Xar, the son of the wizard king, is known for being a troublemaker–disobedient, destructive, leading his ragtag entourage of sprites and snow cats into all kinds of danger. And the fact that at thirteen his magic still hasn’t come in makes him even more unruly. Wish, the warrior princess, is downright weird. Her limp, her eyepatch, and her odd interests make her hardly fit to call herself a warrior. But the mischief of these two sworn enemies reaches new heights when two forbidden errands collide in the Badwoods. Xar has come to set a trap for a witch, the darkest, most evil magic creature ever to exist, which everyone believes are extinct, but whose magic Xar hopes to steal. Wish enters the Badwoods chasing her pet, an iron spoon that must be magic and is therefore thoroughly forbidden (much to her young Assistant Bodyguard’s anxiety). She also has a magic sword she found near her mother’s dungeon that has an inscription claiming that it kills witches. And unfortunately for both Wish and Xar, that sword may be blood-curdlingly necessary.
As much as this novel is the thrilling start to a creative and engaging new fantasy series, it is a coming of age tale for two very different protagonists, each struggling to find a place in their respective society and to work through a complicated relationship with their respective intimidating parent. I suspect that the cheeky omniscient narrator would have annoyed me had I not been listening to the brilliantly performed audiobook. But otherwise, I loved everything about it. Can’t wait for the next installment!
I highly recommend the audiobook (performed by David Tennant), a well-deserved Odyssey Award Honor recording.
Lots of new books and sequels have been announced for 2018! Here’s a quick rundown of upcoming YA titles. (Summaries and age ranges are based on publisher information and release dates may change.)
YA Continuing Series
True Queen by Sarah Fine (1/2)
Book 3 of Imposter Queen. Ages 12 & up.
Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff (1/9)
Book 2 of The Red Abbey Chronicles. Ages 14 & up.
You Won’t Know I’m Gone by Kristen Orlando (1/16)
Book 2 of The Black Angel Chronicles. Ages 13 & up.
Poison’s Cage by Breeana Shields (1/16)
Sequel to Poison’s Kiss. Ages 12 & up.
Purple Hearts by Michael Grant (1/30)
Final book of Front Lines. Ages 14 & up.
Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones (2/6)
Sequel to Wintersong. Ages 12 & up.
Daughter of a Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller (2/27)
Book 2 of Daughter of the Pirate King. Ages 12-18.
The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro (3/6)
Book 3 of Charlotte Holmes. Ages 14 & up.
Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi (3/18)
A new arc of Shatter Me. Ages 14 & up.
The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin (3/27)
Sequel to The Call. Ages 14 & up.
Children of Daedala by Caighlan Smith (4/1)
Sequel to Children of Icarus.
Trouble Never Sleeps by Stephanie Tromly (4/24)
Book 3 of Trouble Is a Friend of Mine. Ages 13 & up.
The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I by Carolyn Mackler (5/29)
Sequel to The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things. Ages 14 & up.
City of Bastards by Andrew Shvarts (6/5)
Sequel to Royal Bastards. Ages 16 & up.
The Merciless IV: Last Rites by Danielle Vega (6/12)
Final installment of The Merciless. Ages 14 & up.
Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas (9/5)
Book 6 of Throne of Glass. Ages 14 & up.
YA Historical Fiction
Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk (1/16)
An enslaved warrior princess of Thrace and a young gladiator join forces in a rebellion against the Roman Empire. Ages 13-17.
What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper (2/20)
The only member of her family too survive the Holocaust, a girl searches for connection to her Jewish identity and the people around her. Ages 14 & up.
Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen (3/6)
During the Holocaust, Polish twins are subjected to horrific tortures and preserve the memory of their experience through poetry. Ages 12-18.
Suitors and Sabotage by Cindy Anstey (4/24)
A young lady finds herself in a difficult position when she falls in love with her suitor’s younger brother. Ages 12-18.
Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All by Candace Fleming, et al. (5/1)
Seven stories by seven YA authors paint a picture of the drama of the Tudor court. Ages 12-18.
She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) by Ann Hood (6/26)
In the throes of the tumultuous 1960s and a disappointing year at school, a girl hopes that a whirlwind roadtrip to see the final world tour of the Beatles will set her life back on track. Ages 14 & up.
YA Fantasy & Sci Fi
Ink by Alice Broadway (1/2)
After her father’s death, a girl discovers that one of his tattoos brands him a criminal, and her world turns upside down. Ages 12 & up.
A Conspiracy of Stars by Olivia A. Cole (1/2)
A teen discovers a startling truth about her family and the secret government experiments that threaten to unravel a tenuous peace with an indigious population. Ages 13 & up.
Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely (1/2)
After the second Civil War, a skilled teen sharpshooter makes a name for herself in the new West. Ages 15 & up.
The Forgotten Book by Mechthild Gläser (1/2)
A girl discovers a magic book, and everything she writes in it comes true. Ages 12 & up.
Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking (1/2)
One of Odin’s Valkyrie must decide whether or not to help a mortal boy exact revenge. Ages 12 & up.
Everless by Sara Holland (1/2)
A teen must return to the dangerous city of her birth in order to steal more time for her dying father’s lifespan. Ages 13 & up.
As You Wish by Chelsea Sedoti (1/2)
As his eighteenth birthday approaches, a boy must figure out what his one wish in the world would be since it is guaranteed to come true. Ages 14-17.
Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (1/9)
Two scholars follow a message from an alien race to a temple of riches and danger on a strange planet. Ages 14 & up.
Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh (1/23)
A necromancer must join forces with an alluring and irritating mage to defeat the bloodthirsty Shades. Ages 12 & up.
Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen (1/30)
After marrying into a rival kingdom to broker a peace deal, a young woman discovers her own magical abilities which threaten the tenuous peace and her own safety. Ages 14 & up.
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (2/6)
A girl with the power to bestow beauty on the otherwise gray people of her world finds her values challenged when she gets a glimpse at the true nature of the elite class to which she belongs. Ages 12 & up.
Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson (2/6)
The daughter of a virgin mother discovers she has the ability to perform miracles and must try to prevent the end of the world. Ages 14 & up.
Honor Among Thieves by Rachel Caine and Ann Aguirre (2/13)
A teen criminal escapes jail time by accepting an interstellar exploration mission on a sentient spaceship. Ages 13 & up.
Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare (2/20)
After spending her whole life in a world that her mother wrote into existence, a girl must cross over to the real world to find her kidnapped mother. Ages 12-18.
Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (2/27)
A girl with unconventional ideas escapes being sent to a nunnery and tries to find her place in a world where she is expected to be a damsel in distress. Ages 13 & up.
The Traitor’s Game by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2/27)
A young noblewoman refuses to let herself be a political pawn when she is captured by rebels who oppose the cruel king whom her father serves. Ages 14 & up.
Mind Over Matter by R.T. Martin (3/1)
A boy gains telekinetic abilities on his sixteenth birthday. Ages 12-18.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (3/6)
The daughter of a slaughtered maji must tame the power inside of her to bring down the oppressive regime that outlawed magic. Ages 14 & up.
To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo (3/6)
A viscious siren princess is transformed into a human and must cut out the heart of a siren-hunting prince to break the spell. Ages 14 & up.
Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw (3/6)
When three long-dead witches send their spirits to inhabit the bodies of young women and exact revenge on the male ancestors of the townspeople who executed them, a girl tries to rescue the new boy in town. Ages 14 & up.
Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton (3/13)
The youngest in a line of cursed witches struggles with her limited abilities when a book offering prices for various spells is published in her hometown. Ages 14 & up.
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland (4/3)
In the wake of the rising of the dead soldiers that halted the Civil War in its tracks, a young woman of color is being trained to fight the dead while a more dangerous political battle simmers around her. Ages 14 & up.
Sleight by Jennifer Sommersby (4/3)
After her mother’s shocking death during a circus performance, a teen girl is plagued with visions as she attempts to uncover the dark secrets of the circus and the boy she loves. Ages 14 & up.
Beyond a Darkened Shore by Jessica Leake (4/10)
Two teens from opposing clans share a dark vision of the future and must join forces against the evil that threatens them all. Ages 14 & up.
Rewind by Carolyn O’Doherty (4/10)
A girl who can rewind time to solve crimes must decide whether to accept a medication which will allow her to live longer but interfere with her abilities. Ages 14 & up.
The Fandom by Anna Day (4/24)
At Comic Con, a girl and her friends are transported into the world of their favorite book and she must take on the role of the heroine to insure that the story isn’t destroyed. Ages 14 & up.
Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian (4/24)
After a decade in captivity, a princess vows to destroy the regime that killed her mother and stole much of her life. Ages 14 & up.
Ride On by Gwen Cole (5/1)
In a sunless world, two teen outlaws seek sanctuary while being pursued by a vicious gang. Ages 12-18.
Whisper by Lynette Noni (5/1)
A prisoner whose voice has catastrophic power finds herself at the center of a twisted government plot. Ages 14 & up.
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson (5/8)
When her BFF allegedly commits suicide, a girl vows to find out what really happened, and winds up bring her BFF and a couple of other girls back from the dead to act as disoriented vigilantes. Ages 14 & up.
Furyborn by Claire Legrand (5/22)
A prophesied queen and a young rebel bounty hunter are separated by centuries, yet their survival and the fate of the world depends on one another. Ages 13 & up.
The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas (7/10)
The younger sister of a superhero finds her worldview challenged when a supervillain rescues her from muggers. Ages 12-18.
Storm-wake by Lucy Christopher (7/31)
In a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, a girl finds her worldview challenged when a she meets a “wild boy” and a shipwrecked stranger on the isolated, stormy island where she lives with her father. Ages 12 & up.
#Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil (8/7)
A wrongfully-convicted teen finds herself in the midst of a social experiment where convicts are hunted and killed live on social media. Ages 14 & up.
These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch (8/7)
Three teens from different regions are caught in a violent clash fueled by religious fervor and a fear of magic. Ages 14 & up.
Disasterland by James Patterson and Robison Wells (8/27)
Following a nuclear explosion, a teen discovers strange new abilities which he must use to uncover a government conspiracy. Ages 13 & up.
YA Mystery & Thrillers
Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp (1/2)
When her best friend dies in mysterious circumstances, a girl won’t let the dark Alaskan winter stop her from finding out what really happened. Ages 14-17.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (1/16)
A teen enrolls in a boarding school with an infamous past only to discover that the legendary murders are repeating themselves and its up to her to solve the mystery. Ages 14 & up.
Losing Brave by Bailee Madison and Stefne Miller (1/30)
A girl uncovers a dark mystery as she searches for her missing sister. Ages 13 & up.
You Will Be Mine by Natasha Preston (2/6)
Mysterious, anonymous letters lead to disappearances. Ages 14 & up.
I Stop Somewhere by T.E. Carter (2/27)
A girl’s first high school relationship turns abusive and ends with a viscious assault, which she then must watch happen to other girls while she waits for someone to find her. Ages 14 & up.
White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig (4/24)
When his sister’s boyfriend is murdered–and she’s the one holding the knife–a teen has one night to figure out what happened and clear her name. Ages 14 & up.
Blink by Sasha Dawn (5/1)
A teen is obsessed with the mystery of the girl who was kidnapped from his community twelve years ago, and the new girl who just showed up may have the key to the mystery. Ages 14 & up.
The Lies They Tell by Gillian French (5/1)
With her father the scapegoat in a deadly fire, a girl tries to uncover the truth from a complicated web of secrets and lies. Ages 14 & up.
The Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl (6/5)
Five teens gathered to unravel the details surrounding a friend’s shocking death receive a visit from a mysterious man and discover that time has stopped–and restarting it might cost someone their life. Ages 14 & up.
YA Realistic Fiction & Romance
Meet Cute: Some People Are Destined to Meet by Jennifer L. Armentrout, et al. (1/2)
A collection of short story romances featuring a diverse range of protagonists. Ages 14 & up.
Don’t Cosplay with My Heart by Cecil Castellucci (1/2)
A girl finds a sense of freedom in pretending to be someone else when her family life and friendships seem to be out of control. Ages 12 & up.
Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle (1/2)
After witnessing a tragic accident, two teens start performing random acts of kindness and find themselves drawn closer to one another. Ages 14 & up.
Busted by Gina Ciocca (1/2)
A girl’s side business of spying on friends boyfriends to catch them cheating becomes a problem when she falls for one of the cheaters. Ages 14-17.
You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone by Rachel Lynn Solomon (1/2)
Two twins who couldn’t be more different must find a way to connect when they learn that one of them has inherited the gene for Huntington’s Disease. Ages 14 & up.
A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen (1/9)
A novel of the complex, evolving relationship of two teens over a period of six years. Ages 13 & up.
Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke (1/9)
A teen questioning the Christian faith in which she was raised finds herself expelled from high school and moves into a Big Brother-style reality show house at a local community college. Ages 14 & up.
Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard (1/12)
A mute girl with crippling anxiety finds her voice when she befriends a deaf boy and begins communicating in sign language. Ages 14 & up.
Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (1/16)
After a violent attack in another part of the country, a Muslim-American teen faces racism and hatred as she tries to fit into her community. Ages 14 & up.
All That Was by Karen Rivers (1/16)
When a teen’s best friend’s body washes up on the beach, she must come to terms with the horrible fight they had the day before her death. Ages 12 & up.
A Land of Permanent Goodbyes by Atia Abawi (1/23)
A refugee family faces a harrowing journey from Syria to Greece. Ages 12 & up.
The Last Girl on Earth by Alexandra Blogier (1/23)
The last surviving human hidden among the alien conquerers risks everything when she falls in love. Ages 12 & up.
Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (1/23)
Fearing that her asexuality might not be understood, a girl is horrified when she begins falling in love again. Ages 13 & up.
The Upside of Falling Down by Rebekah Crane (1/30)
After losing her memory in a plane crash, a teen girl tries to reinvent herself with the help of a handsome stranger. Ages 12 & up.
Say You’ll Remember Me by Katie McGarry (1/30)
A governor’s daughter falls in love with a juvenile delinquent who was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Ages 13 & up.
American Heart by Laura Moriarty (1/30)
A teen finds her preconceptions about Muslims challenged when she meets an immigrant desperate for freedom. Ages 13 & up.
This Is Not a Love Letter by Kim Purcell (1/30)
When her boyfriend who had been the target of violent bullying disappears, a girl must face the racism of her community as she tries to figure out what happened. Ages 14 & up.
The Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis (1/30)
Isolated in his strict Greek family, a boy tries to come to terms with his attraction to another guy. Ages 14 & up.
The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos (2/1)
After her school labels her as “disturbed,” a girl begins creating a dictionary labeling everything else in her life–from her incarcerated father to her cheating mother to her best friend who no longer speaks to her. Ages 14 & up.
Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi (2/6)
When an indecisive boy falls in love with an aspiring crossword puzzle writer, his life becomes an adventure. Ages 12 & up.
Broken Battered Hearts by Kami Garcia (2/6)
After her boyfriend’s physical abuse shatters her dreams of becoming a professional athlete, a girl must decide whether it is safe to fall in love again. Ages 14 & up.
All We Can Do Is Wait by Richard Lawson (2/6)
When a bridge collapses, a group of teens must confront emotional issues in their pasts and futures as they wait at the hospital for news of their loved ones. Ages 14 & up.
Layover by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer (2/6)
On an adventure-filled layover in L.A., two stepsiblings must confront their romantic feelings for each other. Ages 14 & up.
The Last to Let Go by Amber Smith (2/6)
A teen and her siblings pull their lives back together after their mother is arrested for killing their abusive father. Ages 14 & up.
When My Heart Joins the Thousand by A.J. Steiger (2/6)
A neuroatypical girl is biding her time until her legal emancipation and trying to forget her painful past when she finds herself falling in love with a boy as physically fragile and she is mentally. Ages 14 & up.
Mercy Rule by Tom Leveen (2/20)
A toxic high school sports environment leads to a horrific incident of school violence. Ages 12 & up.
Where I Live by Brenda Rufener (2/27)
A homeless teen living in her high school finds her secret in jeopardy when she begins reaching out to another teen who may be a victim of abuse. Ages 14 & up.
Honor Code by Kiersi Burkhart (3/1)
A girl with dreams of attending Harvard enrolls at an elite high school with sometimes uncomfortable social conventions and faces a moral dilemma when telling the truth about “the worst night of her life” seems like it may put her in conflict with the strict norms of the school. Ages 14 & up.
The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller (3/6)
A girl hopes to win a science competition and to use the prize money to help her mother overcome her depression. Ages 8-12.
The Place Between Breaths by An Na (3/6)
A teen helps tirelessly at her father’s genetic lab, searching for a cure for the schizophrenia that took her mother away from them, when she begins to fear the disease is taking hold of her as well. Ages 14 & up.
The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk (3/6)
When they each lose someone they love, three teen bandmembers turn to social media to process their grief. Ages 14 & up.
Twelve Steps to Normal by Farrah Penn (3/12)
A girl tries to piece her life back together after her father gets out of rehab for alcoholism. Ages 14 & up.
Fire Song by Adam Jones (3/13)
After his little sister’s suicide, a boy tries to face his feelings for his best friend as well as a future that looks nothing like he had hoped it would. Ages 14 & up.
Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles (3/20)
When a party turns violent, police are called in and shoot and kill an African American teen, leaving his twin brother to try to cope with the loss and understand police brutality. Ages 14 & up.
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (3/20)
When her mother commits suicide, a girl believes she has turned into a bird and travels to Taiwan in search of her. Ages 14 & up.
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi (3/27)
After a not-so-graceful first meeting, two teens communicate and fall in love via text message to avoid the awkwardness of in-person contact. Ages 14 & up.
And She Was by Jessica Verdi (3/27)
When she learns that her overprotective mother is transgender, a girl sets out on a roadtrip to learn about her family and come to term with her mother’s identity. Ages 14 & up.
Troublemakers by Catherine Barter (4/1)
A girl who was raised by her brother starts digging for information on her mother’s death and learns something about herself. Ages 13 & up.
Freefall Summer by Tracy Barrett (4/3)
When she falls for a college-age student of her father’s sky-diving drop zone, a teen lies about her age and soon finds her lies spiraling out of control. Ages 14 & up.
Folded Notes from High School by Matt Boren (4/3)
The most popular senior in school finds her worldview challenged when she falls for the freshman nobody who somehow got the lead in the school musical. Ages 14 & up.
Someday, Somewhere by Lindsay Champion (4/3)
A girl from a financially unstable family in Trenton falls for a gifted (and privileged) teen violinist she hears play at Carnegie Hall. Ages 12-18.
Losers Bracket by Chris Crutcher (4/3)
When her young nephew goes missing, a teen, her foster parents, and her social worker try to find him and keep him safe from her birth family. Ages 12-18.
As She Fades by Abbi Glines (4/3)
After a horrible car crash leaves her boyfriend in a coma, a girl finds herself falling for another boy as they spent endless hours in the hospital with their respective loved ones. Ages 14 & up.
Rebel with a Cupcake by Anna Mainwaring (4/3)
An unfortunate wardrobe malfunction leaves a girl feeling self-conscious about her weight and wondering if she should change herself to attract the boy of her dreams. Ages 12-18.
Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert (4/10)
A teen boy discovers a box of secrets in his parents’ closet and learns shocking truths about his family and the life he thought he knew. Ages 14 & up.
Sam and Ilsa’s Last Hurrah by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (4/18)
Twins’ intense sibling rivalry brings plenty of drama to a blowout graduation party. Ages 14 & up.
A Prom to Remember by Sandy Hall (4/24)
Five very different students have different experiences attending the same prom. Ages 14 & up.
Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian (4/24)
When the feminist owner of the ice cream stand passes away, one teen must decide whether to continue working there under the new management (the owner’s nephew) with whom she butts heads. Ages 12-18.
The Harper Effect by Taryn Bashford (5/1)
When she is kicked off the tennis team, a young athlete must figure out who she is outside of the sport that defined her. Ages 14 & up.
Ship It by Britta Lundin (5/1)
A fan-fiction writer and a TV actor clash at comic-con over whether the actor’s character might be gay and the fall-out is a growing experience for both. Ages 14 & up.
Summer Constellations by Alisha Sevigny (5/1)
A girl is conflicted when she learns that her summer romance has been with the son of the developer who is planning to turn the campground into a resort–until he offers to help her thwart his father’s plans. Ages 14 & up.
A Lite Too Bright by Samuel Miller (5/8)
The grandson of a famous novelist who disappeared in the last week of his life embarks on a journey to uncover the truth about his grandfather’s death. Ages 14 & up.
Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch (5/8)
After stumbling upon a travel guide to Ireland, a teen embarks on a roadtrip to restore her relationship with her brother and mend a broken heart. Ages 14 & up.
Airports, Exes, and Other Things I’m Over by Shani Petroff (5/15)
A romantic vacation goes awry when a girl catches her boyfriend cheating and then winds up stranded at the airport with him. Ages 14 & up.
From Twinkle with Love by Sandhya Menon (5/22)
Through letters to female filmmakers (her professional idols), a girl chronicles her creation of a film festival entry, and the unexpected romantic complications that come along with it. Ages 14 & up.
Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe by Preston Norton (5/22)
After a near death experience, a jock decides to make his school a better place and enlists the aid of a bullied “nobody” to go after the people who are ruining it. Ages 13 & up.
Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth (5/29)
A teen desperate to move off of the reservation meets a girl who just moved back on and together they try to navigate the challenges of racism, finding an artistic voice, and of course, winning a rock band competition. Ages 14 & up.
Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim (6/5)
To escape the wrath of one girl’s parents, three Pakistani-American teens embark on a spontaneous whirlwind of a roadtrip.
Save the Date by Morgan Matson (6/5)
A teen imagines that her sister’s wedding weekend will be a perfect reunion with her older siblings–just like old times–but instead, chaos ensues. Ages 13 & up.
Always, Forever, Maybe by Anica Rissi (6/5)
A girl starts keeping secrets from her best friend lest she judge her boyfriend as he gets increasingly possessive. Ages 14 & up.
Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone (6/5)
After a terrible fight in which they both said unforgivable things, two teens face a seemingly insurmountable rift in their friendship. Ages 13 & up.
The Summer of Us by Cecilia Vinesse (6/5)
On a post-high school roadtrip through Europe, five friends must confront secrets and tensions that threaten their friendships. Ages 14 & up.
The Year of Living Awkwardly by Emma Chastain (7/3)
Life gets awkward when a girl loses out on a part in the school musical and her former best friends are wrapped up in their own problems and hanging out with the most popular girl in school. Ages 12-18.
The Impossibility of Us by Katy Upperman (7/31)
After her brother is killed in Afghanistan, a girl coincidentally falls in love with an Afghan boy, to the discomfort of her family. Ages 14 & up.
Bethan wants nothing more than for Gran to teach her the magic of their Romani people. But knowing magic is dangerous among the gadjos in the neighboring town, and the birthmark on Bethan’s face seems to betray her as a witch to the fearful villagers who hesitate to buy Gran’s herbal cures. Only the young farmer, Martyn, and his father respect her. Bethan finds herself falling for Martyn, and he seems to have already fallen for her. But as if their cultural differences weren’t enough, Silas, the chieftain’s cruel son, wants Bethan and believes he deserves her body. A horrific violence leaves Martyn all but dead and Bethan empty and forever changed. But Gran knows it is time for Bethan to learn dark magic to save Martyn and exact her bloody revenge on those who wronged her.
After days of pondering this book, I still have strong, mixed feelings. The short review is that despite some flaws (a shallow depiction of gypsy culture and awkward and explication-heavy development of the relationship between Bethan and Gran), it is a gripping and deeply, lingeringly disturbing page-turner that fans of violent revenge stories may enjoy. But survivors of sexual violence should be aware that many scenes are graphic and could prompt flashbacks.
If you are a teacher or librarian planning to recommend it to teens, I recommend you read the long review below.
This novel devotes significant attention to the psychological effects of rape on the protagonist. In particular, Bethan wrestles with how the rape had impacted her identity. Who is she now? Who does she want to be? How can she regain control over ever aspect of her life and self–not just her physical body.
Intertwined with this complex exploration is Bethan’s contemplation of herself as a perpetrator of violence. Gran insists that Bethan herself commit the bloody tortures to complete the dark magic that will raise Martyn from the dead. As Bethan tortures her torturers, she sometimes feels satisfaction in her revenge in addition to a conflicting guilt and disgust at the acts of violence she commits.
Ultimately, for Bethan, the violence is worth it. The men who attacked her are far from innocent and despite their pleas for mercy and the tears in their mothers’ eyes as they see their sons tortured, sometimes to death, the end of resurrecting Martyn justifies the morally questionable means. On a broader thematic level, once her attackers are gone and Martyn is once again by her side, Bethan feels a weight lift and feels hopeful for her own emotional resurrection in the future. Reclaiming her own identity, she tells her village that she did what she needed to do and now she is done with violence and dark magic forever.
So here’s where I’m conflicted. It is a common enough trope for an act of evil to turn a victim to further acts of evil. But that isn’t what’s going on here. I believe we are supposed to like Bethan throughout and to approve of her decision to save her love (and herself) by torturing others. The author copiously records Bethan’s distaste and moral conflict about the tortures she commits, but Bethan’s rejection of violence came too late for me–only after she had used it to achieve her end. When she is uncomfortable with violence, Gran pushes her into yet–yet there is no condemnation of Gran. To Gran and Bethan, people who beat a man to death or rape a girl deserve to be burned alive in front of their mothers, have their eyes gouged out, etc. And on an allegorical level, perhaps they do, but given the sensitive and modern treatment of the other aspects of Bethan’s psychological recovery, her embracing of violence (and indeed the seeming necessity of that violence for her psychological recovery) seemed jarringly out of place and has lingered with me.
For that reason, I can’t decide whether I like this book or not. I certainly enjoyed reading it, but upon finishing, find myself still unsettled and not necessarily in a good way.
Ruby thought her life of running and hiding her powers was torture. That was before the real torture began–before the Frostblood king’s guards found her, killed her mother, and imprisoned her in a dungeon of ice. After six months in prison, even her fire powers can’t warm her. But when two mysterious figures with frost powers rescue her, she isn’t sure whether to be grateful or afraid. Surely a Frostblood would never help a Fireblood. They take her to a monastery and the older Frostblood, Brother Thistle, begins to train her to control her powers. He needs her to carry out a mission for him to destroy the cursed throne, and hepledges to keep her safe, no matter how suspicious the other monks may be. The younger Frostblood is definitely not a monk. A warrior with a scarred face and a surly disposition, Arcus initially infuriates Ruby, but soon earns her respect and maybe something more. But nothing–not even love–will get in the way of Ruby’s own mission. She will destroy the throne for Brother Thistle, but then she will finally avenge her mother’s death by killing the Frostblood king.
I am so glad I picked up this book! I hesitated since the plot seemed so tired (boy and girl with opposing magic powers fall in love and kill the king), but what it lacked in originality, it made up for in compelling characters, good pacing, and a complex picture of good, evil, and the human heroes and villains who fall somewhere inbetween. In many ways, the story reminded me of the Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamara Pierce. The romance itself is very Elizabeth Bennett-Mr. Darcy. As the ending was left open for a series, it will be interesting to see how Blake keeps the relationship tension alive in subsequent books, since the romance was completed in the first.
Very highly recommended to teen fantasy readers!
When Princess Anna of Trallonia hears her older sister Morven scream, she isn’t sure whether it is a big deal or not. After all, screaming is one of Morven’s favorite pastimes. It turns out to be sort of a big deal. Anna’s step-step-father, the Evil Duke Rikard, has turned Morven’s latest suitor into a frog. After swearing an oath to change him back, Anna learns that the task may be more complicated than she thought, as it will require a magic lip balm with ingredients such as the blood of a retired druid and freshly plucked cockatrice feathers. More troubling is the news that Duke Rikard plans to have her killed. So Anna and Ardent, the royal dog, set off on their quest for the magic lip balm, collecting a gaggle of transformed creatures along the way.
Hilarious, quirky, yet grounded by relevant social commentary, this fairytale is delightful from beginning to end. I highly recommend it to teen and tween fantasy readers!
Amy Lennox has lived in Germany her whole life. She’s never even visited the small Scottish island where her mother grew up. But after a tumultuous year, returning to Scotland for the summer seems like the right thing to do–even if it is a bit impulsive. After a harrowing boat ride, Amy and her mother arrive at the home of the grandmother who she’s never met (and who her mother hasn’t seen since running away as a pregnant teenager). But more intriguing than her long-lost relatives is her family’s magical secret: the Lennox family and their neighbors the Macalisters can jump into books and interact with the characters. It is an ancient practice and the source of an ancient feud. Despite her mother’s objections, Amy is eager to try it out. But when she uncovers a dreadful plot to steal the central ideas of classic literature, no one believes her. No one except Will Macalister. And family feuds aside, the Lennox and Macalister families will have to work together to avert a disastrous future.
Originally published in German, this novel will resonate with every avid reader who has dreamed of entering their favorite stories. The idea is not new, and this novel is not as gripping as Funke’s Inkheart, but it is a fantasy mystery that many teens will certainly enjoy.
For years, Alex has tried to hide her powers. She doesn’t want to be a bruja–not after what happened the first and only time she let her magic slip out. But when her best friend is in trouble, she can’t help but take on the bully, and suddenly, her magic is no longer a secret. In fact, it seems she is the most powerful bruja of them all: an encantrix. As her mother and sisters joyfully plan her Deathday ceremony and celebration, Alex plans a counter-canto–one which she hopes will take the burden of her magic away forever. Unfortunately, her canto goes wrong, and Alex must rely on the help of a brujo boy she hardly knows to reach the Tree of Souls and rescue her family from the Devourer.
A compelling blend of myth and modern life, the world of the Brooklyn Brujas will entrance readers. Alex’s struggle to come to terms with her magic is inextricably tied to her struggle to find her place in her family and community. One of the most engaging books I’ve read lately; I highly recommend it to teen fantasy fans!