Young Adult

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

A Shadow Bright and Burning: Lovecraftian monsters invade Victorian England

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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

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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

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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

Night Flower: Romantic and bittersweet prequel

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Night Flower by Kate Elliott

Night Flower, currently only available online, is a prequel novella to Court of Fives, the first book in Kate Elliott’s YA fantasy trilogy (also titled COURT OF FIVES). The relationship between Doma Kiya and Captain Esladas — the parents of Jessamy, teenaged Fives adversary and central figure of the trilogy — is a matter of speculation for many, especially the Saroese nobles who view this pairing with disgust and disdain. In this novella, Elliott takes readers back to when Kiya and Esladas first set foot in the city of Saryenia, when they were young and seeking their fortunes, and reveals the circumstances which drew them together.

Newly arrived in Saryenia with a small group of comrades from Old... Read More

The Brass Giant: Beautiful images and a disappointing main character

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The Brass Giant by Brooke Johnson

At the beginning of Brooke Johnson’s steampunk fantasy-romance novel The Brass Giant (2015), Petra Wade, our protagonist, is a strong-willed young woman with a driving desire: she wants to be an engineer. Specifically, she wants to attend the University and Engineers Guild, which does not admit women. Petra, an orphan, has learned clockwork from an elderly shopkeeper, but her talent for engineering is far beyond that, and she thirsts to use her ability to improve the world.

Emmerich Goss is a wealthy, good-looking University student with copper-colored eyes, and he asks for Petra’s help powering his automaton, which is distinctive because it responds to controls that are manipulated remotely. Eager to prove herself, Petra agrees to disguise herself as a boy and sneak into the University to help him, but soon... Read More

Poisoned Blade: Will Efea rise?

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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 issues and much more while cr... Read More

Girl in the Shadows: Pick a card, any card

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Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond

Gwenda Bond has a real gift for writing believable, interesting teenaged protagonists, and puts that gift to use in Girl in the Shadows (2016), the second installment in her CIRQUE AMERICAN series and a companion to the first novel, Girl on a Wire. Though not a true sequel, many primary characters from Girl on a Wire return as supporting characters in Girl in the Shadows, and key events from the first book have a definite effect on the second. While it’s not necessary to read them in order, enough hints are dropped regarding previous mysterious and tragic events that new readers are sure to be interested in the entire series.

Moira Mitchell wa... Read More

Children of Icarus: Interesting twists on familiar myths

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Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith

With her latest novel, Children of Icarus, Caighlan Smith takes what could have been a rehash of too-familiar YA tropes — a futuristic/dystopian setting, a promised paradise hiding a terrible secret, a band of scrappy teenagers rebelling against a faceless government — and enlivens them with innovative twists and updates on familiar Greek myths like Icarus, Daedalus’ labyrinth, and all manner of monsters.

Children of Icarus’s nameless narrator lives in the walled city of Daedalum; everything she could need, from markets to education to a temple ded... Read More

Abarat: A wild ride, a long way to go

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Abarat by Clive Barker

Clive Barker began writing THE BOOKS OF ABARAT series after painting a number of images inspired by dreams. The first book, Abarat, certainly possesses a dreamy, wonderland quality. I felt curiously aware throughout that I had entered a rather indulgent flight of Barker's imagination. I didn't buy the illustrated version of Abarat, (because, I admit, I didn't know anything about it) but if I could go back I probably would. It's a funny one because I usually like to make up my own mind about how an imaginary place looks. I get worried by detailed front covers as I suspect they are trying to plant images in my mind (and woe-behold any book with a television actress on the front). But when an author starts with a painting, hi... Read More

Winter of Fire: A surprisingly affecting little story

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Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan

Sherryl Jordan is a New Zealand-based author of young adult and children’s fantasy fiction. In Winter of Fire (1993) she tells the story of Elsha, a sixteen year old girl born into the enslaved underclass called the Quelled. As the sun has disappeared from the world, a memory only alive in mythology, the Quelled are forced to mine for the firestones that are the people's only source of warmth. But Elsha has a rebellious spirit and is often in trouble with the brutal overseers at the mine. They are from the upper class, the people known as the Chosen.

Elsha's life is changed forever when she is chosen to be the handmaid of the legendry Firelord. The Firelord is the most important man in the world as he possesses the power to divine for firestones, the life fuel of every person alive. The Firelord's choice is re... Read More

Beastly Bones: Beastly good fun

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Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Beastly Bones is the second book in William Ritter’s YA fantasy series JACKABY. R.F. Jackaby is a paranormal detective in the style of Sherlock Holmes, in 1892 New England, and Abigail Rook is his able assistant. Like the immortal Dr. Watson, Abigail is our story-teller, but in Beastly Bones she gets a chance to practice her first love, paleontology, when an intact fossilized skeleton of an unknown creature is found in nearby Gad’s Valley. Unfortunately, suspicious human deaths followed the discovery, and Jackaby and Abigail are called in to investigate.

Charlie Barker, whose family secret forced him to leave New Fiddleham’s metropolitan police force, is a deputy in Gad’s Valley, which let... Read More

Wolf by Wolf: A thrilling motorcycle race through an alternate history

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Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

The year is 1956. A decade ago, Hitler and the Nazis won World War Two, and Germany is now gearing up for the annual Axis Tour: a motorbike race in which the Axis powers — the Third Reich and Imperial Japan — compete to commemorate their victory over Britain and Russia. The race takes riders across seas and continents, from its kick-start in Germany all the way to the finishing line in Japan. Eighteen-year-old Yael, holocaust survivor and death camp escapee, has one goal: to win the race and kill Hitler.

Sequel



Yael’s story begins on a train. Rewind ten years from the race’s start, and we find an eight-year-old Yael and her mother stuffed into a train like cattle, along with hundreds of other souls destined for a death camp. But before she enters, a scientist picks Yael from the crowd of Jews to become a g... Read More

A Court of Thorns and Roses: Fantasy romance tropes mixed with grit

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A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

In a fantasy world where humans and faeries have a long and violent history together, there's been an uneasy, armed truce for many years. Feyre, the 19 year old daughter of a once-wealthy family fallen into deep poverty, is the provider for her beaten-down father and two sisters, hunting with bow and arrow to keep her family from starvation. It’s the dead of winter, game is extremely scarce, but she has the good fortune to spot a small doe. Not so fortunately, before she can shoot it an enormous wolf appears and kills the doe. Faeries are known to appear in wolf form, and to kill one is asking for trouble. Still, Feyre, with hatred for the fae in her heart, rationalizes that it’s probably not a faerie, and if it is, she’s doing the world a favor by killing it. So she shoots and kills the wolf with her handy, magic-neutralizing ash wood arrow, and sell... Read More

Cuckoo Song: Weird, scary and utterly unexpected

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

As usual, I am late to the party. Published in 2014, Cuckoo Song is Frances Hardinge’s sixth novel. Her debut novel, Fly by Night, won the Branford Boase First Novel Award and her 2015 novel The Lie Tree won the Costa Book Award, (the fi... Read More

The House: Genuinely creepy domestic thriller

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The House by Christina Lauren

Parental figures can be hard to deal with, especially when you’re a teenager. It seems like they’re always yelling at you to study, or to stop going out all the time, or else they’re stalking your significant other, or they’re making doorknobs vanish so that you’re trapped inside your own house as punishment for wanting to move out after you graduate from high school. It’s a rough time, no mistake, and explored to chilling effect in Christina Lauren’s The House.

Delilah Blue, seventeen years old and obsessed with horror movies, has returned to her childhood home after several years at an expensive private school back East. Her wealthy grandmother’s money has been forcibly reallocated to her end-of-life care and her father has lost his ... Read More

Shadowshaper: Five-star characters with five-star prose

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Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

I’ve commented before that I give very few five-star reviews. Usually, I expect a book to somehow change my thinking, or how I see the world, in order to rate it a five-star book. As I sat down to write this review I was going to say something like, “While that didn’t happen with Shadowshaper, by Daniel José Older, I still…” and then I thought more about it, and decided that Shadowshaper has changed how I think about the world, mostly because of the time I spent with the main character, Sierra Santiago, who is a hero, an artist and a genuine girl.

As far at the plot goes (and it’s a fast-paced one) in many ways Sierra is a classic Chosen One, a trope that some of us feel has been done a... Read More

Railhead: Imaginative and entertaining from beginning to end

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Railhead by Philip Reeve

If the idea of a heist aboard a sentient train traveling at faster-than-light speeds appeals to you; if said heist involves assumed identities, the theft of a very old and valuable artifact, and a criminal thumbing his nose at a family-run corporation/empire; if you like believable romance and honest-to-goodness fun, then Philip Reeve’s latest YA novel, Railhead, is for you. (If none of that appeals to you, read on anyway: I may be able to change your mind.)

In a galaxy filled with novelties like sentient trains who travel at faster-than-light speeds on specially crafted rails through K-gates stationed on nearly a thousand worlds and moons, Zen Starling is a light-fingered teen wh... Read More

Princess of Glass: The twelve dancing princesses tangle with Cinderella

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Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George

Three years after they have solved the problem of the evil underground King of Stone and his twelve sons in Princess of the Midnight Ball (or have they?), the king of Westfalin and his twelve daughters are still dealing with the aftermath. Some of the girls are suffering from PTSD, and the rulers of neighboring kingdoms are still bitter about the loss of their princes and other young men who died while trying to figure out the mystery of the dancing princesses in the first book. So the king of Westfalin institutes a type of exchange program, sending his daughters to other countries for extended stays with their royal families, to try to repair the relations with them and perhaps even to form some helpful alliances through marriages.

Princess of Glass follows one of the younger sisters, Poppy, now 1... Read More

And I Darken: A triumph

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And I Darken by Kiersten White

We first meet Lada Dragwyla at the tender age of two years old. She is brandishing a knife. At her father. No scene could more succinctly introduce the character of our heroine: she is brutal, fierce, bordering on sociopathic. Kiersten White explained that And I Darken tells the story as if Vlad the Impaler had been born female, and what she has created is one of the most exciting and original characters in fiction that’s been seen in a very long time.

Lada’s story starts at the very beginning, in Wallachia, where she desperately tries to win the affection and respect of her father. But Lada is a girl, which means she is virtually invisible in the time of the Ottoman Empire. She has a younger brother, Radu, who could not be more different to his sister. Where Lada is ruthless and daring, Radu is gentle, sensitiv... Read More

Dark Heart of Magic: A fast-paced teen fantasy adventure

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Dark Heart of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Note: Some spoilers for the first book, Cold Burn of Magic.

In Dark Heart of Magic, the second book in Jennifer Estep’s BLACK BLADE teen urban fantasy series, the adventures of seventeen year old Lila Merriweather ― orphan, ex-homeless person and pickpocket, current bodyguard, and swordfighter extraordinaire ― continue. In a world that contains both normal mortals and magicks, humans endowed with different magical powers, Lila has two extraordinary powers: soulsight, which enables her to read the emotions of another person by looking into their ey... Read More

Princess of the Midnight Ball: The twelve princesses dance again, and again…

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Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

The malevolent King Under Stone cuts not one deal, but two, with the queen of the country of Westfalin: first, that she will be able to have children; second, that Westfalin will be victorious in its battles against other countries. In return, the human queen agrees to spend one night per week dancing with the King Under Stone in his underground kingdom. But the once-human king has an agenda, and supernatural beings have a way of twisting their agreements to find loopholes. The Westfalin queen bears no sons, but has twelve daughters ― not coincidentally, matching the number of half-human sons of the King Under Stone, who plans for his sons to have mortal wives and thus break the king out of his underground bondage.

When the queen dies before fulfilling her bargain, the King Under Stone forces her twelve daughters to finish the contract... Read More

The Sapphire Cutlass: A dangerous cult hides in the Indian jungle

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The Sapphire Cutlass by Sharon Gosling

The Sapphire Cutlass is exactly the kind of fun YA romp I was hoping for when I started the DIAMOND THIEF series. The characters seem comfortable in their roles, the adventure is exotic, and the stakes are surprisingly high. Sharon Gosling seems to have hit her stride here, rewarding readers with equal measures of romance and action in a well-balanced novel.

Rémy Brunel, Thaddeus Rec, J, and orphaned moppet Dita have flown in their ruby-powered airship all the way from France to India. They seek many things: the location of J’s mentor Desai, information about a cult known as the Sapphire Cutlass, and the truth regarding Rémy’s “one true twin” brother, about whom she knows absolutely nothing. What they find... Read More

The Sin Eater’s Daughter: In which Sin Eating doesn’t feature

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The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Twylla is an executioner. Though she's been taken from her lowly home to live in the palace, been engaged to the prince, and is wanting of nothing, she is haunted by the people she must kill and resents every moment of her life in the palace. For her skin is poisonous and any person she comes into contact with dies a gruesome and painful death; only the prince is immune to her touch. But everything is not as it seems in the palace and soon Twylla will find herself questioning not only her role but also her faith.


Twylla has a cohort of guards, but when her personal guard falls ill, she falls into the sole care of Lief, a foreigner who is apparently immune to the fear the rest of the kingdom feels for Twylla. He's at ease where others are frightened, and keeps coming dangerously close to touching her where others stay away. Bu... Read More

Shadow and Bone: Same tropes, new story

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Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

YA can be more fickle than its literary cousins. It’s notorious for trends. There were wizards, vampires, and what feels like a decade’s worth of dystopias. The result is a glut of books with sassy female protagonists who discover they have a unique power, are fighting to save the world, and struggling to decide which hunky love interest to pick from in their love triangle. Shadow and Bone doesn’t do anything groundbreaking in terms of avoiding these tropes, but what it does do is tell them in a fresh and innovative way.

Alina Starkov was raised in an orphanage alongside her best friend (and future love, obviously), called Mal. They live in Ravka, a fantasy Russia of samovars and Grisha — powerful magical soldiers that work directly for the king. If you don’t have magic, you’re bumped down to the common army, where Al... Read More

The Ruby Airship: Slogging across France by land and by air

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The Ruby Airship by Sharon Gosling

The Ruby Airship is a direct sequel to The Diamond Thief and the second book in Sharon Gosling’s DIAMOND THIEF YA steampunk trilogy; though some key events from the previous book are recapped in this installment, I suggest that if you’re interested in the trilogy, you should read these books (and their reviews) in sequential order.

It’s been roughly six months since the water-soaked conclusion of The Diamond Thief. Rémy Brunel and a mechanically-inclined street urchin, known only as J, have moved into the Professor’s old workshop. Rémy works as a stage performer and moonlights as a vigilante, somehow having translated her skills as a trapeze artist into lite... Read More