The Best Fantasy Books of 2020

The Best Fantasy Books of 2020 - Reading List by Novels and Nebulas

2020 was a forgettable year in so many ways but turned out to be an unforgettable reading year for me. The pandemic made life incredibly difficult but books helped me stay sane and grounded. It was also a great year for fantasy releases and many of them made my all-time favourites list. I want to highlight these incredible 2020 releases in this blog post. As is to be expected, my list of the best fantasy books of 2020 is a mix of all age ranges and all but one are written by authors of colour.

Middle Grade Fantasy

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat

Series: None

Pitch: A boy on the run. A girl determined to find him. A compelling fantasy looks at issues of privilege, protest, and justice.

My thoughts: This is a Thai-inspired magical adventure that loosely follows Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. The world-building is simply gorgeous with amazing characters and an engaging plot that kept me turning the pages. I would highly recommend this to fantasy readers of all ages!

Links: Bookshop | Goodreads | My Review

Young Adult Fantasy

The Best Fantasy Books of 2020 (1)

Night of the Dragon by Julie Kagawa

Series: 3rd book in a trilogy

Pitch: Master storyteller Julie Kagawa concludes the enthralling journey into the heart of the fantastical Empire of Iwagoto in the third book of the Shadow of the Fox trilogy. As darkness rises and chaos reigns, a fierce kitsune and her shadowy protector will face down the greatest evil of all. A captivating fantasy for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Sarah J. Maas and Marie Lu.

My thoughts: I was apprehensive going into this one because the second book didn’t live up to my expectations. However, this is a magnificent finale with lots of action and emotionally charged scenes. I would definitely recommend this series to all YA fantasy fans.

Links: Bookshop | Blackwell’s | Libro FM

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

Series: 1st book in a duology

Pitch: The first in a fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.

My thoughts: The cover of this book drew me in initially but I can confirm that the story contained within won’t let you down. This has some classic tropes like enemies to lovers and a magical competition but it stands out from the crowd because it is firmly rooted in African culture, history and folklore. If you’re looking for fantasy stories which celebrate Black joy, this deserves a place on your TBR.

Links: Bookshop | Blackwell’s | Libro FM

The Best Fantasy Books of 2020 (2)

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Series: 1st book in a duology

Pitch: Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy?

My thoughts: If there’s only one book that you could pick from this list, make it this one. It’s been years since a YA fantasy swept me up so thoroughly but I couldn’t find a single flaw in its execution. This is a promising start to a fresh and entertaining duology with an original magic system and clever storytelling infused with African culture.

Links: Bookshop | Blackwell’s | Libro FM

A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

Series: 4th book in a quartet

Pitch: Prepare for the jaw-dropping finale of Sabaa Tahir’s beloved New York Times bestselling An Ember in the Ashes fantasy series, and discover: Who will survive the storm?

My thoughts: I read all the 4 books this year and they completely blew my mind. Sabaa Tahir writes tension and yearning like no other and she ripped my heart out in this one. This is another must-read series which completely deserves the hype and attention it gets, in my opinion.

Links: Bookshop | Blackwell’s | Libro FM

Adult Fantasy

SFF October 2020 - New releases of October 6th (2)

The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

Series: 1st book in a series

Pitch: With the heart of an Atwood tale and the visuals of a classic Asian period drama The Empress of Salt and Fortune is a tightly and lushly written narrative about empire, storytelling, and the anger of women.

My thoughts: I debated on this novella’s place on the list for a long time because of its length but I felt compelled to include it because I read it twice within the same year. This is a masterpiece of a story with beautiful prose and a storyline that weaves together like a jigsaw puzzle. If you’re looking for a short read with feminist themes and a distinctive narrative style, this one’s for you.

Links: Bookshop | Blackwell’s | Libro FM

The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty

Series: 3rd book in a trilogy

Pitch: The final chapter in the Daevabad Trilogy, in which a con-woman and an idealistic djinn prince join forces to save a magical kingdom from a devastating civil war.

My thoughts: This was an anticipated sequel for many and it delivered on all fronts. I particularly loved the final battle and the way the story came full circle in this book. If adult fantasy with a healthy dose of romance and intriguing politics is up your alley, this series is sure to satisfy your craving.

Links: Bookshop | Blackwell’s | Libro FM

SFF October 2020 - New releases of October 6th (2)

The Burning God by R. F. Kuang

Series: 3rd book in a trilogy

Pitch: The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.

My thoughts: If you’ve checked out my previous posts, you’ll know that this series is pretty much all I talk about. The ending had me sobbing into my pillow at 4 AM on a weekday night because I couldn’t stop reading it. If you enjoy history and can handle the content warnings for this series, I promise you it will become a new favourite.

Links: Bookshop | Blackwell’s | Libro FM

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Series: 1st book in a trilogy

Pitch: From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Resistance Reborn comes the first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

My thoughts: I had been meaning to check out Roanhorse’s work for a long time and it finally happened with Black Sun, the first in her new trilogy that pays homage to her Native American roots. The characters and the world-building have really stuck with me and I cannot wait for the next book to come out! Classic fantasy fans who enjoy expansive narratives with multiple POVs will find this one interesting, to say the least.

Links: Bookshop | Blackwell’s | Libro FM

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee

Series: None

Pitch: Dragons. Art. Revolution.

My thoughts: If that pitch hasn’t already convinced you, I’m here to tell you that this book is brilliant from beginning to end. The queer-friendly world with allusions to Korean history left a lasting impression on me. If you’re looking for a standalone with a quiet yet impactful story, please consider picking this book up.

Links: Bookshop | Blackwell’s | Libro FM

Further Reading

Novels and NebulasAn Interview With Author R. F. Kuang

Sahi @ My World of Books20 Favorite Books and Series of 2020

WiredThe Best Fantasy Books of 2020, an Unfantastic Year

How many books did you complete in 2020? Which are the best fantasy books you read in 2020? Which books would you recommend to me based on this list? Let me know in the comments section down below. Have a stellar weekend, readers from Earth!

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The Best Fantasy Books of 2020 - Reading List by Novels and Nebulas

18 thoughts on “The Best Fantasy Books of 2020”

  1. Ah, I’m so happy that it looks like you had a great reading year!! I read A Wish in the Dark this year too and it was absolutely amazing—I wish more people would pick it up. And I’m curious about how the Ember Quartet ends, but I remember absolutely nothing from A Reaper at the Gates & I’m way too lazy to reread 😭 Also, The Empress of Salt and Fortune was definitely a unique read, but I feel like I read it too quickly that I didn’t fully understand the plot? I read When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain though, and I understood and enjoyed that one so much more! I love how these novellas are told & I’ll definitely be picking up the sequels!

    1. A Wish in the Dark is so underrated indeed. Oh no, I completely understand about Ember, that’s why I decided to finish it all this year. I read Empress first as an ARC and I too felt like I missed out but I re-read it on audio. That’s when I could really enjoy the story and all the pieces clicked together. Maybe you would like to re-read it sometime? Have a great trading year, Caitlin! ♥️

  2. Despite having bought a lot of these books, I still need to read them and seeing as you loved them, I am so excited! Thanks for sharing these recs!
    Also

  3. So many wonderful books as always Dini… great list and I’m so happy that we have so many in common… I can’t wait to pick up Black Sun soon 😍😍😍

  4. The Burning God? What’s that? The series ended a couple of chapters before the end of TDR and that’s it. 🥰

  5. Ahhh all top tier choices of course!!! I love that we got to experience so many books together (re: The Burning God😭 and The Empire of Gold)! Also yes I’m manifesting 2021 to be the year I finally read A wish in the dark and Shadow of the fox series🥰

  6. Argh, you’ve mentioned so many interesting books I haven’t read!! Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko, Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse and Phoenix Extravagant by Yoon Ha Lee has especially made it onto my TBR 2021! 🤩🤩

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