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Dark SFF Reads in 2021

Tags: book story series

Let me preface this by saying these books didn’t necessarily come out in 2021. I read widely and enjoyed dozens of stories this year, but I have very particular tastes when it comes to books which delve into dark and dangerous worlds. They give me a readergasm.

So this list is going to focus solely on the fan-gasm-tastic books that have kept me up late, curled under the covers, begging for more in 2021.

Donovan Series by W. Michael Gear

Oh hell in a holywater handbasket, this is one of the best things I’ve read in years!

In my never-ending pursuit of the perfect Story that’s a blend of The Eyes of Light and Darkness & Event Horizon, I stumbled across the first book in this series: Outpost.

While the jacket copy for the story intrigued me, it was the ghost ship Freelander that sold me on purchasing this book.

Come for the ghost ship, stay for the quetzels.

There’s a saying on Donovan: “People come to leave, to find themselves, or to die.” This story gripped me from the first page and even now I’m whining in my head that book six isn’t out yet. I found myself on Donovan, from the ghost ship that crossed the void between universes, to the gripping, complex characters who lived and died on this mineral-rich world.

And just when you think you have Donovan figured out, this planet of death turns another degree for a new horror, a new creature who will eat you, or a new asshole who hasn’t realized that “stupidity will get you killed.”

If there was ever a 10-Star series that has me stalking an author for all the books they’ve ever written (or will write), this is it.

Other books in the Donovan series:


Beneath the Shadow Dark
by Melissa Polk

This beauty was yet another masterpiece I almost missed!

I had just released my debut into the world, and in a random act of chance discovered Polk had released her book two days before mine. So I skipped over to Amazon, and was barely a few lines into the jacket copy when my brain screamed I NEED THIS! This story grabbed me by the throat and refused to let me sleep.

Do not trust the light.

From the very first chapter, I was both gripped and distraught by Jos’s despair. They were in love with their best friend, to the point of committing a questionable act to work through their own conflict. I was already rooting for these two to find a way to comfort, when the friend in question enacted the ultimate betrayal.

The adventure that follows pulls Jos into the underground, absolutely gorgeous world of a dark god with his own questionable mission.

This was another 10-Star story, and every week I now torture this author about turning it into a series (we’re friends – it’s cool ^_^). At least I insist that we are… I digress.

But seriously, go pick up this book! It’s dark, gorgeous and has a swoon-worthy romance that is delicious.

Barnes & Noble

The Great Ship series by Robert Reed

When someone says they found a book about a planet inside a starship, you do not question anything. You pass go, collect that two hundred dollars, and buy the damn book.

That’s all it took for me to pick up Marrow, and again this is one of those stories with a universe so vast that one story will never be enough. Thankfully Reed has novels, short stories and novellas all circling the wonderful Great Ship.

Who really built the Great Ship?

When I first started this story, I loved the world but wasn’t yet fully engaged. Reed’s writing style is a little outside the conventional, and it’s really what gives his voice a little more flavor.

But once I was hooked, I was HOOKED. It didn’t take long before this story absorbed me into its great hydrogen tanks, its derelict halls, and the questionable ethics of the ship’s captains. Every character is the hero of their own stories in Marrow, and no one is blameless. But as you take a dive into ceramic brains, lives that span millennia, and somewhat non-human creatures who live inside their space suits, everything unravels into a gorgeous narrative with empty spaces, shadowed corners, and more places to explore with each new story.

Other books in The Great Ship series:


Zach Langstrom series by D. J. Bodden

By the time I found this book, it had already been reviewed on Bookish Valhalla by Valkyrie Alexi.

Her review was full of such high praise, and some of the things I love most about science fiction novels, so of course about three minutes later I had this sucker loaded on my kindle.

Star spiders make the best pets.

Okay, not really, but I’ll get to that. Before you scream to burn the book down and find one without arachneids, this story was such a lovely surprise.

As with Marrow above, this one took me a chapter or two to get into the writing style. It’s a little rough around the edges (smoothing out a lot in book 2), but well worth the read. The characters and world are all complex, and I love how Zach’s character has everything he could want in life—except the spark that makes each day worth living.

At least until he gives his coddled life the middle finger and forges a new path. This book had some really wonderful surprises, and when the spiders come onto the scene, it quickly goes from reader claustraphobia to a queen spider you (almost) want to cuddle. Mostly…

Other books in the Zach Lancestrom series:

Amazon & KU

This post first appeared on Bookish Valhalla, please read the originial post: here

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Dark SFF Reads in 2021


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