Tag Archives: fantasy

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.

Around the Web

Strange the Dreamer on Amazon

Strange the Dreamer  on Goodreads

Strange the Dreamer  on JLG

Strange the Dreamer Publisher Page

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.

Around the Web

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded on Amazon

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded on Goodreads

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded on JLG

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded Publisher Page

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

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Video Reviews

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.

 

Around the Web

King’s Cage on Amazon

King’s Cage on Goodreads

King’s Cage on JLG

King’s Cage Publisher Page

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson

At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson. February 7, 2017. Simon Pulse, 496 p. ISBN: 9781481449663.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

From the author of We Are the Ants and The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley comes the heartbreaking story of a boy who believes the universe is slowly shrinking as things he remembers are being erased from others’ memories.

Tommy and Ozzie have been best friends since the second grade, and boyfriends since eighth. They spent countless days dreaming of escaping their small town—and then Tommy vanished.

More accurately, he ceased to exist, erased from the minds and memories of everyone who knew him. Everyone except Ozzie.

Ozzie doesn’t know how to navigate life without Tommy, and soon he suspects that something else is going on: that the universe is shrinking.

When Ozzie is paired up with new student Calvin on a physics project, he begins to wonder if Calvin could somehow be involved. But the more time they spend together, the harder it is for him to deny the feelings developing between them, even if he still loves Tommy.

But Ozzie knows there isn’t much time left to find Tommy—that once the door closes, it can’t be opened again. And he’s determined to keep it open as long as it takes to get his boyfriend back.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Drugs; Alcohol; Drugging and sexual abuse of a minor.

 

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. The universe isn’t expanding anymore—it’s actually shrinking, and Florida high-school senior Ozzie is the only one who remembers it differently. He’s also the only one who remembers Tommy, his best friend since childhood and boyfriend since the eighth grade. Tommy has vanished, both from Ozzie’s life and from the memories of everyone around him. As graduation approaches and Ozzie’s world becomes literally smaller, he struggles to find Tommy with increasing desperation, even as he grows closer to Calvin, the quiet, elusive boy in his physics class. Occasionally nihilistic but never completely hopeless, the narrative supports multiple topics with grace: gender and sexual identities, mental illness, and the inevitable grief that comes with learning to move from one phase of life to another. A few familiar faces from Hutchinson’s We Are the Ants (2016) make cameo appearances, and fans will recognize similar motifs—Hutchinson writes variations on a theme, to be sure, but it’s a rich theme. Wrenching and thought-provoking, Hutchinson has penned another winner.

Kirkus Reviews starred (November 15, 2016)
If your boyfriend is erased from history, is it because the universe is shrinking, or have you totally lost your mind?During senior year in high school, college applications and prom dates are the stresses du jour. But Oswald “Ozzie” Pinkerton’s also include trying to convince anyone (family, friends, an alphabetical string of therapists) that his boyfriend, Tommy, ever existed. They theorize that Ozzie is obsessive and slightly touched; he theorizes that the universe is shrinking and that Tommy was a casualty of restricting astral girth. As Ozzie tracks the solar system’s diminishing waist size, his still-existing world unravels and conversely weaves new chapters. One of these chapters is Calvin, a once-golden, now-reclusive student. When the two are paired for a physics project, Ozzie weighs his loyalty to absent Tommy against his growing attraction to present Calvin. A varied cast of characters populates the pages: there’s a genderqueer girl who prefers masculine pronouns, a black boyfriend, an Asian/Jewish (by way of adoption) best friend, and a bevy of melting-pot surnames. Ozzie is a white male, and he is respectfully called out on underestimating the privilege he enjoys for being just that. Though Ozzie primarily narrates in the past tense (with sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll drifting through the background), intermittent flashbacks in the present tense unveil the tender, intimate history of Ozzie’s relationship with Tommy. An earthy, existential coming-of-age gem. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

About the Author

Shaun is a major geek and all about nerdy shenanigans. He is the author of We Are the Ants, The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, The Deathday Letter, fml, and the editor of the anthology Violent Ends.

He currently lives in South Florida with his dog and watches way too much Doctor Who.

His website is www.shaundavidhutchinson.com.

Teacher Resources

At the Edge of the Universe Reading Group Guide

Around the Web

At the Edge of the Universe on Amazon

At the Edge of the Universe on Goodreads

At the Edge of the Universe on JLG

At the Edge of the Universe Publisher Page

Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park

Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park. March7, 2017. HarperCollins, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062327413.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

In the second installment of the spellbinding Wing & Claw series, Newbery Medal—winning author Linda Sue Park takes a young apothecary hero to new heights of danger, exciting adventure, and intriguing botanical magic.

Raffa Santana has spent all winter hiding in the harsh wilderness of the Sudden Mountains, and now it’s time to return home. Home, where his parents will help him fight back against the vile Chancellor who has captured and altered the wild creatures of the Forest of Wonders. Home, where Raffa’s beloved companion, Echo the bat, will recover from his mysterious sickness.

To get there, Raffa must make a treacherous journey across Obsidia. Along the way, he will discover a luminous plant that might be the key to saving the creatures stuck in the Chancellor’s grasp… if only Raffa can unlock the plant’s secrets and deliver the cure to the captive animals.

Cavern of Secrets masterfully explores one boy’s responsibility to his friends, family, and the wider world.

Sequel to: Forest of Wonders

Part of series: Wing & Claw

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Inhumane treatment of animals

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 3-6. After spending months hiding in the woods, Raffa, Garith, and Kuma, accompanied by their animal friends, decide it’s time to go home, if only because Raffa’s talking bat, Echo, is gravely ill. On their trip back, Raffa stumbles onto a new plant with miraculous healing properties, which comes in handy once aggressive animals treated with the scarlet vine start attacking people in unnatural ways. Raffa’s new plant seems to reverse the effects of the scarlet vine, and he endeavors to return to the heart of the city, no matter how dangerous, to thwart the Chancellor’s nefarious plans. Amid all the action of his mission, Raffa faces some hard truths about his apothecary gifts, especially when he considers what might be best for Echo. While Raffa’s fretful inner monologue sometimes bogs down the pace, Park’s meaningful exploration of emotions nicely grounds the plot, and her rich, vividly drawn characters add plenty of depth. Another cliff-hanger ends this second volume of the Wing and Claw series, but that only means there’s more for fans to pine for.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
In this sequel to Forest of Wonders (2016), hero Raffa applies his apothecary skills to thwart the Chancellor of Obsidia’s malevolent plot to treat wild animals with botanicals and use them against her own people. Raffa, his cousin, Garith, and his friend Kuma, along with a talking bat named Echo, a gigantic bear, and a raccoon, have spent the winter in the Sudden Mountains, hiding from the Chancellor who wants to silence them because of their knowledge of her secret plan. With spring’s approach, Raffa decides to return to his parents. On the perilous journey home, Raffa discovers a hidden cavern where he harvests a mysterious, translucent plant whose healing properties cure the ailing Echo. After witnessing the Chancellor’s manipulated foxes, stoats, and crows devastate Kuma’s village and finding his own home in ashes, Raffa covertly develops an antidote from the cavern plant, hoping to cure and free the captured animals. When his plan fails, a desperate, desolate Raffa faces a precarious future, pondering his role as a healer vis-à-vis his family, friends, and Obsidia. As in the trilogy opener, Park demands that her child protagonist make adult-sized choices that come with real consequences. Raffa’s world is a diverse one; he has dark hair and light-brown skin, Kuma’s skin is dark, and Garith is newly deaf. The nail-biting adventure, relevant moral dilemmas, and complex characters will leave readers eager for the final installment. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

Linda Sue Park is a Korean American author of children’s fiction. Park published her first novel, Seesaw Girl, in 1999. To date, she has written six children’s novels and five picture books for younger readers. Park’s work achieved prominence when she received the prestigious 2002 Newbery Medal for her novel A Single Shard.

Her website is www.lindasuepark.com.

Teacher Resources

Wing and Claw Reading Guide

Around the Web

Cavern of Secrets on Amazon

Cavern of Secrets on Goodreads

Cavern of Secrets on JLG

Cavern of Secrets Publisher Page

The Bronze Key by Holly Black & Cassanadra Clare

The Bronze Key by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare. August 30, 2016. Scholastic Press, 256 p. ISBN: 9780545522311.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 740.

Magic can save you.
Magic can kill you.

Students at the Magisterium are supposed to be safe. Under the watchful eyes of the mages, they are taught to use magic to bring order to a chaotic world.

But now the chaos is fighting back. Call, Tamara, and Aaron should be worrying about things like pop quizzes and magic contests. Instead, after the shocking death of one of their classmates, they must track down a sinister killer… and risk their own lives in the process.

As Call, Tamara, and Aaron discover, magic can only be as good as the person who wields it. In evil hands, it has the capacity to do immeasurable harm, unless it is stopped in time.

In this striking third book of Magisterium, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare present us with a school where anything, good or evil, can happen, and the only way to unlock the truth is to risk everything to find it.

Sequel to: The Copper Gauntlet

Part of Series: Magisterium

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Online))
Grades 5-8. This third return to the Magisterium series finds Call, the not-so-evil-after-all reincarnation of a dark overlord, headed back to school with his two best friends Aaron and Tamara. But all, it seems, is not well, as it soon becomes clear that someone is trying to kill Call. The three conduct their own investigation into the would-be murderer, but they’re blocked at every step, and Call knows he can’t trust anyone. Except, of course, for Aaron and Tamara, right? The crew gets a year older with every book (Call is 14 now), and romantic subplots are starting to peek out even as the narrative grows more ominous. This installment is the third in a planned five-book series, and the plot seems to have stalled somewhat; despite uncertain loyalties and ambiguous characters, this lacks the punch of its predecessor, until the dark turn of an ending. Still, that cliff-hanger finale alone should be enough to get readers to sign up for book four.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
Book 3 in the Magisterium series continues the escapades of 14-year-olds Call, Tamara, and Aaron as they pursue their Bronze Year studies at the Magisterium.Readers of Books 1 and 2 now know that white Callum Hunt has the soul of Constantine Madden, the deceased Enemy of Death, who had wreaked so much havoc on mages. Also in on the secret are Tamara, of Indian descent, and Aaron, white—Call’s best friends and fellow apprentices at the Magisterium, where they are in their third year of mage-studies. But, Call believes, no one else in the Magisterium knows. Ensuing events, however, seem to indicate that someone wants Call dead. Author-collaborators Black and Clare fail to make this third book as engrossing as the first two. The tension surrounding the question of whom Call can trust—could Aaron be trying to kill him?—never gets off the ground: Call stews improbably and shallowly, while astute readers will have figured out who the culprit is long before. Engrossing adventures abound but, alas, are frequently fueled by flimsy, contrived logic that does neither characters nor readers justice. The narrative repeatedly fills readers in on things that happened in the previous book, which reads as, well, filler, and there’s no significant movement forward plotwise until the ending setup for Book 4. Only unevenly entertaining and suffering from middle-book syndrome. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Authors

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.

 

Cassandra Clare was born overseas and spent her early years traveling around the world with her family and several trunks of fantasy books. Cassandra worked for several years as an entertainment journalist for the Hollywood Reporter before turning her attention to fiction. She is the author of City of Bones, the first book in the Mortal Instruments trilogy and a New York Times bestseller. Cassandra lives with her fiance and their two cats in Massachusetts.

Her website is www.cassandraclare.com.

Teacher Resources

Magisterium  series Discussion Guide

Around the Web

The Bronze Key on Amazon

The Bronze Key on Goodreads

The Bronze Key on JLG

The Bronze Key Publisher Page

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan. June 7, 2016. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 384 p. ISBN: 9780553524857.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 790.

Julia has the unusual ability to be . . . unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.

It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned–crime pays.

Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding–though from what or whom?

Worse, Julia suspects that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.

The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price

Part of Series: Witch’s Child (Book #1)

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

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 17))
Grades 9-12. Julia is the best thief and spy in Spira City. At 16, she knows every twisted alleyway and escape route it holds. She also has the ability to “be unseen”—not to become invisible, exactly, but to pull herself into gaps in the air. This unusual talent has proven dead useful in her line of work, which has been her lot ever since her mother was drowned as a witch (magic and folklore are illegal in the kingdom of Frayne). Home is now with her brother and the ragtag gang that contracts her jobs. This is how Julia has ended up posing as a maid in the house of Mrs. Och, but her snooping assignment is becoming more dangerous by the day. Strange meetings, secretive guests, and frightening sounds inhabit the house’s walls, while outside, a serial killer is on the loose. Egan nimbly builds a fantasy world resembling early modern Europe—with a class system, scourge survivors, prescribed religion, and witch hunts—and laces it with original mythologies to fuel the story’s action. Readers will find themselves immediately immersed in the narrative and invested in the fate of Julia, who is both feisty and flawed. There is a richness to this inaugural volume of the Witch’s Child trilogy, and readers will be hard pressed to put it down.

Horn Book Magazine (July/August, 2016)
Julia is a thief in Spira City, sent by a mysterious employer to gather information from the wealthy Mrs. Och’s house. Though Julia has never understood her ability to turn almost invisible, that talent helps her spy and steal. Posing as a housemaid, Julia learns that Mrs. Och is defying the fervidly anti-magic government by secretly smuggling well-connected witches to safety. (Less-fortunate witches are drowned in public “Cleansings,” as Julia’s mother was years before.) Mrs. Och’s newest houseguests are a beautiful witch and her toddler son — a child with powers that interested parties would kill to claim. Julia is drawn into a battle encompassing her targets, a corrupt politician, and the terrifying forces behind her assignment. While this fantasy’s world-building, politics, and magical history are indeed interesting, these are surpassed by the daring criminal escapades and by Julia’s internal conflicts. Julia’s self-made family of thieves (including brother Dek and love-interest Wyn) is a likable crew that works together, even through the personal betrayals that add emotional complexity to the novel. The villains, too, are attractive in their wickedness. Following Julia and her comrades makes for a tricky, frightening, relentlessly exciting adventure colored with moral ambiguity and magical intrigue. The fast-paced plot concludes nicely, but with plenty of questions left open for further installments in the series. sarah berman

About the Author

My superpowers: high-kicking, list-making, simultaneously holding two opposing opinions

My weaknesses: fear of flying, excessive list-making, lame-ass mortality

My allies: The Canadian Mounties, my made-for-walking-in black boots, Mick, the English Language

My mission: the coexistence of ambivalence and joy.

Her website is www.catherineegan.com.

Around the Web

Julia Vanishes on Amazon

Julia Vanishes on Goodreads

Julia Vanishes on JLG

Julia Vanishes Publisher Page

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. April  26, 2016. Scholastic, 448 p. ISBN: 9780545424981.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore

Part of Series: The Raven Cycle

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language

 

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist starred (March 1, 2016 (Vol. 112, No. 13))
Grades 9-12. Here it is—the final volume in the Raven Cycle—and it is, simply, a marvel, the strongest and most spacious of the four volumes. This installment finds the world of the Raven Boys (Gansey, Ronan, Adam, and Noah) and their best friend Blue in considerable and dangerous disarray. As strange, increasingly sinister things begin happening in Henrietta and the magic forest of Cabeswater, the search for sleeping king Owen Glendower becomes more imperative, as it becomes apparent that something wicked this way comes. To say more here would be to rob readers of the joy of discovering the book’s many secrets, twists, and surprises. Instead, let’s observe that if writing a book is taking readers’ minds for a walk, Stiefvater never makes a false step. Everything is exactly right: the writing is gorgeous, the characters are brilliantly realized, the compelling plot arises organically from them, the mounting danger and suspense leaves the reader breathless, and the presence of evil is palpable. Best of all, Stiefvater has created a richly imagined, complete world that readers can, with a sense of wonder, inhabit, experiencing viscerally the magic with which it is suffused and falling in love with its unforgettable characters. Like this world she has created, Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle is magic, plain and simple.

Kirkus Reviews (March 1, 2016)
A group of Virginia teenagers finally finds a long-buried Welsh king in this conclusion to the four-part Raven Cycle. A demon has infected the magical forest, Cabeswater, killing Ronan’s mother, Aurora, and threatening Ronan’s brother, Matthew, as well as Ronan and maybe the whole world–Gansey knows what he has to do. It’s all been foretold, and readers have been waiting for it since Blue saw him on the corpse road in quartet opener The Raven Boys (2012). For three out of four novels, Stiefvater combined extraordinary magic and visceral reality in a way that felt entirely true. Here, the magic scatters in all directions, and too little of it makes sense. The characters–Ronan, Gansey, long-dead Noah, Blue Sargent, newcomer Henry, and especially Adam–are as multidimensional and fully realized as ever; Ronan and Adam’s budding romance is beautifully told. The writing sings–each sentence, each paragraph marvelously wrought. Yet at the point where the story needs to make the most sense, it makes the least, prophecy and magics piling up on one another in a chaotic, anticlimactic climax. The ending feels trivial, almost mocking the seriousness of the rest of the quartet. Stiefvater couldn’t write a bad book, and this isn’t one, but it is a disappointment after years of glorious buildup. (Fantasy. 14 & up)

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader.

All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia with her charmingly straight-laced husband, two kids, two neurotic dogs, and a 1973 Camaro named Loki.

Her website is www.maggiestiefvater.com.

Teacher Resources

The Raven Cycle Discussion Guide

Around the Web

The Raven King on Amazon

The Raven King on Goodreads

The Raven King on JLG

The Raven King Publisher Page

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron

Island of Exiles by Erica Cameron. February  14, 2017. Entangled: Teen, 400 p. ISBN: 9781633755925.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run―a betrayal and a death sentence.

Part of Series: The Ryogan Chronicles (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Mild sexual themes

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2017)
Cameron (Assassins: Nemesis, 2017, etc.) tells a YA fantasy tale about a “nyshin”—a warrior, mage, and hunter—on a desert island rife with danger. Khya is no stranger to hardship. Life on the island of Shiara is inhospitable at best, and as a nyshin, burdens fall especially heavily on her. Nevertheless, she’s always been able to depend on her clan and the fact that everyone in it works for the good of the many. But everything changes when they threaten to take from her the one thing she can’t give up: her brother, Yorri. Her worries are understandable as her sibling approaches a rite of passage that will determine the course of his life, but the greatest dangers facing her are ones that she can’t even imagine. As storms rage across the island and enemies probe the clan’s borders, a conspiracy begins to unfold that will test everything Khya has ever known. Not knowing whom to trust, she must rely on strange bedfellows: Sanii, a member of the servant class and the love of Yorri’s life; and Tessen, Khya’s sometime-friend, sometime-archrival, and possibly something more. But most of all, she must depend on herself, casting aside faith, duty, and honor for the strength of love and family. Readers won’t be able to put this book down, as the excitement begins from the first page and only grows from there. Cameron expertly blends worldbuilding and intriguing characters with page-turning action scenes and a story that builds in tension and complexity. The novel’s commitment to diversity adds new dimensions to the story, as the cast is entirely nonwhite, and the clan recognizes nonbinary gender identities and complex sexual orientations. The lexicon of unique terms and concepts may be intimidating to some readers, but the vocabulary adds fantastic texture to the world without distracting from the plot. This rare gem of a book has a lot to offer readers, including magic, action, and intrigue on the edge of a knife. A fresh, original series starter bolstered by a dynamic protagonist and a welcome sense of depth.

About the Author

After a lifelong obsession with books, Erica Cameron spent her college years studying psychology and creative writing, basically getting credit for reading and learning how to make stories of her own. Now, she’s the author of several series for young adults. She’s also a reader, asexuality advocate, dance fan, choreographer, singer, lover of musical theater, movie obsessed, sucker for romance, Florida resident, and quasi-recluse who loves the beach but hates the heat, has equal passion for the art of Salvador Dali and Venetian Carnival masks, has a penchant for unique jewelry and sun/moon décor pieces, and a desire to travel the entire world on a cruise ship. Or a private yacht. You know, whatever works.

Her website is www.byericacameron.com.

Around the Web

Island of Exiles on Amazon

Island of Exiles on Goodreads

Island of Exiles on JLG

Island of Exile Publisher Page

Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli

Fish Girl by Donna Jo Napoli; illustrated by David Wiesner. March 7, 2017. Clarion Books, 192 p. ISBN: 9780544815124.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.5; Lexile: 460.

In this graphic novel, a young mermaid, called Fish Girl, living in a boardwalk aquarium has a chance encounter with an ordinary girl. Their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl’s longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2017)
Napoli and Wiesner transport readers under the sea, introducing them to a modern-day heroine who longs to be part of their world.In this riveting graphic novel adaptation of the famous Andersen fairy tale, the nameless mermaid character is part of an aquatic exhibit run by a man who plays the part of Neptune the sea god. Napoli and Wiesner use the form’s sparse dialogue to deftly reimagine the fairy tale’s essential elements, from the heartbreaking divide between land and sea to the indomitable heroine who is willing to risk everything to cross that barrier and follow her heart—in this case, catalyzed by her growing friendship with a human girl who visits her regularly in the aquarium. The shrewd interpretation of the tale’s sexual politics is its most striking feature. The mermaid becomes an Everygirl who discovers that her identity and personhood are subordinated to a man whose sinister charm barely conceals his marginalizing view of her as profitable merchandise. Given current events, the image of a falsely benevolent Neptune who systematically chips away at the mermaid’s self-worth feels eerily apt, rendering the mermaid’s desire for a life on land all the more poignant. Wiesner’s artwork aptly conveys the narrative’s tone, but the muted color palette makes his illustrations feel oddly inert. The mermaid, her human friend, and Neptune all have fair skin. A thought-provoking work that is not to be missed. (Graphic fantasy. 10-16)

Publishers Weekly (December 19, 2016)
In Wiesner and Napoli’s unsettling tale of self-discovery, a young mermaid who stars in a boardwalk aquarium show begins to question her circumstances after a human girl offers her friendship. Though she can’t talk and has never been outside, Mira-as her new friend Livia christens her-slowly realizes that the show’s domineering owner, Neptune, may not be as benevolent or godlike as he seems. “The scientists will take you to a lab,” he threatens, warning her against being seen. “They’ll cut you open.” With Livia’s encouragement, help from her fellow sea creatures, and her own extra-human powers, Mira delivers herself from her captor. Napoli (Dark Shimmer) and Wiesner (Mr. Wuffles!) create a plot that crackles, and Wiesner’s graceful, classically proportioned artwork makes the story’s fantastical elements clear and believable. But Neptune’s catalog of classic psychological abuse seems to belong to an edgier tale. Livia’s goofy presence counterbalances the menace (“This is a cheese and lettuce sandwich,” she explains to Mira, holding up a drawing), and Mira’s sidekick-a huge, brooding octopus-offers her the love that Neptune withholds. Ages 10-12. (Mar.)

About the Author

Donna Jo Napoli is both a linguist and a writer of children’s and YA fiction.

Donna Jo has five children. She dreams of moving to the woods and becoming a naturalist. She loves to garden and bake bread.

She lives outside Philadelphia. Her website is www.donnajonapoli.com.

About the Illustrator

During David Wiesner’s formative years, the last images he saw before closing his eyes at night were the books, rockets, elephant heads, clocks, and magnifying glasses that decorated the wallpaper of his room. Perhaps it was this decor which awakened his creativity and gave it the dreamlike, imaginative quality so often found in his work.

As a child growing up in suburban New Jersey, Wiesner re-created his world daily in his imagination. His home and his neighborhood became anything from a faraway planet to a prehistoric jungle. When the everyday play stopped, he would follow his imaginary playmates into the pages of books, wandering among dinosaurs in the World Book Encyclopedia. The images before him generated a love of detail, an admiration for the creative process, and a curiosity about the hand behind the drawings.

David Wiesner has illustrated more than twenty award-winning books for young readers. Two of the picture books he both wrote and illustrated became instant classics when they won the prestigious Caldecott Medal: Tuesday in 1992 and The Three Pigs in 2002. Two of his other titles, Sector 7 and Free Fall, are Caldecott Honor Books.  Flotsam, his most recent work, was a New York Times bestseller and was recently named winner of the 2007 Caldecott Medal, making Wiesner only the second person in the award’s long history to have won three times.

Wiesner lives with his wife and their son and daughter in the Philadelphia area, where he continues to create dreamlike and inventive images for books.

His website is www.davidwiesner.com.

Around the Web

Fish Girl on Amazon

Fish Girl on Goodreads

Fish Girl on JLG

Fish Girl Publisher Page