Archive for the 'Fantasy' Category

Ash Princess by Lauren Sebastian

ash princessTheodosia was forced to witness her mother, the queen’s, brutal murder at the hands of the man forcibly taking over their kingdom.  For some reason, the Kaiser who now rules the kingdom has kept her alive all these years, but he has forced her to take on a new name (Thora) and endure countless beatings and ridicule in order to learn her place.  Whenever her people would rebel in any way he would order Theodosia to be publicly beaten so that she could pay for the sins of her people and he would force her to wear an ash crown in order to mock the fact that her mother was the fire queen.  By the time she is 16 he feels confident he has broken her spirit, but he still has three guards watch her 24/7 to make sure she doesn’t get any treasonous thoughts.  Her best friend, Cress, is the daughter of the Kaiser’s right hand man who actually murdered her mother.  She is very friendly, but Theodosia wonders if she can truly trust anyone in this terrible place that used to be her home.  Then, she is made aware of allies in her castle who are willing to give up everything for her and she realizes that she does have the desire to fight for her kingdom and take it back for what remains of her people.  The only question is can her and her meager supporters really defeat a man who has made it his mission in life to destroy kingdoms mercilessly? Can they outsmart a man who always seems to be two steps ahead?

This book captivates the reader right from the beginning and definitely depicts how hopeless Theodosia feels during this terrible ordeal.  Yet as bleak as life is for her she never stops plotting her revenge and jumps at the chance when it is presented to her even though she knows it is risky and dangerous. There are no easy paths for Theodosia and her conspirators, however, and she must live with the consequences.  Fans of the Red Queen and Red Rising will enjoy this title.

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Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Genre:  Futuristic

# of Pages: 433

2018-19 Iowa Teen Award Winner

Citra and Rowan live in a world where all human problems have been eradicated including hunger, disease, and poverty.  Science has even made it possible to revive those who have died in accidents so that they can continue living without any complications or injuries.  Therefore, in order to curb population growth the governing entity has created scythes whose entire job is to glean, or kill, those they see fit.  Scythes are supposed to take their job very seriously and act with honor and compassion to those they glean, but there have been some rising up who seem to enjoy killing people and this has the traditional scythes very concerned.  Citra and Rowan are both chosen to be Scythe Faraday’s apprentices which means they will train with him for an entire year, but then only one will be ordained a scythe and the other will return to their regular lives.  At the first scythe conclave they go to, however, one of the more progressive scythes challenges Faraday’s choice to take two apprentices and proposes that the one who wins must glean the one who loses and the scythe rulers agree.  This puts Citra and Rowan in a tough spot because as they train together they become closer and closer and neither is sure if they could glean the other.  Is there a way for them both to exist in this “perfect” world?

Shusterman has done it again with this unique and engaging story.  The premise seems far fetched and yet the reader is pulled in almost immediately when Scythe Faraday is introduced.  All of the characters are well developed and make the reader want to know more about their intentions and motivations, while also watching them react to various plot twists.  Recommended for anyone from reluctant reader teens to adults who want something fresh and new.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  370

Jude, her twin sister, and their older sister were whisked away when they were seven to the land of faeries after their parents were savagely murdered before their eyes.  Jude’s older sister is actually her half sister and her father is from that land so she fits in well, despite not wanting to.  Meanwhile, Jude and her twin are picked on everyday since they are mortal and do not have some of the powers everyone else has.  They even have to wear protective charms because other can control them with glamours.  Jude is very headstrong and refuses to back down and comply when she is bullied and it often gets her into more trouble.  Prince Cardan, in particular, seems to truly despise Jude and makes it his daily mission to make her life a living hell.  When Jude is presented with an opportunity to raise her social status and protect herself from the likes of Prince Cardan, she jumps at it without really thinking about what she is getting into.  The King has announced he will be stepping down and choosing one of his six children to succeed him.  She knows this is a time when much can go wrong, but despite all her preparations she is unprepared for the treacherous plans already in motion.  Can she save herself and her family from those trying to destroy everything they hold dear?  Will she put her faith in the right person?

This book is immediately engaging and the characters are multifaceted.  Since it came out it has been constantly checked out and word of mouth is definitely spreading on this popular new fantasy.  There are many twists and turns in the plot and it’s difficult to predict how different characters will react to different situations.  This is a must have for young adult libraries.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  453

Iowa Award Winner 2018-19

From the author of the Lunar Chronicles series comes a story about the Queen of Hearts before she became the Queen of Hearts.  Catherine wants to open a bakery with her best friend and marry the new court jester, but her parents are insistent that she pursue the King who has shown great interest in her.  She does not want to disappoint them in any way, but she feels strongly about her desire to create pastries for a living and despite never having worked for a living she feels she could be successful at it.  Her best friend and maid is good with numbers and they hope to someday use Cath’s dowry to open their dream bakery.  Cath realizes she has had a privileged life, but also has never stopped dreaming and hopes she never has to.  When the new court jester comes to court she is instantly dazzled by his tricks and ability to show her amazing things she could never have imagined.  She hopes she has the courage to give up everything she has ever known in order to pursue her dreams, but she has no idea the many obstacles that lay before her.

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles series will enjoy this fun title.  Cath’s character is well developed and easy to identify with.  Jest is mysterious, magical, and brave in a way that makes it easy to see how Cath would become enamored with him.  The king, by contrast, is silly, weak, and refuses to deal with the new beast who has begun terrorizing the kingdom.  The world captures a lot of the magic from Alice and Wonderland but adds new modern twists as well.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Genre:  Fantasy/Mystery

# of Pages:  465

Kaz Brekker has been through a lot in his young life and has grown tougher because of it.  He has worked his way up to running his own gang, the Dregs, and always seems to be one step ahead of his enemies.  One day he receives an interesting proposal from a government official: to break something out of an impenetrable prison for an absurd amount of money.  The truth is that Kaz does not think this job is possible, but that amount of money could allow him and his crew to truly start fresh which is a luxury none of them ever expected.  So, he builds his crew which includes a sharpshooter, a wrongfully convicted convict, a mysterious runaway, an escape artist, a spy, and a heartrender ( who can manipulate emotions).  The plan is full of danger and challenges, but none of these people have ever backed down from a challenge simply because they’ve had to do whatever it takes to survive.  Can they succeed where so many others would dare not even try?

A heist plot in such a unique setting makes this book a lot of fun.  The characters are well developed and intriguing all at the same time.  Despite their distrust for everyone and everything, this crew finds they can depend on each other when they need to and that’s something many of them have been looking their whole lives for.  The heist adventure itself is exciting and full of twists and narrow escapes.  Recommended for fantasy and mystery lovers.

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  403

Anna was born into an elite Luminate British family, which means her family has access to magic, which is strictly restricted from anyone not in the Luminates.  There is an uprising building up to break the binding spell that restricts magic away from anyone considered unworthy and Anna is shocked to learn her own father is a sympathizer.  He believes the binding is in place merely to keep the wealthy in power and not to protect those who simply do not know how to use magic and could hurt themselves or someone else.  When Anna comes of age, however, her ceremony to practice magic goes poorly and she is believed to be barren, which means she’ll never really be accepted by the Luminates or those outside the Luminates.  One power she does seem to have is to break other people’s spells, which is why her family forbid her from coming to her sister’s coming out party.  She sneaks in anyway and accidentally ruins her sister’s coming out.  Partly as punishment, partly as protection from those who wish to study Anna’s unusual capability of breaking other people’s spells, she is sent away with her grandmother to Hungary.  Upon arrival, Anna meets some interesting people and begins to see that those who possess magical tendencies but at outside the Luminates are treated abominably in order to keep them in their place.  She begins to wonder if she should use her one power to break the binding so that magic would be available to anyone who wishes to use it.  Is she powerful enough?  Would it cause chaos and catastrophe like the Luminates predict?

Fans of fantasy stories will enjoy this title.  The truth about Anna’s condition eventually comes out, but it may confuse some younger readers.  The story meanders a bit when Anna first goes to Hungary, but once the new characters are properly introduced the story picks up again for a satisfying ending.  Recommended for students who have already found other fantasy series they enjoy.

The Pledge Series by Kimberly Derting

Genre:  Futuristic

# of Pages:  323

First in a trilogy

Charlaina of “Charlie” lives in a society where every caste has its own language. Englaise is the universal language everyone speaks, but her family belongs to the serving class and they have a language.  The elites has a language as well.  If anyone is in the presence of someone speaking a language they do not know they are required by law to drop their eyes out of respect.  Charlie has been able to read, write, and understand all languages since she can remember and her parents are very fearful due to this ability.  If it were ever discovered she could understand all of these languages it could be considered treason and their queen has publicly hanged people for much less.  She has kept her secret hidden from even her best friends until one day she accidentally looks at someone in a dance club speaking a language she has never heard before.  He begins to suspect she is “the one” the queen is looking for and starts tracking her movements.  Can Charlie trust him?  Can she trust anyone?  Why is the queen looking desperately looking for the next female relative in her otherwise male dominated bloodline?

Fans of futuristic series such as Divergent, Cinder, and Red Queen will enjoy this trilogy.  The use of languages to represent status is a new detail in this story and makes it an unusual but interesting talent for Charlie to have.  The queen is every bit as evil as many of the villains of other futuristic stories, but her purpose for seeking Charlie out is very different than readers will have seen before.  Her friends, family, and allies make for interesting and well developed characters to help Charlie navigate her role in her country’s future.


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