YA

Fantasy Literature for Young Adults (teenagers). In order by rating (5 stars at the top).

Mortal Coils: Intellectually-challenging YA fantasy

Mortal Coils by Eric Nylund

Eric Nylund’s new novel Mortal Coils is a young adult urban fantasy which is lacking in werewolves and vampires. Thus, Mortal Coils is a wonderful entry into this genre and it doesn’t have to fall back on all things cliché.

Eliot and Fiona Post are twins being raised by a strict controlling grandmother in a small town in Northern California. They don’t get to do any of the normal things that their peers get to do. Their education is non-typical and excellent, but they are forced to live by a constantly growing list of rules that prohibit fun, imagination, and music.

But, the lives of the Post twins is not what it seems. Just before they turn 15, they discover that they are actually Immortals and Infernals — sort  of the equivalent of Greek gods and Arch-demons (which they are not allowed to study) — an... Read More

Ballad: Now is a good time to read Stiefvater’s Ballad

Ballad by Maggie Stiefvater
"James Antioch Morgan," the king of the dead said, and when he sang out James' name, it sounded like music. "You will be called to make a choice. Make the right one.”

James' eyes glittered in the darkness. "Which is the right one?"

"The one that hurts," Cernunnos said.
No one walked away unscathed from the events of Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception. James bears physical scars, along with a persistent torch for Deirdre, who only sees him as a friend. Dee, meanwhile, is pining for Luke and spiraling into depression. James and Dee think the faerie folk are through with them, but when they begin classes at Thornking-Ash, a residential fine-arts high school, trouble follows them there.

James finds himself tangled up with the faery Nuala. Nuala is a leanan sidhe, a type of faerie that inspires men to ar... Read More

The Storyteller and Other Tales: Needs to be savored

The Storyteller and Other Tales by K.V. Johansen

The Storyteller and Other Tales is a book of stories, and I mean that as the highest compliment. I felt like I was transported from the 21st century to some Thane’s hall with a roaring fire and a smoke hole instead of a chimney, while K.V. Johansen wove tales that took me to different and wonderful traditions.

Johansen is a fantasy scholar, and this shows up clearly in this book. The four tales that she presents use widely differing fantasy settings. "The Storyteller" is set in a Scandinavia-like land, in a world of little gods, ancient devils and power-hungry wizards. "He-Redeems" is set in the bronze age, and is told from the perspective of a simple, devout slave, and demonstrates the problems with blind obedience. "The Inexorable Tide" is an Arthurian story, the way it might really have been, and an explanation... Read More

The Alchemaster’s Apprentice: Fun for everyone

The Alchemaster's Apprentice by Walter Moers


First, my hearty thanks to the translator. I saw Walter Moers’s previous novel, The City of Dreaming Books, in the Berlin Airport in German. As a German linguist, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to translate prose like this. Simply amazing.

Walter Moerstakes us back into the world of Zamonia, but this time to a completely different city and with all-new characters. You don’t really need to have read previous books because he provides enough background as the story flows. The Alchemaster’s Apprentice is really a wonderful, if slightly darker, addition to the Zamonian world.

Our hero, Echo, is a Crat, which is much like a cat only with special abilities: Crats can understand and speak any language, they have extreme grace and dexterity, and th... Read More

Bewitching Season: A perfectly bewitching YA book

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle

Persephone and Penelope Leland are excited to start their first season as eligible women in London. At least Penelope is. Persephone is nervous, and besides, she’d much rather continue her studies in magic with their governess Ally.

The twin girls are witches — as is their governess — and in addition to their book and finishing training, Ally helps them to learn magic and how to use it responsibly. Things go horribly wrong however when Ally comes up missing a few short days before their coming out. When the family receives a cryptic note, the twins know something is not right, but have no idea what to do about their missing governess who they love and miss. Little do they know they are walking into a much bigger plot in which Ally is a central player, and to top it all off, Persephone has an admirer whom she has to try and fend off at the same time.

Read More

Leviathan: Confirms Scott Westerfeld as one of the best writers going

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan is the beginning of a new steampunk YA series by Scott Westerfeld, author of other well-known (and highly recommended) YA series such as Uglies and Midnighters, along with one of my favorite non-YA science fiction works of recent memory, The Risen Empire (even more highly recommended). As is usual with good YA, don’t let the label turn you away; Westerfeld knows how to write for a younger audience without dumbing things down and without excluding older readers.

Leviathan is set in a mostly familiar historical world just on the cusp of World War I. Familiar as in the geography, populations, etc. are all pretty much the same — you’ve got your Austro-Hungarians, Germans, British Empire, etc and your Arch-Duke... Read More

Weetzie Bat: Dangerous Angels: Kaleidoscopes, pink cotton candy, psychedelic music

Weetzie Bat: Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block

Francesca Lia Block writes strange but intoxicating tales; stories that are surreal and yet oddly comforting. To classify her books are nearly impossible. The format is that of fairytales, in which her protagonists face a series of challenges, and learn a valuable life lesson by book’s end. Yet her genre is that of magic realism, in which she fills the city of Los Angeles (and in one case, New York) with all sorts of weird and wonderful occurrences, such as wishes granted by genies, conversations with ghosts, and spiritual power derived from Native American artifacts, plot threads that are interwoven with more “mundane” issues such as burgeoning sexuality, substance abuse and dysfunctional families. Her style is something else altogether, and it’s really not something I can even begin to describe. It has to speak for itself…but I guess i... Read More

Dealing with Dragons: No more embroidery!

Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Princess Cimorene is tired of embroidery, etiquette, and protocol classes. She wants to take Latin, fencing, magic, and cooking lessons instead. But, that's just "not done." So to avoid a betrothal to a handsome and charming (but not particularly bright) prince, she runs away to become housekeeper for a dragon. As a dragon's princess, Cimorene gets the freedom to cook and clean and to organize libraries and treasure rooms. She also has to fend off persistent knights who come to rescue her, and investigate the actions of a couple of sneaky wizards.

Patricia C. Wrede's Dealing with Dragons is a refreshing change from some of the more recent fantasy epics aimed at teenage girls. It's light, fun, and often hilarious as it pokes fun at several fairy tales and fantasy clichés. The plot moves rapidly and the writing is clear and precise. The... Read More

The Pox Party: A Pox on Rationalists!

The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson

"I do not believe they ever meant unkindness."

So Octavian says of those to whom he was an experiment, to those who claimed he was chattel, to those who weighed his excrement daily and compared it to his intake.

It is perhaps this book's most frightening truth that he is correct.

Octavian and his mother were sold into slavery in the 1760s, in Boston, to The Novanglian College of Lucidity. These men were rationalists, and sought to discover — once all of the niceties are removed — whether the Negro was inferior to the European. Octavian was taught "the arts and knowledge of the physical world... the strictest instruction in ethics... kindness, filial duty, piety, obedience, and humility," Latin, Greek, the violin, and while learning these things, he was dressed in silk and lavished with luxuries.

Yet we immediately see the detached scientist in... Read More

The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray

The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding

If you enjoy the atmosphere and imagination of Philip Pullman, Garth Nix, or Philip Reeve, then you're sure to like Chris Wooding, a YA fantasy author who does not feel the need to fill his fantasy world with elves, dwarfs, wizards, dragons and every other fantasy cliché that's been done to death since Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings.

Some authors are willing to explore new territory, and Wooding is one of these. The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray Read More

Uglies: Recommended for teens with issues

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld's Uglies is a futuristic teen adventure book that will keep even adult readers enthralled from the first page.

Tally is ready to be pretty. When you turn sixteen in this futuristic world, you are plucked from school and taken to have the “operation” that turns you from an Ugly into a Pretty. When you're pretty you can do anything. You get to move to New Pretty Town and party all night long if you choose and Tally can't wait to join her friends who have already “turned.”

By turn of chance Tally meets Shay. Another “Ugly” like herself who happens to share her birthday. As their friendship grows and they embark on new adventures together, Shay lets Tally in on her secret: She doesn't want to be pretty. Tally can't understand her new friend's defiance and refuses to run away with her. When the authorities find out that Shay is ... Read More

Pretties: A sequel that doesn’t disappoint

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Finally, a sequel that does not disappoint!

Tally finally has all she ever wanted: She's pretty, she's popular, she's in the coolest clique in New Pretty Town. What could possibly go wrong now?

Nothing does... until the night of the coolest costume party ever when a blast from the past shows up and leaves her a mystery to follow. All of a sudden Tally and her new friend Zane not only have a mystery to solve, but two tiny white pills to take...and no clue what they will do to them.

Once again, Scott Westerfeld has whisked us off to a sci-fi adventure world with more twists and turns that even a Hoverboard can handle. I can't wait to read the next book! Read More

The Legends of King Arthur: One of the best retellings

THE LEGENDS OF KING ARTHUR TRILOGY by Rosemary Sutcliff

There are countless retellings and adaptations concerning the life and times of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and I'm not even close to having read all of them. Therefore, it's impossible for me to say that Rosemary Sutcliff's version is the definitive Arthurian retelling. However, it's certainly one of the best. Told in Sutcliff's graceful prose that is both epic and intimate when need-be, and the tricky subjects like incest, adultery and bloodshed are conveyed without being either too prudish or overly graphic.

The first instalment, The Sword and the Circle: King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, is thicker than the next two books combined, and Sutcliff draws on a wide range of sources with which to build her own narrative. Going back to the circumstances of Arthur's birth as outl... Read More

Witch Week: Each character is a gem

Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

So says the note that Mr Crossley finds hidden between the exercise books in class 2Y. In any other world, this would be seen as a harmless joke, but at Larwood House for witch orphans, in a world run by Inquisitors and where witch-burnings still take place, such things are taken deadly seriously. Who is the witch? Chubby Nan Pilgrim, named after the most famous Arch-Witch? Sullen Charles Morgan, who holds a sympathetic view toward witches? Or weird Brian Wentworth, who behaviour gets stranger by the day?

Then the anonymous witch starts having some fun — a flock of exotic birds in music class, a removal of all the shoes in the school. The hunt is on among students and teachers to find the culprit, with the threat of the merciless Inquisitors visiting the school at the back of all their minds. But as the mystery deepens, several of the students seem to find that they themselves have magical powers,... Read More

Dark Lord of Derkholm: A gem

Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

Sometimes, when you're rummaging around in the heap that the fantasy shelves can at times be, you find a gem. It's a small, unassuming little thing, but all the more precious for being so unexpected. Diana Wynne Jones' Dark Lord of Derkholm is such a gem.

I'm not sure which came first, this or her Tough Guide to Fantasyland, but one obviously spawned the other. This means that Dark Lord of Derkholm is a satirical, delightfully irreverent little novel. Yet while it spears the genre with great skill and humor, it contains depths the likes of which many so-called serious fantasy novels never achieve.

The characters range from endearing and fun to annoying and fun, and though there are those to love and those to hate, there weren't any I disliked be... Read More

Fire and Hemlock: Heaps of stars

Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

With a sudden flash, college-aged Polly remembers her old friend Thomas Lynn, and realizes it's been years since she thought of him. It's almost like he's been erased from her memory, she thinks. Strange, since as she delves deeper into her memories, he turns out to have been her best friend, and the one bright spot in a very difficult adolescence.

Trying to solve the mystery of why he has vanished from her life, she asks around, only to find that none of her friends or family remember him either — they think Thomas was an imaginary friend she made up. Was he? Or has something else happened? And if he is real, where has he gone?

Diana Wynne Jones draws us into her spell with this novel, never letting us put it down. The story gets more and more intricate as is progresses, making less and less sense, and we are captivated, unable to turn away until we know what's going on. An e... Read More

The Hunger Games: As dark as its premise promises

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Suzanne Collins has already proven her talent for storytelling with her recently completed Gregor the Underlander series. In that series, she showed she was able to create strong characters, move plot along quickly, deftly control the rise and fall in tension, and create moving scenes. While there were some weak sections in the series (sometimes the pace moved too quickly, settings often could have been more detailed, and a few characters could have been more richly drawn), by the end she had crafted one of the best YA series to hit the shelves the past few years — a thoughtful, often dark, almost always rewarding series.

I'm happy to report that with book one of The Hunger Games, there is no sophomore slump. In fact, Suzanne Collins returns with a starting book that is more tightly focused, more moving, more quickly p... Read More

Graceling: Exhilarates in both the large and small

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore’s Graceling is a wonderfully surefooted novel that pleases from start to finish. It is set in the land of the Seven Kingdoms, where some (Gracelings) are born with a particular talent ranging in scope and usefulness: mind-reading, fighting, cooking, climbing trees, etc. The main character, Lady Katsa, has a fighter/killer Grace which she usually employs (rarely happily) in the service of her uncle, King Randa as his “muscle.” The story opens with a bang (actually some flying kicks, savage punches, useless swordplay, and so on) as Katsa uses her Grace for her own purpose, performing a daring rescue of an old man kept prisoner by another king. On the mission, she meets another Graceling fighter, Prince Po (son of yet a third king).

The rest of Graceling explores several plot avenues. One is Katsa... Read More

Lips Touch Three Times: I want to squeal like a crazed fangirl

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

I'm having a hard time reviewing Lips Touch: Three Times. Intelligent language seems to be failing me. I don't want to write a review so much as I want to jump up and down and squeal like a crazed fangirl. Lips Touch is chocolate in book form. It's dark, it's rich, it's delicious, and it's precisely to my taste.

Lips Touch is a collection of three stories; the common theme, as you might guess from the title, is the kiss. In fairy tales, a kiss is often the catalyst for transformation. Laini Taylor is, without a doubt, writing fairy tales here. From the threads of older stories, she weaves new tales that have all the power of the old.

The first story, "Goblin Fruit," is set in the present day and features an unpopular high school student, Kizzy, whose unfulfilled longings make her eas... Read More

Heart of Ice: A dark intriguing fairytale

Heart of Ice by Louise Cooper

Louise Cooper's Dark Enchantment books are a series of reasonably short novels, all stand-alone stories, that cater well to the young teenage girl who likes a blend of romance, mystery, mild horror and fairytale. Though I don't fit into that age group anymore, the books in the Dark Enchantment series are nice, quick reads, perfect for cold wintry nights by the fire, just complex enough to hold my interest.

In Heart of Ice, young Jansie is heartbroken when her older sister Tavia marries Silvan, partly because her beloved sister will now be living miles away, and partly because Jansie herself is in love with the dashing, prince-like Silvan. But after the Winter Solstice, Jansie is invited to Silvan's huge and isolated house to keep her sister company while he is away on busi... Read More

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