Tag Archives: fantasy

The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus

The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus. March 6, 2018. Fiewel & Friends, 315 p. ISBN: 9781250165343.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 880.

It is 1962, and Elisa Esposito—mute her whole life, orphaned as a child—is struggling with her humdrum existence as a janitor working the graveyard shift at Baltimore’s Occam Aerospace Research Center. Were it not for Zelda, a protective coworker, and Giles, her loving neighbor, she doesn’t know how she’d make it through the day.

Then, one fateful night, she sees something she was never meant to see, the Center’s most sensitive asset ever: an amphibious man, captured in the Amazon, to be studied for Cold War advancements. The creature is terrifying but also magnificent, capable of language and of understanding emotions…and Elisa can’t keep away. Using sign language, the two learn to communicate. Soon, affection turns into love, and the creature becomes Elisa’s sole reason to live.

But outside forces are pressing in. Richard Strickland, the obsessed soldier who tracked the asset through the Amazon, wants nothing more than to dissect it before the Russians get a chance to steal it. Elisa has no choice but to risk everything to save her beloved. With the help of Zelda and Giles, Elisa hatches a plan to break out the creature. But Strickland is on to them. And the Russians are, indeed, coming.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Discrimination, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Smoking, Misogyny, Racism, Anti-gay attitudes and epithets



About the Authors

Guillermo del Toro is a Mexican director mostly known for his acclaimed films Pan’s LabyrinthThe Devils BackboneCrimson Peak and the Hellboy film franchise. His films draw heavily on sources as diverse as weird fiction, fantasy, horror, and war. In 2009, Del Toro released his debut novel, The Strain, co-authored with Chuck Hogan, as the first part of The Strain Trilogy, an apocalyptic horror series featuring vampires. The series continued with The Fall in 2010 and concluded with The Night Eternal in 2011.

Daniel Kraus has landed on Entertainment Weekly’s Top 10 Books of 2015 (The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch), won two Odyssey Awards (for both Rotters and Scowler), and has been a Library Guild selection, YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Parent’s Choice Gold Award winner, Bram Stoker finalist, and more.

He co-authored Trollhunters with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, and his work has been translated into over 15 languages. His feature films include Musician (2007 New York Times Critics’ Pick) and Sheriff (2006 season premiere of PBS’s Independent Lens).

His website is danielkraus.com

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The Ripple Kingdom by Gigi D.G.

The Ripple Kingdom by Gigi D.G.. February 27, 2018. First Second, 240 p. ISBN: 9781250159823.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 350.

The quest to save Dreamside continues! After a surprise attack at sea, Cucumber finds himself in the Ripple Kingdom, home to white sand, blue waves . . . oh yeah, and the giant, terrible squid monster holding Almond and Sir Carrot captive. Can our so-called “legendary hero” rescue his companions from the nefarious Splashmaster?

Nah, probably not.

Good thing Princess Nautilus is here! With her wit, charm, and positive attitude, there’s no way they can lose. But saving the day won’t be as simple as it seems once a 500,000-year-old secret comes to light . . .

Adapted from Gigi D.G.’s popular webcomic series of the same name, Cucumber Quest: The Ripple Kingdom is the second book of a clever, adorable, and hilarious four-volume heroic adventure that is sure to make you hungry for sweets and action.

Sequel to: The Doughnut Kingdom

Part of Series: Cucumber Quest (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Body humor



School Library Journal (January 1, 2018)
Gr 2-5-D.G. presents a second print installment based on her hit webcomic Cucumber Quest. This leg of the quest centers on the watery Ripple Kingdom (one of the seven realms of Dreamside), where bunny siblings Cucumber and Almond have been separated. Almond is a fighter but finds herself at the mercy of Splashmaster, a giant squid with an abysmally low intelligence score. Reluctant hero Cucumber has washed ashore and rescues Princess Nautilus from a mob of crabs. Cucumber and Almond eventually reunite to defeat the Splashmaster, who is one of the henchmen of the Nightmare Knight, the “big bad” summoned once every 5,000 years to help a greedy mortal bent on world domination. With the help of a hilarious supporting cast, Cucumber and Almond must save the land of Dreamside once and for all. D.G.’s comic has transitioned from web to page beautifully, with the exception of a few scene transitions that aren’t quite clear. Readers looking for high action and ridiculous comedy will devour this tale. While this title can stand alone, those who are familiar with the first installment will get more out of it. Soft lines and saturated color convey light and emotion perfectly, creating a style sure to draw elementary and middle grade readers alike. VERDICT Jump in! The water in Ripple Kingdom is just fine, even if it is chock-full of sassy crabs and one giant vacuous squid. A recommended purchase for all graphic novel collections.-Taylor Worley, Springfield Public Library, OR

About the Author

Gigi D.G. is a comic artist from Southern California who does concept work for animation and video games. She started creating Cucumber Quest in 2011, and it is her first published work. Her website is cucumber.gigididi.com

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The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst

The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst. April 3, 2018. Clarion Books, 336 p. ISBN: 9781328729453.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.8; Lexile: 660.

Exploring the power of stories and storytelling, Sarah Beth Durst presents the mesmerizing adventure of a girl made of living stone who braves unforeseen dangers and magical consequences on a crucial quest to save her family. 

Mayka and her stone family were brought to life by the stories etched into their bodies. Now time is eroding these vital marks, and Mayka must find a stonemason to recarve them. But the search is more complex than she had imagined, and Mayka uncovers a scheme endangering all stone creatures. Only someone who casts stories into stone can help—but whom can Mayka trust? Where is the stonemason who will save them?

Action and insight combine in this magical coming-of-age novel as the young heroine realizes the savior she’s been searching for is herself.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None



Booklist (March 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Mayka’s father, the stonemason, carved her and the creatures she lives with, but now that he is dead, their intricate carvings are fading, and with them, the power that keeps them alive. To save them, Mayka must go to the world below her mountain and look for a new stonemason to recarve the stories etched into their bodies. But the human world is a dangerous one, and Mayka must learn new skills to keep from falling into a dangerous trap. In this celebration of stories, art, and the love of family—both birth and chosen—readers will meet a host of characters who are very human, regardless of their actual physical makeup. Using the familiar rhythms of traditional tales and bolstered by Mayka’s love of telling stories, this is a strong addition to middle-grade fantasy adventures, one which begs to be read aloud. With a deft balance between the thrilling journey and the artfully built world of magic, this is as beautiful and adventurous as the graceful stone birds accompanying Mayka on her journey.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2018)
A living stone girl leaves the isolated mountain where she lives to seek a stonemason who can keep her family alive.Father, a stonemason, was human. He carved their family: animals, two birds, and Mayka, a 12-year-old girl made from gray mountain granite. Stone beings don’t cry, taste, sleep, or tire—but because Father carved marks on each one giving them life and their own unique stories, they move, talk, think, and feel. Since Father died, wind, water, and time have been wearing down the family’s markings; recently, Turtle’s markings so eroded that he stopped living. So Mayka gathers her courage and hikes down from their idyllic mountain into the city, accompanied by the flying stone birds. Her quest for a stonemason to recarve their markings leads to many revelations, each serious yet presented gently. As Mayka learns that Father was famous, that most stone beings serve flesh-and-blood “keepers,” and that a city stonemason has invented a carving that enslaves, she begins to understand that she and her fellow carved creatures can interpret and stretch their own stories—even when those stories are literally carved in stone. Mayka’s kindness and steady loyalty, her friends’ animated and varied personalities, and some downright brilliant problem-solving will carve themselves into readers’ memories. Thoughtful, colorful, strengthening, and understatedly tender. (Fantasy. 9-12)

About the Author

Sarah Beth Durst is the award-winning author of fifteen fantasy books for kids, teens, and adults, including The Stone Girl’s Story, Drink Slay Love, and The Queens of Renthia series. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times. She is a graduate of Princeton University, where she spent four years studying English, writing about dragons, and wondering what the campus gargoyles would say if they could talk.

Sarah lives in Stony Brook, New York, with her husband, her children, and her ill-mannered cat. Her website is www.sarahbethdurst.com

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Blood of a Thousand Stars by Rhoda Belleza

Blood of a Thousand Stars by Rhoda Belleza. February 20, 2018. Razorbill, 359 p. ISBN: 9781101999134.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

With a revolution brewing, Rhee is faced with a choice: make a deal with her enemy, Nero, or denounce him and risk losing her crown.

Framed assassin Alyosha has one goal in mind: kill Nero. But to get his revenge, Aly may have to travel back to the very place he thought he’d left forever—home.

Kara knows that a single piece of technology located on the uninhabitable planet Wraeta may be the key to remembering—and erasing—the princess she once was.

Villainous media star Nero is out for blood, and he’ll go to any means necessary to control the galaxy.

Vicious politics and high-stakes action culminate in an epic showdown that will determine the fate of the universe.

Sequel to: Empress of a Thousand Skies

Part of Series: Empress of a Thousand Skies (Book 2)

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



Booklist (March 15, 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Belleza’s thrilling sequel to Empress of a Thousand Skies (2017) begins as explosively as its predecessor ends. As war ravages the galaxy and revolution gathers in the shadows, Rhee, the Crown Princess, fights for her throne, and Alyosha, a fugitive, charts a course of revenge. Rhee must make a deal with Nero (a media star) to achieve her aims, and Alyosha must kill Nero to achieve his. All the while, Nero himself plays a duplicitous game to wrest control of the galaxy. As in the first book, Belleza weaves politics, ethics, and drama into a sweeping, savvy space opera. The romance is sweetly subtle, allowing the story’s intrigue and action to take center stage. This ultimate revenge saga features an all-star cast of protagonists and villains with clear goals, motivations, and voices. Though the sequence of unfolding events can feel glossed over or not as thoroughly explored as one would like at times, it is nevertheless a fantastically written story that tackles real-world current events and issues within the setting of speculative fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (January 15, 2018)
Separated, unaware of the others, three teens try to wrest control of the galaxy from an evil celebrity in this sequel to Empress of a Thousand Skies (2017). Nero, a “holovision star with a pretty face” who’s seized rule of the galaxy, seeks the overwriter—technology that mines memories, erases history, and controls populations by mind control. Does it really exist? Working against him are: Rhee, reluctantly acting as empress because her older sister, rightful inheritor of the Ta’an dynasty, is missing; Kara, who is Rhee’s sister, alive but undercover, hoping to save humanity yet erase herself with the overwriter; and Aly, a boy who loves Kara, thinks she’s dead, and joins a plot to assassinate Nero—as revenge for Kara and for obliterating Aly’s home planet. Rhee and Kara have tan skin; Aly is black. As Nero orchestrates explosions and airs deceptive holovision broadcasts, the teens’ fierce little “orbit of soldiers and refugees and loyalists” comes together and apart on various planets. Violence is everywhere, and the protagonists labor under misunderstandings, trauma, and loneliness. Belleza’s plot is terrific, though the writing is not as smooth as in its predecessor. Reveals are profound in substance, though the moments of revelation pack less punch than they could. Given its relative choppiness and rushed feeling, this sequel should be read immediately after Empress, to import its heart. Not a stand-alone but an essential conclusion with indelible moments. (map, character list, planet list) (Science fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Rhoda Belleza was raised in Los Angeles, where she grew up writing XFiles fanfiction and stuffing her face with avocados. When she’s not writing, Rhoda obsesses over nail art tutorials, watches kung-fu movies, and sews together crooked things that pass for clothes. She’s a children’s editor at a publishing house and writes from a sunny Brooklyn apartment stuffed far too many bikes and far too many shoes.

Her website is www.rhodabelleza.com

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The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert. January 30, 2018. Flatiron Books, 368 p. ISBN: 9781250147905.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 760.

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Part of series: The Hazel Wood (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Violence, Underage drinking, Smoking, Gore


Book Trailer

Author Interview


Booklist starred (November 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 6))
Grades 9-12. Some fairy tales ask to be lived in. They involve enchanted forests and handsome princes, talking animals, kind maidens, and wishes come true. Others are darker. Others have teeth. The Hinterland is one such savage place, not that Alice would know—she hasn’t read Tales from the Hinterland, the book penned by a grandmother she’s never met. They aren’t children’s stories, her mother, Ella, says, and besides, the book itself is infamously elusive. Alice, quick to anger with a heart of ice, has spent her 17 years in constant motion; trailed by bad luck, she and Ella move from place to place, never staying anywhere long enough to put down roots. But when Ella is taken suddenly, the lines between the real world and the Hinterland start to blur. Faced with the loss of the only person she’s ever loved, Alice must rely on Ellery Finch, the kind of Tales from the Hinterland superfan she’s always avoided, to help her track down the world she thought existed only in her grandmother’s imagination. In this unsettling debut, Albert takes familiar stories and carefully pulls them apart; the end result is a sort of deconstructed fairy tale that, despite its familiarity, gets under the skin. Highly literary, occasionally surreal, and grounded by Alice’s clipped, matter-of-fact voice, it’s a dark story that readers will have trouble leaving behind.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 15, 2017)
A ferocious young woman is drawn into her grandmother’s sinister fairy-tale realm in this pitch-black fantasy debut.Once upon a time, Althea Proserpine achieved a cult celebrity with Tales from the Hinterland, a slim volume of dark, feminist fairy tales, but Alice has never met her reclusive grandmother nor visited her eponymous estate. Instead, she has spent her entire 17 years on the run from persistent bad luck, relying only on her mother, Ella. Now Althea is dead and Ella has been kidnapped, and the Hinterland seems determined to claim Alice as well. The Hinterland—and the Stories that animate it—appear as simultaneously wondrous and horrific, dreamlike and bloody, lyrical and creepy, exquisitely haunting and casually, brutally cruel. White, petite, and princess-pretty Alice is a difficult heroine to like in her stormy (and frequently profane) narration, larded with pop-culture and children’s-literature references and sprinkled with wry humor; her deceptive fragility conceals a scary toughness, icy hostility, and simmering rage. Despite her tentative friendship (and maybe more) with Ellery Finch, a wealthy biracial, brown-skinned geek for all things Althea Proserpine, any hints of romance are negligible compared to the powerful relationships among women: mothers and daughters, sisters and strangers, spinner and stories; ties of support and exploitation and love and liberation. Not everybody lives, and certainly not “happily ever after”—but within all the grisly darkness, Alice’s fierce integrity and hard-won self-knowledge shine unquenched. (Fantasy. 16-adult)

About the Author

Melissa Albert is the founding editor of the Barnes & Noble Teen Blog and the managing editor of BN.com. She has written for McSweeney’sTime Out Chicago, MTV, and more. Melissa is from Illinois and lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Hazel Wood is her first novel.


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The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco

The Heart Forger by Rin Chupeco. March 20, 2018. Sourcebooks Fire, 400 p. ISBN: 9781492635857.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In The Bone Witch, Tea mastered resurrection―now she’s after revenge…

No one knows death like Tea. A bone witch who can resurrect the dead, she has the power to take life…and return it. And she is done with her self-imposed exile. Her heart is set on vengeance, and she now possesses all she needs to command the mighty daeva. With the help of these terrifying beasts, she can finally enact revenge against the royals who wronged her―and took the life of her one true love.

But there are those who plot against her, those who would use Tea’s dark power for their own nefarious ends. Because you can’t kill someone who can never die…

War is brewing among the kingdoms, and when dark magic is at play, no one is safe.

Sequel to: The Bone Witch

Part of series: The Bone Witch Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence, Strong sexual themes, Alcohol, Transphobia


Video Review


Booklist starred (February 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 11))
Grades 9-12. Chupeco’s beautifully crafted world from The Bone Witch (2017) expands in this sequel, which joins dark asha Tea on her crusade of revenge. With an army of the dead and monsters known as daeva, she wrests control of kingdoms that would oppose her. But this is far more than a power grab. A mysterious sleeping sickness is afflicting royal families, and the cure appears to lie with the old Heart Forger and bringing down the remaining Faceless leaders. As in The Bone Witch, the narrative alternates between Tea’s recollections, which she tells the bard, and his own account of her terrifying campaign. Chupeco places the reader in the middle of the action, and they must puzzle through Tea’s motivations and the circumstances that brought her there—things that are gradually revealed through her conversations with the bard, and often seem at odds with one another. Tea is a wonderfully complex character who knowingly assumes the mantle of villain, but Chupeco deftly exposes her admirable qualities alongside her flaws. Readers will benefit from starting with the first book, which meticulously lays out Tea’s world and her training as a bone witch, but Chupeco incorporates enough of these details in her action-driven sequel that newcomers can still find their footing. Dark and entrancing, with a third volume to come.

Kirkus Reviews (February 1, 2018)
With a thirst for vengeance, a band of terrifying daeva at her command, and her resurrected lover by her side, Tea is ready to face her adversaries in this sequel to The Bone Witch (2017).Continuing the established plot, Prince Kance of Odalia falls unconscious due to a mysterious sleeping sickness; the old Heartforger—who might know of a cure—is nowhere to be found; and broody and loyal Deathseeker Kalen still expresses an aversion to Tea and her infatuation with the charming prince. Meanwhile, the sinister Faceless Aenah tries to persuade Tea—who is struggling to control the Dark’s influence over her—to join the even darker side. While necromancy, spellcasting, and political intrigue permeate the narrative as in the previous book, romance (falling in love, surprise engagements, and the sharing of heartsglasses) is the clear catalyst here. Chupeco’s time-hop storytelling style, established in Book 1, is still imperfect, as the intense progression of both the past and present plots results in two seemingly divergent stories (and versions of Tea). But from the sweet banter between two lesbian ashas to Fox’s hilarious sarcasm (even when his arm is dangling by threads of flesh), readers will find Chupeco’s dynamic characters and their interactions with one another refreshing, contributing light and liveliness to a story centered on dark magic and impending war. The world, explicated in the backmatter, is a racially diverse one; Tea and Fox both have brown skin. A sequel that builds in both thrills and enchantment. (Fantasy. 13-adult)

About the Author

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

Her website is www.rinchupeco.com.


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Elementals: Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman

Elementals: Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman. March 27, 2018. HarperCollins, 352 p. ISBN: 9780062457981.  Int Lvl: 3-6.

Everyone in Vallen knows that ice wolves and scorch dragonsare sworn enemies who live deeply separate lives.

So when twelve-year-old orphan Anders takes one elemental form and his twin sister, Rayna, takes another, he wonders whether they are even related. Still, whether or not they’re family, Rayna is Anders’s only true friend. She’s nothing like the brutal, cruel dragons who claimed her as one of their own and stole her away.

In order to rescue her, Anders must enlist at the foreboding Ulfar Academy, a school for young wolves that values loyalty to the pack above all else. But for Anders, loyalty is more complicated than obedience, and friendship is the most powerful shapeshifting force of all.

Part of Series: Elementals (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Theft


Book Trailer


Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 4-7. Orphan twins Anders and Rayna question their shared parentage when a routine pickpocket run lands them both in the public trials for admission into Ulfar Academy, training center for Vallen’s Wolf Guard—those with the rare ability to transform into ice wolves and defend the land from deadly dragonfire. Both unexpectedly transform: Anders into an ice wolf, and his twin, impossibly, into a scorch dragon, anathema to the wolves. As Rayna is seemingly kidnapped by dragons, Anders realizes the way to his sister is through Ulfar and their technology artifacts, and it must be before the wolves declare war on the dragons. Kaufman, coauthor of the Starbound Trilogy and Illuminae Files, struts her stuff as a solo author with a rousing middle-school adventure speaking to family (both born and made), trust, friendship, and determination. Despite a few instances of overstated writing, Kaufman creates a well-rounded fantasy world graced by scenic touches and relatable characters who transition from human to animal (and back). This is Anders’ story, and there are hints aplenty that Rayna’s is next.

Kirkus Reviews starred (December 15, 2017)
Twelve-year-old twins discover that they have opposing elemental powers that could change the fate of the entire realm.Homeless, orphan twins Rayna and Anders have spent most of their lives stealing and picking the pockets of rich tourists to survive. Pickings are good at the Trial of the Staff, when the entire village of Holbard gathers to see which of its 12-year-old members have the elemental power to shape-shift into an ice wolf and qualify for the Ulfar Academy. At this event, both twins discover elemental powers: Anders has ice wolf blood and Rayna, dragon blood—but dragon and wolf are enemies. They are separated when Rayna, in dragon form, flees the Wolf Guard, later to be captured by other dragons. Now Anders has no choice but to join Ulfar Academy in order to learn what the Wolf Guard teaches about dragons, as it is imperative that he locate and save his twin sister. As Anders grows close to the members of the Wolf Guard, he discovers secrets about the true relationship between dragons and wolves. Both twins have brown skin and black, curly hair, and Holbard is a genuinely diverse community. What a treat to have a magical world full of diverse characters in which any young person can imagine themselves as powerful shape-shifters. This engaging page-turner honestly earns its forthcoming sequel. An engaging world and cliffhanger ending leave readers wanting more. (Fantasy. 10-14)

About the Authors

Amie Kaufman is the New York Times and internationally bestselling co-author of The Illuminae Files (Illuminae, Gemina) and the Starbound Trilogy (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, Their Fractured Light.) Her award-winning books are published in almost 30 countries, and she is based in Melbourne, Australia, where she lives with her husband, their rescue dog, and an extremely large personal library.

Her website is http://www.amiekaufman.com.

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Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu

Batman: Nightwalker by Marie Lu. January 2, 2018. Random House Books for Young Readers, 288 p.; ISBN: 9780399549779.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Before he was Batman, he was Bruce Wayne. A reckless boy willing to break the rules for a girl who may be his worst enemy.

The Nightwalkers are terrorizing Gotham City, and Bruce Wayne is next on their list.
One by one, the city’s elites are being executed as their mansions’ security systems turn against them, trapping them like prey. Meanwhile, Bruce is turning eighteen and about to inherit his family’s fortune, not to mention the keys to Wayne Enterprises and all the tech gadgetry his heart could ever desire. But after a run-in with the police, he’s forced to do community service at Arkham Asylum, the infamous prison that holds the city’s most brutal criminals.

Madeleine Wallace is a brilliant killer . . . and Bruce’s only hope.
In Arkham, Bruce meets Madeleine, a brilliant girl with ties to the Nightwalkers. What is she hiding? And why will she speak only to Bruce? Madeleine is the mystery Bruce must unravel. But is he getting her to divulge her secrets, or is he feeding her the information she needs to bring Gotham City to its knees? Bruce will walk the dark line between trust and betrayal as the Nightwalkers circle closer.

In this second DC Icons book–following Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman: Warbringer–Bruce Wayne is proof that you don’t need superpowers to be a super hero, but can he survive this game of tense intrigue, pulse-pounding action, and masterful deception?

Part of Series: D.C. Icons (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Drugs, Underage drinking, Criminal culture, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities

Book Trailer


Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 9-12. Lu (The Young Elites, 2014) continues the DC Icons series with this second installment; this time, the focus is on Bruce Wayne before he became Batman. Lu’s take on the caped superhero imagines him as a restless high-school senior who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when he witnesses criminals escaping a crime scene and gives chase himself. Following his reckless (but ultimately successful) vigilantism, Bruce is sentenced to community service at—where else?—the infamous Arkham Asylum. Housed there among Gotham’s roughest criminals is brilliant but troubled Madeleine, who makes Bruce question everything he thinks he knows about the nature of evil. Familiar faces will be welcome to Batman fans, but none stand out save for Madeleine. Even Bruce, from whose perspective the story is told, is somewhat bland. However, Lu excels at making action sequences come alive and feel immediate, and this latest is no exception. An action-packed thriller from one of YA’s preeminent voices. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Lu’s a blockbuster in her own right; when combined with this high-interest series, she’s unstoppable.

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Young Bruce Wayne has a pre-Batman adventure.Famed boy billionaire Bruce Wayne has just turned 18, officially inheriting his deceased parents’ vast fortune. But Bruce doesn’t have time to give his coming-of-age much thought: a gang calling itself the Nightwalkers is terrorizing the elite citizens of Gotham City, and Bruce is determined to shut them down. Bruce’s antics earn him a community-service sentence in Arkham Asylum, where he cross paths with Asian-American Madeleine Wallace, an accused murderer with ties to the Nightwalkers. Madeleine remains silent when the cops are around but speaks privately to Bruce. As the two grow closer Bruce works to shine a light on the mysterious gang and perhaps get a possibly innocent Madeleine released. Lu effectively mixes familiar Batman characters and locations with the new Nightwalkers and Madeleine, avoiding overstuffing the narrative with future villains and excessive Batman foreshadowing. The trickiest aspect of any Batman narrative is getting into Bruce Wayne’s head, and she doesn’t miss a beat. Bruce is headstrong, haunted but not overwhelmed, and capable of improvisation, but he isn’t yet the fully formed Caped Crusader. The building blocks are there, but the author doesn’t rush to assemble them too quickly. Bruce’s terrible, self-destructive taste in women travels from the comics to this novel, making his relationship with Madeleine suitably complex and a bit frustrating at the same time. An engaging character piece with enough Batman allusions to intrigue fans and newcomers alike. (Fantasy. 12-16)

About the Author

Marie Lu is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Legend, Prodigy, and Champion, as well as The Young Elites. She graduated from the University of Southern California and jumped into the video game industry, working for Disney Interactive Studios as a Flash artist. Now a full-time writer, she spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing Assassin’s Creed, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California (see above: traffic), with one husband, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Her website is www.marielu.org.

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Batman: Nightwalker on Goodreads

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Arlo Finch and the Valley of Fire by John August

Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire by John August. February 6, 2018. Roaring Brook Press, 336 p. ISBN: 9781626728141.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.6.

As Arlo looked around, the walls of his room began to vanish, revealing a moonlit forest. Only his bed remained, and the frame of his window, through which he saw the girl. The world on her side of the glass was sparkling with silver and gold, like a palace made of autumn leaves.

She looked off to her right. Someone was coming. Her words came in an urgent whisper: “If I can see you, they can see you. You’re in danger. Be careful, Arlo Finch.”

Arlo Finch is a newcomer to Pine Mountain, Colorado, a tiny town of mystery and magic, but he’s already attracted the attention of dark and ancient forces. At first he thinks these increasingly strange and frightening occurrences are just part of being in Rangers, the mountain scouting troop where he learns how to harness the wild magic seeping in from the mysterious Long Woods. But soon Arlo finds himself at the center of a dangerous adventure, where he faces obstacles that test the foundations of the Ranger’s Vow: Loyalty, Bravery, Kindness, and Truth.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language


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Booklist (December 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 8))
Grades 5-8. Twelve-year-old Arlo Finch is new to small-town Pine Mountain, Colorado. Observant and inquisitive, he soon realizes that there is more to the town than meets the eye. Dark and magical forces surround the town, and it doesn’t take Arlo long to encounter these magical forces as they inexplicably try to harm him. With the help of new friends from an outdoor scouting group, the Rangers, Arlo learns how to use his new Rangers skills to fight off these magical forces. With nods to the Harry Potter series, accomplished screenwriter August artfully thrusts readers into a whole new world, right alongside Arlo. The many magical forces and creatures in this book are intriguing, especially because August firmly establishes them within the magical parameters of Arlo’s world. Arlo, meanwhile, is a lovable, inquisitive character, and as he wittingly subdues the magical creatures, the plot only becomes more dynamic. This is just the first volume in a new series, so readers won’t have to wait long to plunge back into the mysterious Long Woods.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2017)
A 12-year-old white boy finds out he’s special in a new middle-grade fantasy series.Arlo Finch has just arrived in the tiny town of Pine Mountain, atop the high peaks of Colorado. Times are tight, and Arlo, his sister, and their mother have moved into the crumbling family home with his taxidermist uncle. Arlo, who has one green eye and one brown, isn’t in Pine Mountain long before he makes friends with (the requisite girl and boy sidekicks) supersmart Indian-American doctors’ daughter Indra Srinivasaraghavan-Jones and Chinese-American STEM genius Henry Wu. When Arlo joins the Rangers, a mixed-gender scouting troop, he’s made privy to thunderclaps (literal hand-clapping that sounds like thunder) and snaplights (a snap of the fingers that creates illumination) along with traditional scouting tasks such as tying knots and pitching tents. As Arlo works toward earning his first rank—Squirrel—questions mount. What is the Wonder? What and where are the Long Woods, the Realm, and the Valley of Fire? How is Arlo connected to a long-lost girl only he can see? Who wants to kill him, and why? Arlo is a smart, likable boy, but his story adds little new to the genre. The mountain setting and eerie house filled with stuffed and mounted animals provide an evocative sense of place for Arlo’s adventure, but characters and plot feel too familiar, particularly a Goblet of Fire–like Ranger challenge. Atmospheric at best, formulaic at worst. (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

John August is a screenwriter whose credits include Big Fish, Charlie’s Angels, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride, and Frankenweenie. He is also the creator of the Writer Emergency Pack, an educational storytelling school distributed to more than two thousand classrooms worldwide.

Born and raised in Boulder, Colorado, John now lives in Los Angeles with his family. Her website is johnaugust.com.

Around the Web

Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire on Amazon

Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire on Goodreads

Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire Publisher Page

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. January 2, 2018. Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 384 p. ISBN: 9780316310277.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

Part of Series: The Folk in the Air (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Discrimination, Violence, Mild sexual themes, Alcohol, Underage drinking, Smoking, Body humor


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Booklist starred (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 9-12. When Jude and her twin sister, Taryn, were seven, their parents were murdered by their half-sister Vivian’s fae father, and all three girls were stolen away to the High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, raised by the very man who killed her parents, Jude has adjusted to the life as much as she can and struggles to earn her place in a world whose inhabitants scorn, and even despise, humans. While Taryn hopes to marry into a place at court, Jude wants to seize hers by becoming a warrior, and she chafes against the attentions of Cardan, the youngest and cruelest faerie prince, who hates Jude and viciously bullies her daily. Disgusted at her own human weakness, Jude finds herself accepting a dangerous role offered by his brother and is soon tangled in a complex political plot. Though the faerie world is a familiar setting, in this case, it is by no means stale; Black employs the same detailed world building, chilling suspense, and whiplash-inducing plot twists that allowed The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (2013) to make even vampires fresh again. Jude, who struggles with a world she both loves and hates and would rather be powerful and safe than good, is a compelling narrator. Whatever a reader is looking for—heart-in-throat action, deadly romance, double-crossing, moral complexity—this is one heck of a ride.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2018)
Jude is living with her parents, her twin sister Taryn, and their older half-sister Vivi when her mother’s former husband tracks them down, callously murders her parents, and takes not just Vivi, his biological child, to the realm of Faerie but also Jude and Taryn, raising them as his own. Jude’s parents’ murderer happened to be Madoc, general of the High King of the Faerie Court, so she and Taryn now ironically benefit from privileges rarely afforded to mortals. Jude lives in a constant state of fear and loathing, however, wanting to become an official member of the Court by proving her fighting prowess and obtaining knighthood, while avoiding the unwanted negative attention of the youngest prince, Cardan. (Taryn, in contrast, hopes to gain access to the Court through marriage.) But Jude is drawn deeper into the web of lies, deceit, and political intrigue that swirls around the Court as the High King Eldred prepares to abdicate the throne in favor of his third son, Prince Dain. With complicated characters, a suspenseful plot, and a successful return to the Faerie setting of many of her popular books (most recently The Darkest Part of the Forest, rev. 1/15), Black’s latest is sure to enchant fans. jonathan hunt

About the Author

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

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

Her website is www.blackholly.com.

Around the Web

The Cruel Prince on Amazon

The Cruel Prince on Goodreads

The Cruel Prince Publisher Page