Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors of 2021

Title in white on navy starry skies

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme, hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun.

2021 was a such a great year for discovering new authors that I’ve managed to squeeze two Top Ten Tuesdays out of this theme. A few weeks ago, I did a “top debuts of 2021” list so this week it’s new-to-me authors who are not debuts! Some of these are authors who I absolutely binged this year, or ones who’ve I’ve only read one book and am now looking forward to diving into their backlist at some point.


Genevieve Cogman

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Book cover for THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY: title in gold surrounded by border on green leather

I received THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY for my birthday in 2020 (which is at Christmas) and then binged my way through the seven books that were out in January. The series ended in December 2021 with THE UNTOLD STORY.

This series is just the most bonkers fun, with a multi-verse of world, a Library stabilising it by stealing important books, dragons trying to impose order and Fae bringing chaos as they follow narrative archetypes. Plus assorted plots, traitors, and mishaps for Librarian Irene to navigate.

Marie Brenan

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range Adult
Book cover for A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS: title in black above a drawing of an anatomical dragon

Early in 2021, I read Marie Brenan’s co-written THE MASK OF MIRRORS (with Alys Helms under the pen-name M. A. Carrick). It is a twisty political fantasy about a people with more secret identities than a room of superheroes in a richly drawn world that made me want more books from them.

Luckily I could fill the wait to book 2 with Marie Brenan’s solo Lady Trent series, starting with A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS. I buddy read this natural philosophy and anthropological take on dragons and ancient history with a friend over the summer and it was wonderful!

Megan O’Keefe

Genre: Sci-Fi
Age Range: Adult
Book cover for VELOCITY WEAPON: title in white parallel to picture of a spaceship on white

Any time I was asked in 2021 for a book with a great example of a midpoint reveal that completely upended the entire experience of reading the book I pointed them towards Megan O’Keefe’s VELOCITY WEAPON. It is an absolute stunner of a reveal in an action-packed series about space travel and the politics that occurs when it’s controlled by a few.

The nice thing about starting a series in the year is wraps up is that there isn’t long to wait to between instalments. This trilogy ended in June, and they’re all reasonably chunky books, so they occupied a fair bit of the first half of the year.

Ruth Ware

Genre: Thriller/Mystery
Age Range: Adult
Book cover for ONE BY ONE: title in white on purple skies above a white snowy slope with a chalet

I’d heard of Ruth Ware before but as someone who’s never been all that fond of mysteries, I’d never paid much attention to her books before. However, the wintry mystery ONE BY ONE was the December 2021 pick for my book club and I loved it!

It was a really twisty mystery that used the cold, avalanched-in setting to great effect. I loved how the tension was slowly, consistently upped by both the deaths and clues, but also the physical conditions getting progressively trickier.

Katherine Addison

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Book cover for THE GOBLIN EMPEROR: title in gold on black with blue and gold geometric pattering

Another author I discovered at the start of 2021, I loved THE GOBLIN EMPEROR, a low-magic political fantasy about a half-goblin suddenly gaining the throne after his family dies. I then read her THE ANGEL OF THE CROWS, a wonderful paranormal re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes stories.

After that, a companion to THE GOBLIN EMPEROR arrived, THE WITNESS FOR THE DEAD. At the time of writing, a direct sequel to that has been announced, THE GRIEF OF STONES, though it’s not yet had a UK publication announced.

M. L. Rio

Genre: Dark Academia Thriller
Age Range: Adult
Book cover for IF WE WERE VILLAINS: title in white on black above a dead bird

Dark Academia has been a narrative style I’ve seen about for a bit, but I finally dipped a toe in with IF WE WERE VILLAINS. This book is just brilliant, full of Shakespeare as drama students get tangled in a web of ambition, jealousy, and bad decisions.

I loved seeing how the book took the famous Shakespeare scenes that the characters have to act out for their course and turned them into another way for the interpersonal drama to bubble out. It gave an additional layer to those scenes as the characters had to fight to stay in role despite all the emotions.

Natasha Pulley

Genre: Historical Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Book cover for THE KINGDOMS: title in black in a blue spiralling staircase

Natasha Pulley is one of those authors whose books could be sold under fantasy but are considered close enough to “general fiction” to be sold there as “speculative.” I have very little interest in general fiction, so I’ve never picked up her things before because they weren’t marketed as fantasy.

However, THE KINGDOMS one was marketed as such on Netgalley, so I tried it and loved this time-slip alternative history take on the Napoleonic Wars. I will be trying out her others at some point now!

C. L. Polk

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Book cover for THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN: title in a gold pocket watch on green scattered with pink blossoms

C. L. Polk is one of those authors that I was vaguely aware of but, because none of their previous books had been published in the UK, I’d never read any. However, THE MIDNIGHT BARGAIN did get a UK publisher and I loved this romantic fantasy.

It is a feminist tale about men suppressing women’s power for fear of what it might do to unborn children, rather than trying to find a way to make it safe to wield magic and bear children. It’s about finding your own path and defying a world that wants to shut you in a box.

P. Djèlí Clark

Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: Adult
Book cover for A MASTER OF DJINN: title in white in blue and gold geometric pattern

P. Djèlí Clark is one of those authors where the definition of debut comes into focus. A MASTER OF DJINN, published in 2021, was technically his full-length novel debut, but as he’d published several novellas and short stories before, I’m going to say that doesn’t make him a 2021 debut author, and so can fit on this list.

This novel, set in the same universe as some other short stories and novellas, is an alternative history where djinn roam, turning 1912 Cairo into a technology, steampunk powerhouse. But someone is agitating…

Elle McNicoll

Book cover for A KIND OF SPARK: title in yellow on pink and blue hair

Elle McNicoll’s debut, A KIND OF SPARK, made a big splash in 2020 (and was announced as the winner of the 2020 Waterstones’ Children’s book of the Year in mid-2021.) It took me until the end of 2021 to read it, and I have her 2021 and 2022 release of my “I plan to read this year” list.

This book is a wonderful, thoughtful portrayal of autism (and the closest I’ve seen to something matching my overload-induced panic attacks) and the othering that happens if someone isn’t “normal.” The link to the witch trials was also great.


What non-debut authors did you discover last year?

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11 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: New-to-Me Authors of 2021

    1. With IF WE WERE VILLAINS you may need to push through the start (I loved it from the go, but a friend with similar taste who ultimately loved it had to push through the start as they found the characters too unlikeable to get in until the body was found)

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