2020 Novel Recommendations

I previously posted about my favourite novellas of 2020 - and there were a lot of them! I’ve realised there are a lot of categories I didn’t read enough to make recommendations for this time - including, sadly, short story. So I’m making this post on novels, and then one about works in a few other categories.

I have split these into Novels (by which I mean novels aimed primarily at adults - I’m following award terminology here) and Youth / Young Adult Novels. As I said in the novellas post: You may want to read these books for their own sake - you may also want to nominate them for awards. I believe all of these are eligible for the Hugo and Nebula novella categories. The ones marked with * are from NZ authors and can be nominated for Sir Julius Vogel Awards (anyone anywhere can nominate - if you enjoy them please do!). There of course may be other awards I’m unaware of, and I expect they’ll fit in similar categories.


Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This one does what it says on the tin - and it does it very very well. Creepy big house in the middle of nowhere, family secrets, strange noises in the night, locked rooms… and the growing realisation it is impossible to leave. Mexican Gothic both sits firmly within the gothic genre and adds something new to it.

A Declaration of the Rights of Magicians* by H.G. Parry

This tells the story of the French and Haitian revolutions, and the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade… with magic. It’s difficult to slip magic into real events like this (and I’m not sure it’s always unproblematic here either), but there’s a cleverness and complexity to this, as well as a strong sense of story that made this a very rewarding read.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Yeah… I don’t even know what to say here; it’s not like I can write a one paragraph summary. Fortunately there’s enough out there to help you decide if this is your kind of book or not: personally, I loved it on multiple levels.

Court of Mortals* by AJ Lancaster

Third in a series, but they’re fast and fulfilling reads, so well worth it. This is a gaslamp fantasy/romance, with very well constructed characters, lots of nerdy detail, and great dialogue. I loved having the opportunity to see the city which had been referred to in earlier books, and more of one of my favourite characters.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin

Personifications of a city is an idea I’m super into, and Jemisin pulls it off so well. While it’s possible I’d have appreciated this more if I knew New York better, it’s still one hell of a book and highly recommended.

Once and Future Witches by Alix E Harrow

I adored Harrow’s debut novel, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, so was very excited to get my mitts on this one. Three sisters - and witches - become involved in the US suffrage movement. I admit I was slower to take to it than I expected, but the prose is gorgeous, the description vivid, and what it brings to life is, well, magical.

Youth / Young Adult Novels

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe was an absolute highlight of 2020 for me. It’s both a murder mystery, and a story of magic, family, and coming of age. It balances both the whimsical and comforting, and the exploration of grief and determination. It also has ghost trilobites.

Euphoria Kids by Alison Evans

Euphoria Kids is a gentle, magical story about trans teens and friendship. It’s an easy read, but there’s a lot going on below the surface, and it breaks with expectations in ways that are more comforting than disjointing ( the title is perhaps relevant here). There aren’t many books out there like it, and it’s valuable.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Surprisingly difficult for me to get hold of, but so worth it, Raybearer is a West-African inspired YA fantasy with really interesting worldbuilding, that doesn’t shy away from the complexities of loyalty and power - but also shows tenderness, friendship, and love in a way lesser books might skip over.

Don’t forget you can still download a free copy of First-years and Familiar with some witchy fun. Here’s the link: https://dl.bookfunnel.com/td9akw4f68. You will need to enter your email address (I hoped to integrate it better for current subscribers, but it unfortunately didn’t work out) - but if you use the same address as here then I’ll just discard it rather than adding you to the list.