Posts Tagged 'magic'

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Genre: Fantasy

# of Pages: 286

Tavia has known she is a siren for awhile, but in a world where it is not safe to admit being a siren she must keep her voice quiet at all times.  She’s even gone so far as to explain her silence with a rare medical condition and learn sign language so she can communicate even when she knows it isn’t safe to speak.  In this world, all sirens are black girls which makes Tavia’s plight even more difficult because she is already facing sexism and racism on a daily basis.  Effie has lived with Tavia for awhile and they have come to think of themselves as sisters.  Effie’s mother died and her grandparents thought it would be better if she lived with Tavia’s family, but did not disclose the reason(s) why.  Effie is not a siren, but she knows there is something strange going on because recently she has faced many unusual physical changes, including extremely dry  and flaky skin, exhaustion, and sometimes even blackouts. It scares her that she doesn’t know what is happening, but she’s hopeful that maybe it will get better with time.  They know they always have each other to lean on, but they are both shaken when a murder trial becomes national news only because the murder victim is accused of being a siren.  Does simply being a siren mean someone can kill you and get away with it? What would happen if anyone were to find out Tavia is a siren?  Can they protect each other from the terrible things destined to come for both of them?

There are not a lot of fantasy novels that feature two black teenagers as the main characters and the author does a nice job of showing why life would be even more difficult as a supernatural being if you were already dealing with people not granting you basic rights due to physical features beyond your control.  Both of these girls know the adults in their life are trying to protect them, but in the end it just feels like they are withholding important information.  The fantasy details of the story is unique, inspiring, and revealed in a satisfying way.  Fans looking for a very thought provoking, modern fantasy story will enjoy.

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

# of Pages: 466

Leigh is devastated when her mother commits suicide, but she believes she reincarnated as a beautiful red bird who visits her sometimes.  On one such occasion, she believes her mother brought her a box of keepsakes from her grandparents, whom she’s never met due to a falling out that occurred before she was born.  Leigh convinces her dad to take her to Taiwan because she believes her mother wants her to finally meet them.  When she arrives there is a little issue with the language barrier, but Leigh is determined to try and communicate with her grandparents for her mother’s sake.  She even sees that her mother has left her with a way to see old family memories in order to better understand how they had all become so distant.  As Leigh struggles with a newly uncertain future, she must also begin to grieve and let her mother go.

An Iowa High School Award winner for next year, this story battles culture, identity, family, betrayal, trust, and even a little magic.  This is a powerful story about a young girl struggling with her mother’s death, but also trying to plan a future she knows her father won’t approve of.  She’s also navigating a complicated relationship with her long time best friend and recent crush, Axel.  This story will linger with readers long after they have finished.  Highly Recommended.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Genre: Fantasy

# of Pages: 538

Zelie can still recall how her mother used to do magic when she was a child.  Since she too was born with the signature white hair of someone who will one day possess magic, she can’t wait until she can begin to feel the magic move within her.  However, the king has decided that those who do magic are dangerous and he has found a way to restrain all of them, which is how Zelie watches her mother die in a terrible execution.  As she grows up she is ridiculed for her white hair and her family is forced to pay steep taxes simply for having her in the family.  One day in the market, she literally runs into a girl running from the royal soldiers who begs her for help.  Against all odds, the two manage to escape the soldiers and only then does Zelie learn that Amara, a princess, has stolen a precious artifact from the palace that everyone believes could help bring back magic.  They end up setting off on a quest, with Zelie’s brother, to find the other two relics they need in order to reconnect magic to the world.  There are many people chasing them such as Amara’s brother, who is hiding a secret of his own.  Can they fulfill their quest in time? How many will be lost along the way?

This is a powerful and sometimes violent story because Zelie and Amara are fighting a war against those people who do not believe magic should exist and are willing to do anything to stop it from coming back.  Zelie has seen how her people have been treated without it, however, and she believes it is their right to claim what is naturally theirs.  The book, although a bit lenghtly, is so engaging that even reluctant readers will get hooked as long as they give it a try.  There is a sequel to this story.  Recommended for fantasy lovers.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  398

There is an island that is almost totally cut off from the rest of the world where a set of triplets are born every generation.  The queen immediately knows what power each of the girls will have and when they are a few years old they are separated so that they can hone their craft.  When they come of age they must compete in a bizarre set of rituals in which only the last one alive can become the next queen.  Katherine is a poisoner, but she while she has become adept at administering poisons she has not yet become immune to them herself.  Arsinoe, the naturalist, has not yet found her familiar, which is like her animal soul mate, but she has been very happy growing up alongside her best friend, Jules, who is a very talented naturalist.  Finally, Mirabella, the elementalist, is very gifted and can easily manipulate water and fire.  It is expected she will easily take the crown over her weaker sisters, but once the games begin everyone has a few surprises in store for the waiting spectators.  Who will end up with the crown?  Whom can the sisters really trust in this process?  Who will get hurt along the way?

This series has received a lot of attention from my students, but it did take me awhile to get into the story and the characters.  Once I did become immersed in the characters I not only wanted to finish the first one right away but wanted to read the second one as well.  It’s definitely a unique story that does not rely on plot details seen in other fantasy series.  There is still a lot that needs to be revealed about these characters, their motivations, and the ultimate outcome which will keep readers engaged for a long time to come.

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.

Striking Terror by Denis Lipman

striking-terror

Genre:  Mystery/Adventure

# of Pages:  310

The author of this book, Denis Lipman, is a former magician and therefore has the tools to create a unique and exciting story for young adults.  It’s about a young magician named Micah who is sent to live in Israel and ends up unknowingly befriending a terrorist, Shireen.  When Shireen begins to rethink her plans both she and Micah are forced to go on the run and use Micah’s techniques of illusion to escape capture.  All of this action builds to a very exciting and satisfying ending.

This story describes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a way that no other young adult book does, which makes it interesting to young readers who do not know much about this event.  At the same time, the use of magic and illusion is fun and fresh and engages reluctant readers right away.  The inclusion of magic in the plot is done so in a completely believable and understandable way, which goes toward Lipman’s experience with magic and illusion.  Highly recommended for students who enjoy a lot of action and plot development.

Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

seeker

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages: 429

RAC:  Yes

John, Quin, and Shinobu have been training together for years in order to one day take their oath and become Seekers.  When the final test comes, however, John stumbles and is cast out by the master Briac.  He is devastated at being kept from what he sees as his birthright and concocts a plan to get what he believes is rightfully his.  Meanwhile, Quin and Shinobu take the oath but are horrified to learn what becoming a Seeker actually entails.  When John and his soldiers arrive on the estate to destroy everything on it, Quin and Shinobu must make some fateful decisions about their future as Seekers.  Can they abandon their oath and the training they have spent their whole lives learning?  Will John ever be able to let his quest for justice for his ancestors go?

This fantasy story introduces three very interesting main characters as well as supporting characters.  The history of the Seekers is engaging, but there is still a lot to learn about the past and how it came to shape the present they are dealing with now.  Despite the length it doesn’t feel like the story develops as much as it should in this first installment and leaves quite a bit unanswered.  Die hard fantasy fans will enjoy this series.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu

youngelites

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  355

RAC:  Yes

Adelina survived a terrible “blood fever” that killed many throughout the land she lives in with her father, mother, and sister.  Her mother, in fact, does not survive the fever.  Adelina is not left unscathed and loses an eye in the process of fighting the terrible disease.  Her father now views her as tainted and damaged.  He blames her for his business losing money and him not being able to sell her off to a rich husband.  Upon overhearing that he plans to instead sell her to a dishonest man looking for a young mistress she decides to flee, but her father catches her and in her anger she brings forth a power she did not know she possessed.  He is trampled and killed in the process.  Adelina is sentenced to death, but the famous and yet elusive “young elites” come and save her.  The “young elites” are made up of scarred survivors of the blood fever who have also acquired special powers and skills.  They agree to train Adelina in her new found skills, but if she fails to learn to control them they will have to dispose of her.  Does Adelina have what it takes to be a “young elite.”

By the same author as the Legend series, this series will interest fans of fantasy fiction such as Rick Riordan and James Dashner.  The story itself follows a similar plot progression as others we have seen, but remains unique enough that the reader will care what happens to Adelina and her sister.  The characters are well written, but their motivations and actions are sometimes unclear.  The ending has a proper buildup and anticipation and comes through with excess action and a dramatic conclusion.  This is a solid beginning to an interesting new series.

Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

iron trial

Genre:  Fantasy

# of pages:  295

RAC:  Yes

Callum Hunt has been told his entire life that he will not be attending the Magisterium, which is the magic school both of his parents attended.  His father firmly believes it brought them only bad things and the tragic death of Callum’s mother.  When Callum gets the invitation for the admittance test he brings nothing with him as he has no intention of going with the Masters to the Magisterium at the end of the trial.  He does everything in his power to fail this test and succeeds remarkably well, which is why he is so surprised when the greatest master chooses him to mentor along with two other students.  Callum’s father refuses to let him go, but is overruled and Callum is forced to go to the school he has been told his entire life will only lead to his downfall.  Can he succeed even if his father thinks it’s impossible?  Why was he chosen if he performed so poorly on the test?  Will this be the first place he has ever truly fit in?

This is the first in a five book series by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, two very popular fantasy authors.  It will inevitably lead to comparisons with Harry Potter, but there are enough differences to intrigue Harry Potter fans.  Callum’s character is flawed and in no way a real hero to the story, but yet throughout the story he steps up when his friends need him even knowing he very well could fail and make things worse.  There are many unanswered questions that will leave readers wanting more.  Recommended for struggling readers who enjoy fantasy.

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

Image

Genre:  Historical Fiction

# of Pages:  298

RAC:  Yes

Iowa High School Award Winner 2013-2014

In this prequel to Frankenstein, Victor desperately tries to find a cure for his twin, Konrad, when he mysteriously falls ill.  They had always had a spirited rivalry in everything in life, including their mutual interest in the young girl who lives with their family, but despite all the competition Victor simply cannot imagine life without Konrad.  He decides to seek the help of an eccentric scientist in the area who believes he can find the Elixir of Life.  There are many tasks to complete in order to acquire the ingredients for this mixture and Victor must make many difficult decisions in order to try and save his brother.  What is Victor willing to give up in order to save Konrad?

The tasks Victor must complete in order to gather the materials for Konrad’s cure are exciting, dangerous, and in many cases frightening.  Readers will enjoy the journey as Victor tries to save his brother, while also harboring feelings for Konrad’s girlfriend.  The ending is exciting and leads into a sequel.  This title is a hard sell for students who do not like historical fiction, but once they start it they find it is a wild adventure they want to take.

Fire by Kristin Cashore

fire

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  461

RAC:  Yes

In this companion to Graceling, Fire is half human and half monster.  She is amazingly beautiful and has the ability to control people’s minds, but due to the horrible things her father had done she chooses not to use her abilities and often covers her multi-colored hair.  She lives in a remote area with her best friend, Archer.  The Kingdom Fire lives in is in great turmoil as other kings are trying to take control of King Nash’s land.  After offering a warning Fire sensed to Nash’s mother he extends an invitation for her to come to the castle and help him identify other possible threats.   Fire chooses to go to the castle even though she is terrified of how people will react to her after the heinous deeds her father committed because she believes she must help save the kingdom she has grown to love.  As time goes on, however, it appears that whoever is out to get the king also wants her.  Can she save them all from certain destruction?

Fans of Graceling have enjoyed this title since its release and it has been named an Iowa Award Winner for 2013-2014.  Fire’s story is compelling as she struggles against a reputation she did not earn simply because of who her father is.  She is surrounded by strong, open minded people who yearn to overcome their bias of her, which is refreshing.  The plot is fast paced and involved an elaborate plot that most readers will not figure out too early.  The ending is very satisfying.  Recommended.

White Cat by Holly Black

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  310

RAC:  Yes

Cassel lives in a world where magic is possible, but illegal and not everyone is capable of doing it.  He is the only member of his family who cannot perform some type of magic.  He currently goes to a private boarding school to try and get away from his crazy family, but that is all jeopardized when he mysteriously sleepwalks onto the roof of the dorm and is mistakenly believed to be a suicide risk.  Years prior to this incident Cassel believes he killed his best friend although the memory is a bit hazy.  Now, he is having weird visions about a white cat and sleepwalking and he starts to wonder if his family is telling him the truth about what happened that fateful night years before.  Would his family use their powers on him?  Can he find out the truth before it is too late?

Fantasy lovers will enjoy this book partly because it is so unique.  It is not the same book we’ve all read a thousand times, but instead brings a new and modern twist to the magic and fantasy genre.  Cassel’s family all have real and understandable motivations, but that does not mean they all make the correct choices all the time.  Cassel is faced with some hard truths as he learns the facts and must decide how he will proceed.  The book is entertaining and engaging and will keep readers asking for more.

Starcrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  359

RAC Book:  Yes

Digger lives as a thief and a spy, but when her partner is killed by the King’s police she must go into hiding so that she does not meet the same fate.  She becomes Celyn, a lady-in-waiting, to a family that is going to a remote castle for the winter.  Digger believes this will be the perfect getaway from the city, but when she gets there finds that one of the guests, Lord Daul, knows her true identity and threatens to reveal it unless she becomes a spy for him.  As Celyn begins snooping around the castle looking for clues she finds much more than she expected and must decide whom she should trust.

Starcrossed begins a bit slow and will frustrate some fantasy readers because fantasy elements are not as prominent as they are in some other books.  However, the plot in this story carries many twists and turns that will keep readers wanting to know more about the people who have come together in this castle for the winter.  Celyn, Lady Merista, and many other characters continue to grow and develop until it seems like the reader actually knows them.  Fans of Graceling will want to check this one out.

Legacies by Mercedes Lackey

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  308

RAC Book:  Yes

Spirit must attend the boarding school Oakhurst Academy when her family is unexpectedly killed in a car accident.  Upon arrival Spirit is notified that she is a legacy at the school, which means that one or both of her parents attended this school.  The school is a boarding school for orphans who have magical abilities.  Despite the assurance she has magical abilities, Spirit cannot seem to find any affinity to any magical gifts.  As the school year progresses, students start disappearing and Spirit and her friends take on the task of finding out who or what is causing these disappearances.

For fantasy fans, this story will be a page turner.  The character development does not seem as developed as in other popular fantasy series, like Harry Potter, and there is virtually no involvement of adults so it is unclear who actually knows what is going on with the mysterious disappearances.  The mystery itself is interesting, but there are many unanswered questions regarding Spirit’s past and her actual magical abilities.  Recommended for serious fantasy fans.

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Genre:  Fantasy

# of Pages:  292

RAC Book:  Yes

Tamsin was proclaimed to be the most powerful witch in her family at her birth, but by her eighth birthday no gifts had appeared and the family believed she was without any powers.  When Tamsin is 17 she is working at her family’s magic shop when a bumbling English professor comes in to ask for her help in finding a lost item.  He mistakenly believes she is her talented older sister and she lets him because she wants to prove she is useful to the family.  She finds his object, but learns he did not tell her the truth about his intentions and she may have unwittingly put her entire family in danger.  Can she find a way to save her family?  Can she find the power within herself that she was predicted to have?

Fans of fantasy stories will enjoy this one as Tamsin and her many magical family members struggle through this attack on their family.  Time traveling, spells, and potions are all present and used in a unique way.  There are a few times when the plot seems a bit cumbersome and confusing, but fantasy readers will power through.  The ending leaves some questions, but most will find it satisfying.


Archives