Tag Archives: fantasy

Crown of Thunder by Tochi Onyebuchi

Crown of Thunder by Tochi Onyebuchi. October 16, 2018. Razorbill, 336 p. ISBN: 9780448493930.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In the sequel to the acclaimed Beasts Made of Night, Taj has escaped Kos, but Queen Karima will go to any means necessary—including using the most deadly magic—to track him down.

Taj is headed west, but the consequences of leaving Kos behind confront him at every turn. Innocent civilians flee to refugee camps as Karima’s dark magic continues to descend on the city. Taj must return, but first he needs a plan.

With Arzu’s help, Taj and Aliya make it to the village of her ancestors, home of the tastahlik—sin-eaters with Taj’s same ability to both battle and call forth sins. As Taj comes to terms with his new magic, he realizes there are two very different groups of tastahlik—one using their powers for good, the other for more selfish ends.

Aliya is struggling with her own unique capabilities. She’s immersed in her work to uncover the secret to Karima’s magic, but her health begins to mysteriously deteriorate. With the help of a local western mage, Aliya uncovers her true destiny—a future she’s not sure she wants.

As Taj and Aliya explore their feelings for each other and Arzu connects with her homeland, the local westerners begin to question Taj’s true identity. Karima is on his heels, sending dark warnings to the little village where he’s hiding. Taj will have to go back and face her before she sends her mostly deadly weapon—Taj’s former best friend, Bo.

Sequel to: Beasts Made of Night

Part of Series: Beasts Made of Night (Book #2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Discrimination, War, Violence, Alcohol, Criminal culture, Gore

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 3))
Grades 7-10. Taj, Aliya, and Arzu have fled their ruined city of Kos in the wake of now Queen Karima’s betrayal and violence, eventually ending up in Arzu’s home village, where aki (sin-eaters) are revered as public servants. Being honored instead of reviled makes Taj reluctant to turn back to his lost home, until the body count rises so high he realizes he has no choice. While he grapples with his violent feelings, Aliya is trying to survive the gifts of the Unnamed (God) and learning to write the world in algebraic proofs. Together their talents may be enough to overthrow the woman who seems to have harnessed everything evil in nature. Readers will want to start with Beasts Made of Night (2017) to better follow the story line, and the naming conventions are a mouthful at times. Taj continues his first-person narration of this rich stew of street smarts, myth, and almost nonstop action. The tie to mathematics is appealing for STEM programs, although the “proofs” are figuratively, rather than literally, presented.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2018)
After having escaped Kos and the clutches of Karima, Taj is on the run. With the help of other aki (sin-eaters) and some Mages, including Aliya, Taj finds himself having to come to terms with the fallout of leaving his city. Karima will do anything, including destroying innocent lives, to find Taj. With each step away from Kos, he learns just how far she is willing to go—including turning his former best friend, Bo, against him. Grappling with feelings of remorse, survivor’s guilt, and conflict over how to use his powers, Taj finds himself at a pivotal crossroads—choose self or choose to fight for one’s people. With the help of Arzu, Taj and Aliya make it to a village that has other aki, the tastahlik. Unlike Taj and his ilk in Kos, they are revered for their powers and have honed them to use for selfless and selfish reasons alike. Taj discovers that he can learn how to control and develop his talents, but he must decide what purpose he wants them to serve. Aliya also comes to terms with her own powers, though her path to knowledge and mastery takes a severe toll. Following the lauded Beasts Made of Night (2017), Onyebuchi’s tale carries us on a journey of forgiveness, growth, and sacrifice. The action is fast-paced and captivating, but transitions at times feel a bit rushed as a result. A satisfying sequel. (Fantasy. 14-adult)

About the Author

Tochi Onyebuchi is a writer based in Connecticut. He holds a MFA in Screenwriting from Tisch and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. His writing has appeared in Asimov’s and Ideomancer, among other places. Beasts Made of Night is his debut.

 

 

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Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Blanca and Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore. October 9, 2018. Fiewel + Friends.  375 p. ISBN: 9781250162717.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.

The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.

But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. Sisters Blanca and Roja del Cisne have grown up understanding their family’s curse. Long ago, their ancestor bargained with the swans for a daughter. Every generation, the Del Cisnes have two daughters, but eventually, the swans always take one back. Roja, fierce and willful, has always believed she’d be the sister turned into a swan, while graceful, compliant Blanca would remain a girl. But if there’s anything Blanca is willing to fight for, it’s her sister. As their days together wane, two boys with curses of their own enter their lives. Barclay Holt, once the son of a wealthy, treacherous family, who has been trapped for a year in the body of a bear; and his best friend, Page Ashby, child of apple farmers, who identifies as a boy but finds that the pronouns she and her fit comfortably as well. As the four come closer together, their fates may become unalterably linked. In her fourth novel, McLemore (Wild Beauty​, 2017) is at her finest; she twines Latino folklore through the fairy tales of Swan Lake and Snow White & Rose Red to create a story that is wholly original. She writes openheartedly about families found and families given, the weight of expectation and the price of duty, and in the end offers up something that’s vibrant, wondrously strange, and filled to the brim with love of all kinds.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2018)
Blanca and Roja, the del Cisne sisters, have grown up knowing their family is cursed as a result of a bargain made generations ago, and that eventually either Blanca or Roja will be trapped in the body of a swan and live among them. Blanca, fair-haired and sweet, and Roja, flame-haired and difficult, spend their lives trying to become more like each other so that they will be intertwined and ultimately impossible to separate when the swans finally arrive to claim their due. When a bear who is also a boy called Yearling arrives on their doorstep, followed by his friend Page (who uses both he and she pronouns), their story becomes more complicated and their fates much less clear. This tale reimagines Snow White and Rose Red as young Latinx women, and it mixes their stories with details and themes from “The Ugly Duckling,” Swan Lake, and “The Wild Swans.” Depth of character is sometimes sacrificed in order to incorporate so many threads (e.g., Yearling’s story of dealing with family corruption is less well drawn than other narrative elements). But McLemore’s vivid descriptions create a tale rich with visual detail, and readers will be compelled to keep reading to find out the fate of these sisters. christina l. dobbs

About the Author

Anna-Marie McLemore was born in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, raised in the same town as the world’s largest wisteria vine, and taught by her family to hear la llorona in the Santa Ana winds. Her debut novel The Weight of Feathers was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults book, and a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award.

Her website is author.annamariemclemore.com.

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Call of the Wraith by Kevin Sands

Call of the Wraith by Kevin Sands. September 25, 2018. Aladdin Books, 544 p. ISBN: 9781534428478.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.7.

Christopher Rowe is back and there are more puzzles, riddles, and secrets to uncover in this fourth novel of the award-winning Blackthorn Key series.

Christopher Rowe has no idea who he is. After being shipwrecked in Devonshire, he wakes up alone, his memories gone. Villagers tell him he was possessed by an unseen evil, and only became conscious after being visited by the local witch.

As Christopher tries to get his bearings, he realizes his current state may be far from coincidence. Dark events have been happening in this corner of Britain—village children are disappearing without a trace. There are whispers that the malevolent ghost of the White Lady has returned to steal the children away, one by one, and consume their souls.

Thankfully, friends Tom and Sally find Christopher and help him reconnect with his unique skills and talents, even as his memories elude him. But as motives and secrets are revealed, Christopher finds himself in a desperate race to reclaim his memories and discover the missing children before it’s too late

Sequel to: The Assassin’s Curse

Part of Series: The Blackthorn Key (Book 4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Violence, Child abuse

 

About the Author

Since escaping from university with a pair of degrees in theoretical physics, Kevin Sands has worked as a researcher, a business consultant, and a teacher.

His website is kevinsandsbooks.com.

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Brave Chef Brianna by Sam Sykes

Brave Chef Brianna by Sam Sykes. December 12, 2017. KaBOOM!, 112 p. ISBN: 9781684150502.  Int Lvl: 3-6.

To prove herself as a great chef, a young woman sets up a restaurant as the sole human in a city full of monsters.

Brianna Jakobsson has big cooking dreams, and when her ailing restaurateur father poses a challenge to his only daughter and fifteen sons, she seizes the opportunity. She’s going to have the best restaurant around and earn the family empire. Thing is, the only place she can afford to set up shop is in Monster City. Her menu is full of weird delicacies, her kitchen is run by a half-bird harpy, and her dining room is filled with skeleton businessmen. Add on the nefarious Madame Cron, some highly competitive siblings and Brianna’s plate is literally . . . full.

Brave Chef Brianna from writer Sam Sykes (Munchkin) and artist Selina Espiritu explores one woman’s incredible journey to realize her dreams in the unlikeliest of places. Welcome to Monster City!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities

 

Video Reviews

About the Author

Sam Sykes is the author of Tome Of The Undergates, a vast and sprawling story of adventure, demons, madness and carnage. Suspected by many to be at least tangentially related to most causes of human suffering, Sam Sykes is also a force to be reckoned with beyond literature.

At 25, Sykes is one of the younger authors to have arrived on the stage of literary fantasy. Tome Of The Undergates is his first book, published in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Holland, and Canada. He currently resides in the United States and is probably watching you read this right now.

His website is samsykes.com

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Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi

Star-Touched Stories by Roshani Chokshi. August 7, 2018. St. Martin’s Press, 304 p. ISBN: 9781250180797.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Three lush and adventurous stories in the Star-Touched world.

Death and Night

He was Lord of Death, cursed never to love. She was Night incarnate, destined to stay alone. After a chance meeting, they wonder if, perhaps, they could be meant for more. But danger crouches in their paths, and the choices they make will set them on a journey that will span lifetimes.

Poison and Gold

Now that her wish for a choice has come true, Aasha struggles to control her powers. But when an opportunity to help Queen Gauri and King Vikram’s new reign presents itself, she is thrown into the path of the fearsome yet enchanting Spy Mistress. To help her friends, Aasha will have to battle her insecurities and perhaps, along the way, find love.

Rose and Sword

There is a tale whispered in the dark of the Empire of Bharat-Jain. A tale of a bride who loses her bridegroom on the eve of her wedding. But is it a tale or a truth?

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

 

Reviews

Booklist (July 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Fresh from two big wins with The Star-Touched Queen (2016) and Crown of Wishes (2017), Chokshi delves deeper into her mystical, mythical lands with three short stories. “Death and Night” is the twisting tale of Dharma Raja, who collects souls at the time of their death, and is cursed never to have love. When he takes a husband’s soul from his loving wife, Dharma Raja has to ask himself about love, and in finding his own wife, creates his own tale out of the many lives he’s interrupted. In “Poison and Gold,” death appears again; vishakanya Aasha can kill with a thought. In service to soon-to-be Queen Gauri, she’s seeking a life of her own. The last story, “Rose and Sword,” circles back to Queen Gauri again, filling in the blanks for Gauri’s granddaughter as it spans decades in just a few short chapters. Whether read as a whole or in individual stories, this is a sure success that will leave any reader craving more of the fascinating and beguiling prose.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2018)
A collection of three companion romance narratives featuring the spunky heroines of The Star-Touched Queen (2016) and A Crown of Wishes (2017). In “Death and Night,” Dharma Raja, the god of death, is cursed by the Shadow Wife to lose the woman he loves. He is confident that he will never fall in love—until he meets Night incarnate. “Poison and Gold” traces the adventures of Aasha, a “vishakanya,” who wants to not just live, but also belong in the human world yet is unable to control her powers. She strives to regain her identity—and consequently, her confidence—under the tutelage of Bharata’s deadly Spy Mistress. Refreshingly, this story depicts same-sex desires. In “Rose and Sword,” young Hira listens to her paternal grandmother, Gauri, narrate the tale of a bride who sets out to rescue her fiance from the threshold of death on the eve of her wedding. Deftly woven with fantastical elements and Indian mythology, the tales reflect and materialize the characters’ internal struggles. Although Night’s narrative is at times clichéd and overrun with tedious descriptions, Aasha’s and Gauri’s stories explore complex themes of identity, ambition, love, and loss. Chokshi (Aru Shah and the End of Time, 2018, etc.) marries sensuous storytelling with kick-ass protagonists in these feminist romances. (Romance. 12-18)

About the Author

Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen. Her work has appeared in Strange HorizonsShimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, “The Star Maiden,” was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

Her website is www.roshanichokshi.com

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A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney

A Blade So Black by L.L. McKinney. September 25, 2018. Imprint, 370 p. ISBN: 9781250153906.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 660.

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

Part of Series: A Blade So Black (Book #1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racism, Underage drinking, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 1, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 1))
Grades 9-12. McKinney delivers an explosive, kick-ass debut, described by the author herself as, “What if Buffy fell down the rabbit hole instead of Alice?” This Alice is a black teen girl who is first seen fleeing a hospital after learning of her dad’s death. She then stumbles upon Wonderland resident Addison Hatter and witnesses him battling a Nightmare, an evil entity from the dream realm of Wonderland that, as a mortal, Alice isn’t supposed to be able to see. Her ability to see these dark, pernicious beings marks her as a human who can kill Nightmares instead of simply sending them back to Wonderland. As a result, Addison begins training Alice to battle Nightmare creatures. When Addison is poisoned, Alice must find an antidote by journeying into the heart and bowels of Wonderland—a place that is as dangerous as it is whimsical, as deadly as it is beautiful. McKinney breathes new life and fierce empowerment into Carroll’s classic. Her Wonderland is menacing, lush, and unique and populated by nuanced characters that are fleshed out and refreshingly authentic. This is the Alice in Wonderland retelling the world has always needed.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2018)
McKinney’s debut novel introduces a no-nonsense, cosplaying, dark-skinned Alice with coily hair charged with defending two worlds while still making it home for curfew. The same night 17-year-old Atlanta resident Alice Kingston’s father dies, she’s attacked by a Nightmare, “a manifestation of humanity’s fears,” and saved by “punk rock Prince Charming” Addison Hatta, guardian of a gateway in the Looking Glass pub between our world and Wonderland, a dreamscape of Earth. Hatta recruits Alice to fight alongside him, and from that first meeting the story races readers through her metamorphosis from lost, grieving teen to a still-grieving, world-saving, dagger-wielding “black Buffy.” McKinney beautifully exposes the immensity of the pressure Alice feels to balance her duties as daughter, friend, and Dreamwalker, emphasizing the precariousness of Alice’s position as a black girl alternately worried about the threat of police violence in her community and the mysterious menaces in Wonderland. The nuanced representations of relationships, platonic and not (there is a dreamy, romantic lesbian love story), between the inclusive cast of characters are highlights of the text. Uneven pacing leads to sometimes feeling one step beyond the action and without sufficient worldbuilding. While representations of race on Earth are clearly established, in Wonderland they are conflated and lacking in nuance (Addison is white, and other Wonderland residents are described as appearing Latinx and East Asian). A thrilling, timely novel that ensures readers will be curiouser for a sequel. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

L.L. McKinney is a writer, a poet, and an active member of the kidlit community. She’s an advocate for equality and inclusion in publishing, and the creator of the hashtag #WhatWoCWritersHear. She’s spent time in the slush by serving as a reader for agents and participating as a judge in various online writing contests. She’s also a gamer girl and an adamant Hei Hei stan. A Blade So Black is her debut novel.

Her website is www.llmckinney.com

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Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. October 2, 2018. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 514 p. ISBN: 9780316341714.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The highly anticipated, thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Strange the Dreamer, from National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy.
 
Sarai has lived and breathed nightmares since she was six years old.
She believed she knew every horror, and was beyond surprise.
She was wrong.
In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.
Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice–save the woman he loves, or everyone else?–while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she’s capable of.
As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel’s near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?

Sequel to: Strange the Dreamer

Part of Series: Strange the Dreamer (Book #2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong sexual themes; Mild language

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2018)
At the end of Strange the Dreamer (rev. 3/17), godspawn Sarai plunged to her death from the floating blue citadel overlooking the city of Weep; now the vengeful Minya, still intent on invading Weep, is holding Sarai’s soul in thrall. In interspersed chapters, in another world, another young woman is dealing with her own trauma. After being rejected by the Mesarthim, forcibly separated from her beloved sister, and married off to the highest bidder, Nova uses her own formidable powers to regain control of her destiny. By the time Nova appears in the main narrative, readers have learned how her story fits among the puzzle pieces of the plot. The only thing that remains is to figure out how both Minya and Nova can find a measure of healing, redemption, and peace. As always, Taylor’s prodigious imagination is on full display: marvelous world-building, suspenseful plotting, complex characterization, finely crafted prose, and grand thematic flourishes make her one of the most formidable contemporary writers in the YA fantasy genre. jonathan hunt

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
Love and hatred haunt survivors in this otherworldly sequel. It’s been 15 years since the people of Weep slaughtered the gods and godspawn in the seraph-shaped citadel, an event known as the Liberation by the citizens of Weep…and the Carnage by the five godspawn who secretly survived. But an explosion revealed their existence and killed 17-year-old Sarai. Yet she remains, anchored by malevolent Minya and still in love with Lazlo Strange. Grief-stricken Lazlo experiments with his newfound smith powers and reunites with Sarai in exotic, erotic dreams. Also sharing narrative duty: fellow blue-skinned, magically gifted godspawn Ruby, Feral, and Sparrow—absorbed in their own romantic triangle—Minya, literally haunted by lives lost in the Carnage, and the mysterious Nova, fleeing a wintry wasteland in pursuit of her sister Kora and revenge. Freed from isolation, the godspawn struggle to connect, wondering about their parents—both Mesarthim “gods” and unwilling Weep humans—and their missing fellow godspawn. Taylor (Strange the Dreamer, 2017, etc.) dances between fantasy and sci-fi, indulging in gods, magic, alchemy, and lost desert civilizations, only to subvert them with spaceships, interdimensional travel, and alien worlds. Depending on readers’ tastes, this is ornate, emotionally charged, and poetic—or florid, overdone, overstuffed, and angst-y. The people of Weep are brown-skinned, but godspawn turn blue when they are in contact with mesarthium. A sequel that surpasses the original. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Laini Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author and a National Book Award finalist. She is the author of the global sensation the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy: Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Days of Blood & Starlight, and Dreams of Gods & Monsters, and the companion e-novella, Night of Cake & Puppets. She is also the author of the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the highly acclaimed Lips Touch: Three Times. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter Clementine.

Her website is www.lainitaylor.com.

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The Island of Monsters by Ellen Oh

The Island of Monsters by Ellen Oh. July 31, 2018. HarperCollins, 256 p. ISBN: 9780062430113.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.9; Lexile: 700.

Harper Raine faces new challenges ahead when her parents take the whole family to a remote tropical island for vacation. As Harper starts to have visions of the resort’s history of disappearances and discovers more about the island’s dark and fabled past, she must use her newly acquired spirit hunting talents to save everyone on the island from murderous spirits on the attack.

Sequel to: Spirit Hunters

Part of series: Spirit Hunters(Book #2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Mention of C-section childbirth

 

 

About the Author

Originally from New York City, Ellen Oh is the founder of We Need Diverse Books and the author of the Prophecy trilogy (ProphecyWarrior, and King) for young adults. Spirit Hunters is her fourth book and her first for middle grade readers. A former adjunct college instructor and lawyer with an insatiable curiosity for ancient Asian history, Ellen lives in Bethesda, Maryland, with her husband and three daughters and has yet to satisfy her quest for a decent bagel.

Her website is www.ellenoh.com

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For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig

For a Muse of Fire by Heidi Heilig. September 25, 2018. Greenwillow Books, 512 p. ISBN: 9780062380814.  Int Lvl: YA.

A young woman with a dangerous power she barely understands. A smuggler with secrets of his own. A country torn between a merciless colonial army, a terrifying tyrant, and a feared rebel leader.

The first book in a new trilogy from the acclaimed Heidi Heilig blends traditional storytelling with ephemera for a lush, page-turning tale of escape and rebellion. For a Muse of Fire will captivate fans of Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, and Renée Ahdieh.

Jetta’s family is famed as the most talented troupe of shadow players in the land. With Jetta behind the scrim, their puppets seem to move without string or stick—a trade secret, they say. In truth, Jetta can see the souls of the recently departed and bind them to the puppets with her blood.

But ever since the colonizing army conquered their country, the old ways are forbidden, so Jetta must never show, never tell. Her skill and fame are her family’s way to earn a spot aboard the royal ship to Aquitan, where shadow plays are the latest rage, and where rumor has it the Mad Emperor has a spring that cures his ills—and could cure Jetta’s, too. Because seeing spirits is not the only thing that plagues her.

But as rebellion seethes and as Jetta meets a young smuggler, she will face truths and decisions that she never imagined—and safety will never seem so far away.

Heidi Heilig creates a vivid, rich world inspired by Asian cultures and French colonialism. Her characters are equally complex and nuanced, including the bipolar heroine. Told from Jetta’s first-person point-of-view, as well as with chapters written as play scripts and ephemera such as telegrams and letters, For a Muse of Fire is an engrossing journey that weaves magic, simmering romance, and the deep bonds of family with the high stakes of epic adventure.

Part of Series: For a Muse of Fire (Book #1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Grotesque imagery, Harsh realities of war, Mild language, Mild sexual themes, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Racism

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. Jetta has lost much since her people, the Chakrans, were colonized by the Aquitans. After her brother, conscripted for an Aquitan war, disappeared, Jetta grew closer with her parents as they traveled across the country, putting on shadow-puppet shows. That Jetta’s puppets seem almost supernaturally independent is something the family must be coy about: Jetta can bind the souls of the dead, old magic that the Aquitans despise. Jetta hopes to use her skill to win a cure for her mental illness. But unrest simmers, and, as she makes her way through a treacherous, darkly fantastical world, joining forces with a smuggler who has motives of his own, Jetta learns more about her family, her powers, and the place she inhabits. This series starter is action-packed, sometimes overly so; it’s occasionally hard to keep up with the many twists and turns. Still, a girl dealing with bipolar disorder is a welcome heroine in a fantasy novel, and theatrical elements, rich world building, and loose ties to the French colonization of Southeast Asia add fascinating depth.

Kirkus Reviews (June 15, 2018)
Sixteen-year-old shadow puppeteer Jetta Chantray performs with her family’s traveling troupe, the Ros Nai. The dark-skinned, dark-haired Chakrans have been colonized by the pale, blond Aquitans who prize their sugar and sapphires, and their shadow theater too. But Jetta has a secret—instead of sticks and strings, she binds souls with blood magic and tucks them inside her puppets. Jetta is desperate to impress the Aquitan general and win passage to Aquitan, where she hopes to find a cure for her mental illness. When the Ros Nai collides with Chakran guerrillas, Jetta and her family are plunged into the chaos of the rebellion. Thus begins an action-packed journey that takes readers from a sultry cabaret to a subterranean tunnel, tropical jungle, putrid midden, shining city, and stone prison. Jetta discovers the dark side of her gift, long-held family secrets, and truths about the horrors and lies of war. There’s a somewhat thin romance with a mixed-race smuggler, and the plot occasionally gets tangled in the weeds of imagery. But readers will be rewarded with vividly drawn settings reminiscent of Hawaii and Southeast Asia, exciting action scenes, and a complex protagonist who contends not only with her malheur, but also ambition, anger, and family loyalty. Ephemera, including telegrams, letters, and scenes from plays, enhance the story. A brooding fantasy with a diverse cast, rarely-seen setting, and compelling heroine who struggles with bipolar disorder. (author’s note) (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Heidi grew up in Hawaii where she rode horses and raised peacocks, and then she moved to New York City and grew up even more, as one tends to do. Her favorite thing, outside of writing, is travel, and she has haggled for rugs in Morocco, hiked the trails of the Ko’olau Valley, and huddled in a tent in Africa while lions roared in the dark.

She holds an MFA from New York University in Musical Theatre Writing, of all things, and she’s written books and lyrics for shows including The Time Travelers Convention, Under Construction, and The Hole. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, her son and their pet snake. Her website is www.heidiheilig.com

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For a Muse of Fire on Amazon

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Castle in the Stars: The Moon-King by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Moon-King (Book 2) by Alex Alice. September 4, 2018. First Second, 64 p. ISBN: 9781626724945.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.8.

What if man journeyed into space in 1869, not 1969? In The Moon-King, the second volume in this breath-taking fantasy graphic novel series, Alex Alice draws on Jules Verne and nineteenth-century romanticism to create a watercolor world of adventure and wonder to enchant adults and younger readers alike.

In anticipation of their maiden voyage, Seraphin and the Knights of Aether had prepared for everything―except treason. The villainous chamberlain wants to overthrow King Ludwig and claim the electro-aetheric technology for Prussia. The only escape for the king and his companions lies in the frosty skies above Bavaria.

The aethership’s first flight is asuccess, but their respite is short-lived. As long as the chamberlain is free to spread his lies, these travelers will find no safe harbor. To save the king’s throne, they must push the ship even farther―out of the sky . . . and into the stars!

Sequel to: The Space Race of 1869

Part of Series: Castle in the Stars (Book #2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Underage smoking, Violence

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2018)
Alice knows a lot about the moon, and most of it isn’t true. An entire page of this graphic novel, a French import, is devoted to popular historical theories about the moon, and because the story is set in 1870, all of them are wonderfully archaic. “Everyone knows that giant vultures…live on the moon!” one character explains. Another person mentions a scientist who believed the moon was shaped like an egg. These ideas (inspired by Lucian of Samosata and Eratosthenes, among others) are so charming that when the characters actually land on the moon, a few pages later, it’s a bit of a letdown. The landscape is mostly pale, unvarying mountains and caverns, and even though they’re painted beautifully, the story features page after page of hiking. Occasionally, though, the images are just as gorgeous as in the first volume of the series. When the aeronauts come across an orrery (an enormous model of the planets), it’s breathtaking, and the steampunk designs—like a spacesuit with a bird of prey on its breastplate—are always inventive. The prose is less masterful, at least in this translation, with sentences along the lines of, “An ingenious Regnault & Reiset system absorbed harmful gases and replenished the oxygen.” The skin tones of the cast are also mostly pale and unvarying. Readers who enjoyed the first book may remain invested in the fates of the characters. Other people might prefer to look up archaic stories about the moon. (Graphic steampunk. 10-16)

About the Author

Alex Alice is a French graphic novelist, working in France and sometimes the U.S. His works have been translated into more than fifteen languages.

Born in 1974, he grew up in the south of France and had the chance to travel around Europe, where he developed a lifelong passion for the ruins and castles of the medieval and romantic ages. This experience influenced his art, from the grim setting of his esoteric thriller The Third Testament (co-written with Xavier Dorison and published by Titan Comics) to the primeval, mythic world found in Siegfried, an operatic re-telling of the northern saga of the great dragon slayer (published by Boom Entertainment). In Castle in the Stars, he draws on Jules Verne and nineteenth-century romanticism to create a watercolor world of adventure and wonder to enchant adults and younger readers alike.

His website is www.alexalice.com

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The Moon-King on Amazon

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The Moon-King on Goodreads

The Moon-King Publisher Page