Category: 12 and up

Knight’s Wyrd, by Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald

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This skews very young, for all that there is plenty of hacking off limbs type of violence, and death of secondary characters is treated with near indifference. I’d call it an adventure story for 12 and up. That said, it is very short, with minimal world building and lots of fighting and magic and reversals. The character building is also given short shrift, and I’m not sure I care enough about any of it to read the next book in the series.

The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan

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When the god Apollo is condemned to return to Earth as a 16-year-old mortal, he knows this is the worst thing that has ever happened to him in his immortal life. But maybe the kids at Camp Half-Blood, who are half-mortal, can help him. Riordan has books like this down to a science by now, but he is far from phoning it in. Apollo is humorously written, as his internal monologue is filled with asides about his past life and all the godly powers and adoration that should be coming to him. Great fun for both fans of Percy Jackson and newcomers to the Percyverse. For 12 and up.

Princess Ben, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

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Wonderful high fantasy, featuring Princess Benevolence, who is a fully realized 15-year-old committed to living her life on her terms, even after she becomes heir to the throne of her small kingdom. Ben is plump, willful, and grieving, and far from the Regent’s idea of a princess. Yet she makes her own choices, good and bad, and delivers for us a wonderful adventure story of a young girl who becomes more than she ever imagines she could. A joy, for readers 12 and up.

The Safe-Keeper’s Secret, by Sharon Shinn

A lovely and surprising book, like so much of Shinn’s work. This story sweeps us into the world of Safe Keepers, who freely keep the secrets of the neighbors in their village, so that everyone can share their secrets in confidence. We follow the tale of Reed and Fiona, who are raised as the children of a local Safe Keeper, though Reed was brought to the Safe Keeper on the night of his birth. It’s a wonderful tale of what we want as children and what we grow to want as we get older, when the stakes are higher. Simply a joy. For 12 and up.

The Sword of Summer, by Rick Riordan

Riordan’s new Norse-themed adventure is simply a rollicking good time. Magnus Chase, our 16-year-old hero, has a darker edge than Percy ever did, and I enjoy his sense of humor as well. Though it’s still appropriate for middle schoolers, there is a lot more in there for adult sensibilities as well. We also have a great kick-ass Muslim heroine who wears a hajib, which is refreshing. Highly recommended.

Keys to the Demon Prison, by Brandon Mull

Terrific ending to a strong series, as Kendra, Seth and their friends face the literal end of the world. I admire the author for having his characters, Seth in particular, make seriously bad choices for good reasons, and then walk the character through the steps needed to repair what damage you can, and acknowledge the losses that take place. Strong writing for middle school-aged kids and up. Recommended.