Young Adult

Fantasy Literature for Young Adults (over the age of 12).

Game of Shadows: An action-packed YA adventure

Readers’ average rating:

Game of Shadows by Erika Lewis

High school is hard enough on its own — there’s homework, bullies, unrequited crushes, and overprotective parents, just to name a few hurdles on the way to freedom and adulthood. But that’s nothing compared to the challenges presented in Erika Lewis’ Game of Shadows (2017); our intrepid hero must also learn sword fighting, diplomacy, and an entirely new language and culture if he is to save his mother from an evil sorcerer’s machinations. By comparison, Advanced Geometry seems a lot more appealing!

Ethan Makkai, newly fourteen, wants only one thing for his birthday: to walk to school without his overbearing mother, Caitríona, at his side. Sure, Los Angeles isn’t the safest city in the world, but what’s the worst that could happen? Unfortunately, after Ethan sneaks out of their apartment and gets into a fight with a bu... Read More

The Guild Conspiracy: A good YA steampunk adventure

Readers’ average rating:

The Guild Conspiracy by Brooke JohnsonPublished in 2016, The Guild Conspiracy, by Brooke Johnson, is the second book in the CHRONIKER CITY STORIES series. It begins about six months after the events of Book One, The Brass Giant. Petra Wade, a young woman fighting to be accepted as an equal in the Engineers Guild, continues her struggle while also waging an asymmetrical battle against Julian Goss, an engineer who has a terrifying view of a mechanistic future world and is willing to orchestrate a war to get it.

I liked The Guild Conspiracy much better than I liked The Brass Giant, mainly because any romance is in the backgr... Read More

The Diabolic: Stabbing and backstabbing in the galactic Imperial Court

Readers’ average rating: 

The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

The Diabolic (2016) is set in some distant future, when humans have settled the galaxy using spaceships that travel through hyperspace. Humanity has also been experimenting with genetic engineering, and for a period of time it becomes fashionable to purchase so-called Diabolics as bodyguards. Diabolics are cloned humans, engineered to have superior strength and resistance to sickness and poisons, and trained from early childhood to be skilled and ruthless fighters and killers, with no regard for anyone but the person they are chemically induced to love and protect. They are given names like Hazard and Enmity to reflect their dangerous role and, one assumes, to strike terror into the heart of any who might oppose them.

Nemesis is a young Diabolic girl, raised in a pen surrounded by a force field, treated as less than human by her keep... Read More

Gilded Cage: The abuse of power by the super-powered

Readers’ average rating: 

Gilded Cage by Vic James

In the world of Gilded Cage (2017), there are those who are called Equals ― but there’s a deep divide between Equals, who have magical Skills, and the commoners, the Skilless, and they are decisively not equal. In England the Equals are both the aristocrats and the sole parliament, and they hold all the power, with the magical ability to enforce it.

One of the ways the Equals use their power is to require all commoners to spend ten years of their lives as slaves, known as slavedays. There are some interesting rules associated with this 10-year slavery law: there are advantages to doing it early in your life (such as the right to own a home, travel abroad, and hold certain jobs), you are required to begin them no later than age 55, and those under age 18 are to serve in the same place with their parents.

When 18-year-ol... Read More

Caraval: Remember, it’s only a game

Readers’ average rating: 

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

I was so excited by the premise of Stephanie Garber’s Caraval (2017) that I listed it as one of my most anticipated books of 2017. Word has it that there are already plans to make Caraval into a film and I expect it is going to get a fair amount of hype. I can understand why and yet I find I cannot give it more than three stars. I will attempt to justify the reasons why.

Scarlett spent her childhood dreaming of the magical show called Caraval and its mysterious proprietor, Master Legend. Over the course of ten years she write him letters, begging him and his players to come to the small island where she lives with her sister, Tella, and her oppressive, violent father. Now grown-up and engaged to be married, Scarlett finally receives three invitations to attend Caraval.

But th... Read More

Empress of a Thousand Skies: Propulsive plot but a few too many issues

Readers’ average rating:

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza is a YA space opera that feels a bit like old-time science fiction with a modern sensibility, in that characterization takes a back seat to a plot that can’t really be examined too closely, but those relatively flat characters are a nicely diverse mix in terms of gender and color. Sometimes such a propulsive plot can compensate for, or at least ameliorate somewhat, flat characters, but the plot also had its issues, and so the book didn’t succeed for me, though YA readers may be a bit more forgiving, particularly younger ones.

Years ago, Crown Princess Rhiannon’s father, mother, and sister died in an “accident” that led to her growing up in exiled protection while the galaxy was ruled by Regent Seotra. The book opens up as Rhee, as she’s called, i... Read More

Martians Abroad: Fun from the first page to the last

Readers’ average rating:

Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

In Martians Abroad (2017), Carrie Vaughn re-envisions aspects of the “juvenile” novel Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein, turning his classic spacefaring story into something refreshing and new while retaining the sense of limitless adventure. Kat has mentioned in her reviews of Heinlein’s juveniles that they were instrumental in forming her love of science fiction, and the same is true for me: books like Have Space Suit — Will Travel and Read More

A Face Like Glass: Hardinge has a wonderful way with weird

Readers’ average rating:

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

Frances Hardinge is rumoured to be made “entirely of velvet”, or so her biography would have us believe. A mysteriously “unphotographable” author who wears a black hat. She seems to covet a certain strangeness, a sense of mystery that shrouds both her writing and herself.

Well if that’s what it takes to write stories as well as she does, then I’m all for it.

Once again on reading Hardinge, I am struck that the age-old question — where do you get your ideas? — is entirely appropriate. There are familiar motifs in her work and yet there are also other ideas that leap from the page defying normality and expectation. I felt this in Cuckoo Song Read More

The Rising: Fast-paced alien invasion adventure

Readers’ average rating: 

The Rising by Heather Graham & Jon Land

In The Rising (2017), Alex Chin is a rising star, the handsome blond quarterback of his high school football team, dating the head cheerleader. His Chinese adoptive parents are concerned about his grades not being good enough, and his nerdy tutor Samantha, a classmate with plans for a career at NASA, hounds him to work harder at school, while nursing a secret and seemingly hopeless crush on Alex. He also has strange dreams that cause him to fill a drawing pad with detailed drawings of a world filled with menacing machines. Other than those minor drawbacks, though, Alex has what he thinks is an ideal life.

But Alex’s plans for football glory may be crushed when he’s severely injured playing football in a regional championship. When the hospital doctor takes a CT scan, it shows a mysterious shadow in his brain. A sec... Read More

The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare: A fun, diverting read from a solid author

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare by Sophie Masson

I've always enjoyed Sophie Masson's books; to put it simply, her stories are imaginative and her prose is elegant. The Tempestuous Voyage of Hopewell Shakespeare is no exception, (though it's not one of my favourites of hers) inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest and Twelfth Night, and containing all that those titles imply: adventure, romance, mystery, magic, mistaken identity, and of course — a voyage that ends in a shipwreck upon the shores of an exotic island.

According to her author's note, the name of the protagonist derives from her sister-in-law's anecdote about teaching Shakespeare with texts published under the imp... Read More

Crown of Midnight: A superior sequel to a ho-hum first installment

Readers’ average rating:

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

I was about three chapters into Crown of Midnight when I realized it was a sequel — after that it was a matter of tracking down Throne of Glass, catching myself up, and returning with a better understanding of the characters and situation. As it happens, I was a little lukewarm when it came to Throne of Glass, but I ended up much preferring this story to its predecessor.

Celaena Sardothien is the royal assassin to a king she despises, so it's just as well she's never actually killed anyone on his orders. Instead she fakes their deaths and helps them escape the kingdom of Adarlan, though she knows if she's ever found out she'll forfeit her own life — and those of her loved ones at court.

B... Read More

The Fate of the Tearling: An explosive ending to our feisty heroine’s story

Readers’ average rating:

The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

With The Fate of the Tearling (2016), Erika Johansen concludes her QUEEN OF THE TEARLING trilogy, which began in 2014’s The Queen of the Tearling and continued in 2015’s The Invasion of the Tearling. Fans of this YA series have eagerly waited for answers to questions posed throughout the preceding books: What makes Queen Kelsea Glynn special, and why can she experience memories and lifetimes that aren’t her own? What is the significance of the magical blue sapphires she wears, and why does the Red Mort Que... Read More

A Taste for Monsters: Strong characterization and premise but plotting a bit pale

Readers’ average rating:

A Taste for Monsters by Matthew Kirby

Matthew Kirby’s first two books, The Clockwork Three and Icefall are, I think, two of the best constructed and ambitious YA books out there. I haven’t been equally impressed with the ones since, though they still show marks of a fine craftsman in various aspects. Where then does his latest, A Taste for Monsters, fall? I’d say somewhere in between — better than the last few thanks to more vivid characters, a fine sense of the macabre, and deft handling of suspense; but not rising to the level of the first ones due to so... Read More

Ice Like Fire: Winter’s been saved — but not for long

Readers’ average rating: 

Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch

When I reviewed Snow Like Ashes, the first book in the SNOW LIKE ASHES series (back when I was a FanLit newcomer), I complained of a lack of depth to the world that Sara Raasch created. In some ways, its sequel Ice Like Fire (2015) gave me what I desired; I was pleased that the world of Primoria is explored and developed in this book. But where one issue was partly solved, others were thrown up. Once again I found a story with plenty of potential that, if looked at in any depth, felt incomplete.

Interestingly, Raasch starts her acknowledgements by saying that “sequels are hard”. She admits that this second book hurt and that s... Read More

The Shadow Soul: Our SPFBO winner is a solid YA fantasy

Readers’ average rating: 

The Shadow Soul by Kaitlyn Davis

The Shadow Soul came in first place of the 30 books that our Fantasy Literature team of reviewers read for Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (SPFBO), in which 300 self-published science fiction and fantasy novels have been read and evaluated by ten blogs. The winner of the very first round, it managed to survive and prevail over all of the rest of the novels in our later rounds. A round of virtual but heartfelt applause to The Shadow Soul and its author, Kaitlyn Davis!

As the story begins, Jinji is a sixteen year old girl preparing for her formal joining in marriage to Maniuk, a future leader of their small Arpapajo tribe, along with Jin... Read More

Flashfall: Could have used more polishing

Readers’ average rating:

Flashfall by Jenny Moyer

For those seeking non-stop action and little else, Flashfall, by Jenny Moyer, offers up a solid if somewhat predictable entry in the Strong Nervy Young Female Fights Oppression but not Love genre (trademark pending on SNYFFOL). But those who desire depth of character and of worldbuilding will probably want to look elsewhere for those elements.

A century after a solar apocalypse, sixteen-year-old Orion is a "caver" who, with her partner Dram, mines the all-important cirium, "an element born of the flash curtain [that] can be milked and refined into the only effective shields we have against the band of radioactive electromagnetic particles the sun sent crashing through our atmosphere." Like the other inhabitants of Outpost Five, she is also a Subpar, descendants of humans who survived the "flash" and are "adapted to the cu... Read More

Catchman: A too-elusive serial killer

Readers’ average rating:

Catchman by Chris Wooding

There’s a murderer loose in the city. Catchman (1998) centers on a group of homeless teenagers and the news circling around a serial killer nearby, who has been dubbed the ‘Catchman’. As victims surface one by one, the tension grows and with it, tempers run high among the teens.

One of the greater strengths of Catchman was the intriguing set-up. I actively wanted to know what was going to happen from the beginning of the story and throughout the narrative. The tension of the background, Catchman included, helped lend gravity to the struggles of the young protagonists.

The main creep factor (the Catchman himself) wasn’t immediately threatening enough for me to get into the heads of the characters. To me, the elusive villain was too elusive — to the detriment of the story. The murders in ... Read More

The Hammer of Thor: It’s Hammer Time in the Nine Worlds

Readers’ average rating: 

The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

The god Thor has lost his hammer again, but this time it’s even worse: the giant Thrym has gotten hold of it and has hidden it away where no one else can reach it. If the hammer isn’t returned to Thor quickly, enemies of Asgard will take advantage of their weakness and attack, triggering Ragnarok, the battle at the end of the world, and bringing massive death and destruction in the Nine Worlds.

Loki the trickster, who has been chained up by the other gods as punishment for his misdeeds, visits Magnus Chase in a dream (Loki gets around pretty well in dreamland). He tells Magnus that he’s worked out a deal to get Thor’s hammer back: all Magnus has to do is bring Thrym a certain bride for a wedding in five days, along with the bride-price, and Thrym will give back the hammer as his wedding gift.

There are just a few problems with thi... Read More

Land of Dreams: Strong echoes of Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

Land of Dreams by James P. Blaylock

James P. Blaylock is a fabulist, a teller of magic realist tales that reframe our everyday world in more colorful, fanciful, sinister, and whimsical ways. His style and themes often overlap with the works of Tim Powers and they have collaborated on several stories and even have shared the character William Ashbless, which is no surprise since they met as students at Cal State Fullerton. There they also befriended author K.W. Jeter (who coined the term “steampunk” and wrote perhaps the earliest full-length example, 1987’s Read More

The Rains: An original zombie novel where teenagers take centre stage

Readers’ average rating:

The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz

The once-trusted adults of Creek's Cause have turned into zombies. Asteroid 9918 Darwinia has hit the small town, and in one terrifying night, no one under eighteen is safe any more. Chance Rain and his brother Patrick find themselves pitted against a town full of zombies after their aunt and uncle turn. And what's more, it's looking like the infection will spread further than Creek's Cause if they don't do something to warn the rest of the world.

Zombie novels are by no means a new concept, but Gregg Hurwitz adds an innovative and fresh spin to his addition to the genre. First off, The Rains reads more like a sci-fi novel than a horror, and the addition of YA elements makes for the perfect mix. The asteroid and the spores that infect adults are seemingly alien, and it seems the zombies — or Hosts, as our protagonist ... Read More

Bright Blaze of Magic: Monsters and magic spice up a deadly feud

Readers’ average rating: 

Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Note: some spoilers for earlier books in this series.

The hair-raising adventures of Lila Merriweather conclude in Bright Blaze of Magic, the third volume of Jennifer Estep’s BLACK BLADE young adult urban fantasy series. Lila, age seventeen, is not only a highly skilled thief, but also has amazing sword-fighting abilities and extraordinary magical powers, not to mention championship snarking abilities. In the town of Cloudburst Falls, where magical power is so prevalent that the town attracts tourists who want to see magical people and creatures, people’s magical strength lends itself to political power. Lila is a bodyguard for the Sinclair Family, particularly the son and heir of the family, Devon Sinclair. S... Read More

Throne of Glass: Teenage escapism and wish-fulfilment

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

There are two main storylines in Throne of Glass. In one, a deadly assassin is unleashed from prison to travel to the capital and take part in a royal tournament for hired killers where the competitors often meet mysterious and gruesome ends (because, you know, assassin tournament). In the other, an extremely flaky girl tries on lots of expensive dresses, goes to parties, gushes over how pretty she looks today, and flirts with attractive men who like to pamper her with expensive presents. In a brighter universe, the novel would end with the assassin murdering the Popular Girl before she had the chance to complete her dude-harem. Alas, the assassin and the girl are of course the same person, and consequently neither plotline feels fully realized. It’s as if author Sarah ... Read More

A Shadow Bright and Burning: Lovecraftian monsters invade Victorian England

Readers’ average rating: 

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess 

In this Victorian-era fantasy, sixteen year old Henrietta Howel, who is now a teacher at the Brimthorn orphanage in Yorkshire where she has spent the last eleven years, has developed an ability to magically set things on fire. She believes this marks her as a witch or magician, who are imprisoned or put to death in England since a horrific event eleven years earlier, when a magician’s spell misfired and opened a portal in our world from another dimension. Through this portal entered the Seven Ancients, magical demons who have been terrorizing England ever since, killing hundreds of people with the help of their Familiars, humans who have been turned into their evil servants.

While magicians are vilified in British society as a result, sorcerers, on the other hand, are revered ― despite the fact that a sorcerer participa... Read More

Children of the Different: A post-apocalyptic dream world

Readers’ average rating:

Children of the Different by S.C. Flynn

S.C. Flynn’s debut novel, Children of the Different (2016), begins as Arika, a thirteen-year-old girl, enters her Changing, a comatose state during which the child explores the Changeland, a dream-like world, and gain new powers. Arika’s twin brother, Narrah, is upset to watch his sister slip into her Changing. Not only does it sever their telepathic bond, The Path, but it also means that his Changing is coming up at any time. When he finally does succumb to his own Changing, Arika has already exited hers. For most of the novel, Narrah and Arika are separated, one in the world of the living, one in the Changeland, and both trying to solve mysteries that relate to the past and future of their world.

Flynn’s setting for Read More

I Am Princess X: An exciting YA thriller

Readers’ average rating: Comment Reviews for this post are disabled. Please enable it first

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

My 14 year-old daughter (Tali) and I recently listened to the audiobook version of Cherie Priest’s I Am Princess X. We took a look at the print version, too, since the story is part novel, part comic. It’s about a slightly awkward girl named May who, back in fifth-grade, became best friends with a girl named Libby during recess when the two of them, both new to the school, had to sit out. Bored on the playground, together they created a cartoon heroine named Princess X. She has blue hair, wears red Chuck Taylors with her princess dress, and carries a katana instead of a wand (because “anyone can be awesome with magic... Read More