Young Adult

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

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

The Armored Saint: The battle against religious oppression

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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, and so forth. Heloise’s best friend Basina Tinker comes from ... 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

Orphan of Destiny: A clean and quick end to an entertaining trilogy

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Orphan of Destiny by Michael Spradlin

Believe it or not, I started reading this trilogy in 2010, and have only just managed to settle down with the final instalment. As such, my memories of the first two books, Keeper of the Grail and Trail of Fate, were a little fuzzy, though I did recall the general gist of the plot.

Tristan is a young Templar squire who has been charged by his master to find the Holy Grail and take it to a place of safety in Scotland. Having teamed up with Robard Hode (a young Englishman) and Maryam (an Arab assassin), he escapes the cliff-hanger of the previous book and finds himself back on English shores within the first few chapters.

From there the travell... Read More

Tarnished City: Powerful social commentary and engaging characters

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Tarnished City by Vic James

As much as I enjoyed Vic James’ 2017 debut novel, Gilded Cage, I thought there were a few missteps and odd choices, and I wasn’t sure what that meant for the second book in her DARK GIFTS trilogy, Tarnished City (2018). I am pleased to report that Tarnished City blew all of my expectations out of the water, improving on the first novel in every possible way and preparing readers for world-shaking consequences with a true nail-biter of a cliffhanger ending. (There’s very little hand-holding here, so I do recommend reading the books in close sequence if you’re at all fuzzy on previous details.)

T... Read More

Gilded Cage: The abuse of power by the super-powered

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Reposting to include Jana's new review.

Gilded Cage by Vic James

In the world of Gilded Cage (2017), there are those who are called Equals ― but there’s a deep divide between Equals, who have magical Skills, and the commoners, the Skilless, and they are decisively not equal. In England the Equals are both the aristocrats and the sole parliament, and they hold all the power, with the magical ability to enforce it.

One of the ways the Equals use their power is to require all commoners to spend ten years of their lives as slaves, known as slavedays. There are some interesting rules associated with this 10-year slavery law: there are advantages to doing it early in your life (such as the right to own a home, travel abroad, and hold certain jobs), you are required to begin t... Read More

Your One & Only: Entirely too familiar

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Your One & Only by Adrianne Finlay

While it’s debatable whether there are any new stories left to be told, I think that discovering fresh ideas or interesting twists within familiar stories is part of what makes reading so enjoyable. Aldous Huxley certainly didn’t create the Dystopian genre with Brave New World, nor did Lois Lowry with The Giver, and neither did Kazuo Ishiguro with Never Let Me Go Read More

Tempests and Slaughter: The education of young Numair

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Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

With Tempests and Slaughter (2018), Tamora Pierce launches a new series set in her beloved Tortall universe, which includes over twenty books. Pierce backtracks several years to relate the youthful experiences of Arram Draper, who plays a key role in other TORTALL books, particularly the IMMORTALS series, as the powerful mage Numair.

When Tempests and Slaughter begins, Arram is a ten year old boy, just beginning a new year at the School for Mages, part of the Imperial University of Carthak. Arram is much younger than most of his schoolmates at his level, and he feels the age difference keenly; in fact, he claims to be eleven, but that does little to narrow the social gap. ... Read More

The Diviners: YA supernatural horror

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners is a 2012 YA fantasy in the supernatural horror genre, and the first book in THE DIVINERS series by Libba Bray.  At a birthday party in Manhattan in the 1920's, a group of partying teenagers decides to play with a Ouija board. They promptly do several things they're really not supposed to do, like failing to make the spirit controlling the board say good-bye (is this really a thing?), thereby unleashing the spirit of a dead serial killer on the world.

The second chapter of The Diviners introduces our main character, Evie O’Neill, from Ohio. She's an insolent and self-centered seventeen-year-old who likes to party hard and drink too much gin. Evie spouts 1920’s slang almost every time she opens ... Read More

Bright Thrones: Whatever happened to Bettany?

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Bright Thrones by Kate Elliott

The Bright Thrones novella (2017) ties up some loose threads left after the conclusion of Poisoned Blade, the second book in Kate Elliott’s COURT OF FIVES trilogy. In the middle of that novel, Jessamy reunites briefly with her twin sister, Bettany, who appears to be in servitude to a famous foreign doctor, Lord Agalar. Very little about their strange situation is explained at the time, and circumstances drive the sisters apart just when it seems that a reunification (though certainly not a reconciliation) might be possible.

Most of Bright Thrones takes place before Bettany and Jes meet up at the royal f... Read More

Empire of Storms: The series is kicked up another notch

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Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

The fifth book (not counting the prequel novellas) in Sarah J. Maas's THRONE OF GLASS series is easily twice as long as the first book, but has one thing in common: half the story is a really good action-fantasy-adventure, and the other half is an overwrought "love" story.

In the case of Throne of Glass, the bad half was more to do with frivolous teenage angst impinging on what was otherwise a pretty serious fight-to-the-death tournament, but here it's the fact that nearly the entire cast of characters are caught up in rather melodramatic romances.

Love in YA fiction is usually (albeit accidentally) depicted as lust, angst, or a dire comb... Read More

The Hazel Wood: Not quite enough magic to enchant

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The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood (2018) is one of those novels whose reputation precedes it. Authors and critics alike are singing the book's praises, dubbing it mesmerising, creepy, captivating. It promises to be a dark and twisting fairytale in the vein of Caraval and The Bear and the Nightingale, but can Melissa Albert's debut live up to its own hype?

Alice and her mother have moved from place to place for as long as she can remember. Whenever they settle anywhere too long, sinister things begin to happen, so they've spent Alice's childhood trying to outrun the bad luck that constantly hounds them. But when Alice's grandmo... Read More

Queen of Shadows: More intrigue and adventure for Aelin and her allies

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Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

I have to admit I'm still not completely sold on Sarah J. Maas's THRONE OF GLASS series, though the fact I'm still reading must mean the pros outweigh the cons. There's been a pattern to my reading experience: every second book has been an improvement on its predecessor, which means I wasn't too impressed by Throne of Glass, was pleasantly surprised with Crown of Midnight, felt rather lukewarm about Heir of Fire, and returned to my former enthusiasm with Queen of S... Read More

Heir of Fire: Opens up more plots, introduces more characters

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Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

This is the third book in Sarah J. Maas's THRONE OF GLASS series, detailing the journey of Celaena Sardothien throughout the fantasy world of Erilea; specifically her ongoing struggle to use her assassin's training to pursue justice throughout the land. Given that she's in the employ of the corrupt King of Adarlan, this requires a fair bit of subterfuge and deceit, for as we learned at the end of the previous book, Celaena is actually the lost queen of Terrasen and the heir to its throne.

In a reasonably good twist on the usual fantasy clichés, it turns out that Celaena knew her true identity all along and was simply keeping it a secret. Now sent on a mission to assassinate the rulers of Wendlyn, Celaena is instead discovered by a fae nobleman called Rowan and... Read More

Markswoman: A mostly-solid debut

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Markswoman by Rati Mehrotra

Markswoman, the 2018 debut from Rati Mehrotra, is mostly a YA fantasy novel with a post-apocalyptic Earth background and sci-fi elements sprinkled in for flair. It’s an ambitious undertaking, and though it doesn’t always succeed, the characters and their world are interesting and Mehrotra’s prose is compelling.

Kyra, an orphan newly initiated as a Markswoman in the Order of Kali, has spent the majority of her life training as an elite warrior and learning to wield her kalishium blade — a short sword which has telepathic abilities. The Order took her in after her entire family was slaughtered, and has trained her in various deadly arts under the tutelage of their leader, Shirin Mam. But dissent swells in the ranks, led by the ambitious Mistress of Mental... Read More

Hermes by George O’Connor

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Hermes by George O’Connor

Hermes (2018) is the tenth book in George O’Connor’s stellar illustrated Greek gods series, and really, at this point there’s little to say that every household, especially but not exclusively, those with children, should have these books on the shelf and just automatically add them as O’Connor comes up with them. They’re just that good.

This one opens with a former slave and his dog traveling the countryside until they stop at a cottage where a many-eyed figure is the watchman over a very fine cow tethered outside. In exchange for some food and wine, the traveler offers to tell the watchman some stories, all of which, as one might imagine from the title, deal with Hermes. Logically enough, they begin with his birth and then his first act as an in... Read More

Beneath the Sugar Sky: A delightful confection with a heart for diversity

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Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

In Beneath the Sugar Sky (2018), the third book in Seanan McGuire’s WAYWARD CHILDREN series, we return to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, that haven for children and teens who once found their way through portals to other, magical worlds but have been involuntarily returned to ours. At Eleanor West’s boarding school, at least they find others who believe them and empathize, and desperately hope with them for a way to return to a magic world where they truly felt they belonged.

At Eleanor’s there's a new girl, Cora, cautiously making her way through the halls and through daily life. Cora's been teased and abused as overweight all her days, except for that glorious time she slipped through a portal to a world calle... Read More

Sinless: Aims for more than superficiality, but misses the mark

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Sinless by Sarah Tarkoff

In many ways, Sarah Tarkoff’s debut novel Sinless (2018) follows the Dystopian YA rule book: a young woman in the near future discovers that the seemingly-idyllic world she lives in is built upon a foundation of lies, and in the process of deciding how best to fight back, discovers previously untapped depths of pluck (as well as previously-unrequited feelings for a dashing and rebellious young man from her childhood). This specific young woman is Grace Luther, the daughter of a well-connected American cleric, and her world is one of beauty and service to the Great Spirit, who made its presence known gradually around the globe in the years 2024-2025. People who are pure in thought and deed are gifted with glorious good looks, while people who transgress instantaneously experience a range of punishments from disfiguring ugliness to a sl... Read More

The Maze Runner: Not as gripping as it could be

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Reposting to include Tim's new review.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner (2009) is a young adult read that zips along, mostly keeping the reader’s interest. James Dashner’s new novel is relatively suspenseful, but never as gripping as it could be due to weaknesses in detail and character.

The Maze Runner starts off strongly. Thomas is riding upward in a creaky old elevator, seemingly forever. Details have been wiped from Tomas’ memory, so he has no idea of where he’s coming from or where he’s heading. In fact, he has no idea who he is save for his name. When he arrives, it’s in a place known as “The Glade,” a relatively large open area bounded by towering stonewalls and populated by a group of boys, all of whom arrived as he did and with their memories wiped as well... Read More

Point Blank: Alex Rider is back (in more ways than one!)

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Point Blank by Anthony Horowitz

I read the first book in the ALEX RIDER series (Stormbreaker) several years ago, and since I enjoyed it so much, I've no idea why it's taken me this long to get to its sequel: Point Blank, named for the elite boarding school high in the French Alps. Here the troubled sons of millionaires are sent in order to be tutored in isolation, away from any bad influences, though MI5 is concerned when two of the students' fathers are found dead in unusual circumstances. Surely it can't be a coincidence?

They decide to send in Alex Rider, the nephew of deceased agent Ian Rider, who has previously been used to infiltrate an organization that only a teenager could explore without attracting undue attention. Trained by MI5 and given a ... Read More