In the sequel to The False Prince, Jaron has taken the throne of Carthya but his rule is precarious. War threatens his kingdom and his own regents question his ability to lead the country. After surviving an assassination attempt, Jaron becomes desperate to prove his strength and his dedication to Carthya. He ultimately flees his kingdom in a foolhardy attempt to overcome the threats on his own.
As Jaron infiltrates the Avenian pirates, he learns his own limits and the importance of true friendship. Nielsen creates strong, loyal, and complex characters as well as an entertaining story. Although some of her plot lines are typical of the fantasy genre, she manages to provide twists and interest. Where the story is slightly weak, she adds strength through her characters and deft description.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
For lovers of quirky British comic fantasy and fans of Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde’s new young adult series is a perfect fit. Jennifer Strange lives in the alternate present of the Ununited Kingdom. In her world, magic and sorcerers used to rule, but magic is fading. Now those same sorcerers are pressed to find jobs magically rewiring houses or, worse yet, performing at children’s birthday parties. However, with flares in magic and strange predictions of the death of the final dragon, it feels like the world is on the edge of change.
In an attempt to stop the death of the world’s last dragon, Jennifer finds herself caught in the middle of political and magical upheaval. She struggles to do what is right, but learns that life never goes the way we plan. Fforde creates a compelling story about the dangers of greed and judgmentalism in the midst of truly ridiculous British humor. This is a fun read, but be prepared for British intelligent silliness.
Recommended for ages 12 and up.
It wasn’t unusual for people to compare Tom Harriman to a superhero, but they never knew how right they were. Zach Harriman knew his dad was special, but he didn’t realize how special until after Tom’s death in a mysterious plane accident. With his father dead, Zach starts to exhibit powers he never had before. He knows when danger is coming. His senses are heightened and he can move with amazing speed. On top of that, Zach keeps finding himself and those he loves in dangerous circumstances.
Now Zach learns the bedtime stories his father told him about ‘the Bads’ may not have been stories after all. ‘The Bads’ are real and, with his father gone, they are after Zach. For all comic book and superhero fans, Hero is a perfect blend of fantasy and real life. Zach Harriman is an everyday kid learning to be a superman. The action is fast-paced and the characters are believable. It is mild enough for younger readers, but interesting enough for an older audience.
Recommended for ages 10 and up.
My main complaint about this book is the title and the cover. They make it look like one of the latest and trendiest teen romance novels. However, if you can get past what the book looks like, the actual story is an intriguing, steampunk, alternate history with great allusions to Doctor Jekyl and Mister Hyde. There is a slight romance, but it stays within the appropriate boundaries of Victorian England gentility (one, maybe two kisses). The story and world building are the focus of the novel. In spite of the look of the book, it is a good (and very clean) teen fantasy read.
Finley Jayne (okay, my other complaint is the heroine’s name—great character but trendy and not very Victorian name) knows she has a darker side to her personality. When she is angry or afraid, that personality comes out with its astonishing strength and thirst for danger. However, when Finley fights a young lord who is trying to take advantage of her, she knows her darker side is leading her toward trouble unless she can control it.
Soon after, Finley meets Griffin King, a duke who holds special powers himself. He recognizes Finley’s powers as an asset and promises he can teach her to control them. Griffin and his friends take Finley in and together they work to fight a criminal called the Machinist. Their strange powers may be the only hope against a mad villain working to take over Victorian England.
Recommended for ages—14 and up.
Living in a world where use of magic leads to death or enthrallment, Neryn is in constant fear that her gifts will be discovered. She and her father have wandered for several years trying to escape the notice of the King or his Enforcers. When an Enforcer raid kills her father, Neryn begins a lonely journey to Shadowfell—a rumored gathering of rebels where magic is valued and even encouraged.
Traveling through a freezing autumn, Neryn receives some help from the magical Good Folk. However, the help endangers Neryn and the Good Folk alike, for mistrust and fear rules the kingdom. Neryn also receives help from a mysterious stranger, but trust is not easy and his motivation is unclear. As Neryn continues toward Shadowfell, her survival depends on learning to trust others as well as herself.
Recommended for ages 13 and up.
In the country of Carthya, the royal family lies dead and civil war is imminent. The nobles of the country are grasping for power in their own ways, but one chooses deception. Conner is far from a place on the throne, but he plans to produce the missing and presumed dead Prince Jaron. In an attempt to create a false prince, Conner chooses three orphan boys near the prince’s age and attempts to train them to become royalty. Through his chosen prince, he will rule the country.
Sage is one of those boys pulled from an orphanage and forced into Conner’s treasonous plan. Even while he struggles to avoid enemies and fight against Conner’s plan, Sage knows he must be chosen as the false prince to survive. The False Prince is a story of adventure and intrigue, but also about self-discovery and being true to what you believe. Both the characters and story are entertaining, making the book an exciting read for tweens and teens alike. I enjoyed the ending that resolved while still leaving room for further development.
Recommend for ages 11 and up.
Blue Sargent is used to strange happenings after growing up in a houseful of clairvoyant women. They’ve been warning her forever that kissing her true love will kill him, so Blue makes it a policy to avoid all boys. However, when she meets Gansey and his group of Raven Boys, Blue is drawn to them and their strange and mysterious obsessions. For years they have been trying to find a hidden ley line rumored to run through the town of Henrietta. Each of the Raven Boys has a different motivation to find the line and the tomb of the ancient Welsh warrior Glendower. When Blue and the boys work together, unexpected things start to happen.
As usual, Maggie Stiefvater creates interesting and deep characters. Her writing is poetic and the story captivating. With the introduction of the occult, this book is a little darker than The Scorpio Races. She keeps the content appropriate, but the dark fantasy is the reason for an older age recommendation.
Recommended for ages—16 and up
Liyana has spent most of her life preparing to be a vessel for her goddess, but on the day of Summoning, her goddess fails to appear. Instead, her Clan abandons her in the desert, sure that the goddess Bayla has rejected Liyana. Soon after her Clan leaves, Korbyn, the trickster god, comes out of the desert searching for Liyana. He is the only god who successfully inhabited his vessel and is searching out the other vessels to find the lost deities and save the desert clans.
As she journeys with Korbyn and the other vessels, Liyana learns more of her own strength and personal magic. She still wants to save her clan, but is less willing to make the type of sacrifice tradition dictates. Sarah Beth Durst creates beautiful characters and an awe inspiring world, but manages to make their fantastical experiences applicable to our own. Through Liyana, Durst shows the importance of strength, intelligence, love, and sacrifice. She also tells a powerful and unpredictable story of a desert people struggling to survive.
Recommended for ages—14 and up
Although the writing isn’t stellar and some of the characters are a little weak, Cinder has to win for the most original representation of the Cinderella fairy tale. Cinder is a talented mechanic and cyborg living in the city of New Beijing following the conclusion of the fourth World War. Forced to work to support her begrudging stepmother, Cinder is exposed to the plague currently threatening lives in the city. Although Cinder remains well, she is blamed for her stepsister’s illness.
In the midst of turmoil at home, Cinder meets and develops a friendship with Prince Kai. Kai has turmoil of his own as he strives to find a cure for the plague and stop the mind-controlling Lunar Queen from starting another war. Somehow, in the midst of all this classic science fiction conflict, Meyer manages to include a ball and her own version of a glass slipper. I’m not usually a science fiction fan, but this fairy tale retelling was creatively done. Be warned though, it is another victim of the ‘series conspiracy’ and ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. No happily ever after for this intergalactic fairy tale—yet.
Recommended for ages—12 and up
Josh and Emma have been neighbors and best friends for as long as they can remember, until a few months ago. Misunderstandings (and Emma’s boyfriend) have strained their relationship. However, when Emma gets a new computer and Josh’s mom sends him over with their free CD-rom of AOL minutes, Josh and Emma are pulled into the mystery of Facebook. The first time Emma logs into the internet, she finds a strange site called Facebook. The problem is the year is 1996 and Facebook hasn’t been invented.
Emma and Josh find themselves looking at their Facebook accounts fifteen years in the future. The strangest part is their daily events and decisions seem to be constantly altering their future. While Josh is pleased with his future life, Emma finds herself constantly miserable. Together they learn that focusing on the present and making the best of your current situation is the best way to influence your future.
This is a light read about teenage stupidity and stresses, but it does provide deeper life lessons. Both characters learn about the importance of current decisions and the value of focusing on the good of everyday life. They also learn the value of friendship and putting others needs before your own. Different than the books I usually pick, I found the story engaging with some good life lessons in spite of the teen drama focus.
Recommended for ages—13 and up