Young Adult

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

Bright Ruin: Rebellion against magical tyranny

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Bright Ruin by Vic James

"Fear was the superpower they all possessed. And unlike Midsummer’s monsters, there was no limit to the number of people they could control with it."

Vic James wraps up her hard-hitting DARK GIFTS fantasy trilogy with Bright Ruin (2018), which picks up right where the second book, Tarnished City, left off. This series is set an alternative version of our world where a minority, called the “Equals,” has powerful magical gifts. What they are supposed to be “equal” to is a good question, since ― in England and several other countries ― they have used their powers to cruelly oppress the non-magical majority. Among other ... Read More

Shadow of the Fox: An exciting tale of magic, revenge, and friendship

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Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

Shadow of the Fox (2018) is the first of Julie Kagawa’s books that I’ve read, but based on how much I enjoyed reading it, this certainly won’t be the last. Readers don’t have to know anything about feudal-era Japanese culture, language, folklore, and customs that influenced the SHADOW OF THE FOX series, nor do they have to be ardent fans of manga/anime to appreciate what this first volume offers, but having even a little background in either will greatly enrich their reading experience.

Thousands of years ago, an audacious (and, I would argue, quite stupid) young lord got it into his head that he deserved to become a kami — an immortal god — by way of the Tama no Fushi, a jewel borne by the Great Dragon living... Read More

The Wizard’s Daughter: A richly textured, exciting airship journey

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The Wizard’s Daughter by Jeff Minerd

This YA novel is a steampunk adventure filled with deft airship handling, daring mid-air rescues, and the dauntless search for long-estranged family ties.

The Wizard’s Daughter (2018) is the second book in the SKY RIDERS OF ETHERIUM series, and I haven’t read the first, The Sailweaver’s Son, but nevertheless found this book a perfectly accessible entry point into the series. Our narrative follows Brieze, the adopted/apprenticed daughter of a wizard resident within the west-lying Kingdom of Spire.

Brieze’s still unmarried mother can’t obtain closure even sixteen years after the mysterious disappearance of her lost lover (Brieze’s biological father) who was from the Eastern City of Kyo (fictionalized Tokyo, steampunk-style). So, Brieze decides to board her ... Read More

The Vampire Diaries 1: The Awakening & The Struggle

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Vampire Diaries 1: The Awakening & The Struggle by L.J. Smith

Elena is the ice-blonde queen of the school, admired by girls and boys alike. With her friends, Bonnie and Meredith, she enjoys her status and uses it to snag the most eligible boys. However, Elena always feels as though something is missing. When new boy Stefan starts at the school, she suspects she has found what she is looking for, but Stefan manages to resist her charms. Elena makes a vow with Bonnie and Meredith that she will have Stefan no matter what — little suspecting that he hides a deadly secret. When Stefan's brother Damon arrives on the scene, Elena may be in more trouble than she realizes.

I am a big fan of L.J. Smith's writing, and have enjoyed a number of her books. I did enjoy both The Awakening Read More

You May Now Kill the Bride: Nostalgic fun for fans of FEAR STREET

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You May Now Kill the Bride by R.L. Stine

If you’re an adult who enjoyed R.L. Stine’s GOOSEBUMPS series as a kid and/or his FEAR STREET series as a teenager, then his new RETURN TO FEAR STREET series, beginning with You May Now Kill the Bride (2018), will surely pluck some of your nostalgic heart-strings. (The distressed, much-read appearance of the cover is an obvious nod to that very appeal.) I devoured Stine’s work as a young reader, so I wondered, what would my slightly-more-mature self think of it now?

The answer is that I wasn’t blown away by the quality of Stine’s writing nor his subject matter, but You May Now Kill the Bride was fun in a melodramatic paranormal soap opera kind of way. The biggest appeal for me was the nostalgia factor, and Stine didn’... Read More

Summers at Castle Auburn: A lovely YA romance

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Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn

Summers at Castle Auburn (2001) was my first exposure to Sharon Shinn's fantasies, and it was pretty much insta-love for me (I like to think that Shinn returns my affections in a distant and anonymous fan-appreciation kind of way). It instantly set me off on a search for more of her books.

Corie is the teenaged illegitimate daughter of a nobleman who died before the story begins, but the royal family is still keeping close tabs on her. Most of the time she lives with her grandmother in a remote village, learning medicinal herbs and a bit of witchery from her. But her summers are spent with the royal family in Castle Auburn.

We follow Corie over the next several years as she hangs out with her half-sister Elisandra; Br... Read More

Haunted: More teenage drama than plot

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Haunted by Meg Cabot

Haunted (2003) is the fifth novel in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series. You’ll want to read the previous books first: Shadowland, Ninth Key, Reunion, and Darkest Hour.

In my review of Darkest Hour I said that the series was getting more complex after we meet a guy named Paul (sup... Read More

The Blue Sword: Strong female lead, interesting moral conundrum

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

This, my friends, is how young adult fantasy is done. In The Blue Sword, Robin McKinley has created a world out of whole cloth and polished it until it shines. Or in this case, until it is a dusty desert full of horse riding warriors, a dwindling magic, demon barbarians invading from the north, and civilized white men invading from across the ocean. McKinley is a master of prose, and this book has stood the test of time for almost 25 years now.

The Blue Sword is the story of Harry Crewe — don’t you dare call her by her given name of Angharad — who, upon the death of her parents, is sent to live at a fort on the Homeland frontier with her brother who is in the colonial ... Read More

Darkest Hour: This series is getting a bit more complex

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Darkest Hour by Meg Cabot

“You really have the most alarming way, Susannah, of getting yourself into scrapes.”

Darkest Hour is the fourth book in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series. It’d be best to read the previous books, Shadowland, Ninth Key, and Reunion before picking up Darkest Hour. While each short book has a stand-alone story, the key characters are the same and there are some overarching plotlines including Suze’s crush on the ghost who live... Read More

Wavesong & The Stone Key: Still a long way to go…

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Wavesong & The Stone Key by Isabelle Carmody

Every book in Isabelle Carmody's THE OBERNEWTYN CHRONICLES is longer than the one before, which accounts for the splitting of the fifth volume into two parts. Though The Stone Key (2008) was originally published by Penguin as a singular book, American publisher Random House divided it into Wavesong and The Stone Key, turning the original volume into the fifth and sixth books in the series.

As I'm a New Zealander, I ended up reading the Australian copy of the book, so any American readers should consider this a review of Wavesong AND The Stone Key. By this poi... Read More

Ninth Key: Decent fantasy entertainment for older teens

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Ninth Key by Meg Cabot

Ninth Key is the second book in Meg Cabot’s MEDIATOR series about Suze, a high school student who can interact with restless ghosts. She helps them settle their affairs on Earth so they can move on to wherever they’re supposed to go (she doesn’t know what happens after they leave Earth). In Shadowland, the first MEDIATOR book, Suze and her mom had just moved from New York to northern California so her mom, a widow, could marry a widower with three sons. None of the family knows about Suze’s ability to see ghosts.

Upon arrival in California, Suze discovers the ghost of a hot guy names Jesse in her bedroom. He’s been dea... Read More

Dogsbody: Another gem from the mind of Diana Wynne Jones

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Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones

My usual response to reading any book by Diana Wynne Jones is: "how does she come up with this stuff?" This is swiftly followed by bewilderment (especially in the wake of Harry Potter) that nobody has ever adapted any of her work, despite the fact her stories would make for excellent on-screen entertainment.

Dogsbody (1975) is no exception. It begins by introducing the immortal Dog Star Sirius, who is in serious trouble with his peers. Accused of murder and theft, Sirius is sentenced to life on Earth as a mortal dog, where he is sentenced to die after his considerably shortened lifespan. He has only one chance at redemption: he can return to his celestial home only if he tracks down the mysterious stolen Zo... Read More

Hullmetal Girls: A fast, generally fun read

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Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie

Hundreds of years into the future, humanity abandoned Earth and embarked upon an interstellar mission aboard a cluster of ships which eventually became the Fleet. Fleet ships are policed and protected by an elite squad of mechanically-augmented super-soldiers known as Scela, who serve the whims of the Chancellor and enforce her laws (along with a rigid social caste system). Aisha Un-Haad is desperate to provide a good life for her younger siblings, but her deck janitor’s salary isn’t enough to cover her plague-infected brother’s medical bills, so the only option left is to join the Scela. Key Tanaka is a mystery, a near-perfectly blank slate with no idea of who she used to be or why she volunteered for Scela service, but fragments of memory pop up in times of extreme stress, and they seem to indicate that her current identity can’t be trusted. Can these two unl... Read More

Nyxia Unleashed: A semi-strange new world

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Nyxia Unleashed by Scott Reintgen

Emmett Atwater, a sixteen-year-old African American from Detroit, has spent the last year on board a spaceship owned by Babel Communications, lured in ― along with nineteen other disadvantaged teenagers from across the globe ― by Babel’s offer of immense wealth if he will travel to Eden and mine as much of the priceless mineral nyxia as possible on behalf of Babel for a year or so. Then he and the others can return home to a life of permanent ease. **Recapping Book 1 in the rest of this paragraph at a high level, for background; I've tried to avoid major spoilers** But Emmett and the other teenagers soon learn that the executives of Babel care only for their own power and wealth. During the year-long flight of the Genesis to Eden, the teens were pitted against each other in desperate competition for a place with the final group that would actually land o... Read More

Dawn of Wonder: An ambitious plot with a moon-shooting character arc

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Dawn of Wonder by Jonathan Renshaw

I’d wanted to read Jonathan Renshaw’s 2015 self-pub Kindle Unlimited enrollee for several months. Dawn of Wonder sports upwards of 3700 Amazon reviews with an average rating of 4.6 stars — a rare feat for any well-established author, much less a self-publishing up-start. But it’s also a whopping 710 pages long, so you see my hesitation.

But enough wind-up. I read it.

The first sixth of the novel gripped me. Thirma peasant Aedan of Misty Vales lives in a medieval world of war and political intrigue, including well-organized cross-border human trafficking campaigns that can target anyone, though the higher born, the better. Our hero possesses a shrewd and calculating mind that could track a hawk, but he’s also a deeply wounded young boy who can collapse into helplessness when challenged. T... Read More

Akata Warrior: Scores goal after goal as it enhances the series world

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Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor

From its stunning cover to the triumphant final word (“Gooooooooal!”), Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Warrior (2017) continues to deliver on the promise of Book One, Akata Witch. Sunny, an American-Nigerian girl currently living in Nigeria with her family, has embraced her heritage as a Leopard Person, one of a magical lineage, but things to do not get easier for her or for her magical friends, the oha coven. Ekwensu, the evil force that Sunny faced and vanquished in the first book, is back, and she’s brought friends. In the mundane, everyday world, Sunny’s older brother Chukwu, the favored child, gets into serious trouble when he goes away to university, and Sunny’s attempt to help him puts her squarely at odds with the teachings of the Leopard Peop... Read More

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart: A delicious blend of adventure and chocolate

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The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis

A young, golden-eyed dragon named Aventurine is chafing at the restrictions her family has placed on her: dragons aren't allowed outside of the caverns until they're 40 or 50 years old, when their wings are strong enough for flight and their scales have hardened enough to protect them against arrows and swords. Aventurine's mother encourages her to "find her passion" in studying history, math or philosophy, but Aventurine just wants to go explore and be free. How can she not, with a name like Aventurine?

So one day she sneaks out of their caverns. When she finds a stray human on their mountain she thinks she's in luck: bringing a delicious human back to the cavern will surely impress her family! The human is suitably terrified of her and Aventurine is about to pounce when … wait ... what's that delicious-smelling food he’s cooking... Read More

Thunderhead: A tug-of-war between forward momentum and backsliding

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Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman follows up Scythe, which introduced readers to a mostly-perfect futuristic world in which death isn’t permanent (until it very much is) with Thunderhead (2018), the second installment in his ARC OF A SCYTHE trilogy. Regrettably, I won’t be able to discuss anything about Thunderhead without spoiling some of Scythe’s details, so consider yourself warned and/or prepared.

Rowan Damisch and Citra Terranova are no more — at least, as far as the rest of the world is concerned. Rowan has taken his fight ... Read More

In Other Lands: A bisexual character comes of age in a paper-thin fantasy world

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In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Thirteen-year-old Elliot is pulled from his geography class one day, packed into a van with three other students, and driven to a random field in Devon, England, where he watches his French teacher exchanges money with a woman standing next to a high wall.
The woman in odd clothing “tested” him by asking him if he could see a wall standing in the middle of a field. When he told her, “Obviously, because it’s a wall. Walls tend to be obvious,” she had pointed out the other kids blithely walking through the wall as if it was not there, and told him that he was one of the chosen few with the sight.
When the woman asks Elliot to come with her to the magical land on the other side of the wall, he promptly tells her no one will miss him (Elliot’s problematic home life is explored later in the book) and heads over the wall with her. There he finds,... Read More

Guardian: Get up, stand up — don’t give up the fight

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Guardian by A.J. Hartley

With Guardian (2018), A.J. Hartley brings his STEEPLEJACK trilogy to a triumphant close. Readers who savored the voyeuristic thrill of soaring along rooftops and bringing evildoers to justice alongside Anglet Sutonga in Steeplejack and Firebrand are sure to cheer as she tackles an even more daunting task: gathering allies both near and far to protect the city she calls home. The STEEPLEJACK books (and reviews of said books) need to be read in order, but I’ll try to keep unavoidable spoilers to a bare minimum.

As if Read More

Buried Heart: Forced to pick a side

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Buried Heart by Kate Elliott

In Night Flower, Kiya and Esladas met and fell in love, beginning a journey that would, eventually, shake the city of Saryenia to its very foundation. In Court of Fives, their daughter Jessamy got her heart’s desire, the chance to train as a Court of Fives runner, at the cost of her family’s safety. In Poisoned Blade, Jes did everything she could to reunite her loved ones while rooting out royal corruption, but it wasn’t enough. In Bright Thrones, Jes’ twin Bettany put her depthless anger... Read More

LIFEL1K3: Star-crossed lovers in a post-apocalyptic cyberpunk world

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LIFEL1K3 by Jay Kristoff

Jay Kristoff’s YA post-apocalyptic novel LIFEL1K3 (2018) stars seventeen-year-old Eve as its tough, fauxhawk-sporting protagonist. Eve is a gifted mechanic who lives with her grandfather, her only relative, in a post-apocalyptic island version of “Kalifornya” called the Dregs. She has a cybernetic eye and a memory drive (“Memdrive”) implanted in the side of her head, with silicon chips behind her ear that give her fragmentary memories of her childhood and supply her with other useful life skills. Eve’s secret pastime ― at least it’s secret from Grandpa ― is engaging in robot deathmatches to fund Grandpa’s anticancer meds. Eve’s besties are a feisty redhead named Lemon Fresh, whose name comes from the box in which she was found abandoned as ... Read More

Tool of War: Augmented YA

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Tool of War by Paolo Bacigalupi

Paolo Bacigalupi’s Tool of War (2017) is the third entry in a series of futuristic novels in which catastrophic climate change projections have come to pass. The American seaboard is flooded, and the United States government has been overtaken by transnational organizations. The most stunning technological breakthroughs are in gene editing, and elite organizations own “augments,” creatures that are part human and part animal, part slave and part soldier. The main character here, Tool, is the greatest of the augments because he can defy his training and act independently. Who knows what he might be capable of?

Tool of War is also a sort of augment, part YA and part techno-thriller. Unlike the best techno th... Read More

Children of Blood and Bone: A familiar story raised up by its theme and setting

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Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone (2018) and the first of the LEGACY OF ORISHA series, is in many ways a typical debut YA novel that can feel a bit rote. On the other hand, its setting and stark presentation of theme make it stand out more than a little from the other such YA novels and add an importance to it that makes it well worth recommending.

Long ago in Orisha the maji wielded great power, but then the King (Saran) found a way to strip magic from them and commenced a great slaughter, though he did not kill those younger than thirteen (“diviners”, marked by their white hair) who had not yet come into their power (and now never would). Zélie is a diviner whose mother was murdered before her eyes when she was six. Since “The Raid,” Zélie’s people, r... Read More

To Kill a Kingdom: …but to merely disable a deadly love affair

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To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I loved the concept for this book. Siren princess (Lira) is punished by her power hungry Sea Queen mother for harboring a shred of "human" sentiment, and therefore, forced to seek the heart of a siren-hunting prince. Prince (Elian) casts about on the deep, in self-imposed exile from his own kingdom, vanquishing the world of the human killing sirens dominating the sea, and his only true home.

There were times, yes, many times when the narrative prose was lyrical and immersive and it drew me right in to this commercially quite popular story. Regrettably, that voice was inconsistent. In the main, I think this is due to imperfectly executed dual POV.

It’s hard to do dual POV well. Lira’s voice was by far the stronger of the two. Prince Elian had narrative responsibility for the “rag tag” crew’s assembly and much of their dialogue... Read More