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.
This is not a young adult novel and not fully historical fiction. However, the heroine is seventeen and this regency romance is so much more appropriate than most popular young adult fiction these days, I feel it is appropriate to include on my site.
After the death of her mother, Marianne Daventry is sent to live with her grandmother in Bath while her father takes his grieving heart to Paris. Marianne’s twin Cecily, goes to London for her debut in society and to search out the gentleman she intends to marry. Eventually, both sisters are invited to Edenbrooke, the estate of their mother’s friend, Lady Catherine. While in route to Edenbrooke, Marianne encounters a mysterious and flirtatious gentleman who both intrigues and angers her. He turns out to be Sir Philip, the son of Lady Catherine.
Trouble ensues as Marianne becomes friends with Philip, but learns he is the same man her sister intends to marry. Patterned after the manner of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, Edenbrooke is perfect for Regency period readers. It doesn’t have the same level of wit or writing as Jane Austen, but it captures the feeling of that time period and a classic, clean romance.
Recommended for ages 13 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.
After nearly hanging for thievery, Mary Quinn is rescued and educated at Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls. She receives an excellent education, but is unsatisfied with her options for employment in Victorian England. When she expresses her feelings, Mary learns the school is a cover for The Agency, a top secret group of female investigators who assist the Scotland Yard in solving mysteries. Mary joins the Agency and begins her first assignment.
Posing as a female companion for the only daughter of a rich merchant family, Mary seeks to find solid evidence for the family’s suspected illegal smuggling. Mary uncovers secrets, but also makes unexpected friends and enemies while completing her first assignment. This is a light mystery, pleasantly low on violence with a nice historical feel. While not entirely believable, the story is entertaining and the characters are well-written.
Dodger is a tosher, a street urchin who lives by finding ‘treasure’ in the sewers of Victorian England. However, his life begins to change the night he rescues a girl who leaps from a moving carriage. As he tries to protect the girl he calls Miss Simplicity, Dodger comes in contact with historical figures such as Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, and Sir Robert Peel. Dodger’s position in society shifts as he gains responsibility and struggles to keep Miss Simplicity safe from her abusive, but high born and powerful European husband.
As usual, Terry Pratchett manages to be humorous and profound while weaving an interesting story. His characters, Dodger especially, are filled with personality and quirky depth. The book is well written, but I enjoyed this more than most, because Pratchett gave a fictional personality to one of my favorite authors. I loved reading about ‘Charlie Dickens’ interacting with the young man he will later use as a pattern for his character Dodger in Oliver Twist. The literary and historical references are fantastic, but it is a fun read even for those who might miss the allusions.
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.
Melkorka is an Irish princess living a privileged life in medieval Ireland. When she and her young sister are kidnapped by a Russian slave ship, Melkorka is plunged into the unfamiliar struggles of poverty and servitude. In her grief, she takes a vow of silence, but soon learns her silence is the key to survival. Her captors and masters are fascinated by her silence, giving her more power than a typical slave.
Hush is the story of Melkorka’s journey from a royal home in Ireland, through medieval Europe, to find her place among the Vikings of Iceland. Her journey gives insight into the slave trade and Viking culture. It is a painful and realistic story of a young girl pulled away from everything she knows. The writing is well-researched and developed, and it doesn’t avoid the harshness of a hard life. The story is engaging, but not for readers expecting ‘happily ever after.’
Recommended for ages—13 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.