Tag Archives: fantasy

The Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco

The Shadowglass by Rin Chupeco. March 5, 2019. Sourcebooks Fire, 449 p. ISBN: 9781492660606.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The epic finale to The Bone Witch series! As Tea’s dark magic eats away at her, she must save the one she loves most, even while her life―and the kingdoms―are on the brink of destruction.

In the Eight Kingdoms, none have greater strength or influence than the asha, who hold elemental magic. But only a bone witch has the power to raise the dead. Tea has used this dark magic to breathe life into those she has loved and lost…and those who would join her army against the deceitful royals. But Tea’s quest to conjure a shadowglass, to achieve immortality for the one person she loves most in the world, threatens to consume her.

Tea’s heartsglass only grows darker with each new betrayal. Her work with the monstrous azi, her thirst for retribution, her desire to unmask the Faceless―they all feed the darkrot that is gradually consuming her heartsglass. She is haunted by blackouts and strange visions, and when she wakes with blood on her hands, Tea must answer to a power greater than the elder asha or even her conscience. Tea’s life―and the fate of the kingdoms―hangs in the balance.

Sequel to: The Heart Forger

Part of series: The Bone Witch (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. Chupeco brings her Bone Witch trilogy to a bittersweet close in this final volume of dark asha Tea’s saga. It begins in medias res with characters previously loyal to Tea now turned against her and Tea’s whereabouts unknown. These scenes, filled with confusion and anger, are juxtaposed with letters Tea sends to her bard, detailing her activities and revelations since leaving him behind. Thus, readers bounce back and forth in time, growing ever nearer to the “present” moment while cobbling together her story. Tea’s desire to expose corruption within asha society drives her as much as her determination to create a shadow glass for the sake of saving her brother, Fox. Her dual quests take her to various kingdoms, but her increasingly dangerous, unpredictable behavior fractures her supporters. Chupeco really digs into asha mythology here, challenging characters’ beliefs—none more than Tea’s. While this builds tension and further enriches the world, it decidedly slows the story’s action. Nevertheless, it remains required reading for fans of the first two novels, whose many questions will finally be answered.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2018)
Tea prepares to make the greatest sacrifice in this impassioned finale to the Bone Witch series. In the present, Fox angrily searches for his bone witch sister, Tea, who will stop at nothing to save him from the half-life he has been living since she raised him from the dead. In the past, Tea is on a quest for First Harvest, the magical plant she needs to revive her brother, which she can only use after acquiring shadowglass. Conjuring shadowglass requires a black heart, and Tea’s darkens as she continues to wield dark magic to achieve her goals. More and more lose faith in her when she becomes plagued with haunting visions and, in her sleep, kills an innocent with her own hands. But someone is using a blight rune to transform people into terrifying daevalike monsters, and it may very well be the same traitor in Tea’s inner circle who has been poisoning her. Though the storylines never truly converge, readers gain insight into Tea’s destructive choices and their aftereffects. Exhaustive explanations of asha history are important to the plot but weighty. Transgender Likh’s exploration of her identity honestly complements Tea’s own journey toward self-discovery, and readers will root for both their romances. Characters have a variety of skin tones, but race is not significant in this world. A worthy conclusion to a story that is, at its core, about love and letting go. (maps, kingdom guide) (Fantasy. 13-adult)

About the Author

Despite an unsettling resemblance to Japanese revenants, Rin always maintains her sense of hummus. Born and raised in Manila, Philippines, she keeps four pets: a dog, two birds, and a husband.

Her website is www.rinchupeco.com.

 

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Cicada by Shaun Tan

Cicada by Shaun Tan. January 29, 2019. Arthur A. Levine, 32 p. ISBN: 9781338298390.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.8.

From the visionary Shaun Tan, an inspirational story for older picture book readers and beyond

Cicada tells the story of a hardworking little cicada who is completely unappreciated for what he does. But in the end, just when you think he’s given up, he makes a transformation into something ineffably beautiful. A metaphor for growing up? A bit of inspiration for the unappreciated striver in all of us? Yes, yes, and more.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

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Reviews

Booklist (December 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 8))
Grades 6-9. From award-winning Tan comes another nonpareil picture book. Tan’s eponymous Cicada is a mistreated office worker in a grim office building, employed by a company truly Kafkaesque in its brutal devotion to minutiae. “Seventeen year,” says our protagonist. “No promotion. Human Resources say Cicada not human. Need no resources. Tok Tok Tok!” We see the Cicada retire quietly from its mundane, thankless job, homeless and impoverished—a pathos evenly played in Tan’s deft hand. Tan juxtaposes the heartrending despondency of the story with a new sense of wonder as we see the cicada begin anew outside of his dreary office, just as the muted tones of the man-made office building are ignited by the verdant, gleaming cicada itself. As Tan’s books often do, this seems to defy categorization—its themes, admittedly, are perhaps too mature for the standard picture-book crowd. But for older readers drawn to unusual narrative formats, this book could work wonders with its nuanced, hopeful depiction of individuality. Illustrated with graceful restraint, this book is a stirring vignette of a life lived against the grain.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2018)
Tan’s narratives often critique traditional office culture; this one features the inhumane treatment of the protagonist, a cicada dressed in a four-armed gray suit, complete with tie and pocket square. Oriented vertically, the insect does not reach the top of his human co-workers’ desks, thus skewing the perspective so their heads are not visible. The green data entry clerk works in a gray maze of cubicles. Despite his exceptional performance and strong work ethic, he must walk blocks to a bathroom and is physically bullied. Readers will recognize forms of marginalization throughout, i.e., the elevator buttons are too high, poverty forces residency in the office wall. Cicada language is primitive and rhythmic: “Seventeen year. No promotion. / Human resources say cicada not human. / Need no resources. / Tok Tok Tok!” The last line is a refrain following each brief description, suggesting both the sound of a clock (time passing) and the notion of cicada “talk.” Upon retiring, he ascends the long stairway to the skyscraper’s ledge. The oil paintings of shadowy, cramped spaces transition to a brightened sky; a split in Cicada’s body reveals a molten glow. An orange-red winged nymph emerges and joins a sky full of friends flying to the forest, where they have the last laugh. No Kafkaesque conclusion here; metamorphosis brings liberation and joy. Simultaneously sobering and uplifting, it will lead thoughtful readers to contemplate othering in their own lives. (Picture book. 12-adult)

About the Author

Shaun Tan (born 1974) is the illustrator and author of award-winning children’s books. After freelancing for some years from a studio at Mt. Lawley, Tan relocated to Melbourne, Victoria in 2007. Tan was the Illustrator in Residence at the University of Melbourne’s Department of Language Literacy and Arts Education for two weeks through an annual Fellowship offered by the May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust. 2009 World Fantasy Award for Best Artist.
2011 he won his first Oscar in the Category Best Short Animated Film for his work The Lost Thing.

His website is www.shauntan.net

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The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. February 12, 2019. Tor Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780765379962.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

“If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams… And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.”

January is a dying planet–divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk.

But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside.

Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal.

But fate has other plans–and Sophie’s ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Disturbing imagery, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (December 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 7))
Night and day are places, not changes occasioned by the rotation of the planet; the only two human settlements are treacherously far apart; and life is harsh, bound by incineration and impossible cold. Mouth is an outsider in the city of Xiosphant, part of a traveling band of trader-smugglers, the Resourceful Couriers, and the only survivor of the nomadic Citizens. In Xiosphant, time and sleep are tightly regulated. Sophie, who has made it into the university and has always had trouble sleeping during the shuttered times, becomes part of a group of student revolutionaries. Caught, sentenced to be executed, and forced to climb Old Mother Mountain, Sophie encounters a deadly, tentacled indigenous life-form that saves her from bone-shattering cold and, communicating through thought transference, befriends her. Violence, politics, betrayal, love, friendship, encounters with alien predators, and experiences in a dying city entwine to create a conflicted world in an even stronger novel than Anders’ Nebula Award–winning All the Birds in the Sky (2016); a tale that can stand beside such enduring works as Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), Frank Herbert’s Dune (1965), and Dan Simmons’ Hyperion (1989).

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2018)
After environmental sci-fi/fantasy (the award-winning All the Birds in the Sky, 2016) and pop-culture dystopia (Rock Manning Goes for Broke, 2018), Anders shifts gears for this sweeping work of anthropological/social sf. In the distant future, the descendants of a colony spaceship have settled precariously on the hostile planet of January, swarming with vicious predators and dangerous weather patterns. One side of the planet continually faces the sun, while the other faces the frozen dark of space. Humans have built two main cities on the light side: the rigidly rules- and caste-bound Xiosphant, where guards wait to seize you for the slightest infraction, and the more licentious Argelo, run by various warring gangs. In Xiosphant, shy, working-class student Sophie idolizes her upper-crust roommate, Bianca, who loves parties and seeking power. But Bianca’s flirtation with revolution drives Sophie first into the brutal hands of the police, and then into the saving pincers and tentacles of January’s nightside-living, sentient native species, dismissed by the colonists as brute beasts. But these creatures, whom Sophie dubs the “Gelet,” develop a psychic bond with her, and their willingness to share understanding and friendship changes her forever. One person the new Sophie slowly manages to influence is Mouth, a smuggler and survivor of an otherwise extinct nomadic band, who’s desperately seeking both a connection to her lost past and a reason to forge a future. But ultimately, Sophie can’t exert a similar influence over Bianca; despite Bianca’s claims of caring for her, she chooses to exploit Sophie’s vulnerabilities instead of granting her the understanding and acceptance Sophie craves. In our world, Bianca would represent the worst kind of faux “woke” liberal. She’s an angry woman who thinks she’s making a difference, but she doesn’t really want to help people or even listen to them; she just wants to be the one in charge and profit from it. Watching Sophie come into her own and gradually (and almost too late) realize that the Bianca she loves doesn’t exist is inevitable, sad, and, eventually, empowering. Anders contains multitudes; it’s always a fascinating and worthwhile surprise to see what she comes up with next.

About the Author

Charlie Jane Anders’ latest novel is The City in the Middle of the Night. She’s also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which won the Nebula, Crawford and Locus awards, and Choir Boy, which won a Lambda Literary Award. Plus a novella called Rock Manning Goes For Broke and a short story collection called Six Months, Three Days, Five Others. Her short fiction has appeared in Tor.com, Boston ReviewTin HouseConjunctions, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionWired Magazine, Slate, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Lightspeed, ZYZZYVA, Catamaran Literary Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and tons of anthologies. Her story “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo Award, and her story “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue” won a Theodore Sturgeon Award.

Charlie Jane also organizes the monthly Writers With Drinks reading series, and co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct with Annalee Newitz.

Her website is charliejane.com/

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The Wicked King by Holly Black

The Wicked King by Holly Black. January 8, 2019. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 322 p. ISBN: 9780316310352.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
 
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.
 
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her younger brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to humiliate and undermine her even as his fascination with her remains undiminished.
When it becomes all too clear that someone close to Jude means to betray her, threatening her own life and the lives of everyone she loves, Jude must uncover the traitor and fight her own complicated feelings for Cardan to maintain control as a mortal in a Faerie world.

Sequel to: The Cruel Prince

Part of Series: The Folk in the Air (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Gore, Strong sexual themes, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (October 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. Jude Duarte is no stranger to uneasy alliances. Raised by the man who killed her parents, a liar in a court of faeries compelled to speak only the truth, and recently betrayed, for love, by her twin sister, Jude long ago learned to keep her motivations a secret and her heart safe. In a deft play in The Cruel Prince​ (2018), she both allied with and manipulated Cardan, the prince she’s always had a dangerous relationship with. To keep her younger brother, the heir of Faerie, safe, Jude placed Cardan on the throne instead; now she and Cardan rule together through their tenuous, volatile partnership. But Faerie is a dangerous world, and Jude has never truly belonged there. Someone is working against her, endangering her life and the lives of her family, and Jude will need every ounce of cunning and every bit of hardness she’s learned to make it out intact. This second in a series neatly avoids the second-book slump; readers of the planned trilogy’s first volume will be expecting plot twists, so it’s even more impressive that this manages to stay one step ahead of its readers. Black expands the reaches of her brutally beautiful world and the depths of her deadly, vulnerable characters, and the employ of yet another cliff-hanger ending will leave readers agonized. A sinister, singular thrill.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2018)
A heady blend of courtly double-crossing, Faerie lore, and toxic attraction swirls together in the sequel to The Cruel Prince (2018). Five months after engineering a coup, human teen Jude is starting to feel the strain of secretly controlling King Cardan and running his Faerie kingdom. Jude’s self-loathing and anger at the traumatic events of her childhood (her Faerie “dad” killed her parents, and Faerie is not a particularly easy place even for the best-adjusted human) drive her ambition, which is tempered by her desire to make the world she loves and hates a little fairer. Much of the story revolves around plotting (the Queen of the Undersea wants the throne; Jude’s Faerie father wants power; Jude’s twin, Taryn, wants her Faerie betrothed by her side), but the underlying tension—sexual and political—between Jude and Cardan also takes some unexpected twists. Black’s writing is both contemporary and classic; her world is, at this point, intensely well-realized, so that some plot twists seem almost inevitable. Faerie is a strange place where immortal, multihued, multiformed denizens can’t lie but can twist everything; Jude—who can lie—is an outlier, and her first-person, present-tense narration reveals more than she would choose. With curly dark brown hair, Jude and Taryn are never identified by race in human terms. A rare second volume that surpasses the first, with, happily, more intrigue and passion still to come. (map) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

About the Author

Holly Black is the author of bestselling contemporary fantasy books for kids and teens. Some of her titles include The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare), The Darkest Part of the Forest, and her new series which begins with The Cruel Prince in January 2018.

She has been a a finalist for an Eisner Award, and the recipient of the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award and a Newbery Honor. She currently lives in New England with her husband and son in a house with a secret door.

Her website is www.blackholly.com.

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The Girl King by Mimi Yu

The Girl King by Mimi Yu. January 8, 2019. Bloomsbury YA, 481 p. ISBN: 9781681198897.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Two sisters become unwitting rivals in a war to claim the title of Emperor in this richly imagined, Asian-inspired fantasy for fans of Renée Ahdieh and Sabaa Tahir.

Sisters Lu and Min have always known their places as the princesses of the Empire of the First Flame: assertive Lu will be named her father’s heir and become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while timid Min will lead a quiet life in Lu’s shadow. Until their father names their male cousin Set his heir instead, sending ripples through the realm and throwing both girls’ lives into utter chaos.

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu has no choice but to go on the run, leaving Min to face the volatile court alone. Lu soon crosses paths with Nokhai, the lone, unlikely survivor of the Ashina, a clan of nomadic wolf shapeshifters. Nok never learned to shift–or to trust the empire that killed his family–but working with the princess might be the only way to unlock his true power.

As Lu and Nok form a shaky alliance, Min’s own hidden power awakens, a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set’s reign . . . or allow her to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could very well turn out to be each other.

This sweeping fantasy set against a world of buried ancient magic and political intrigue weaves an unforgettable story of ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

Part of Series: The Girl King(Book #1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Grotesque imagery, Mild sexual themes, Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 7-10. Princess Lu has trained since birth to become empress after her father’s passing, but he names her cousin his successor instead. When she challenges Lord Set to a contest to determine the rightful heir, she is ambushed and flees north to find an army to reclaim her kingdom. Instead she finds Nokhai, one of the few remaining shapeshifters in the empire and a former friend from her childhood, and although Lu was the reason for some of Nok’s scars, they journey north together. Meanwhile, Set marries Lu’s younger, submissive sister, Min, who has hidden magical abilities, and the four are on a collision course that could destroy everything they hold dear. First-time author Yu has ably crafted a fast-paced, seamless fantasy adventure full of action, mysticism, and female empowerment. Indeed, the women in the story are, with one exception, much more interesting than the men. Give this to fans of Cinda Williams Chima’s Shattered Realms series, Lauren DeStefano’s The Glass Spare​ (2017), or Susan Dennard’s Witchlands series.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2018)
Two sisters—and the fate of an empire between them. Lu eagerly anticipates being appointed the next empress of the Hu dynasty. She has been training her body for battle since the age of 7 and at 16 is planning her first decree. Also known as the Small Princess, Minyi admires and resents her hotheaded sister. Lu’s plans go awry when the ailing emperor betroths her to Lord Set, naming him the successor. Plotting, scheming, and assassination attempts drive the sisters in different directions. Lu seeks to raise her own army with the help of the surviving Gifted Kith, shape-shifters, and the Yunians, magic users. Meanwhile, caught between the manipulations of Set, a monk, and her mother, Min awakens to a power she struggles to understand and the mean pleasure she derives from using it. Neither Min nor Lu are particularly likable characters: Lu’s arrogance is clearly displayed, while Minyi is emotionally self-flagellating at every opportunity. They are relatable, however, in terms of living in a sibling’s shadow and redefining the person you wish to be. The worldbuilding in this Asian-inspired setting is strong as the author slowly uncovers the empire’s origins, and the characters transform in surprising ways. Other than the gray eyes of the Hana family, most characters have dark brown eyes, black hair, and brown or tawny skin. Recommended for readers who enjoy imperfect characters and complex plots. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Mimi Yu was born and raised in rural upstate New York. Her hometown is the site of both the Women’s Rights Convention (1848) and the largest active landfill in New York State (ongoing).

She currently resides in the SF Bay Area of California, and soon she will live near Chicago. She has never been a midwesterner before, but she does enjoy a good casserole.

Besides books, Mimi likes quilting, gardening, drawing, picking up heavy weights, and pop music. She has four planets in Aquarius. She knows a little bit about a lot of animals, and far too much about cats.

Her website is www.mimiyu.info

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We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia. February 26, 2019. Katherine Tegen Books, 384 p. ISBN: 9780062691316.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In this daring and romantic fantasy debut perfect for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Latinx authors Zoraida Córdova and Anna-Marie McLemore, society wife-in-training Dani has a great awakening after being recruited by rebel spies and falling for her biggest rival.

At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.

Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.

And school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio.

Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or will she give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

Part of Series: We Set the Dark on Fire (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Mild language, Strong sexual themes, Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (November 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. In Medio, a myth tells of the Sun God, who took two wives, one wise and loyal, the other sensual and nurturing. Now, selected young women train to become the dual wives of the nation’s politicians: the Primera to be his partner in work and business, and the Segunda to run his home and family. Daniela’s poor parents lied to get her into the school, hoping to secure her a better future, and indeed, Dani has become the top Primera student, keeping her emotions in check and her forged papers a secret. Mateo, her new husband, seems strangely cold and cruel, and it doesn’t help that the family has chosen Dani’s longtime rival, Carmen, as their Segunda. But the worst comes when Dani is contacted by a resistance group and asked to spy on Mateo and politicos like him. As she learns more about Mateo’s narrow-mindedness and oppressive politics—​and as she and Carmen grow startlingly closer—Dani’s sympathy for the resistance grows, but is there even a life for her beyond this one? Like the revolution, Mejia’s world is carefully built. With its achingly slow-burn romance and incisive examination of power structures, this is a masterfully constructed novel, made all the more impressive as it’s a debut. This timely examination of how women move through the world is potent and precise, and readers will be eager for the sequel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 1, 2018)
Power, truth, and lies intertwine dangerously in Mejia’s debut novel about oppression and resistance with a cunning Latinx teenage heroine. Medio, an island nation divided by a wall, is literally in between extremes: “On one side there was the might of a nation. On the other, desperation.” Clear parallels to Mexico in imagery and themes abound. Born on the wrong side of the wall without legal papers, 17-year-old brown-skinned Daniela “Dani” Vargas graduates after 5 years of diligent training at an elite finishing school to join the powerful Garcia family as their son’s Primera. In this well-constructed world, an ancient mythology forms the basis for a practice in which husbands have two wives each: Primeras are quick-witted and emotionally restrained while Segundas are brave and passionate. When Dani’s Primera training falters in the face of her ruthless, power-hungry husband, her past overwhelms her present, and she is recruited to spy for the resistance. Excerpts from the Medio School for Girls rulebook precede each chapter, a juxtaposition that effectively reveals Dani’s conflicted self-awakening. An action-packed third-person narrative, smart dialogue, and lush descriptions offer readers a fresh and steely heroine in a contemporary coming-of-age story. This well-crafted fantasy offers a mirror that reflects themes in our own difficult world, namely privilege, immigration, and individualism versus the common good. A queer subplot with sensual tenderness adds rich complexity to the story. Thrilling and timely. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Tehlor Kay Mejia is a YA author and poet at home in the wild woods and alpine meadows of Southern Oregon. When she’s not writing, you can find her plucking at her guitar, stealing rosemary sprigs from overgrown gardens, or trying to make the perfect vegan tamale. She is active in the Latinx lit community, and passionate about representation for marginalized teens in media.

Her website is www.tehlorkaymejia.com

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Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao. November 6, 2018. Philomel Books, 384 p. ISBN: 9781524738327.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

This fairy tale retelling lives in a mystical world inspired by the Far East, where the Dragon Lord and the Serpent God battle for control of the earthly realm; it is here that the flawed heroine of Forest of a Thousand Lanterns finally meets her match. An epic fantasy finale to the Rise of the Empress novels.

Princess Jade has grown up in exile, hidden away in a monastery while her stepmother, the ruthless Xifeng, rules as Empress of Feng Lu. But the empire is in distress and its people are sinking into poverty and despair. Even though Jade doesn’t want the crown, she knows she is the only one who can dethrone the Empress and set the world right. Ready to reclaim her place as rightful heir, Jade embarks on a quest to raise the Dragon Lords and defeat Xifeng and the Serpent God once and for all. But will the same darkness that took Xifeng take Jade, too? Or will she find the strength within to save herself, her friends, and her empire?

Set in an East Asian-inspired fantasy world filled with breathtaking pain and beauty, Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix is filled with dazzling magic, powerful prose, and characters readers won’t soon forget.

Sequel to: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns

Part of Series: Rise of the Empress (Book #2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Harsh realities of war, Mild sexual themes, Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. Dao continues and completes her East Asian–inspired retelling of Snow White, incorporating historical, cultural, and folkloric elements for a stand-alone sequel that will likely inspire new readers to find the first volume. Princess Jade, raised by her devoted Amah in a secluded monastery, is turning 18 and is summoned back to court by her stepmother, Empress Xifeng, whose story was told in Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (2017). Jade’s father, Emperor Jun, is in failing health, and the Empress wants Jade close by—not necessarily to inherit the kingdom. Wren, Amah’s granddaughter, and Koichi, son of former Ambassador Shiro on neighboring Kamatsu, are among the rebels and allies determined to see the empress’ reign of terror end and Jade established as rightful ruler. Dao’s characters are complex and intriguing; villains are admirably drawn so the reader sees their paths to unfortunate decisions. Battles, military strategy, and romance blend with stories within stories as Dao brings this richly embroidered saga to a satisfying close. A detailed and comprehensible cast of characters easily situates new readers.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2018)
A young princess finds the courage to usurp an evil queen. Upon Empress Xifeng’s dark and violent rise to power, Princess Jade was sent to a monastery to be raised in meditative simplicity. Pure-hearted Jade is the daughter of Emperor Jun’s first wife and a descendant of the Dragon King—in other words, a constant threat to her evil stepmother’s rule—and is summoned back to the Imperial City for her 18th birthday celebration. Jade quickly discovers her stepmother’s plot to poison the emperor and murder Jade using blood magic from the sinister Serpent God. Disguised as a commoner, Jade escapes with the help of her beloved Amah (nursemaid) and a handful of servants still loyal to the true heir. Thus begins a quest to save the kingdoms of Feng Lu, following crumbs from Amah’s moral tales and a legend that prophesies that “the one who reunites the relics will bring peace to Feng Lu once more.” In this sequel to A Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (2017), Dao marries Chinese history with Western folklore, which will entrance some readers, but the well-trodden paths involving forbidden poisoned apples, legendary swords, and magic invisibility cloaks will frustrate those who enjoyed the rich characterizations in Book 1, Xifeng’s descent into villainy in particular. A grand adventure for fans of fairy tales, fables, and legends coupled with the vibrant history of Chinese dynasties. (Fantasy. 12-16)

About the Author

Julie C. Dao  is a proud Vietnamese-American who was born in upstate New York. She studied medicine in college, but came to realize blood and needles were her Kryptonite. By day, she worked in science news and research; by night, she wrote books about heroines unafraid to fight for their dreams, which inspired her to follow her passion of becoming a published author.  Julie lives in New England.

Her website is www.juliedao.com

Teacher Resources

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix on Common Sense Media

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West by Edith Pattou

West by Edith Pattou. October 23, 2018. HMH Books for Young Readers, 528 p. ISBN: 9781328773937.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 840.

In the sequel to the beloved high fantasy East, Rose sets off on a perilous journey to find her true love when he goes missing in a thrilling tale of danger, magic, adventure, and revenge.

When Rose first met Charles, he was trapped in the form of a white bear. To rescue him, Rose traveled to the land that lay east of the sun and west of the moon to defeat the evil Troll Queen. Now Rose has found her happily-ever-after with Charles—until a sudden storm destroys his ship and he is presumed dead. But Rose doesn’t believe the shipwreck was an act of nature, nor does she believe Charles is truly dead. Something much more sinister is at work. With mysterious and unstoppable forces threatening the lives of the people she loves, Rose must once again set off on a perilous journey. And this time, the fate of the entire world is at stake.

Part of Series: East (Book #1)

Sequel to: East

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 7-10. In this long-awaited sequel to East​ (2003), plucky, determined Rose once again finds herself on an arduous, life-or-death journey to rescue the man she loves. While East was a retelling of the Nordic fairy tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon, this is a wholly original adventure. After she rescued Charles, once trapped in the body of a white bear, from the evil Troll Queen, Rose settled down with Charles and their new son. But now Charles has been lost at sea, presumed dead. Rose, however, doesn’t believe he’s really gone, and terrible things are happening to her family and across the globe. Someone is pulling magical strings, and Rose will have both old and new enemies to face if she wants to protect what’s dear to her. Both East and its sequel stand alone, and this is an exciting, layered adventure that draws from various cultural mythologies. An epic drama featuring high romance and a resourceful heroine that will appeal to fans of Pattou and new readers alike.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2018)
Once upon a time (East, 2003), a girl rescued an enchanted white bear from a wicked Troll Queen in a palace “east of the sun and west of the moon.” But what happened after “happily ever after”? Rose and Charles (or, as she still calls him, her “White Bear”) have been blissfully married for three years and have an adopted daughter and a baby boy. When word comes that Charles has been lost at sea, Rose is not convinced it was an accident, suspecting the Troll Queen has survived to seek vengeance. After leisurely reacquainting readers with the characters and backstory, the pace quickens and the stakes become both grander and more personal, as the Queen schemes to kidnap the “bairn” and eradicate every other “softskin” human. Pattou (Ghosting, 2014, etc.) builds a solid, convincing 16th-century Europe from minutely observed details. No longer tethered to a specific tale, this sequel brings in elements from legends across time and around Europe. Like the first entry, the narrative here unfolds in short vignettes from multiple perspectives (all apparently white). The secondary characters—even in brief appearances—make the most vivid impressions; Rose and Charles seem somewhat opaque. Still, she remains fearless, independent, clever, and determined (if headstrong and heedless); he is again the kindhearted, if bewildered, gentleman in distress. Necessary wherever the first is popular; a good addition to any collection where fairy-tale retellings circulate well. (glossary) (Fantasy. 12-18)

About the Author

Edith Pattou is the author of several fantasy novels, including East, an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. She is a graduate of the Francis W. Parker School, Scripps College (B.A., English), Claremont Graduate School (M.A., English) and UCLA (M.L.I.S.). She is married to Charles Emery, a professor of psychology at The Ohio State University. They have one child, a daughter.

Her website is edithpattou.com

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King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo. January 29, 2019. Imprint, 528 p. ISBN: 9781250142283.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The Grishaverse will be coming to Netflix soon with Shadow and Bone, an original series!

Face your demons…or feed them.

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war―and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried―and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

Part of Series: King of Scars (Book #1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Though the nation of Ravka survived a brutal civil war, it was left ravaged and scarred, and no one knows this better than its king. Infected with traces of dark magic at the end of Ruin and Rising (2014), the concluding volume to Bardugo’s first foray into the Grishaverse, Nikolai Lantsov weathers uncontrollable transformations in this duology starter, as he, charming king by day, becomes without warning a vicious beast in the night. With Ravka in desperate need of stabilization and delegations of princesses—potential brides—on their way, Nikolai and his Grisha general, the unshakable Zoya Nazyalensky, set off on a journey that, futile though it may be, takes them deep into the history of their country as they search for a cure. Meanwhile, in Fjerda, to the north, Grisha soldier Nina Zenik is on a mission of her own, one that’s part spy assignment on Nikolai’s orders, part a deeply personal journey through grief. This is Bardugo’s third series in the Grishaverse, and while it draws from both the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, both Bardugo’s skill and Nikolai’s appeal are such that readers new to the world should have no problem joining in. Deadly clever political intrigue, heart-stopping adventure, memorable characters, and several understated, hinted-at romances (how will we wait?!) come together in one glorious, Slavic-folklore-infused package. Bardugo’s star continues to rise.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2019)
In this Grishaverse novel, King Nikolai struggles to keep his kingdom afloat in a destabilized, rapidly changing world. Though Ravka’s civil war ended three years ago, Ravka still faces threats both domestic—pretenders to the throne, policies that are popular with commoners but anger nobility—and external—old enemies like Fjerda, debts owed to Kerch. Worse, for the past 6 months Nikolai has been struggling with an enemy inside himself: The monstrous curse thought ended by the death of the Darkling re-emerges when he sleeps, posing a danger to his people, crown, and soul. With traveling becoming too risky given his secrets, Nikolai and his inner circle hatch a display of strength that will bring the other powers to him for diplomacy, using the cover of his seeking a queen. Meanwhile, in the months since the end of Crooked Kingdom (2016), grieving Nina has returned to Fjerda on a mission to rescue and recruit Grisha. Following the call of her changed abilities, she’s drawn to an area with poisoned waters and a mysterious factory holding dark secrets. Multiple romantic storylines among the multiethnic cast develop organically and don’t pull the focus away from keeping up with the plots. Strategically-deployed backstory makes already likable characters even more compelling; international political developments (especially with Grisha experimentation) are woven seamlessly in with the epic themes. Will leave readers begging for the sequel. (cast, maps) (Fantasy. 14-adult)

About the Author

Leigh Bardugo is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising).

She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she’s lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.

She would be elated if you visited her web site.

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Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko

Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko. November 1, 2018. Harper Voyager, 416 p. ISBN: 9780062694591.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

The definitive English language translation of the internationally bestselling Ukrainian novel—a brilliant dark fantasy with “the potential to be a modern classic” (Lev Grossman), combining psychological suspense, enchantment, and terror that makes us consider human existence in a fresh and provocative way.

Our life is brief . . .

While vacationing at the beach with her mother, Sasha Samokhina meets the mysterious Farit Kozhennikov under the most peculiar circumstances. The teenage girl is powerless to refuse when this strange and unusual man with an air of the sinister directs her to perform a task with potentially scandalous consequences. He rewards her effort with a strange golden coin.

As the days progress, Sasha carries out other acts for which she receives more coins from Kozhennikov. As summer ends, her domineering mentor directs her to move to a remote village and use her gold to enter the Institute of Special Technologies. Though she does not want to go to this unknown town or school, she also feels it’s the only place she should be. Against her mother’s wishes, Sasha leaves behind all that is familiar and begins her education.

As she quickly discovers, the institute’s “special technologies” are unlike anything she has ever encountered. The books are impossible to read, the lessons obscure to the point of maddening, and the work refuses memorization. Using terror and coercion to keep the students in line, the school does not punish them for their transgressions and failures; instead, their families pay a terrible price. Yet despite her fear, Sasha undergoes changes that defy the dictates of matter and time; experiences which are nothing she has ever dreamed of . . . and suddenly all she could ever want.

A complex blend of adventure, magic, science, and philosophy that probes the mysteries of existence, filtered through a distinct Russian sensibility, this astonishing work of speculative fiction—brilliantly translated by Julia Meitov Hersey—is reminiscent of modern classics such as Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, Max Barry’s Lexicon, and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale, but will transport them to a place far beyond those fantastical worlds.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Violence

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
While on holiday, Sasha notices a strange man following her. He has an unusual request: swim during the early morning. After a friend is mysteriously injured, Sasha feels that she has to fulfill his command. Even after she returns home, the man keeps coming back with demands. The strangest is that she change her university plans and attend the Institute of Special Technologies. Soon after arriving at the institute, Sasha realizes that this is no ordinary school. She takes classes like philosophy and English, but all students are required to take “Specialty.” At first, the readings in Specialty make no sense, but, once she begins to understand, she starts to manifest strange abilities. As Sasha’s powers grow, the novel builds to a mind-bending conclusion. While a magical school is a familiar trope, Harry Potter this is not. Dark and foreboding, this fantasy, translated from Russian, is more of philosophical treatise on growing up and the nature of reality than an adventure tale. Readers willing to challenge themselves and slowly digest this deep book will enjoy it immensely.

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 1, 2018)
Punishingly intense academic pressure transforms a university student into a transcendent being in this harrowing fantasy novel by a married Ukrainian couple, the first in a trilogy. Vacationing at the beach with her mom, 16-year-old Sasha Samokhina reacts with terror when a mysterious man in dark sunglasses starts following her around and staring at her. She’s right to be scared. He’s a supernatural recruiter using coercion—everything from threatening her family to trapping her in time loops—until she agrees to enroll in a provincial university nobody’s ever heard of. There, Sasha and her fellow students must memorize long passages of gibberish, solve koanlike math problems, and listen to deadening recordings of silence, all without a single error or misstep, or the people they love will die. Over and over the students are told they’re not ready to know the meaning of this work or what their future holds, but their studies change them, eventually uncoupling their existence from the physical plane. In Hersey’s sensitive translation, the Dyachenkos (The Scar, 2012, etc.) make vivid the tormenting preoccupations of adolescence and early adulthood: the social anxieties; the baffling dawn of sexuality; the new, uncontrolled powers that come with physical changes; and that simultaneous sense of one’s vital importance and one’s utter insignificance. It’s no surprise that Sasha is at the age when serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder typically first make themselves apparent; the Dyachenkos turn the delusions of mental illness into dangerous magic. Although it fits squarely in the popular school-for-magicians genre, this dark, ambitious, and intellectually strenuous novel will feel like a fresh revelation to fantasy readers glutted with Western wish-fulfillment narratives.

About the Authors

Marina and Sergey Dyachenko — co-authors of novels, short fiction, plays and scripts. They write in Russian and Ukrainian languages with several novels soon to be published in translation in the United States. The primary genres of their books are modern speculative fiction, fantasy, and literary tales.

Their website is www.dyachenkowriters.com

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