Young Adult

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

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 dedicated to the fallen angel Icarus, is located in her apartment building. Once a year, a lottery is drawn from all the names of the children aged 10 - 16 in... 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