Young Adult

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

Ahsoka: A fun but inconsequential tale about a Star Wars favourite

Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston

It struck me on reading this YA novel that there's a definite hierarchy to the stories that are told within the STAR WARS universe. Obviously the movies are the most important: they are seen by the most people, and encompass the most important events in the overarching space epic. They're "tent-poles" so to speak.

In second place are the animated television shows such as The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels which build on the canon that's laid out in the movies, and very occasionally (usually through minor cameos) get to overlap with them.

After that come the books and comics, which are best described as "fillers". They'll usually deal with origin stories of certain characters; of filling in the gaps that couldn't be explored in the films or shows due to time constraints.

As a character who has never appeared in any of the films, but who is an ... Read More

Starsight: The stars have eyes

Starsight by Brandon Sanderson 

“A hero doesn’t choose her trials.”

Spensa can’t help but hear her Gran-Gran’s voice saying these words to her every time Spensa balks at a new trouble in her life. And Spensa — a magnet for trouble — has plenty of occasions to remember these words.

In Starsight (2019), the sequel to Brandon Sanderson’s young adult science fiction novel Skyward, the few humans who remain have been trapped on the barren planet of Detritus for several decades, with alien guardians who frequently attack the human colony with their fighter spaceships, preventing them from leaving Detritus. Spensa is a hot-headed young fighter pilot who revels in the spac... Read More

Moonlight and Ashes: A fresh take on the Cinderella fairy tale

Moonlight and Ashes by Sophie Masson

This is one of three fairy tale retellings by Sophie Masson that are only tangentially based on a traditional tale, the others being The Crystal Heart (Rapunzel) and Scarlet in the Snow (Beauty and the Beast). Moonlight and Ashes (2012) tackles Cinderella, and is quite possibly the best of the three. Incorporating elements of the story that are usually forgotten in retellings (such as the magical hazel tree) and Masson's own imagination, it’s a fun and unpredictable fantasy adventure.

Selena is a sixteen-year-old girl living with her spineless father and wicked stepmother, as w... Read More

Remember Me: A Christopher Pike classic

Remember Me by Christopher Pike

The idea of a ghost who has to solve their own murder from beyond the grave is a slam-dunk. I'll read or watch any variation of this story, from Patrick Swayze in Ghost to all those early X-Files episodes. So having been a fan of Christopher Pike in my teen years, I'm not sure how Remember Me (1989) managed to slip my notice. But hey, better late than never!

Shari Cooper is dead, thrown from a balcony at a friend's party. Now her ghost is stuck in limbo, able to see her friends and family, but unable to communicate with them in any way. What's worse, everyone thinks she committed suicide, the police officer investigating her case is an alcoholic, and there's a nightmarish monster chasing her through the afterlife.

But at only eighteen years old, Shari knows she didn't kill herself — someone pushed her off that balcony. And... Read More

Night Flights: A brief but welcome return to the world of MORTAL ENGINES

Night Flights by Philip Reeve

Night Flights (2018) by Philip Reeve is a collection of three short stories set in the world of the MORTAL ENGINES QUARTET (also known as the HUNGRY CITY CHRONICLES), and focuses on the character of Anna Fang, a fearless aviatrix. Its timing seemed to be connected to the release of Peter Jackson's filmic adaptation of Mortal Engines, the first book in the series, and Reeve's touching dedication at the front of the book confirmed this. It reads: "To Jihae, who plays Anna Fang with such style and grace that I realized she needed some more stories." Aww.

Set within a framing device of Anna going about her daily business, she recalls three adventures of her pas... Read More

The Queen of Nothing: A thrilling finale

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Holly Black’s FOLK OF THE AIR series just gets better and better. This final novel, The Queen of Nothing (2019) is a thrilling conclusion. You need to read the first two books, The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King, first. There will be spoilers here for those books. You may also want to read The Lost Sisters, a novella that follows The Cruel Prince and provides another perspective on the events of that book.

When we left Jude at the end of Read More

Winterwood: Atmospheric but glitchy winter tale

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Nora Walker is all alone in the world. Her whole family are rumored to be witches, which sets her apart from other kids her age. Her grandmother is dead, and her mother is something of an absentee parent. And now that winter has set in at Jackjaw Lake, all the tourists are gone, leaving behind only Nora in her cottage and the residents of the nearby camp for delinquent boys. Nora’s isolation increases still further when a storm drops four feet of snow on the area, cutting off the roads and knocking out the phone lines.

Everything changes when Nora ventures into the oldest, spookiest part of the woods on the full moon and finds Oliver Huntsman, a boy who went missing two weeks ago from the camp. She helps him recover from hypothermia and takes him back to the camp, but in the process learns that there is more to the story than just one boy getting lost in the woods. Another boy died the same night, and ... Read More

Lost and Found: Looking out for those who are lost

Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card

Fourteen-year-old Ezekiel has a special power. Not a superpower; though, just a small power: he’s drawn to lost items — hair scrunchies, toys, and even bikes — combined with the innate knowledge of who the owners are and where to go to return the items, and a strong compulsion to return them. Unfortunately, this hasn’t worked out so well for Ezekiel: everyone thinks he stole the things and returned them for the attention or a reward. He’s got quite a file with the police by the time he’s a teenager, and that, combined with his mother’s tragic death when he was four, has made Ezekiel an embittered social pariah. Ezekiel’s actual last name is Bliss, but in his own mind he calls himself Ezekiel Blast.

So when Beth, a tiny classmate with proportionate dwarfism, insists on joining him on his lonely walk to and from school, he actively tries to discourage her overtures of friendship. An... Read More

Naondel: Pushes the boundaries of YA

Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff

Naondel (2016) is the second book in Maria Turtschaninoff’s RED ABBEY CHRONICLES series, but it’s not a sequel; it’s a prequel. Set many years before the events of Maresi, Naondel tells the story of the women who, fleeing their own oppression, founded the Red Abbey as a sanctuary for themselves and others. It is set in what seems to be an amalgam of several Asian cultures, and we see glimpses of other parts of Turtschaninoff’s world as well.

If I didn’t know anything about Naondel before I started it — if I didn’t know it was the follow-up to a young adult novel that won a prize for youth literature — I w... Read More

The Red Magician: A moving story about the Holocaust

The Red Magician by Lisa Goldstein

Winner of the National Book Award, Lisa Goldstein’s The Red Magician (1982) is such an unusual fantasy novel. I read it because Tantor Audio has just released the first audio edition of the book.

As the story begins, a young girl named Kisci is growing up in a small, isolated Jewish community in Eastern Europe. Her family’s rabbi is visiting Kisci’s home and expressing his displeasure at the way Kisci’s school is teaching Hebrew as if it were a common language. When Kisci’s father refuses to obey the rabbi’s command to remove his children from the school, the rabbi, who has some magical abilities, sets a curse on the school and its students’ families.

Soon after, a visitor named Voros appears in the village and Kisci’s family extends their hospital... Read More

Buried Heart: Forced to pick a side

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

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... Read More

Bid My Soul Farewell: The story gets even darker…

Bid My Soul Farewell by Beth Revis

Bid My Soul Farewell (2019) is the sequel to Beth Revis’ novel Give the Dark My Love. You need to read Give the Dark My Love first. There will be some spoilers for that novel here.

When we left Nedra and Grey in Give the Dark My Love, they had uncovered the treachery in their government and exterminated the culprit. Now Grey is working for the emperor as a diplomat. Nedra, meanwhile, has become a necromancer, which is illegal and punishable by death. She has created an army of zombies (one is her sister) and she refuses to give them up.

As Grey is sent on a mission for the emperor, Nedra agree... Read More

Give the Dark My Love: A dark story for young adults

Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

Nedra Brysstain is a new scholarship student at the Yugen academy in her country’s capital city. She comes from one of the rural villages in the north that have been suffering from the plague. She plans to study medicinal alchemy so she can learn how to heal people who’ve been infected with the plague.

Though most of the school’s wealthy students either ignore or attempt to ostracize Nedra, her talents and kind heart win her two important allies. One is the professor who takes her under his wing after he recognizes her potential. The other is a rich handsome student named Grey who is willing to look past Nedra’s low status.

As the plague continues to sweep the country, Nedra trains hard while she worries for her hometown, especially her parents and twin sister. As Nedra starts to become aware of her country’s political situation, and as the plague gets closer and closer ... Read More

Lioness Rampant: A conclusion fit for a King’s Champion

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce

Tamora Pierce takes the best elements of the three preceding SONG OF THE LIONESS books and polishes them to a fine sheen in Lioness Rampant, the final book of the quartet. She manages to pack swords-and-sorcery, a quest narrative, kind-hearted nobles and charming scoundrels, dastardly villains, truly affecting emotional arcs, and Alanna’s never-ending journey of self-discovery into a single volume without it feeling over-stuffed or slowing the narrative. Pierce’s skills as a writer were visibly improving as she worked on this series, and in Lioness Rampant, the reasons for her lasting and continued influence on the YA fantasy genre are obvious even when one considers how early in her ... Read More

Maresi: A beautifully written coming-of-age tale

Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff

THE RED ABBEY CHRONICLES by Maria Turtschaninoff is a young adult trilogy originally published in Finland. This first installment, Maresi (2014), won the Finlandia Junior Prize for children’s and young adult literature. It was translated into English by A.A. Prime.

The Red Abbey is an isolated island convent where a Mother Goddess is worshipped and a trove of secret knowledge maintained. No man is allowed to set foot on its shores. Some of its sisters were sent there because they were surplus mouths to feed, some were sent to learn skills that will make them more marriageable, and some were fleeing from abuse.

Maresi is a young novice, and while she has not yet found her calling within the Abbey, she loves it there. She feels at home among the natural beauties of the island. There’s the impressive library, too — and perh... Read More

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 1: The Last Padawan: Insight into a Star Wars favourite

Star Wars: Kanan Vol. 1: The Last Padawan by Greg Weisman

The secret backstory of Kanan Jarrus, one of the main characters in the animated television show Star Wars Rebels, was ripe for comic book expansion. As a former Jedi Padawan who was only a teenager when the rest of the Jedi Order was wiped out, his past provides plenty of scope for exciting and bittersweet stories. After all, as a survivor of the purge, he was one of the lucky ones.

During an otherwise straightforward supply-run to Lothal, the crew of the Ghost notice that Kanan has a rather sharp reaction to their need for a pit-stop on the planet Kaller. It turns out that he's been there before, and flashbacks (which comprise most of the issue) take us back fifteen years to the middle of the Clone Wars, where Kanan — then called Caleb Dume — fought alongside his master Depa Billaba for the Republic.

They successfully freed Kaller from... Read More

Poisoned Blade: Does what every good sequel should do

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

Warning: may contain mild spoilers for the previous book, Court of Fives

In Poisoned Blade, the second novel in her COURT OF FIVES trilogy, Kate Elliott builds on the strengths of Court of Fives and expands upon it, weaving tangled webs of intrigue, deceit, and impressively multi-layered political schemes. Anyone who thinks Young Adult fiction can’t successfully handle themes like a culture’s endurance in defiance of colonialism, the myriad socio-economic factors leading toward revolution, or racial and/or gender inequality, needs to read these books: Elliott covers these issue... Read More

All the Bad Apples: The power of storytelling

All the Bad Apples by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

On her seventeenth birthday, Dublin teenager Deena Rys accidentally comes out as gay to her father; he doesn’t react well. Later that day, she confides in her older sister, Mandy, who is also appalled — not because she’s gay, per se, but because she’s been researching the family history and has come to a frightening conclusion. Mandy believes there’s a curse on all the Rys women who don’t fit in, and that something terrible happens to all of these “bad apples” at the age of seventeen.

The next morning Mandy is seen jumping from a cliff on the far side of the country.

No body is found, but the note Mandy left for Deena sure looks like a suicide note, and the family presumes her dead. Everyone except Deena, that is, who steadfastly believes her sister is still alive, a belief that is bolstered when she finds another note from Mandy. In the envelope wit... Read More

The Wicked King: An exciting middle book!

The Wicked King by Holly Black

The Wicked King (2019) is the second book in Holly Black’s THE FOLK OF THE AIR series. The first book, The Cruel Prince, and a supplementary novella, The Lost Sisters, introduced us to Jude and Taryn, mortal twin sisters who were brought to faerie after their parents were murdered by Madoc, a former general in the Court of Elfhame who is now raising the twins as his own daughters. You need to read The Cruel Prince and, if you’d like some additional background, The Lost Sisters, before reading The Wicked King. This review will have some spoilers for the story up to this point. Read More

Enchantée: An addictive tale of addiction

Enchantée by Gita Trelease

Enchantée (2019) is a young adult historical fantasy set in Paris, just before the French Revolution. Camille is a teenage girl whose family was ravaged by smallpox a few months past. Both of Camille’s parents died, her younger sister Sophie is still frail, and their brother Alain has descended into drink and gambling. Camille has one trick up her sleeve — her late mother taught her the art of turning scrap metal into coins by magic — but lately the magic hasn’t been working properly. The coins are changing back into scrap metal too quickly, so that no one trusts Camille anymore, and Alain steals all the real money to pay his debts.

Desperate to keep herself and Sophie from becoming beggars or worse, Camille opens her mother’s forbidden trunk and finds the tools that will allow her to pass as a noblewoman using glamoire, the magic of changing oneself. This, ... Read More

The Lost Sisters: Answers questions, provides depth

The Lost Sisters by Holly Black

Twin sisters Jude and Taryn were taken to live in the Court of Elfhame after their parents were murdered by Madoc, a general in the land of faerie who is now their step-father and guardian. We witnessed how these mortal girls struggled as they came of age in the land of faerie in the first novel in Holly Black’s THE FOLK OF THE AIR series, The Cruel Prince, which was written from Jude’s perspective. Jude tells us how she was bullied, all the ways she fought back, and how her twin sister Taryn eventually betrayed her.

Now we get to hear Taryn’s side of the story.

The novella The Lost Sisters (2018) re-tells the most important events of The... Read More

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man: Jennifer Lawrence of Arabia

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man is the third volume of the SONG OF THE LIONESS quartet and the weakest volume of the series. Tamora Pierce makes a good effort of exposing Alanna (and thus, the reader) to some of the varying peoples and customs within the Tortallan kingdom and its neighboring countries, but relies too much on the White Savior trope, and the entire book suffers as a result. As I’ve said before, readers should start with the first book, Alanna: The First Adventure and work forward, though Pierce does a great job of summarizing key events from previous books.

The entire SONG ... Read More

Court of Fives: The dangers of imperialism, racism, and ambition

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Court of Fives by Kate Elliott

Kate Elliott has a well-deserved reputation for writing excellent science-fiction and fantasy for adults. Her characters, world-building, and societies are not only entertaining but well-crafted. It seems only natural that, at some point in her career, she would try her hand at Young Adult fiction. The result is Court of Fives, the first in a planned fantasy trilogy which is sure to appeal to younger readers as well as Elliott’s established fan base. While I’ve seen the novel described as “YA meets Game of Thrones,” Elliott herself has said, “I prefer Little Women meets American Ninja Warrior,” which is far more relevant to my personal interests (and a more unique combination). Read More

In the Hand of the Goddess: Squire Alan(na) delivers some hard knocks

Reposting to include Rebecca’s new review.

In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

In the Hand of the Goddess is the second installment of Tamora Pierce’s SONG OF THE LIONESS quartet, and while Pierce does provide a fair amount of backstory and repetition of key details from the previous book, Alanna, I recommend reading the books in sequence. By starting at the beginning, readers will have a better appreciation for the trials and challenges Alanna experiences in her quest to become a knight, as well as her struggle to maintain her false identity as “Alan,” since only boys are allowed to train in the king’s service. This review may contain a few spoilers for key events in Ala... Read More

The Unbound: Not your typical high school drama

The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

The Unbound is the sequel to Victoria Schwab’s The Archived, which you should read before starting this book. There will be some spoilers for The Archived in this review, so beware.

Summer is over for Mackenzie Bishop, the Keeper whose secret job is to escort the “Histories” of dead people back to their resting place in the Archive. When we met Mac in The Archived, she had just moved into an old hotel in a new town and solved some murders that had occurred there decades ago. Also, she met Wesley, a spiky-haired eyeliner-wearing boy who turned out to have a lot more in common with her than she ever could have guessed.

... Read More