Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Holly Black’

darkestOnce upon a time — actually, the last few months  — I’ve been leading a double life. By day, I’m reading literary fiction and crime novels, but by night I escape to the paranormal via YA novels. Oh, the adventures I have among ghosts and witches, heroes and villains, changelings and dreamwalkers.

High school student Hazel is also leading a double life in Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest (Little, Brown, library hardcover). Hazel wonders why she’s so tired in the mornings, unaware that her nighttime dreams  of being a warrior in the service of a fairy king are true. It’s part of a bargain she made to help her musically gifted brother Ben. Both Hazel and Ben are fascinated by the glass coffin in the forest near the town. Inside resides a sleeping fairy prince, a tourist attraction in a land where humans and fae warily co-exist. But then the coffin is destroyed, the prince disappears, and this already odd world falls out of kilter. As in her vampire novel, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Black excels at mixing the ordinary  (school, parents, teenage crushes) with the extraordinary (changelings, unicorns, curses). She transforms fairy tale tropes with modern, snarky charm.

nightbirdAlice Hoffman’s many adult novels are suffused with a lyrical magical realism, which also informs her new novel for younger readers, Nightbird (Random House, digital galley). In the small Massachusetts town of Sidwell, residents hold an annual pageant about the town’s long-ago witch. But 12-year-old Twig and her mother, a talented baker, never attend, continuing to lead an isolated life in an old house, where Twig’s older brother James hides inside. Only Twig knows that James comes out at night, unfurling the black wings he’s had since birth, the result of the Sidwell witch having cursed the male side of the family. Twig is afraid someone is going to discover James on one of his nighttime flights; already there are whispers of a shadowy, flying monster. When a new family moves in down the road, Twig makes a good friend and James falls in love, but all is complicated by strange graffiti in town, a mysterious boy, and a woods full of small, endangered owls. Hoffman’s light touch casts a memorable spell. In Sidwell, even the library and the apple trees appear enchanted.

shadowcabMaureen Johnson left fans hanging on the edge of a cliff two years ago with The Madness Underneath, the second book in her enthralling Shades of London series, when she apparently killed off a major character. But never fear; she’s not Veronica Roth, thank goodness (yes, I am still bitter about Allegiant). In The Shadow Cabinet (Penguin Young Readers, purchased e-book), American student Rory Devereaux and her secret London ghost-busting colleagues have the mad skills to save one of their own. Maybe. While team leader Stephen hovers between life and death, Rory and squad members Boo and Callum try to find Charlotte, a student apparently kidnapped by her crazed therapist Jane, who hopes to resurrect the two leaders of a 1970s cult. But that’s just part of a hair-raising plot that also includes the disappearance of 10 other girls, a mass murder and a conspiracy threatening London at large. Readers who like Ben Aaronovitch’s adult Rivers of London series will appreciate the similarities in tone as Johnson leavens the scary with the humorous. Super supernatural.

mimeSamantha Shannon kicked off a projected seven-book series in 2013 with The Bone Season, a wonder of intricate world-building and spirited adventure. I wouldn’t attempt reading the series’ second book, The Mime Order (Bloomsbury USA, digital galley), without reading the first, so detailed is this futuristic London ruled by the corporation Scion, peopled by a thriving underworld of outlawed clairvoyants, and threatened by the otherworldly race known as the Rephaim. Having escaped from the Oxford prison colony controlled by the Rephaim, dreamwalker Paige Mahoney is the most-wanted fugitive in London. She’s rebels against the quasi-protection of the manipulative mime-lord Jaxon, a Fagin-like figure, but really runs into trouble when she encounters the Warden, the enigmatic Rephaite who was both her captor and mentor in Oxford. Scion seeks both of them, and unless Paige can carry out a complex scheme to become a mime-queen, they’re doomed. Five more books? Really?

wallsaroundNova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us (Algonquin Young Readers, digital galley) stuns with its intertwining narratives of mean girls, ghost girls and aspiring  ballerinas. Amber is an inmate at a secure juvenile detention center, imprisoned for having killed her stepfather. Violet is a talented ballet dancer headed for Juilliard. Their stories unfold in alternating chapters, three years apart, but are linked by Ori, who becomes Amber’s cellmate after Violet testifies against her in the murder of two dancers on a hot summer night. Secrets abound, and the revelations are all the more disturbing for the lyricism of the writing. What really happened the night the prison doors opened as if by magic? Shiver.

 

Read Full Post »

shadowsWhile waiting what seems like forever for Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, the conclusion of the Divergent trilogy due out Oct. 22, I’ve been catching up on other YA offerings. There be magic aplenty.

Robin McKinley, who is known for her retellings of classic fairy tales (Beauty, Spindle’s End) and her original fantasies (The Hero and the Crown, Sunshine) gives a nod to both in the inventive Shadows (Penguin, purchased e-book). “The story starts like some thing out of a fairy tale. I hated my stepfather.” That’s 17-year-old Maggie talking about Val, the short, hairy, badly dressed immigrant from Oldworld her mom married. Actually, Maggie can’t really explain her antipathy to Val, except that she’s unsettled by the weird shadows surrounding him. Magic may still be accepted where Val’s from, but he wasn’t supposed to bring it to Newworld, where science rules and the “magic gene” was erased. So why is it only Maggie sees the shadows? It takes her awhile to figure it out, and McKinley’s story is on a slow burn until “cohesion breaks” threaten the reality of Maggie’s world and family. Her algebra book develops a mind of its own, a good friend undergoes a startling transformation, her border collie refuses to stay home, and the shadows reach out to touch Maggie’s mind and body. As always, McKinley’s a star at world-building, but Maggie’s teen-speak of made-up words like “dreepy” grows tiresome. Still, I’d like a sequel.

dreamthievesThe Dream Thieves (Scholastic, digital galley) is the sequel to Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, and offers even more paranormal thrills as a mythical quest takes a dark turn. In the first book (and you really should read it), small town girl Blue got to know four students from a nearby prep school — Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah.  All are still looking for the sleeping Welsh king Owen Glendower, but now that the “ley” lines running through the Virginia area have been opened, their paths diverge. Dark and dangerous Ronan is learning more about his murdered father’s legacy and his ability to retrieve items from dreams. The friendship between privileged Gansey and proud Adam is strained  to the breaking point, a mysterious “Gray Man” is tracking their movements, and Blue’s family of clairvoyants are keeping secrets. Stiefvater easily merges an ordinary world of pizza parlors, street races and summer fireworks with one where time is circular, a forest disappears, and terrifying night creatures descend from the skies. It all makes fabulous sense. Two more books are promised in the Raven cycle.

coldtownYou say you’ve had it with vampires? Then imagine how 17-year-old Tana feels when she passes out at a party and wakes up surrounded by bloody corpses. Someone has left a window open, which is just asking for trouble in Holly Black’s dark and daring The Coldest Girl in Coldtown (Little Brown, digital galley). When Tara discovers two more survivors — the glam vampire Gavriel and her ex-boyfriend Aiden, who has been bitten and infected — she decides to try and save them all by going to the nearest Coldtown, a walled city where the government has quarantined the hedonistic bloodsuckers and their deluded followers. But once you go to Coldtown, you can’t come back — at least that’s what Tara, who lost her own mother to vampirism, understands. But perhaps if she embraces her doom, she may yet escape it. Maybe.

hereafterTeenage Rory has yet to accept her fate, much less welcome it, in Kate Brian’s Hereafter (Disney/Hyperion, digital galley), the second in the provocative Shadowlands series. In the first book, Rory and her family were placed in witness protection and relocated to Juniper Island to escape a serial killer. But the picturesque island, with its shifting population, rolling fogs and mysterious bridge, is really a way station for the dead, who will either be moving to the Light or to the Shadowlands. Except for Kate and a group of party-hearty teens. They’re the Lifers who must usher the dead on their designated paths, like it or not. But the weather vane indicates that something has changed in the eternal order. Exactly what remains up in the air as readers await a third book. Think of  this one as a necessary way station.

quarkbeastLet’s lighten up with Jasper Fforde’s The Song of the Quarkbeast (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, purchased e-book), the second installment in the silly-but-clever Chronicles of Kazam. As we learned in the first book, The Last Dragonslayer, pragmatic foundling Jennifer Strange runs a mystical arts management company for workaday wizards in the Ununited Kingdom. The properly certified rewire houses, relocate trees and keep track of creatures like the metal-munching quarkbeast. But now the noxious king is proposing Kazam merge with rival firm iMagic by way of a duel, with the victor taking over the loser company. With the help of her assistant Tiger, Jennifer prepares her team of eccentrics for the challenge. Expect copious wordplay and full-frontal whimsy.

goldendayUrsula Dubosarsky’s dreamy The Golden Day (Candlewick Press, digital galley) is more mystery than fantasy, but magic tinges the writing and the plot. In 1967 Australia, Miss Renshaw takes her class of 11 11-year-old girls to a nearby park to write poems and ponder death. One day, the mysteriously poetic groundskeeper, Morgan, guides Miss Renshaw and the girls to a cave on the beach to look at Aboriginal paintings. The girls, shuffling in the darkness lit only by Morgan’s flashlight, can’t wait to leave. “It was Cynthia who couldn’t wait, wheezing, gasping for breath, who went first, and then the others after her. . .They stumbled along in a line, back the way they had come, crawling out the low tunnel, back to the cave’s mouth, back outside, back to the world they knew.” They wait outside in the sunshine, but Miss Renshaw and Morgan don’t come out. Ever. The girls are then haunted by their teacher’s disappearance in more ways than one. Dubosarsky’s atmospheric tale is haunted by echoes of the classic 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock. I liked it very much.

Read Full Post »