting bigger and better and I want all of you to experience the joy and wonder of exploring the unknown with Corey as your co-pilot.

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