Tag Archives: YA fantasy

2016 Discovery Challenge and Tackling my TBR – December Roundup

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I’m not quite sure how it happened, but despite December being a really busy month I managed to continue reading more than two books a week. As for my Discovery Challenge, which I undertook after reading this post by Jo Hall to read and review at least two books a month by women authors previously unknown to me – I managed to read and review five books during December, though one of those reviews hasn’t yet been published.

Split the Sun – Book 2 of the Inherit the World series by Tessa Elwood
splitthesunThe Ruling Lord of the House of Galton is dead, and the nation is in shock—or celebrating, depending on the district. Kit Franks would be more than happy to join him. Kit’s mother bombed the digital core of the House, killing several and upending the nation’s information structure. No one wants the daughter of a terrorist. Kit’s having dreams she can’t explain, remembering conversations that no longer seem innocent, understanding too much coded subtext in Mom’s universal feed messages. Everyone has a vision of Kit’s fate—locked, sealed, and ready to roll. The question is, does Kit have a vision for herself?
I really enjoyed this one. Foot-to-the-floor, action-packed dystopian sci fi adventure with an appealing spiky heroine, I was scooped up into the middle of this world and didn’t want to pull away until the last page. Great fun – see my review here.

Rebel of the Sands – Book 1 of The Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton
rebelofthesandsShe’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands. Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from, as she’s destined to wind up “wed or dead”.
There has been a real buzz about this YA desert fantasy offering, and I can see why. Hamilton tips us right into the middle of the action from the first page as Amani’s spiky first person narrative pulled me into the story and didn’t let go. It is a foot to the floor, non-stop adventure where she careens through the vividly depicted landscape that borrows much from eastern influences. It’s a delight and I’m now hoping to be able to hunt down the sequel. See my review here.

Ever the Hunted – Book 1 of Clash of Kingdoms series by Erin Summerill
Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her everthehunteddays tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer. However, it’s not so simple. The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart.
It was pure chance that I read two YA fantasy adventures back to back. They both featured teenage female protagonists on the run, both had secrets and issues they knew nothing about at the start of the adventure. Both had a romantic sub-plot. Both are cracking reads. However, Britta isn’t so carelessly, gloriously reckless as Amani – she is wary and untrusting of everyone. The pace in this one isn’t quite so full-on, either, but I thoroughly enjoyed this tale set in a more traditional medieval fantasy setting. There were some pleasing plot twists in this adventure I didn’t see coming – and I certainly didn’t guess who had murdered Britta’s father. See my review here.

The City of Ice – Book 2 of The Gates of the World series by K.M. McKinley
thecityoficeDeep in the polar south stands a city like no other, a city built aeons ago by a civilisation mighty and wise. The City of Ice promises the secrets of the ancients to whomever can reach it first. It may prove too little knowledge too late, for the closest approach of the Twin in 4000 years draws near, an event that has heralded terrible destruction in past ages. As the Kressind siblings pursue their fortunes, the world stands upon the dawn of a new era, but it may yet be consumed by a darkness from the past.
It took me a while to get into this genre mashup, where epic fantasy meets a steampunk-type world using magic to power machinery. However there are unforeseen consequences to harnessing such power in that particular way… I love the intricate, layered world with a number of interesting creatures including the tyn, powerful godlike rulers who nevertheless are somewhat down on their luck – and a number of ambitious humans trying to get what they can. Altogether, this becomes an engrossing world with a number of fascinating stories – I’m definitely going to be looking out for the sequel. See my review here.

It was also a good month for my other reading challenge of the year – Tackling my TBR as I read and reviewed five books from my teetering To Be Read pile, which were:-

Thornyhold by Mary Stewart
The story is about a lonely child who is made to see the world through her cousin’s unusual eyes. When thornyholdthe child becomes a young woman, she moves to Thornyhold where she is thought by the local community to be a witch. However, as she finds out, this is no normal community, and worries quickly present themselves. And not everyone who initially greets her is as friendly as they seem…
An enjoyable, initially slightly eerie read that becomes a more conventional romance – as ever Stewart’s writing is a joy. See my review here.

 

 

A Natural History of Dragons – Book 1 of The Memoirs of Lady Trent by Marie Brennan
Everyone knows Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. Here, at last, in her own words, is the story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, prospects, and her life to satisfy scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the mountains of Vystrana, where she made discoveries that would change the world.
This was recommended to me by the wonderful Kitvaria Sarene during an intense evening at Bristolcon talking books, so I made it a top priority on my TBR list and decided to treat myself this week. And I’m delighted I did – it’s a gem and you can find review here.

Judged – Book 3 of the Blackhart Legacy by Liz de Jagar
judgedKit’s job description includes solving crimes – the supernatural kind . . . Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they’re trying to stop. In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.
I really enjoyed the previous two books in this series, Vowed and Banished so was pleased to be able to wrap up Kit’s adventure before the end of the year. Though whatever you do – don’t start with this book, go back to the start and experience this charming series in the right order. See my review here.

Just One Damned Thing After Another – Book 1 of The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor

“History is just one damned thing after another.” Behind the seemingly innocuous façade of St Mary’s, a jsutonedamnedthingdifferent kind of historical research is taking place. They don’t do ‘time-travel’ – they ‘investigate major historical events in contemporary time’. Maintaining the appearance of harmless eccentrics is not always within their power – especially given their propensity for causing loud explosions when things get too quiet. Meet the disaster-magnets of St Mary’s Institute of Historical Research as they ricochet around History. Their aim is to observe and document – to try and find the answers to many of History’s unanswered questions…and not to die in the process. But one wrong move and History will fight back – to the death. And, as they soon discover – it’s not just History they’re fighting.
This is time-travelling adventure is a joy. Funny, anarchic with a reckless sense of derring-do, this tale is told in first person viewpoint by Max as we follow her initial introduction to St Mary’s, training and early adventures. That said, the attrition rate is high and a number of folks die in this – some of whom I was really sorry to see go… I think this would make a marvellous TV series, however – not yet. There are a raft of these books out there and I want to read them all, first.

The King’s Peace – Book 1 of the Tir Tanagiri series by Jo Walton
thekingspeaceSulien ap Gwien was seventeen when the Jarnish raiders came. Had she been armed when they found her, she could have taken them all. As it was, it took six of them to subdue her. She will never forgive them. Thus begins her story—a story that takes her back to her family, with its ancient ties to the Vincan empire that once ruled in Tir Tanagiri, and forward to Caer Tanaga, where the greatest man of his time, King Urdo, struggles to bind together the squabbling nobles and petty princes into a unified force that will drive out the barbarian invader and restore the King’s Peace. King Urdo will change Sulien’s life. She will see him for what he is: the greatest hope the country has. And he will see her for what she is: the greatest warrior of her day. Together they will fight and suffer for an age of the world, for the things that the world always needs and which never last.
I loved this version of the King Arthur story. As ever, Walton took me somewhere different and engrossed me in the life of someone with other values and ideas. Another great addition to a wonderful reading year…

What about you – how did your December reading targets go?

Review of Advent by James Treadwell – Book 1 of The Advent trilogy

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Ever a sucker for a cool, creepy cover, this book pleaded with me to be plucked from the bookshop shelving and I caved in – sad addict that I am. Then in guilt-ridden disgust with myself (I need another book in the house like I need a flea circus…) I plonked it on the teetering pile by my bedside, where it has resided for most of the year.  Until a few days ago, when the bright sunshine caught its cover. I opened it, idly started reading the first few lines – and was snared…

adventFor centuries it has been locked away. Locked away. Lost beneath the sea. Warded from earth, air, water, fire, scrying thought and sigh. Now magic is rising to the world once more. And a boy called Gavin, who thinks only that he is a city kid with parents who hate him, and knows only that he sees things no one else will believe, is boarding a train alone, to Cornwall. Where he steps into a different world…

That’s the blurb – apart from the last sentence, which is my own invention as the original contains a spoiler. I never read back cover blurbs until I’ve finished the book, as they are generally far too prone to release information the author crafted to be revealed to the reader in the context of the story arc, not in a couple of snappy sentences on the cover. And this one is no exception.

I’ve seen this book compared favourably to Susan Cooper, and while such hyped comparisons are often absurd, this time, I was reminded of Cooper’s threat-ridden landscape and sense of tension. Treadwell is a superb writer – the description of the ancient house, Pendurra, is outstanding. The other writer Treadwell reminds me of is Richard Adams – and no, I’m not discussing Watership Down – I’m thinking of his disturbing book The Girl on a Swing. The way Treadwell builds the character of Gavin, beset by visions that no one else will admit are anything other than his wayward attempt to get attention, the richness and quality of the writing and the feeling of shock and dislocation as events slide away into something a whole lot darker, is reminiscent of Adams’ gothic masterpiece. Although, I hasten to add that Advent doesn’t deal with the same subject matter as The Girl on a Swing, as it is intended for a YA market.

It is a hefty read and at no time does Treadwell throw his young readers any sort of ‘you’re only teenagers, so I’ve made it easier for you’ lifebelt, I’m delighted to report. This non-teenager was engrossed with the quality of the storytelling. In addition to Gavin, there are a cast of vivid characters – the most prominent being the power-hungry mage with more than a nod to Doctor Faustus.

While the tension is there from the first page, it takes a while for the action to fully kick off – but when it does, there is plenty of it. Treadwell gives his readers a ringside seat as Gavin attempts to make sense of the world as it lurches into something different, with the resulting mythological creatures including a birdman, an undine/mermaid and a hellhound. There is a sense of magic, so long repressed and hidden away, now bursting out onto a world unused and defenceless against this new force. And I’m fascinated to see where Treadwell takes this story in the next book, Anarchy, which also has a wonderful cover. I’ll be tracking it down, very soon. In the meantime, if you enjoy excellent fantasy without so much as a whiff of vampires, then go hunting for Advent. It’s one of the best fantasy books – YA or otherwise – I’ve read this year.
10/10

Review of Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Book 1 of The Seven Kingdoms trilogy

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I discovered on Google that this New York Times Best Seller is a YA book. Although I had guessed from the restraint shown in both the fights and romantic scenes, I wouldn’t let that label dissuade a more mature reader from picking up this fantasy book. The characters are well drawn, particularly the main female protagonist; and the world has some interesting original touches that drew me in. Cashore writes with pace and this enjoyable tale kept me reading far into the night, when I should have been asleep…

In a world where people born with an exceptional skill, known as a Grace, are both feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of a gracelingskill even she despises: the Grace of killing.  As a Graced killer who has been able to kill a man with her bare hands from the age of eight, she’s forced to work as the king’s thug. Feared by the court and shunned by those her own age, the darkness of her Grace casts a heavy shadow over Katsa’s life.

When the King of Liend’s father is kidnapped she investigates and stumbles across a mystery. Who would want to kidnap the old man, and why? The intrigue surrounding this crime offers her a way out of her violent life that she has come to loathe. But little does she realise as she plunges into this adventure that the menace awaiting can even overwhelm her superhuman strength and threatens to engulf all the Seven Kingdoms…

Katsa is related to King Randa, which doesn’t stop him coldly using her as a tool to perform his dirty work, when his grasping, bullying tactics do not work on his hapless subjects. Katsa is, unsurprisingly, damaged by her upbringing – and Cashore manages to depict the flaws in her heroine, without holding up the story in any way. Given Katsa’s ability to battle and kill quantities of foes, Cashore manages to come up with an ingeniously wicked villain who poses a real threat to this apparently invincible protagonist. The inevitable romantic sub-plot is also well handled, managing to deliver some unexpected twists along the way and building to a strong ending. It comes as no surprise to learn that Graceling has appeared on a number of listings, including the ALA’s William C. Morris YA Award and was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy Award. Altogether, a satisfying and engrossing read that had me immediately reaching for the second book in the series, Fire.  At present the final book in the series, Bitterblue is due to be released in June 2012 .

9/10