Hi everyone! As you know, I love reading fantasy and science fiction books, and there are some fantastic self-published books out there in those categories. I had the privilege of reading some of these books, and posting reviews of what I thought of them on https://www.goodreads.com/. If you haven’t read these books, and if you don’t know about these authors, you’re definitely missing out! Let’s celebrate some awesome books! Here are my top indie fantasy and sci-fi books for January to June 2021! These books are in no particular order, however are broken down into several sub-genres to help guide you in your particular reading tastes.
GRIMDARK / GASLAMP FANTASY
Title: We Men of Ash and Shadow by H.L. Tinsley
Why it’s so good: Already a 2021 SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off) Semi-Finalist selection, this book has beautiful, haunting, descriptive prose, is brooding, melancholy, and creepy, and witty, ironic, tight and sharp.
Review Quote: “What a smashing debut by Tinsley - kudos! She is assuredly destined for Grimdark royalty, and can’t wait for installment #2 as Tinsley continues to accumulate jewels to add to her tiara!”
Title: The Legacy of the Brightwash by Krystle Matar
Why it’s so good: This book transcends being a great read. This book has catapulted into my personal top one hundred books of all-time. Heart-stopping gun battles, MMA style pugilistic ring-matches, bar fights, throat-cutting murders, and that is just what the “good” characters are up to.
Review Quote: “Legacy of the Brightwash deserves to win every award for best debut novel, best fantasy novel, best novel period for 2021 that I can think of.”
NORSE MYTHOLOGY / NORSE-INSPIRED
Title: Hall of Bones by Tim Hardie
Why it’s so good: The first book in The Brotherhood of the Eagle series will certainly only add to the current buzz around the sub-genre of Norse-Inspired fantasy. Remarkable read!
Review Quote: “Hall of Bones is a vibrant, extremely well-written, and unforgettable debut in a series, that will have readers clamouring for the follow-up. Five stars glowing for Tim Hardie and his first installment of The Brotherhood of the Eagle.”
Title: Children by Bjorn Larssen
Why it’s so good: The book was even more spectacular than advertised. There is both light and grim humour aplenty in the book, it is overall a poignant and violently compelling read that is destined to haunt you.
Review Quote: “In this case, words have failed me, and less is more when it comes to praising the masterpiece that is Children. I cannot say enough positive about this book. It is truly one of the best books I have read all year, amongst a lot of fantastic books.”
Title: The Ravenmaster’s Revenge by Jacob Sannox
Why it’s so good: This novel was selected as a semi-finalist in the 2019 SPFBO (Self Published Fantasy Blog Off). A quick and entertaining romp, back and forth between ancient settings, and modern day ones. A classic good versus evil tale. Excellent read!
Review Quote: “I completely adored Sannox's vivid writing, in terms of how he describes England, a place I have always longed to visit. Sannox captivated me with his expository prose. I truly felt I was strolling or driving through today's downtown, bustling London, or the quaint urban countryside.”
Title: Queen of None by Natania Barron
Why it’s so good: Who doesn’t love Arthurian fantasy, strong female characters, and a simply wonderfully-written book? This book has all that and more. One of my favourite books in this sub-genre.
Review Quote: “Barron spins an intimate, spellbinding, first-person narrative, full of lyrical prose, mesmerizing characters of lore, especially strong women, and a unique perspective on the Arthurian sagas, in which portrays a voice unheard, far from powerless, and determined not to be forgotten, as was predicted, makes her presence felt.”
Title: Neglected Merge by Eve Koguce
Why it’s so good: Neglected Merge is a fascinating novel, with a thought-provoking and original plot, outstanding characters, and amazing writing.
Review Quote: “Romance is central to the book, and it is exceptionally well-executed. There are unexpected liaisons, surprise relationships, and passionate encounters that fans of the genre will adore. On the dystopian fantasy side, along with the excellent world-building, the political intrigue, and negotiations that take place between different elements of society, are extremely compelling.”
Title: By Immortal: Honor Bound by Danielle Ancona
Why it’s so good: Overall, I found it completely spell-binding, and representative of the best all of those genres have to offer, and that is no small feat for any writer.
Review Quote: “I must begin a review of this book by stopping to pay homage to Ancona's prose. Imagine a glorious Monarch butterfly, with all its majesty and beauty, landing unexpectedly on your finger. You would barely feel its light touch, as its dainty feet keep it perched on your skin. But you would be totally entranced, transfixed by the brilliant colours, and wonder of its thin, elegant wings.”
HIGH / EPIC FANTASY
Title: Voice of War by Zack Argyle
Why it’s so good: SPFBO6 Finalist. Indies Today Best Fantasy. Independent Sci-fi Fantasy Author Battle Winner. BBNYA Fantasy Finalist. the list goes on of the accolades for this book. Enough said!
Review Quote: “The plot weaves along at an excellent pace, with just enough backstory, immediate action, world-building, and compelling characters to keep the reader engaged. And if as a reader you require a magic system that is extremely well thought out and not derivate of any you have seen before, then Voice of War is your book!”
Title: Fortune’s Fool by Angela Boord
Why it’s so good: Well-deserved finalist in the 2019 version of Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off (SPFBO#5).
Review Quote: “This was the “perfect” fantasy book for me. It was the ultimate, arbitrary, lucky match of my personal tastes as a reader paired with a writer’s personal choices for how they wrote the book. Just as the quote I took from the book above, Fortune’s Fool took me unawares, unexpectedly arrived and stuck with me, destroyed my carefully constructed reading plans, and now I’m here trying to write a review fitting of how much I fell in love with the book, rather than reading other books I promised myself to read first.”
Title: Quicksilver and Brimstone by Elizabeth Eckstein
Why it’s so good: Make room intrusion fantasy royalty J.K. Rowling and Philip Pullman! There’s a new Queen aspiring to the throne, and her name is Elizabeth Eckstein! All hail!!!
Review Quote: “ I owe Eckstein for restoring my faith in the whole sub-genre of intrusion fantasy. I had given up on literally HUNDREDS of intrusion fantasy novels, many dispatched to an uncertain fate (after barely escaping dreaded “DNF” status) banished to my donation bin, destined for dusty used bookstore shelves. Ever since the “Harry Potter” series, I had largely abandoned that sub-genre, never finding another work that could measure up for me. Until, that is, reading Quicksilver and Brimstone! This book is a simply stupendous work of intrusion fantasy & YA fiction!”
Title: The Fires of Treason by Michele Quirke
Why it’s so good: In The Fires of Treason, Michele Quirke’s debut novel, an unshakeable bond between royal brother and sister, a quashed rebellion, an illicit affair, a scheming sister, an abusive king, an assassination attempt, and more, make for a very well-written and involving historical fantasy.
Review Quote: But there are so many more positives about this book besides the exceptionally-drawn characters. The writing is silky, immaculate. The themes presented in the novel were compelling. Gregory and Elizabeth are forced to confront moral questions about self-preservation versus life-taking, stealing versus perishing from hunger, and the benefits, disadvantages, and limits of absolute power. I found how they dealt with these situations, and how Quirke put her characters in these uncomfortable dilemmas, fascinating.”
SCI-FI-FANTASY / SCI-FI / DYSTOPIAN
Title: Allegory of the End by A.R. Mirabal
Why it’s so good: Watch out for this author. A.R. Mirabal is poised to break into the sci-fi genre, and he just might break it wide open. I can't wait to see what he writes next!
Review Quote: “For, first and foremost, 'The Allegory of the End' is the first instalment in what will no doubt be a very well-read sci-fi series, and has all the bells and whistles in terms of fancy gadgets and incredible futuristic armaments that sci-fi readers crave.”
Title: Skyview: Lord of the Wills by M. Sheehan
Why it’s so good: Readers will find it hard to put down Skyview: Lord of the Wills, with its stirring action sequences, engrossing historical perspective, and interesting characters. Sheehan has amazing storytelling and writing abilities, and Skyview: Lord of the Wills will take you as the reader to dizzying heights from which you won't want to descend!
Review Quote: “I have never read a novel, prior to Sheehan's work, with such a completely fresh and original concept. Sheehan certainly knows how to please me as a reader, as he somehow deftly manages to weave three distinct genres - thriller, sci-fi, and historical fiction - into one captivating book. Since Sheehan accomplishes this genre-blending in seamless fashion, Skyview: Lord of the Wills feels like a mash-up of the Star Trek, James Bond, and Indiana Jones movie franchises.
SCI-FI-FANTASY / SCI-FI / DYSTOPIAN
Title: The Scars of Gaia by R.P. Lauer
Why it’s so good: Two things I absolutely loved about this novel: main characters and the foreboding that made me care about them. The sense of tension build up during the novel was compelling, and made me want to keep flipping pages. As James and Claire find out more about how their countries - and the greater world - truly operate, they uncover sinister elements that they must work together to confront. There is a real sense of dread, doom and something rotten hanging over the book. That sense of impending disaster is counterbalanced with the tender and pure relationship that blossoms between James and Claire, and the hope that their courage and humility can ultimately triumph.
Review Quote: “Lauer pens a gripping tale, wonderful characters, and a fantastical world that feels like reality. The Scars of Gaia has a straightforward, seamless narrative that's sublime. Amazing read, and Lauer is definitely an author to watch!”
Title: Dawnbreak by Rebecca Mickley
Why it’s so good: It is one of the most refreshingly unique books in the genre I have ever read. I was amazed by Mickley's ability to captivate the reader, and bring out strong emotions - I have to admit I reached for the tissue box at least twice during my reading. The mixture of angst, struggle, sadness, hope, and fulfillment that the author blended into this book is a potent one, so reader be warned, don't be surprised or ashamed if you shed a tear or two, as I did. Rest assured, Dawnbreak is a book you will never forget, in a very positive way.
Review Quote: “Mickley's worldbuilding is top-notch, her writing is stellar, and her characters are so well-drawn that the reader cannot help becoming attached to them. There is gut-punching commentary on the state of human existence, relationships, and the future, that only a writer as skilled Mickley could pull off without sounding too preachy.”
There you go! I will post my picks for the best in indie fantasy and sci-fi for the second half of 2021 in early winter of this year!
Please feel free to comment on this and future blogs and I will be sure to get back to you. Chat soon!
P.L. Stuart's Blog
I am a Canadian high fantasy author. My debut novel, A Drowned Kingdom - first in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, is now available! Book 2 in The Drowned Kingdom Saga, The Last of the Atalanteans, is now available here!