Tag Archives: fantasy

Sacrifice by Cindy Pon

Sacrifice by Cindy Pon. September 27, 2016. Month9Books, 263 p. ISBN: 9781944816926.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Skybright is plunged into the terrifying Underworld where demons are bred, while Stone, stripped of his immortal status, must find a way to close hell’s breach before more mortals die. Meanwhile, Zhen Ni, Skybright’s former mistress and friend, is now wed to the strange and brutish Master Bei, and she finds herself trapped inside an opulent but empty manor. When she discovers half-eaten corpses beneath the estate, Zhen Ni worries that Master Bei is not all he seems. As Skybright begins the dangerous work of freeing Zhen Ni with the aid of Kai Sen and Stone, nothing can prepare them for an encounter so dark that it threatens to overtake their very beings

Sequel to: Serpentine

Part of series: Serpentine (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Gore

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2016)
This thrilling sequel to Pon’s Serpentine (2015) begins soon after the Great Battle between mortals and demons, as Skybright and her compatriots struggle with the fallout and face the looming threat of a new breach to the underworld. Vivid sensory descriptions make the Chinese-inflected fantasy kingdom of Xia an immersive world. The mortal realm, the heavens, and the underworld are at once enchanting and terrifying, and at the story’s core are dynamic characters who resist confinement to archetypes. Torn away from her mortal life, Skybright grows to accept her nature as a serpent demon without rejecting her love for her friends. Zhen Ni, meanwhile, displays extraordinary cunning as she navigates her new duties as a wife while uncovering her husband’s dark plans. Kai Sen’s fierce determination to save Skybright and break the covenant makes him shed his dreamer personality to hone his magic. Stone, immortal intermediary to the gods, learns to respect and admire the mortals as he witnesses the strength of their will. The narration unfolds through their four points of view, shifting perspectives at key scenes rather than chapter by chapter. The resulting dramatic irony tests the characters’ integrity and their faith in one another. Still, they are impressively wise and compassionate, acting, when pressed, out of loyalty rather than bitterness. A brilliant second act that can be read alone. (Fantasy. 15 & up)

School Library Journal Xpress (November 1, 2016)
Gr 9 Up-This sequel to Serpentine begins nine days after the first volume’s conclusion. Skybright is forced to give up her life and follow Stone in order to save those she loves, and has no time to adjust. She is taken into the Underworld, where demons roam; thrown into portals to other realms; and summoned to the land of the gods. She goes through all of this only to learn that Stone has been stripped of most of his powers, the gateway to hell still needs to be closed, and if they fail, Stone will die. Skybright’s friends are not faring much better. Zhen Ni is made to marry the richest man of the land and quickly becomes concerned that he is not what he seems. Kai Sen is learning magic so that he may save Skybright from Stone. To survive, these characters from very different walks of life will need to learn to work together as a team. Pon excels at describing each scene so vividly that readers can truly picture the protagonist’s surroundings. A story of friendship, love, and duty that fantasy readers will relate to and enjoy. VERDICT Fans will love this sequel just as much as (or even more than) the first. Purchase where the first installment and rich fantasy are popular.-Jessica Strefling, US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit Library

About the Author

Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. Her most recent duology Serpentine and Sacrifice (Month9Books) were both Junior Library Guild selections and received starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. WANT (Simon Pulse), also a Junior Library Guild selection, is a near-future thriller set in Taipei. RUSE, the sequel, is slated for spring 2019. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade.

Her website is cindypon.com.

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The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker

The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker. April 11, 2017. Little, Brown, and Company, 408 p. ISBN: 9780316348560.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0; Lexile: 920.

Honorine’s life as as maid at the Vidalia mansion is rather dull, dusting treasures from faraway places and daydreaming in front of maps of the world. But everything changes when she catches two brutish sailors ransacking Lord Vidalia’s study, and then follows a mysterious girl with wings out into the night….

Suddenly, Honorine is whisked into the middle of a battle between the crew of a spectacular steamship and a band of mythical constellations. The stars in the sky have come to life to defend themselves against those who want to harness their powers. Much to her surprise, Honorine is the crux of it all, the center of an epic clash between magic and science, the old ways and the new. But can this spirited young girl bring both sides of a larger-than-life fight together before they unleash an evil power even older than the stars?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. In this adventure of the galactic variety, Honorine’s deepest wish is to know a family. And according to the Mapmaker, a strident and fiercely powerful Mordant, she’ll betray him to gain her deepest longing. Orphaned as a baby, Honorine discovers Lord Vidalia placed her in his home to protect her from unseen powers that literally light up the night sky. One night, Honorine’s life drastically changes when she stumbles upon Mordants—constellations come to life—and is reunited with the only person she’s ever considered family: Lord Vidalia’s son, Francis. The problem? Francis seems to be on the wrong side of the epic battle above, and Honorine is discovering truths about her family that leave her in an extremely sticky situation. Infused with references to constellations and Greek mythological creatures, and stocked with ships that sail through the sky and civilizations succumbing to power and greed over and over again, the invigorating plot ultimately leaves Honorine with only one choice to make. A fun, Rick Riordanesque escapade.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
A debut middle-grade adventure involving constellations that come to life, airships, friendships, revenge, and the fight for survival.In the years just before the turn of the 20th century, Honorine—a white girl with gray eyes and a knack for artifacts and machinery—has lived on the Vidalia Estate for as long as she remembers. For the first years her best friend and playmate was Francis Vidalia, but now he’s in school and her days are filled with household chores. When strangers come looking for a book, her world is turned on its head. Honorine is swept up into a world where living constellations—here known as Mordant—are in a fight for their very survival. Before the book is over Honorine will have been on a fantastical flying island that is really a ship; met the scheming white Capt. Nautilus Olyphant and seen the ingenious device with which he has been capturing the Mordant; dealt with the mysterious and somewhat sinister Mapmaker; found out who her parents are; seen monsters emerge from Hades; and made important decisions involving friendship, family, and loyalty. The pace is fast, the characters believable, and the setting original. Though there are some holes in the story, such as exactly what motivates Nautilus, the breakneck pace will not give readers time to ponder such questions. And they probably won’t mind a bit. Readers enjoying a mix of fantasy, adventure, and a clever heroine will fall for this one. (Fantasy. 9-12)

About the Author

Lindsey Becker writes middle grade fiction about ghosts, monsters, mythical beasts, and daring children who love adventure and magic. The Star Thief is her debut novel.

Her website is http://literarylilycate.blogspot.com/

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Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser

Song of the Current by Sarah Tolcser. June 6, 2017. Bloomsbury Childrens Books, 376 p. ISBN: 9781681192970.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Caroline Oresteia is destined for the river. For generations, her family has been called by the river god, who has guided their wherries on countless voyages throughout the Riverlands. At seventeen, Caro has spent years listening to the water, ready to meet her fate. But the river god hasn’t spoken her name yet—and if he hasn’t by now, there’s a chance he never will.

Caro decides to take her future into her own hands when her father is arrested for refusing to transport a mysterious crate. By agreeing to deliver it in exchange for his release, Caro finds herself caught in a web of politics and lies, with dangerous pirates after the cargo—an arrogant courier with a secret—and without the river god to help her. With so much at stake, Caro must choose between the life she always wanted and the one she never could have imagined for herself.

From debut author Sarah Tolcser comes an immersive and romantic fantasy set along the waterways of a magical world with a headstrong heroine determined to make her mark.

Part of Series: Song of the Current (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Criminal culture

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (June 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 19))
Grades 7-10. Caro Oresteia, daughter of a river wherryman, thinks the river and sailing her family’s small boat is her destiny, and she is disappointed when the river gods don’t speak to her as they have to all her ancestors. She is meant for bigger things; her true fate begins to unfold when she releases a mysterious man from an enchanted box, discovers he is the heir to the Akhaian throne, and decides to protect his life with her own. First-time author Tolcser has created a hearty sea adventure, laced with romance and fantasy, that features a biracial heroine, both self-doubting and brave, and a blue-eyed, black-haired prince with a lot to learn. The flavor of the sea comes through by way of basic sailing terms and techniques, colorful cursing (“Balto’s balls!”), and dialect that feels authentic without being troublesome to read. This is more romantic than L. A. Meyer’s Jacky Faber series but may work with its readers. It can also be handed to fans of Celia Rees’ Pirates! (2003), or for the romance, Sharon Shinn’s Twelve Houses series.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 15, 2017)
Caroline Oresteia, a wherryman’s daughter and granddaughter, knows that she’s meant for the river—but at age 17, she has yet to hear the voice of the god at its bottom. When pirates burn several wherries, Caro’s smuggler father is arrested. To gain back his freedom—and maybe attract the god’s attention—Caro agrees to use her father’s wherry to transport a mysterious cargo: a young man named Tarquin Meredios who claims to be a royal courier. Pompous and overbearing, highborn Tarquin sneers at both Caro and wherrymen. But as he and Caro change course from Caro’s contracted destination to one Tarquin insists on, he grows on both her and readers. Caro’s narrative voice is smart and colloquial; worldbuilding details are imparted naturally through dialogue and her reflections on it. Caro describes herself as having a mixed heritage, noting the varying shades of brown in her relatives from her mother’s side. Most of the other, presumably white characters’ skin tones are not described, with pale Tarquin’s “strange foreign coloring” a notable exception. The frogmen, descendants of the river god and a sailor’s daughter, have brownish-green skin; Fee, a taciturn female frogman, works for Caro’s father. Caro’s description of her boat home, the Cormorant, will make even readers unfamiliar with sailing feel as though they belong on the water with her. Tolcser blends the right amount of epic fantasy, sea voyage, and romance for a rollicking, swashbuckling adventure. (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Sarah Tolcser lives in New Orleans, where she is an elementary technology teacher. A graduate of St. Lawrence University, she double majored in writing and philosophy. She enjoys video games and NBA basketball. She is married, with two cats.

Her website is www.sarahtolcser.com

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The Last Spell by J.A. White

The Last Spell by J.A. White. April 4, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 504 p. ISBN: 9780062381392.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.1; Lexile: 750.

The spellbinding conclusion to the critically acclaimed Thickety series. In The Thickety #4: The Last Spell, Kara and her brother Taff must find the hidden pieces of Princess Evangeline’s grimoire to defeat Rygoth and her army of witches in one last good versus evil battle.

Kara and Taff have discovered that the Spider Queen is searching for Princess Evangeline’s grimoire, the Vukera. Legends say that any witch who wields its dangerous magic would be indestructible. Kara and Taff have to stop the Spider Queen from finding the ancient weapon—and destroying everything.

They will travel through time with an old enemy, come face-to-face with the creatures that guard the grimoire’s pages, and unravel a king’s dangerous secret, before one final battle against the Spider Queen. But can Kara save the people she loves and cast a spell that could change magic forever?

Sequel to: Well of Witches

Part of series: The Thickety (Book 4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Kara is more powerful than ever, but Rygoth, too, has made steady progress: she has one of the four pieces of the Vulkera, an incredibly powerful grimoire that could make her unstoppable. Kara and Taff follow clues all over the kingdoms of the world to find the remaining pieces, but Rygoth is at their heels at every turn. White’s fanciful world building is as rich as ever, though his characters travel so much that many intriguing locations get short shrift, and some key explanations are glossed over. Still, the mechanics of magic in White’s world are fascinating, and series fans will surely be satisfied by this empowering final installment.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
This long-anticipated finale to the Thickety fantasy series will provide readers with as much excitement, monsters, evil characters, and constant change as they need to stay glued to the page.Fans of the series will wonder what disasters befall Kara Westfall and her brother, Taff, in this volume. Long before this chronicle began, the grimoire Vulkera was torn in four parts and dispersed to Sentium’s four regions to prevent its power from falling into malevolent hands. As the siblings travel from the Hourglass Tower to Dolrose Castle and the Museum of Impossible Things, each place yields information; but all throw Kara and Taff into serious danger. Their visit to the museum, for instance, offers a close call from capture by Rygoth as well as a terrifying airborne battle. A huge battle follows on the discovery of the last piece of the Vulkera—and a grand wrapping up of narrative threads creates a satisfying ending. Although some readers new to the series should begin with Volume 1, more-experienced fantasy readers will be able to catch up quite well. Differences in skin color appear to exist in this fantasyland, but Kara and Taff seem to be white. Magic, suspense, and close calls—what could be better? (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

J. A. White lives in New Jersey with his wife, three sons, and a hamster named Ophelia that doesn’t like him very much. When he’s not making up stories, he teaches a bunch of kids how to make up stories (along with math and science and other important stuff). He wishes dragons were real because it would be a much cooler way to get to work.  His website is www.jawhitebooks.com.

 

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The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye

The Crown’s Fate by Evelyn Skye. May 16, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 400 p. ISBN: 9780062422613.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Russia is on the brink of great change. Pasha’s coronation approaches, and Vika is now the Imperial Enchanter, but the role she once coveted may be more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever expected.

Pasha is grappling with his own problems—his legitimacy is in doubt, the girl he loves loathes him, and he believes his best friend is dead. When a challenger to the throne emerges—and with the magic in Russia growing rapidly—Pasha must do whatever it takes to keep his position and protect his kingdom.

For Nikolai, the ending of the Crown’s Game stung deeply. Although he just managed to escape death, Nikolai remains alone, a shadow hidden in a not-quite-real world of his own creation. But when he’s given a second chance at life—tied to a dark price—Nikolai must decide just how far he’s willing to go to return to the world.

With revolution on the rise, dangerous new magic rearing up, and a tsardom up for the taking, Vika, Nikolai, and Pasha must fight—or face the destruction of not only their world but also themselves.

Sequel to: The Crown’s Game

Part of series: The Crown’s Game (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Mild sexual themes; Alcohol

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (April 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 16))
Grades 9-12. Backstory is always a problem for sequels, and the elaborate 1825 alternative-history Russian setting of this title will be daunting to newcomers. However, fans of The Crown’s Game (2016) will be delighted to see how Skye writes her way out of a mostly dead antihero, a love triangle, and two royal brothers vying to become tsar of all the Russias. As in the first title, inventive feats of magic by sparring enchanters are the highlight; Vika’s control of the elements and Nikolai’s affinity to metal allow for imaginative showdowns of sorcery. Skye weaves in Russian history and culture, such as the Decembrists, Fabergé eggs, the Nutcracker ballet, and Pushkin’s “Bronze Horseman,” along with plenty of culinary and costume details. There’s nonstop action, lots of chapter hooks, comfortably predictable elements of romance, and an empowering message (“Imagine, and it shall be. There are no limits”), all of which, despite some stilted writing, will pull readers right along.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2017)
The 1825 Decembrist rebellion is co-opted for the second half of a lavish, Tolstoy-tinged fantasy duology, the sequel to The Crown’s Game (2016).Vika may now be the Russian Imperial Enchanter, but she cannot overcome her resentment against Pasha, the not-yet-crowned tsesarevich, either for forcing the deadly end of the Crown’s Game or for his autocratic commands. Meanwhile, Nikolai’s sacrifice left him trapped in an enchanted dream, seething with jealousy and despair; unwittingly feeding on dark energy frees him into a shadowy almost-life, plotting bloody vengeance against Pasha, who is his half brother. The operatic plot and outsized passions of the first title skated on the edge of melodrama; this follow- up, however, tips over into trite bathos. Neither the tiresome romantic quadrangle among the all-white characters nor the muddled magical system is improved by prose marred with clunky metaphors and a preference to tell rather than show. Vika’s brash willfulness and Pasha’s feckless insecurity fit poorly with their serious responsibilities; while both mature somewhat into their duties, they continue to value personal inclination over the common good. Worse, the narrative permits Nikolai to indulge his selfish petulance and bitter envy even to the gruesome suffering and death of (literally) thousands. Readers may well prefer the bittersweet, ambiguous ending of the first volume to this overly pat conclusion. (Fantasy. 12-18)

About the Author

Evelyn Skye is the New York Times Bestselling author of The Crown’s Game and its sequel, The Crown’s Fate. Evelyn was once offered a job by the C.I.A., she not-so-secretly wishes she was on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and if you challenge her to a pizza-eating contest, she guarantees she will win. When she isn’t writing, Evelyn can be found chasing her daughter on the playground or sitting on the couch, immersed in a good book and eating way too many cookies.

Her website is www.evelynskye.com.

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The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco. March 7, 2017. Sourcebooks Fire, 411 p. ISBN: 9781492635826.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

The beast raged; it punctured the air with its spite. But the girl was fiercer.

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

Part of series: The Bone Witch

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. Tea is a dark asha, a bone witch, capable of wielding death magic. It is a position both necessary and reviled by those around her, for every few years, monstrous daeva created by the False Prince rise and go on a murderous spree unless returned to death by a bone witch. Tea’s story quietly unfurls through recollections told to a traveling bard, as the 17-year-old asha—now an outcast—prepares to wage a war of her own making. The narrative is primarily devoted to world building, which Chupeco fashions through a richly imagined history and culture, reminiscent of traditional Asian cultures, revealed through Tea’s asha training. Those craving action may not appreciate this book’s subtle execution, but patient readers who enjoy immersing themselves in detail will revel in Chupeco’s finely wrought tale. Game of Thrones fans may see shades of Daenerys Targaryen in Tea, as she gathers a daeva army to unleash upon the world. Whether she is in the right remains a question unanswered, but the ending makes it clear her story is only beginning.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2017)
Something of a high-fantasy Memoirs of a Geisha, Chupeco’s latest excels in originality. The asha are known for performing, fighting, and magic; beautiful, brown-skinned Tea is taken from her provincial village to Kion to begin training as a dark (in magic) asha when she accidentally raises her dead brother. Chapters detailing young Tea’s early training through her debut as an asha intercut with 17-year-old Tea on a lonely beach raising monsters and planning war, relating her past to a nameless bard. The level of detail is astounding, confusing, but nevertheless fascinating; politics both local (the brief backmatter is a bit of a guide) and magical (the origin tale of the Faceless and heartsglass, introduced in the prologue, finally appears at the three-quarter mark) permeate everything. Multiple characters, including a dead brother and a handsome prince, surround stubborn, headstrong Tea as she finds herself implicated in events she doesn’t understand; the interstitial chapters make it clear that learning more will not make things better. These also slow the pace; they force an artificial sense of urgency in an otherwise slow, sensory journey and hijack the flow of Tea’s adventures. Chupeco is a writer to watch who deserves props for the breadth of her story, but she doesn’t entirely succeed here. A promising premise, a flawed execution, and a sense that the real story won’t develop until Book 2: somehow both exhilarating and disappointing. (Fantasy. 13 & up)

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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The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

The Dark Prophecy: The Trials of Apollo, Book Two by Rick Riordan. May 2, 2017. Disney-Hyperion, 414 p. ISBN: 9781484746424.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.6.

Zeus has punished his son Apollo—god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more—by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo do anything about them without his powers?

After experiencing a series of dangerous—and frankly, humiliating—trials at Camp Half-Blood, Apollo must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he’s gaining in new friendships—with heroes who will be very familiar to fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride. . . .

Sequel to: The Hidden Oracle

Part of Series: The Trials of Apollo

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns; Violence; Animal cruelty; Murder

Book Trailer

 

About the Author

Rick Riordan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults.

For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. In 2002, Saint Mary’s Hall honored him with the school’s first Master Teacher Award.

While teaching full time, Riordan began writing mystery novels for grownups. His Tres Navarre series went on to win the top three national awards in the mystery genre – the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus. Riordan turned to children’s fiction when he started The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son.

Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in Boston with his wife and two sons.

His website is www.rickriordan.com.

Teacher Resources

Trials of Apollo  Teaching Resources

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. March 28 2017. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 533 p. ISBN: 978031641684.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?

The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Welcome to Weep

Part of Series: Strange the Dreamer (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes; Mention of rape

 

Book Trailer

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 9-12. By now, fans of Laini Taylor know what to expect: beautiful prose, strange and whimsical fantasy worlds, sympathetic monsters, and wrenching, star-crossed romance. Her latest, first in a two-book set, certainly delivers on that, and there’s something quietly magical at play here. Lazlo Strange, an orphaned infant who grew up to be a librarian, has had a quiet first two decades of life. But Lazlo, reader of fairy tales, longs to learn more about a distant, nearly mythical city, called Weep after its true name was stolen. When a group of warriors from that very place come seeking help, Lazlo, never before a man of action, may actually see his dream fulfilled. Weep, though, is a city still reeling from the aftermath of a brutal war, and hidden there is a girl named Sarai and her four companions, all of whom have singular talents and devastating secrets. What follows is the careful unfolding of a plot crafted with origamilike precision. This has distinct echoes of Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone (2011), though ultimately it’s a cut above even that: characters are carefully, exquisitely crafted; the writing is achingly lovely; and the world is utterly real. While a cliff-hanger ending will certainly have readers itching for book two, make no mistake—this is a thing to be savored.

Horn Book Magazine (March/April, 2017)
Lazlo Strange is a lowly librarian with a keen and singular interest in the mysterious city of Weep, which lost contact with the rest of the world over two hundred years ago. When an envoy from that fabled city suddenly appears at the Great Library in the kingdom of Zosma, recruiting the best minds for a formidable but undefined problem, Lazlo manages to finagle a spot on the delegation. Meanwhile, we are introduced to teenage Sarai, who is “godspawn”—half-human, half-god—and who for the past fifteen years has lived in an impregnable metal citadel that hovers in the sky over Weep, ever since the gods were slaughtered in retribution for their brutal acts of sexual violence. Sarai has the power to fragment her consciousness into a hundred moth-shaped pieces and send them down to torment the citizens of Weep with nightmares. Much to her surprise, Sarai finds that, unlike others, Lazlo can actually see her when she enters his dreams, and what starts as an uneasy alliance between enemies blossoms into an improbable romance that will have tragic consequences as the plot draws to its cliffhanging conclusion. Taylor’s work (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, rev. 11/11, and sequels) sits at the nexus of the fantasy, horror, and romance genres. Here she has spun another mesmerizing tale with captivating twists and turns, an array of intriguing characters, strange and beautiful language, and baroque flourishes of the imagination; and, once again, she has set her readers up for an epic finale in the concluding volume of the duology. jonathan hunt

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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Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood. March 21, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9780062402639.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4.

Chantel would much rather focus on her magic than on curtsying, which is why she often finds herself in trouble at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. But when Miss Ellicott mysteriously disappears along with all the other sorceresses in the city, Chantel’s behavior becomes the least of her problems.

Without any magic protecting the city, it is up to Chantel and her friends to save the Kingdom. On a dangerous mission, Chantel will discover a crossbow-wielding boy, a dragon, and a new, fiery magic that burns inside her—but can she find the sorceresses and transform Lightning Pass into the city it was meant to be?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 11))
Grades 5-8. Chantel Goldenrod is the most talented student at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. While others struggle for years to summon a familiar, Chantel summoned hers (a snake named Japheth) at age six. Unfortunately for the more magically minded, Miss Ellicott emphasizes deportment and obedience over the study of spells, potions, and wards. But when Miss Ellicott and the rest of the sorceresses disappear, Chantel must ignore all rules in order to find them. Meanwhile, it’s hard to identify the true enemy. Is it the evil Marauders surrounding Lightning Pass who threaten to attack the city wall? Or the patriarchs and king who hoard the scarce food supply while citizens go hungry? Good thing Chantel has capable companions in her sensible friend Anna, a Marauder boy on the run named Franklin, and a dragon called Lightning. This fantastical adventure is a sheer delight, featuring a smart, kind, and brave heroine. Though the story involves the darkness of people’s hearts when they lust for power, it maintains a playfully humorous and good-natured tone. The king and patriarchs are narratively limited by their selfish behavior, but most of the other significant characters exhibit a realistic mix of strengths and flaws. Recommended for fantasy readers who want a plot on the cozier side, but still with serious consequences.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
Owl’s bowels! Someone’s kidnapped the sorceresses of Lightning Pass!Atop a steep, twisting street above the walled Kingdom sits Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens—Spells, Potions, Wards, Summonings and Deportment Taught to Deserving Surplus Females. Here, spells are second to deportment as the young students train to be proper sorceresses—“shamefast and biddable.” Tall and black, 13-year-old Chantel is the school’s most magical maiden, and she doesn’t give a hoot about deportment; she just wants to practice magic. After Miss Ellicott and the other sorceresses who keep the city safe disappear, Chantel finds that the remaining adults—all men—are useless. The patriarchs want to continue their iron rule over the city, and the king wants to take control away from the patriarchs. With barbaric Marauders from outside the wall banging at the gates, it’s up to Chantel to save the city and its people from destruction from without—and within. Aided by a fire-breathing dragon, a crossbow-wielding boy, and a long-dead queen, Chantel is a force to be reckoned with. The narrative makes fun of the follies of bureaucratic patriarchy, subverting gender roles by reinforcing them, trusting readers to spot the irony. In a hilarious turn, the novel plays with the skin-as-food-color trope: Anna, Chantel’s white best friend, is described as having “skin the color of raw chicken.” Chantel is a magical heroine to be celebrated, deportment notwithstanding. (Fantasy. 8-14)

About the Author

Sage Blackwood lives at the edge of a large forest, with thousands of books and a very old dog, and enjoys carpentry, cooking, and walking in the woods of New York State.

Her website is www.sageblackwood.com.

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King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard. February 7, 2017. HarperTeen, 528 p. ISBN: 9780062310699.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 700.

When the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

Sequel to: Glass Sword

Part of Series: Red Queen (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Strong sexual themes

 

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Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (March 15, 2017)
The “lightning girl” who once led a revolution now toils, powerless and imprisoned, in this continuation of the Red Queen series. After turning herself over in exchange for the lives of her friends, Mare Barrow becomes King Maven’s puppet. She waits, locked in a room, her lightning drained by Arvens—Silvers who leach power. But Maven has grander plans for her. And if she wants to keep the newbloods safe, she must comply. Mare broadcasts a lie that she willingly surrendered herself to the king after the Scarlet Guard forced her into servitude. She paints the Scarlet Guard as murderers, paving the way for Maven to offer refuge to newbloods in hopes of amassing an army. Otherwise, he’ll just keep hunting them. Political machinations rumble while both the king and the Scarlet Guard form new alliances. As Mare bides her time, she confronts uncomfortable feelings for Maven—she’s his greatest weakness, but can she kill him? Complementing Mare’s narration, Cameron, a newblood, relates the movements of the Scarlet Guard, and Evangeline, Maven’s betrothed, offers insight into the deadly House Samos. Few bursts of action stir up this slow-burning installment, allowing the dizzyingly large fleet of characters room to gain new depth. Mare’s romantic entanglements shift and sizzle, but the true intrigue lies in the ever expanding war for the crown as the players grow and change games. Aside from dark-skinned Cameron, the principal cast appears to be white, although the caste system based on the distinctions between Red and Silver blood holds more sway in this fantasy world than race. Simmering with internal conflict and well-devised courtly scheming—but readers new to the series had best start with Book 1. (Fantasy. 13-adult)

Publishers Weekly Annex (February 13, 2017)
Leashed like an animal and trotted out as a trophy of war, Mare Barrow passes her 18th birthday imprisoned by King Maven and turned into a puppet of a propaganda machine bent on destroying the Scarlet Guard. In this third installment of the Red Queen series, Aveyard’s frenetic action sequences initially take a backseat to the patient study of Mare’s captivity. But there are still plenty of schemes amid royal fissures and ill-fated rescues, an assassination attempt, and raging battles on multiple fronts to help this story keep pace with the previous installments. A newblood struggling with her deadly abilities and a princess begrudgingly betrothed to Maven narrate a few chapters of their own, but the majority of the tale is again seen through the eyes of Aveyard’s “little lightning girl,” who remains a relatable and deeply flawed heroine. Concluding as hope dwindles that the Reds will ever be free of the Silver crown, Aveyard adeptly sets the scene for a fourth book to follow, amid a war not yet won. Ages 13-up. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (Feb.)

About the Author

Victoria Aveyard graduated from USC, where she majored in screenwriting. She splits her time between Massachusetts and Los Angeles. The genres she’s into include YA, Fantasy, Historical, Adventure, Apocalyptic – “if people are dying, I’m buying”.

Her website is www.victoriaaveyard.com.

 

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King’s Cage on Amazon

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