Princess Violet, last princess of the Andulan Realms, is not a fairy tale princess. She is plain, bold, and outspoken, but truly loved by her people. The Mirrored Kingdom enjoys peace and the intelligence of their royal family, but an ancient evil is trying to break into the kingdom. When Violet and her best friend Demetrius find a hidden library with a forbidden book and an evil painting, some of the evil begins to find its way in. Soon, unrest and discord filter into the hearts of the people. Kindness is replaced with resentment and the peace is shattered.
As war and disaster take over the land, it is up to Violet, Demetrius, and the kingdom’s last dragon to overcome the evil and restore the peace. Together, they learn the importance of trust and friendship in a world that is falling apart. Iron Hearted Violet presents a fairytale-like story with strong characters and important life lessons, great for a family read aloud or older independent readers.
Recommended for ages 8 and up.
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.
A strange explosion destroying their house is just the beginning of unexplained changes disrupting Jaide and Jack Shield’s lives. The twins are sent to live with Grandma X, a woman they have never met who is as mysterious as her name. With Grandma X, more disasters continue and Jaide and Jack soon learn their life is no longer normal and neither are they. The twins begin showing strange powers in response to the evil that seems to be closing in on them. Through a series of adventures, they learn what it means to be troubletwisters.
TroubleTwisters is a great read for fantasy and adventure enthusiasts who love Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. It provides the same non-stop action with mysterious and fantastical powers. Jake and Jaide are interesting characters learning about their new-found powers in a battle against evil. The action is captivating, but not too frightening for most young readers (but might be a little intense for those who scare easily).
Recommended for ages 8-11 years.
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.
When Dinah and her mother move into an old mansion, Dinah finally feels she has found a home. She imagines the home in its former splendor and refuses to notice the crumbling walls and failing electricity that mark it as condemned. With her disappointment over her mother’s new, overbearing boyfriend and her desire for friendship, Dinah finds herself wishing the stone animals from a nearby castle would come to life. To her surprise, her wish comes true and Dinah’s new home is soon protected by fantastical animals. They are invisible to most, but their presence is felt.
Barry and Jacob, two boys from Dinah’s new school, recognize the animals for what they are, but they sense the threat that Dinah fails to see. Together, they try to understand Dinah and protect her in a way that magical animals can’t. This is a fantasy story, but with a hint of the dark and sinister. I was caught up in the story, but Dinah’s life is sad enough that I don’t recommend it for younger readers. There is nothing inappropriate, but the loneliness and magic would be better for older kids or tweens.
Recommended for ages—10-13.
Henry York has lived a sheltered childhood with no baseball, no T.V. and no soda. He longs for adventure, but when he goes to live with his Aunt Dotty and Uncle Frank, he finds himself with more adventure than he can handle. Henry soon discovers a wall of mysterious cupboards hidden behind the plaster in his attic room. When he removes the plaster and opens some of the unlocked cupboard, strange things begin to happen. Henry and his cousin learn that the cupboards lead to different lands and places, some good and some bad.
As the story unfolds, so does the history of Henry and his family and their connection to the 100 cupboards. 100 Cupboards brings a Narnia-like story to a more modern setting. It is perfect for those who like to believe that magic lies just behind a cupboard door.
Recommended for ages—9-12.
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.
Kate, Michael, and Emma have spent most of their young lives being passed around from one foul orphanage to another. However, Kate steadfastly claims that their parents love them and are coming back for them. When they are transferred to a new orphanage in the town of Cambridge Falls, they learn more about the fate of their parents and their own destiny.
In this new orphanage (where they are the only children), they learn from Stanilaus Pim that their parents are being held by a powerful magician known as the Dire Magnus. Kate, Michael, and Emma have been prophesied as the children to bring together the three magical Books of Beginning. The Dire Magnus wants the power from the books and holds their parents in an attempt to get the books.
In this first book of the series, the children learn about the presence of the magical world. They go on a dangerous adventure in search of The Emerald Atlas, the first Book of Beginning. Their adventures are fast-paced and reveal a much more complex story to be revealed in later books. This is a great series for families who enjoy magical stories with strong siblings and family ties. Also, Jim Dale does an excellent audio book reading.
Recommended for ages 9 and up.