Category: Fantasy

Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard

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This is another dark YA dystopia, this one set in a bleak world divided into the Reds and Silvers, where the reds (who bleed red blood) are the underlass to the Silvers, who bleed silver blood and have special powers. When Mare, our heroine, a teen girl slated for conscription into the ongoing war, is swept abruptly in the Silver world, she suddenly has the potential to make extraordinary change.

This has wonderful world building, but the unrelenting grimness becomes oppressive well before the end of the book. That said, it still kept me frantically turning pages as the plot drove forward with some truly terrifying political intrigue. For 16 and up for violence.

Blood Vow, by J.R. Ward

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Ward is at the top of her game with this, the second in the Black Dagger Legacy series, and there wasn’t a single one of her many storylines that I wanted to skip over. So in this novel we have in play Axe, a tough but wounded guy, and one of the trainees in the Brotherhood’s training classes for new soldiers. We also have Rhage and Mary, adjusting to new life adorably with their adopted teen, Bitty. And finally we have Elise, and member of the aristocracy, who is struggling to get out of her father’s restrictive traditionalism by earning her PhD.

I enjoyed spending time with all these folks, and we still had fights and romance galore. Excellent installment in the series from Ward. For 18 and up.

The Gathering, by Kelley Armstrong

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I’ve liked some of Armstrong’s earlier books, but this YA didn’t work for me at all. Our protagonist is 16, but seems much younger, plot twists are signaled way ahead of time, and it feels too much like stronger books, including Shiver, the Mercy Thompson series, and Morganville Vampires. The book ends on a cliffhanger, but I won’t be continuing the series. Okay for 14 and up (though that’s not a guarantee that later books won’t skew older).

Stiletto, by Daniel O’Malley

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Another fantastic book about the British secret agency, The Checquy. Author O’Malley delights with his insight into government bureaucracy, his unexpected monsters, and the wonderful female friendship that is at the heart of the book. The Checquy is attempting to merge with its arch-enemies, and when one of its female soldiers is assigned to bodyguard one of the visiting Grafters, their mutual hostility is at war with their innate politeness to amusing results. You don’t have to have read book 1 to follow Stiletto, but it helps. I love this series with a fiery passion. For 18 and up, due to violence and disturbing supernatural manifestations.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

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Cassandra Clare begins a new Shadowhunters series, and she is in top form. Without the burden of exposition that slowed her first series, and back in the present-day, unlike her second series, she introduces us to new characters and the plot takes off from there. Fighter Emma Carstairs nearly storms off the page, and her best friend and fellow fighter Julian is well-drawn also, as a young man who has shouldered too much responsibility for too long.

Y’all know I am not a fan of fictional teenagers meeting and falling for someone they will love forever, but Clare’s tales are compelling enough that I roll with it. Recommended for 16 and up for (non-graphic) teen sex and some rock-n-roll violence.

 

 

The Glittering Court, by Richelle Mead

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Our heroine is a countess in a fictional country who risks being betrothed to a man she despises. Her solution sends her on an adventure she could never have imagined to the other side of her world. This book had some echoes of The Selection, but I thought it took us in a very different direction, one much more filled with adventure and with a romance that carries danger and risk to both partners. I liked our heroine’s growth over the course of the novel, and her independence is hard-fought. I know there is more to this series, but this one is nicely self-contained. For 16 and up.

Heartless, by Marissa Meyer

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As an origin story for one of the darkest characters in Alice’s Wonderland, this book has echoes of Gregory Maguire. But it sucks you in as a lovely romance starring Cath, a character you quickly care deeply about. And when it becomes more and more grim, it simply broke my heart. So while it was well-written and a good read, it was not what I wanted for any of the characters involved. For 16 and up who don’t mind a journey to the dark side.

 

The Winner’s Curse, by Marie Rutkoski

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Kestrel is a 17-year-old general’s daughter, and the path before her is clear. She can join the military or get married. And she doesn’t want to do either. So when she buys a slave, a native of their conquered land, she doesn’t expect to find a third path, but she does. And that choice changes everything, as her understanding of what it means to be conquered pulls her the opposite direction from her duty to her father.

This book did not go where I expected it to, instead, it pulled me in multiple directions as surely as the story does its lead character. This is not a stand-alone; it will propel you into the next book. For age 16 and up for now. (One of my pet peeves in when early books are appropriate for a certain age, then later books in that series are definitely NOT appropriate. Looking at you, Sarah J. Maas!)