Young Adult

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

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 feet 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

The Armored Saint: Reads as a very long prologue

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Reposting to include Jana's new review.

The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

In Heloise’s land, the foremost rule of the Order is clear: “Suffer no wizard to live.” For the exercise of magical powers, it is said, will open a portal to hell through the eyes of the wizard, allowing devils to come through and wreak destruction among men. But all sixteen year old Heloise can see is the oppression of the religious Order, which allows its Sojourners and Pilgrims to bully and oppress the common people. Anyone even suspected of using magical powers, or protecting those who have such powers, is immediately executed by the flail- and chain-bearing Order members, who act in the name of the Emperor.

Heloise Factor lives with her parents in the small medieval-type village of Hammersdown, where families are named for the father’s profession: Factor, Trapper, Fletcher, Grower,... Read More

The Diminished: The moon has two faces

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The Diminished by Kaitlyn Sage Patterson

A shattered moon, broken into two halves, is featured on the cover of The Diminished (2018), Kaitlyn Sage Patterson’s debut YA fantasy novel. It’s an apt symbol for the world created in this novel: the vast majority of people are born as twins, with a mystical emotional tie between them. The chapters alternate between the points of view of two sixteen year old characters at opposite end of society: defiant Vi, one of the diminished, and kindhearted Bo, the designated heir to the throne.

When one twin dies, sooner or later the other twin almost invariably falls into a profound and often murderously violent grief, unable to cope with life without their twin. Vi Abernathy is one of these surviving twins, called the diminished or (derogatively) dimmies; her twin Prudence died soon after birth. Though Vi h... Read More

The Heart Forger: A strong sequel

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The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

The Heart Forger's (2018) prequel ended with the young bone witch, Tea, about to march upon the kingdom with an army of corpses and a bevy of monsters to boot. We pick up the story precisely where it was left off with Tea's shock lover (for those of you who remember the twist ending of The Bone Witch) in tow.

Sticking to the same formula used in The Bone Witch, the narrative jumps between past and present, once more in a style reminiscent of THE KINGKILLER CHRONICLE series. The bard continues to narrate Tea's march upon the royals in the present day, presenting a very different version to the novice asha (that is, a ... Read More

Sky in the Deep: Axe-wielding star-crossed lovers

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Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Eelyn lives only to fight with her father, her best friend Mýra, and the rest of the Aska clan against their mortal enemies, the Riki clan. Every five years, the clans meet on the battlefield and do their very best to slaughter one another, then return home with the survivors to heal their wounds and train for another five years. Eelyn doesn’t question why the Aska are bound up in this eternal blood-feud; this is how things have always been, this is how they will always be, and the best death Eelyn can imagine is in battle against the Riki. Should she die ingloriously, however, or be captured as a slave, she will be denied entrance into the Aska afterlife, and will lose all honor.

Her older brother, Iri, died while fighting the Riki five years previously, so when Eelyn sees him fighting alongside the Riki, she becomes obsessed with determining whether ... Read More

Scythe: Killing with (or without) kindness

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Scythe by Neal Shusterman

I’m unfamiliar with Neal Shusterman’s other novels and his work on television shows like Animorphs and Goosebumps, but simply based on what I enjoyed about Scythe (2016) and considering that it was nominated for the Printz Award in 2017, I feel confident in saying that he knows how to write for his audience while throwing in some interesting curveballs that keep this novel, the first in a dystopian YA trilogy, from feeling like a rubber-stamp duplication of every mediocre example of that genre.

Scythe sets up a future world in which humanity no longer fears aging, disease, famine, or war — we have eliminated our worst foes and national boundaries, and now, basic needs are met by a powerful global A.I. known as Thunderhead. (Modern cloud storage turned up to 11, basically.... Read More

Magic of Wind and Mist: Enchanting and entertaining

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Magic of Wind and Mist by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Cassandra Rose Clarke originally published two novels, The Assassin’s Curse and The Pirate’s Wish, which were later collected in the omnibus Magic of Blood and Sea. The omnibus Magic of Wind and Mist (2017) collects two more novels, The Wizard’s Promise and its previously-unpublished sequel, The Nobleman’s Revenge. Magic of Wind and Mist is directly affected by the events within Magic of Blood and Sea, and certain events and characters will ma... Read More

Shadowhouse Fall: Still magical, still powerful, still wonderful

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Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older

Daniel José Older’s Shadowshaper was one of the best books of 2015 — not “best YA books” but best books of all categories. It featured an engaging, authentic female hero, an original magical system, mundane issues as well as magical ones, and a distinctive voice and sensibility. 2017’s sequel, Shadowhouse Fall, shows no second-book slump in this series.

Sierra Santiago is mastering her skill as a shadowshaper, an ability that melds spirit contact with art, and adjusting to her new role as the Lucera, but things are not calm or quiet in her neighborhood. A powerful rival group called the Sorrows still pursues her. Early in the ... Read More

Red Glove: Sacrifices the main plot for intriguing settings and secondary characters

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Red Glove by Holly Black

Following the events of White Cat, Red Glove (2011) finds Cassel, the protagonist of Holly Black’s series THE CURSE WORKERS, simultaneously dealing with no shortage of familial drama and direct fallout from his actions in the earlier installment. Red Glove is thus a direct continuation of the series that seeks to build upon the established characters, world, and particular circumstances revealed at the end of the first novel: with varying success.

Red Glove takes the time to let the reader engage more with the stand-out secondary characters of the series. Some of my favourites, like Cassel... Read More

Tess of the Road: A tough start, a solid if meandering rest

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Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

This is the third book I’ve read by Rachel Hartman set in her fictional word. I absolutely loved the first, Seraphina, and was greatly disappointed by the second, Shadow Scale. Unfortunately, Tess of the Road (2018) falls more toward the latter than the former, making for another disappointing foray into this setting.

While set in the same world and in roughly the same timeline as the first books (it covers a lot of ground thanks to flashbacks, so there’s both overlapping and later events), and sharing as well some of the same characters in... Read More

Warrior Witch: A bittersweet conclusion to a strong YA trilogy

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Warrior Witch by Danielle L. Jensen

The third and final book in Danielle L. Jensen's THE MALEDICTION TRILOGY picks up right where its predecessor left off: with the death of the witch Anushka and her curse upon the trolls lifted. Now they're able to leave their city under the mountain, which is bad news for humanity since they're led by the deranged prince Roland and his puppet-master Duke Angouleme. Their first objective is to overthrow the country and subdue all its people, and only Tristan and Cecile, the star-crossed lovers whose marriage was meant to prevent such chaos, can stop them.

Working within the tangled web of magical rules and regulations that have been established in previous books (such as trolls being unable to lie, but also able to extract unbreakable promises... Read More

Hidden Huntress: Avoids the usual pitfalls of the middle book in a trilogy

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Hidden Huntress by Danielle L. Jensen

The second book in Danielle L. Jensen's THE MALEDICTION TRILOGY continues the complex political intrigue between the powerful trolls who live beneath the mountain and the eighteenth-century humans who dwell on the surface. In the first book, Stolen Songbird, a truce was attempted by an arranged marriage between Tristan, the heir to the troll kingdom, and Cecile, a kidnapped opera singer. Their union was prophesied to dissolve the magical barrier that keeps the trolls beneath the earth, one put in place by the witch Anushka hundreds of years ago — but the trolls still remain imprisoned.

As so often happens in YA books, the dislike and mistrust... Read More

The Dark Intercept: Doesn’t hold together

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The Dark Intercept by Julia Keller

The Dark Intercept (2017) by Julia Keller is another teen dystopia, and while it has at its core an intriguing concept, bolstered by a few well written passages, overall it feels only partially thought through, with the reader skating too far out on the thin ice of weak characterization, flimsy world-building, and poor plotting, until finally falling through.

Sixteen-year-old Violet Crowley lives (say this in Trailer Guy voice, please) in a world that has been divided into the haves of New Earth, floating above the planet in a perfect community, and the have-nots of Old Earth, stuck on the pollution-ravaged, crime-ravaged, disease-ravaged, well, just ravaged former home to humanity. Violet is not just a resident of New Earth, she’s the daughter ... Read More

Stolen Songbird: A mixture of the inventive and expected

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Stolen Songbird by Danielle L. Jensen

YA fantasy has experienced an influx of sparkly vampires, fallen angels and broody fey-creatures in the past ten years, but this is the first time I've seen trolls toted as desirable romantic partners. When I hear the word "troll" I think of the large and grotesque creatures from The Hobbit or The Three Billy Goats Gruff, but Danielle Jensen reimagines them as creatures that are human in shape, but deformed in features. Our first glimpse of one is described thusly: "the two sides of his face, so flawless on their own, were like halves of a fractured sculpture put back together askew."

Meanwhile, the King of the Trolls is hugely obese, and the Queen is a Siamese twin (her doll-sized sister grows out of her back)... Read More