Young Adult

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

Grudging: Siege and sacrifice in a Spanish realm

Grudging by Michelle Hauck

Grudging, a newly published young adult fantasy and the first in a new series called BIRTH OF SAINTS from Michelle Hauck, is set in a country reminiscent of medieval Spain, where noble warhorses are a soldier's right arm and religious faith is a significant part of most people's lives, giving this fantasy an somewhat unusual cultural flavor.

Seventeen year old Ramiro wants nothing more than to be a respected soldier in his pelotón like his older brother Salvador: to fight in hand-to-hand combat with his sword and earn the right to grow a beard, the ultimate sign of manhood in his society. Ramiro’s people avoid the legendary witches who live in the swamps and kill strangers with the magic in their voices. But when barbaric Northern invaders besiege Ramiro's walled city of Colina Hermosa and threaten to murder all who live there, his f... Read More

Retribution Falls: Everything I wanted from a tale about sky pirates

Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

Confession: I love pirates. Stories with pirates in them have captivated me for as long as I can remember (and I’ll blame my family for sitting me in front of such movies as Muppets Treasure Island and The Princess Bride) and continue to bring me great joy. With this in mind, you can imagine how excited I was when I found a pirate story by one of my favourite authors, Chris Wooding. Retribution Falls is everything I could have asked for from a swashbuckling tale: there are old foes, daring escapes, dirty jobs, betrayal, heartbreak, and breathtaking battles. Also, in a fashion I have grown to love, Wooding delivers a myriad of things that I didn’t ask for but absolutely wanted. If it wasn’t already apparent, I loved this story about flying pirates.

Darian F... Read More

Immortal Beloved: A light but promising new start to a supernatural trilogy

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan

Nastasya is a burned-out immortal who has spent hundreds of years trying to avoid any sort of real emotion. With her equally jaded friends, she spends all her time in endless, meaningless carousing. She’s not very likable at first, but that’s the whole point. When her friend Incy’s casual cruelty gives Nastasya a wake-up call about what her life has become, she doesn’t like herself much either.

Horrified with herself, afraid of Incy, Nastasya does the only thing she can think of. She turns to River, a woman who offered her help many decades ago. River runs River’s Edge, a halfway house for immortals that serves as part rehab, part magic school. Troubled immortals go there to relearn an appreciation for life and to study positive spellcraft. Nastasya doesn’t quite fit in at first but eventually comes to enjoy her stay at ... Read More

Six of Crows: An exciting fantasy heist

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo, best known for her GRISHA young adult magical fantasy trilogy, explores a different corner of the Grisha world in her new young adult novel, Six of Crows. In the city of Ketterdam, an analog for Amsterdam, criminal gangs control the waterfront, and the surrounding area is a den of iniquity where everything can be bought and sold, including people. One of the gangs, appropriately called the Dregs, is led by 17 year old Kaz Brekker, nicknamed “Dirtyhands” because of his willingness to stoop to any level to maintain and grow his power and control. His young crew has been gaining in power and influence during the few years he’s been in charge of it.

One day a wealthy merchant abducts Kaz and tells him an incredible story: a scientist, who is being held in an impenetrable fo... Read More

Hotel Ruby: “Hotel California” for the YA set

Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young

Stories of supernaturally-afflicted hotels are easy to find, but can be hard to get right. Characters first must be brought to the hotel, enticed to stay, and then convinced to linger even when presented with evidence that they should run for the hills. Suzanne Young takes a stab at the “haunted hotel” novel with Hotel Ruby, a mostly successful YA romance-horror mash-up with really enjoyable elements of surprise.

After their mother’s sudden and unexpected death, Audrey Casella and her older brother Daniel are being relocated from Arizona to Nevada, where their father will leave them in the care of their strict, aloof grandmother. Their father claims it’s just for a summer, so he can get himself back into a parenting frame of mind, but the teenagers know better. On the drive up, they decide to stop for a night at the Hotel Ruby, so Dad can get some much-... Read More

Jana chats YA Horror with Lindsay Francis Brambles (and gives away a book!)

Today Jana welcomes Lindsay Francis Brambles, whose debut YA horror novel Becoming Darkness is available from Switch Press (Jana’s review can be found here). They discuss world-building, fictional texts within novels, and the practical challenges of conveying fantastical ideas. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Becoming Darkness! (see below for giveaway details)

Jana Nyman: In Becoming Darkness, Sophie Harkness’ voice is vulnerable, yet self-assured, with all the nuances of a young woman who struggles with the challenges of adulthood and maturity while realizing how very little she knows about the greater world. Was it difficult to authentically portray that voice on the page? How did her character come to you,... Read More

The Monstrumologist: Genuine Gothic gross-out horror for young adults

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Yes, my dear child, monsters are real. I happen to have one hanging in my basement.

Rick Yancey’s story revolves around Dr. Wathrop who investigates and studies monsters — he’s the Monstrumologist. The setting is late 19th century New England, and the Monstrumologist has taken in Will Henry, the orphan of his former assistant. It’s through this young apprentice’s eyes that Yancey tells his tale of mythological monsters run amuck in pre-industrial Massachusetts. The Monstrumologist is a creepy, gothic, young-adult horror novel, and it’s a fun read.

The doctor is quirky and obsessed – he’d probably be diagnosed with Asperger’s’ Syndrome by modern therapists. He knows his monsters, but he’s not so good with people, and Yancey does a terrif... Read More

An Inheritance of Ashes: Probably going on my best books of 2015 list

An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet

There are two things to know about Leah Bobet’s An Inheritance of Ashes. The first is that it is going on my list of potential best books of the year. It’s that good. The other is that you should ignore the genre marketing which has Bobet’s novel listed as YA, I assume because of its sixteen-year-old protagonist. But An Inheritance of Ashes has a deeply adult sensibility, whether in its treatment of war, heroism, family, romance, or trauma, and it would be a shame if it were lost any readers due to labeling (even recognizing that many adult readers do read YA).

An Inheritance of Ashes is set just after the end of the war in the south against the Wicked God and his followers, which included human “irregulars” led by the prophet Asphodel Jones and “Twisted Things,” monstrous creatures wh... Read More

Throne of Glass: Didn’t much care for it

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 J. Maas really wanted to write a courtly romance/mystery book before someone put a gun to he... Read More

A Thousand Nights: An unusual take on the Scheherazade tale

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

When the dust rises over the desert, the villagers know that Lo-Melkhiin is coming with his guards to choose another wife. He always takes one wife from each village, or each district within a city. And she always dies.

E.K. Johnston’s A Thousand Nights is a young adult fantasy retelling of the Scheherazade framing story for One Thousand and One Nights, the famous collection of Persian, Arabic and Middle Eastern folk tales. Lo-Melkhiin is the ruler over a large area in the ancient Middle Eastern world. Those who know him know that he has changed from the caring person he used to be, though he is still a capable ruler. What they do not know is that when he rode out alone too far into the desert one day, his body was possessed by a ruthless creature — let’s call him a demon — who then proceeds to suck the power and life f... Read More

Becoming Darkness: Plenty of thrills with nary a sparkle in sight

Becoming Darkness by Lindsay Francis Brambles

Becoming Darkness is the first of the HAVEN trilogy by debut author Lindsay Francis Brambles, a YA horror series which asks “What if the Nazis won WWII?” with the added twist of a global vampirism plague. It’s mostly quite good, with allusions to literary predecessors like Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and layers of complicity in nearly a century’s-worth of conspiracies. The overall concept is interesting and the narrative flows well, and many of the characters are engaging.

In this universe, Hitler and his Nazi scientists experimented with biological warfare, eventually unleashing a plague — the Gomorrah virus — which destroyed an already flu-ravaged global population. Most of those who didn’t die outright became vampires, requiring blood for sustenance and gaining immortality. The humans w... Read More

The Scorpion Rules: The price of peace

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Sit down, kiddies. Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, humans were killing each other so fast that total extinction was looking possible, and it was my job to stop them.

Well, I say “my job.” I sort of took it upon myself. Expanded my portfolio a bit. I guess that surprised people. I don’t know how it surprised people — I mean, if they’d been paying the slightest bit of attention they’d have known that AIs have this built-in tendency to take over the world. Did we learn nothing from The Terminator, people?

So begins Erin Bow’s new young adult dystopian novel, The Scorpion Rules, with Talis, the snarky but cold-hearted artificial intelligence overlord of the earth, explaining how humanity got itself into its current bind. Ear... Read More

The Rest of Us Just Live Here: The invasion of Earth and other teenage problems

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

The problem with writing about unremarkable and average people is that they are unremarkable and average. In what is basically one long novel-sized homage to Xander from Buffy, Patrick Ness tackles what it is to be the underdog in his latest novel, The Rest of Us Just Live Here.

Mikey lives in a nondescript American town, trying to navigate the pitfalls of high school. There have been various catastrophes in the town’s history: a vampire invasion, a plague of soul-eating ghosts. When Ness mentions a time where the kids were bravely fighting cancer, it becomes obvious that he’s giving a sly nod to all the other YA franchises out there. Yet he chooses not to focus on the Bella Swans or the Katnisses or the Harry Potters or the Buffys. The focus of our story i... Read More

Illyria: A short story, a tiny bit of magic, a big impact

Illyria by Elizabeth Hand

It hardly feels right to class Elizabeth Hand’s Illyria as fantasy, and yet it won the World Fantasy Award for best novella in 2008, and who am I to argue? There are only a few very short scenes of a magical character spaced throughout this story and they are subtle, unexplained and un-commented upon. These moments linger in the reader’s mind, who is free to draw their own conclusions and find their own meaning. And yet despite the essentially non-magical nature of this story, Hand has managed to elevate the simple love of two young people to an enchanted status.

Maddy Tierney is the youngest daughter of a sprawling New York family. Her neighbours are her aunts and uncles and their many children, her life the rough and tumble that comes of having boisterous and numerous relations. Bu... Read More

Grasshopper Jungle: Gross and awesome

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Grasshopper Jungle is a weird book in many ways. Not only is it literally weird (it is a book about a giant 6-foot praying mantis invasion, genetically modified testicle-dissolving corn, a secret underground bunker for humanity to reproduce itself in and a dog that’s lost its bark), but it is also literaryily weird. That is, it’s hard to define. The marketing team must’ve realised that too, because it has been toted as appealing to fans of John Green, Stephen King and Michael Grant. It doesn’t really narrow down what readers ought to expect from the novel, but what transpired was one of the most moving, gross and groundbreaking books in YA today.

Austin, our protagonist, is as sexually confused as the novel is ge... Read More

The Weight of Feathers: Star-crossed love takes wing

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

The Romeo and Juliet story is updated with a few twists in Anna-Marie McLemore’s debut young adult fantasy novel, The Weight of Feathers, published September 15, 2015. Two rival families travel between small towns in California in a nostalgic setting that seems to be approximately the 1960s, performing their Cirque du Soleil-type acts for the townspeople. The French Romani Corbeaus (“Ravens”) attach wings made of wire and feathers to their bodies and perform acrobatics in the treetops; the young women in the Latino Paloma family (“Doves”) dress up as mermaids and do mystic underwater dance routines. What outsiders do not know is that the Corbeaus actually grow feathers in their hair, and the Palomas have escalas, small scattered birthmarks that look like fish scales.

For the last twenty years, the Corbeau/Paloma feud has tak... Read More

The Scorch Trials: A weak follow-up to a not-so-strong first book

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

I wasn’t a huge fan of The Maze Runner by James Dashner, thinking its frenetic pace was as much weakness as strength and that its characterization was pretty thin (plus there was the whole “let’s not have anyone talk to each other or explain things” pet peeve of mine). I admit, however, that it probably would meet the needs of a particular reader — one who likes fast paced action that blows by any annoying plot holes and who isn’t particularly looking for a lot of in-depth characterization. That same sort of reader will probably find the sequel, The Scorch Trials, just as satisfying, though again, for my own tastes, it falls mostly short of being a good book. It’s going to be impossible to discuss The Scorch Trials without some s... Read More

End of Days: A satisfying(ish) conclusion to an edge-of-your-seat thriller

End of Days by Susan Ee

End of Days is the third and final book in Susan Ee's post-apocalyptic PENRYN AND THE END OF DAYS trilogy, one which pits seventeen year old Penryn Young against hordes of angels who seem intent on bringing about the end of the world. More like an alien invasion than the Rapture, these Old Testament angels have decimated entire cities, leaving the remnants of humanity's population to scrounge in the streets.

Penryn has it worse than most, being the sole carer of her paraplegic sister Paige and her schizophrenic mother; struggling to keep all of them alive in the wastelands of San Francisco — at least until she manages to secure a truce with an injured archangel called Raffe, and gradually come to an understanding of what exactly the invasion is really about. Told in first-person narration by P... Read More

Snow Like Ashes: Some captivating ideas coupled with familiar details

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Snow Like Ashes is Sara Raasch’s debut fantasy novel and for that I commend its fast pace and the strong, if simple, premise. A lack of depth ultimately lets it down but Raasch may well be one to watch.

Our heroine, Meira, lives in a country divided into seasonal kingdoms (in Summer kingdom it is always summer; in Spring kingdom it is always spring — you get the idea). When Meira was a baby, her kingdom (Winter) was taken over by the dominant Spring. Along with a few others, including the infant heir to the throne of Winter, and a battle hardened warrior simply called “Sir”, she escaped. We meet the small group of survivors living in exile in the lands outside of the Seasons where they are training to overthrow the Spring kingdom and reclaim their homeland. To do so they need to reclaim both parts of a magical conduit that exists in the form of a loc... Read More

The Eye of the Heron: A short but complex novel suitable for all ages

The Eye of the Heron by Ursula K. Le Guin

Starscape (Tom Doherty’s YA imprint) presents The Eye of the Heron as a book for ages 10 and above. While the story is straightforward enough, the philosophical ideas that underpin the story are quite complex, so The Eye of the Heron is quite an interesting read for the more mature reader as well. Le Guin does not waste any words in telling the story, she delivers a to-the-point but surprisingly complex novel. If you read it at age 10, you’ll probably see it in a different light now.

The Eye of the Heron is set on a planet that was fairly recently colonized. Le Guin doesn’t mention a year but sometime in the 22nd century seems reasonable. Two waves of colonists have settled a small area of the planet. One group consists of criminals from a nation that covers South America, sent on a one way trip to dispose ... Read More

State of Grace: Drugs, sex, and sunshine — what could go wrong?

State of Grace by Hilary Badger

State of Grace is Hilary Badger’s first Young Adult novel, and it is a doozy. If you put the Biblical concept of the Garden of Eden, Lord of the Flies, and 1984 in a blender, added teenagers with really heavy emotional baggage and a liberal sprinkling of futuristic pharmaceuticals, and turned it on, the result would be a fascinating examination of personal choice and free will (and a terrible smoothie).

State of Grace begins in media res: Wren lives with ninety-nine other teenagers in an apparent paradise, seven days away from the highly anticipated and mysterious Completion Night. They wear loose-fitting sungarb and play naked in a lagoon, sleeping with whomever they want (though never the same person two nights in a row, as per the Books of Dot, and the sex is hinted at rather... Read More

Hunter: Magical monster-hunting

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

In Mercedes Lackey’s new young adult novel Hunter, post-apocalyptic science fiction mixes with magical fantasy to produce an adventure in the tradition of The Hunger Games and Divergent. A series of catastrophes called the “Diseray” — a corruption of Dies Irae — has hit our world: a nuclear bomb (blamed on Christians) was set off in the near east, the North and South Poles switched, plagues killed countless people, and storms have permanently grounded most aircraft. These disasters culminated in the Breakthrough, a permanent rift in reality that allows deadly magical creatures to invade our world from the Otherside. Luckily, along with all of the hostile magical monsters have come some friendly ones, called Hounds by humans, even t... Read More

To Hold the Bridge: An inventive and engaging collection of short-stories

To Hold the Bridge by Garth Nix

This is not the first time Garth Nix (or at least his publisher) has released an anthology like this one: a short story collection that heavily emphasizes the inclusion of a brand new tale set within the Old Kingdom (the setting of his most famous works: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen and the recent Clariel) but which also contains an eclectic assortment of unrelated stories.

The last anthology was called Across the Wall, and as with that book there may be a few readers disappointed in the fact that only the first story is set within the Old Kingdom – and unlike Across the Wall, it does not contain any familiar characters from the rest of the series, only the city of Belisaere and the Guilds that make up such a large part o... Read More

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

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).

A quick note for readers who may not be aware: A... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy

The Creeping by Alexandra Sirowy

What’s more frightening: a monster lurking in the shadows, kidnapping children for its dark and nefarious purposes — or a human being who does the same, terrible thing? Are there really supernatural creatures lurking at the edge of human existence, or do we just tell ourselves stories to gloss over how awful our species can be? Even worse, what if both scenarios are true? Alexandra Sirowy explores these questions in her Young Adult debut novel, The Creeping, and I would guess that what readers think about her answers will tell you a lot about themselves and the things they fear.

When Jeanie Talcott and Stella Cambren were six years old, they went into the forest surrounding their sleepy Minnesota town to pick strawberries. Only Stella came out, wild-eyed and rambling about monsters in the woods, covered in Jeanie’s blood. Jeanie’s body was never fo... Read More