Young Adult

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

Jackaby: Fun start to a fresh YA fantasy series

Jackaby by William Ritter

William Ritter’s Jackaby is a pleasant young adult mystery with a smart girl main character and a title character who is the Sherlock Holmes of the paranormal.

It’s 1892 in New England, and Abigail Rook has just stepped off a freighter onto the waterfront of New Fiddleham. Abigail is British, the daughter of a socialite mother and a globe-trotting paleontologist father. Raised to be a lacy, docile, obedient girl, Abigail kicked over the traces and went to Europe on a “dinosaur dig” of her own. The funds ran out, and now she is stuck in New England.

Her first night in the new town, Abigail encounters a young man who can describe just where she’s been in Europe. He says he is doing it from observation, but what he claims to be observing are the supernatural creatures who tagged along with Abigail, unbeknownst to her. She writes him off as e... Read More

Daughters of Ruin: An interesting concept, but a muddled execution

Daughters of Ruin by K.D. Castner

Daughters of Ruin is the debut novel from K.D. Castner and, presumably, the first of four books. This first title focuses on Princess Rhea of the Kingdom of Meridan, shown on the cover in her country’s colors (red and gold) and displaying an ornate set of jewelry which also doubles as her weapon of choice.  The cover art is quite striking, and seems to promise a tale full of intrigue and danger, but I couldn’t see past the narrative missteps and flimsy logic, and Daughters of Ruin never came to more than a disappointment for me.

The plot has a fascinating premise: after long years of war with the neighboring kingdoms of Tasan, Findain, and Corent, King Declan of Meridan declared that he would symbolically adopt one daughter of royal blood from those countries and raise them alongside his own daughter. This would be known as ... Read More

Lois Lane: Double Down: A worthy successor to Fallout

Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond

Building on the successes of 2015’s Lois Lane: Fallout, Gwenda Bond takes everything that fans loved about that book and throws even more entertainment into its sequel, Lois Lane: Double Down. Excellent friendships? Check. An online romance between two people who respect one another and view each other as friends above all else? Check. Hard-nosed investigation of nefarious dealings, sprinkled with a dash of shadowy criminals? Check. Mysterious and possibly crackpot sightings of a flying man? Check. You don’t need to have read Fallout to enjoy Double Down — Bond does a great job of making sure there are allusions to the first book while letting the second stand on its own feet — but reading the books in sequen... Read More

Passenger: A perilous voyage through time

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Whilst the concept of time travel itself is nothing groundbreaking, a time-travelling violin virtuoso and a swashbuckling sailor from different centuries is. Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger opens in present-day New York where our protagonist, young violinist Etta Spencer, is on the verge of making her solo debut. But mid-performance she is dragged through a ‘passage’ and finds herself in the midst of a battle between two ships in the Atlantic... in 1776.

Enter Nicholas Carter, an 18th century privateer born as the result of a white man’s rape of an African slave, who is tasked with delivering Etta to his employer. Said employer is the formidable Cyrus Ironwood, head of a powerful time-travelling family who intends to make sure that he has control over all of the historical ... Read More

The Diamond Thief: Popcorn-fun YA steampunk

The Diamond Thief by Sharon Gosling

The Diamond Thief is the first book in the trilogy of the same name by Sharon Gosling; it’s a YA steampunk series set in Victorian England featuring Rémy Brunel, a circus acrobat by day and a jewel thief by night. Rémy seems to have some sort of metaphysical or psychic connection with jewels, and can determine just by holding a gem whether it is valuable or a piece of fancy glass.

Thaddeus Rec is an orphaned teenaged detective who is determined to rise through the ranks of Scotland Yard and prove, with the help of an eccentric and elderly mentor, that he is more than the son of common thieves. That mentor, The Professor, functions as the Doc Brown to Thaddeus’ Marty McFly, providing him with a surrogate parent’s guidance as well as all sorts of nifty toys which aid Thaddeus in his investigations. When a valuable diamond goes missing and both Ré... Read More

Rebel of the Sands: Gun-slinging Wild West meets Arabian Nights

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

You’ll find no meek or modest brides, no princesses in distress in this Arabian tale. Amani Al’Hiza is our gun-toting, liquor-swigging heroine in this debut from Alwyn Hamilton, who needs to escape from her deadbeat hometown of Dustwalk, or end up wed or dead.

We first meet our sixteen-year-old heroine Amani dressed as a boy, entering a shoot-out to try and win the prize money that’ll get her out of Dustwalk. She is an ace shot, maybe the best in her town, so the competition should be in the bag. That is, until she meets a dark-eyed foreigner called Jin that seems to have as much to hide as she does. When the shoot-out goes awry, Amani and Jin only just manage to escape, but Amani winds up having to return home, a little poorer and a little more bruised than she set out.

Things go from bad to worse. Not only does home consist of a cramped room shared with h... Read More

Railhead: Imaginative and entertaining from beginning to end

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 who lives with his mother and older sister Myka; their mother suffers from paranoid delusions, and every time her fears ... Read More

Once Upon a Time in the North: Lee Scoresby meets Iorek Byrnison

Once Upon a Time in the North by Philip Pullman

Lee Scoresby, a young Texan aeronaut, and his dæmon, Hester the rabbit, land their balloon in Novy Odense, a frontier harbor in the North. Lee is all but broke, so he goes into town looking for business. There’s no work for an aeronaut, but there is a lot of trouble waiting for an honorable man. Naturally, Lee and Hester wind up in the middle of it.

It turns out that the Larsen Manganese, a mining company, has allied with Ivan Demitrovich Poliakov, a mayoral candidate, as part of their scheme to control of the North. The company’s guards are throwing their weight around Novy Odense, which disrupts honest trade, while Poliakov incites hate against the bears, including one Iorek Byrnison, which distracts from the Northern takeover. Lee winds up siding with the bears and businessmen, even if it means risking a gunfight against Poliakov and the mining company’s agents.
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Dominion: An exciting, satisfying conclusion to the trilogy

Dominion by John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard

The CHRONICLES OF THE INVADERS by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard comes to a satisfying conclusion with Dominion, the final book of the trilogy. We get a post-apocalyptic survival story on earth, an off-planet prison break, space battles, and political skullduggery and espionage in the halls of the Nairene Sisterhood. Each character faces multiple layers of jeopardy as the story comes to a close, and it’s not certain that everyone we like will live.

In the past, the Illyri invaded and conquered Earth. The conquest was uneasy because the human resistance movement kept fighting. Illyri girls Syl Hellais and her friend Ani Cienda met Paul and Steven, human members of that resistance. Syl and Paul fell in love, and soon discovered... Read More

The Lost Boys Symphony: If destiny exists, can it be overturned?

The Lost Boys Symphony by Mark Andrew Ferguson

Henry, formerly a music student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, has run away from home in search of his former girlfriend, Val. Henry’s always been different — listening to music no one else can hear, fixating on certain objects, and exhibiting odd behavior — but since their break-up, his mental and physical health has been on a rapid decline. One night, he sets off on foot for Manhattan, convinced that he’ll find her among the thousands of other NYU students, and that her presence will calm the turmoil in his mind. As he crosses the George Washington Bridge, however, he is overcome by a fugue state, and awakens in the presence of two men who claim to be able to help him put his life back together. Meanwhile, Henry’s disappearance causes Val to reconnect with Henry’s childhood friend, Gabe, and their initial emotional support for one another blossoms into a deeper con... Read More

Silver in the Blood: Gilded Age debutantes’ adventures in Transylvania

Silver in the Blood by Jessica Day George

In 1897, seventeen year old, Louisa (Lou) and Dacia, cousins, close friends, and high society debutantes, are excitedly traveling from New York City to Bucharest, Romania for an extended stay with their Florescu family relatives, on their mothers' sides. Dacia is traveling with her mother’s sister, Aunt Kate, while Lou is traveling along a separate route to Romania with both of her parents.

But their eagerly anticipated trip starts to go wrong. Dacia made the mistake of flirting too much with a young man in London, and now Aunt Kate is restricting her every move. Wolves haunt their train ride to Bucharest and block it temporarily by leaving something unmentionable on the track; a man whom Dacia has never before seen appears and kisses Aunt Kate in a “scandalous” manner. A stranger accosts Lou on the boat to France and accuses her of being "the Wing." And once they reach Bucharest, th... Read More

Glass Sword: A disappointing follow-up to Red Queen

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Warning: Will contain spoilers for the previous book, Red Queen.

After escaping from Maven and Queen Elara’s clutches, Mare soon finds herself on a new mission for the rebel cause. While she quietly processes Maven’s betrayal, Mare must race against the clock to rescue other “newbloods” like herself and recruit them to the rebels’ side. All the while, Maven and his army are pursuing her, and they are willing to take down anyone who gets in their way.

I hate to say it, but I'm disappointed by Glass Sword. I loved Red Queen because it was fast-paced and engaging. Unfortunately, the majority of Victoria Ave... Read More

Blackout: Super-powers with realistic consequences

Blackout by Robison Wells

Robison WellsBlackout is, at first glance, just another typical dystopian YA novel. The chapters are short, the sentences shorter, and the vocabulary wouldn't be a stretch for most junior high students. Good teenagers are in conflict with bad teenagers and seemingly every adult in existence; adults can't be trusted as authority figures because they aren't special and they exploit the people who are. I would guess that a potential blurb for the book might read as, "Who can you trust when your own body might betray you?"

Thankfully, Wells came up with an interesting premise — some American teenagers have mysteriously developed special powers, ranging from laughable (heating a liquid by blowing on it) to expected (mind control, super-strength) to terrifying (creating fissures in the earth via touch). The powers come with a price, generally a physical ailment, ... Read More

Red Queen: Solid world building and well-rounded characters

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen, the first book in the RED QUEEN trilogy, is a strong debut by Victoria Aveyard and I’m looking forward to reading the next books in the series. When I first began reading, I was struck by the similarities with the HUNGER GAMES trilogy, but by the end Red Queen managed to distinguish itself so much that I forgot to compare them.

The world is divided into Silvers, a small elite group who have special powers, and the Reds, the unmagical working class grunts. Reds are, in general, impoverished and work menial jobs or drafted to fight in one of the Silvers’ unending wars. Our protagonist, Mare Barrow, is a Red who winds up working as a servant in the palace. This doesn’t last long, however, as it is soon discovered that Mare somehow has the power to control electricity — somet... Read More

Calamity: A fun end to the series

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

The RECKONERS series finale is — for better or for worse — very much the typical Brandon Sanderson novel. Longtime fans will be fairly familiar at this point with the steps we take in Calamity, from meticulous build-up to carefully situated hints to action-packed confrontation to final twist. It may feel a little safe for that reason — Sanderson definitely doesn't try to break any new ground here — but it's meant to be a fun YA novel more than anything else, and on that level it succeeds. It's a good book, a successful conclusion to the series, and will satisfy the vast majority of its readership. If you liked the first two RECKONERS novels, you should go out and buy this one.

No? Still need more convincing? Well, then. In this, o... Read More

Cuckoo Song: Weird, scary and utterly unexpected

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 first children's book to do so since Philip Pullman's Read More

Truthwitch: A decent series starter, but has its issues

Reposting to include Tadiana's new review:

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch is a solidly engaging YA fantasy from Susan Dennard that, I’m guessing, will have a lot of fans (even if it isn’t quite my cup of tea) despite its sometimes nagging issues of craft. I’m assuming the first won’t matter because most of the book’s readers are probably far less weary of teen romance in their YA fantasy than I am, and the second reading obstacle — those craft issues — will most likely be outweighed by the fans’ positive response to Dennard’s depiction of the tight bond between the novel’s two strong female characters.

Those two young woman, Iseult and Safiya, are unregistered witches — Safiya is a Truthwitch able to discern lies from truth; Iseult is a Threadwitch, one who can see the emotional ties (“threads”) between people. While Threadwitches ... Read More

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

Reposting to include Tadiana'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

Cinder: A robotic twist on a classic fairy tale

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Once upon a time, a cyborg in New Beijing was trying to reattach her mechanical foot. It’s not quite the way the conventional fairytale begins, but that’s the best thing about Marissa Meyer’s Cinder: it’s a completely new take on the Cinderella theme and a breath of fresh air in the YA genre.

Cinder is a mechanic working in New Beijing, though she is not just any old mechanic. She is the best in the city. One morning she is trying to attach a new foot with the help of her android Iko, when a young man in a hooded jumper approaches her stall. Cinder realises it’s Prince Kai, son of the Emperor of New Beijing and general heartthrob of the city. But don’t let me lose you there — it doesn’t all descend into romantic pulp. On the contrary, Cinder does everything she can to get rid of Kai; being a cyborg, she’s considered an inferior citizen and she tri... Read More

Games Wizards Play: A lesser novel in the series but moves things along

Games Wizards Play by Diane Duane

Games Wizards Play is the tenth book in Diane Duane’s YOUNG WIZARDS series, and while a reader could struggle through it as a standalone, I’d say it’s definitely best read in the series, as there are many references to past events, a host of characters big and small and lots of terminology that will resonate more fully to fans of the series. As far as where it stands in that series (which I highly recommend, BTW), I’d say it’s one of the weaker books, though it does advance our main characters’ lives — both their wizardly ones and their personal ones — and set us up for future adventures.

The focus of the 600-plus page book is “The Invitational,” a sort of science fair for young wizards who get mentored as they create, then present, original spel... Read More

The Sleeper and the Spindle: Another treat from a favourite storyteller

Reposting to include Tadiana's new review:

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman's latest offering defies the conventions of your typical fairy tale not just in content but format as well. You won't be able to sit down and read this to your child in one sitting as despite the multiple illustrations, for the story is lengthy and the font small.

Perhaps then it's better described as a fairy tale for adults, though I've always shied away from putting age restrictions on these types of stories. Let's go with calling it an illustrated short story that will be highly enjoyed by people of all ages with an interest in dark and twisted fairy tales.

The Queen of a faraway land is about to be married, at least until the arrival of three dwarfs bringing her news of events in the neighbouring kingdom. A sleeping curse has been laid upon a fair princess, but rather than th... Read More

Podkayne of Mars: Heinlein gives us a smart feministic mixed-race heroine

Podkayne of Mars by Robert A. Heinlein

Podkayne (“Poddy”) Fries is a pretty, mixed-race teenager who lives with her parents and her younger brother (Clark) on Mars. We learn about her family and her adventures via the diary entries she writes. Poddy tell us that her family was planning to take a vacation to visit Old Earth, but when there is a mix-up with some frozen embryos, they had to cancel the trip so Poddy’s mother can take care of the unexpected new babies. Poddy is devastated until her Uncle Tom, a man who is a respected politician on Mars, arranges to escort Poddy and Clark to earth on a luxury spaceship.

Poddy is not White.

On the spaceship Poddy and Clark make a friend and get to enjoy extravagant dinners and dances. Poddy learns a lot about how to fly a spaceship and, along the way, readers will learn quite a bit about space travel, including... Read More

The 5th Wave: One too many apocalypses in this YA alien novel

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

An alien apocalypse is Rick Yancey’s take on a new challenge for the plucky heroine prototype that has emerged in the wake of Katniss Everdeen. Whilst The 5th Wave is not quite a dystopia, there is something startlingly familiar about the feisty female lead who attempts to single-handedly take down the alien race that’s oppressing humankind in a post-apocalyptic world. With the film adaptation just released in the US, could this be the next YA mega-franchise?

First things first, how did the world fall to its knees? It seems Yancey couldn’t decide on his weapon of choice to wipe out humanity, so he chose them all. To begin with, there was an electromagnetic pulse that wiped out electricity, sending humanity back... Read More

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

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 career this quartet was published (1983 – 1988). This book, more ... Read More

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

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 OF THE LIONESS series is about old ways changing to make way for the new, and nowhere is that more blatant than in this b... Read More