Tag: fantasy

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

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A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay (9780763688370)

Released March 14, 2017.

In a society entirely closed off from the rest of the world by mountains and fallen stone, Jena leads the line, a string of girls who can find the fuel in the mountains that allows their village to survive the winter. The Mothers watch over the village, deciding who is in the line, setting the rules and helping birth the babies. Girls are considered far more valuable than boys, since men are forbidden to enter the mountain at all. Girls must be tiny and petite, yet strong enough to brave the demands of climbing through tight passages in the stone. As Jena begins to learn more of the control that the Mothers have placed on everyone and the larger decisions they are making with no one knowing, she starts to have doubts about everything she has ever known.

McKinlay has written a wonderfully claustrophobic book with walls of stone that limit and surround everything and then the dangers of the blind travel through darkness and stone. Even as Jena figures out what is truly happening to the village, there is suffocating attention that adds to the pressure keg of a novel. The book has a brisk pace, deliberately impacted at times by the slow treachery of journeys into the mountain. This adds to the mounting tension of the book.

Jena is a strong female protagonist, willing to ask questions about her village. She is cast as a leader and yet also someone who is separate because her family has died even as her father tried to flee. Jena was taken in by another family and yet remains somewhat separate allowing her to naturally see things that others may have overlooked or missed. As more people are risked and die, Jena must find even more heroism inside her to confront those in control.

Strong writing and a delicious tension make this book a stand out teen fantasy. Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

My Valley by Claude Ponti

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My Valley by Claude Ponti (9780914671626)

This imaginative picture book tells the story of the Twims, a type of creature that lives in a specific valley. One Twims narrates the book, explaining life in the valley. He lives in a House Tree up on the cliffs. He has many siblings, a mother and a father and two sets of grandparents. He plays games in the woods, watches all sorts of weather arrive, including once children falling from a house picked up by a hurricane. Twims use theater to get over feeling angry, have a cemetery with grave markers that speak to the interests of the Twims buried there, and enjoy the changes of each season.

First published in France, this book has a gorgeous otherworldly feel to it. It balances the wonder of these little creatures with the small details of their lives. It strongly reminded me of my childhood love for the Gnomes book by Wil Huygen. This new book touches those same emotions, the exploration of something small and clever, the beauty of a simple life and the magic inherent in it as well.

Ponti’s illustrations are lovely. He intersperses the image on the cover of the book throughout the book, focusing on the valley as it changes through different kinds of seasons and weather. The valley almost becomes so familiar that readers will identify with it themselves as each type of event makes it all the more spectacular. There are also the small details of the Twims’ lives, the floors of the House Tree, playing outside, and stories of events that had happened.

This unique picture book invites readers to imagine along with the author and delight in a new creature. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Elsewhere Editions.

 

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez

nightlights-by-lorena-alvarez

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez (9781910620137)

Released March 14, 2017.

At bedtime, the air in Sandy’s room fills with small lights that float in the air. When she catches one, she is transported to a fantasy world filled with beautiful creatures. During the day, those same creatures fill her drawings that she makes at her Catholic school. Then one day, a new girl approaches her and talks to her about her drawings. Her name is Morfie and no one else seems to know her. That night, Sandy is visited by a strange girl-like creature who changes what Sandy creates from the lights into something stranger and darker. Sandy continues to spend time with Morfie at school and gets help from her too. Morfie appears at Sandy’s home and suddenly her connections to the strange darkness is made clear. Now it is up to Sandy to outwit them with her creativity.

Alvarez has created a graphic novel that is abundant with creativity and beauty. While the world of Sandy’s imagination is exceptionally wondrous, the real life part also has small touches that make normal life seem special too. Sandy’s ride to and from school has interesting plants along the path that seem to come from her imaginative world rather than our own. These touches tie Sandy’s imagination into her real life experience very subtly.

The art in this graphic novel is filled with deep colors and wild creativity. There is a distinct anime appeal to the art, particularly in the characters themselves. The creatures in the light-filled imaginative world also have the playfulness of Pokemon about them as well as a gorgeous ethereal quality that floats on the page.

A dynamic and creative graphic novel for children, this one will light up readers’ imaginations. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Edelweiss and Nobrow Press.

2016 Norton Award Nominees

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has announced the nominees for the Nebula Awards. One of the awards included in the announcement is the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book.

Here are the seven nominees for the Norton Award:

Arabella of Mars Cover The Evil Wizard Smallbone Cover

Arabella of Mars by David D. Levine

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman

The Girl Who Drank the Moon Cover The Lie Tree Cover

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Railhead Cover Rocks Fall Everyone Dies Cover

Railhead by Philip Reeve

Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar

The Star-Touched Queen Cover

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray

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Molly & Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray (InfoSoup)

Released January 17, 2017.

Molly longs not to have a mother who heads into the woods to collect weeds and herbs. She wants a normal family that has a normal house, not one that feels like a caravan inside. She wants a mother who gives her granola bars in packages, not one who creates potions and treatments. Her neighbors want them to calm down too, get control of their rooster who crows at dawn and to neaten up their yard. Molly’s mother creates a powerful potion to grow a tree in one night that will shield them from the neighbors, but accidentally drinks it herself. Suddenly, Molly’s mother has turned into a tree. Now Molly has to decide who to trust with the secrets of her life. It can’t be Ellen, her best friend, who is very normal and whose life Molly covets. Instead she turns to the odd boy in their class, Pim, who creates a plan along with Molly to bring her mother back. But will it work before her neighbors start to cut off the branches of the wild new tree?

This Australian import is a magical read and not only for the real magic that happens on the pages. It has a gorgeous tone about it, one that is organic and delicious at the same time. One feels invited directly into the wonder of potions and weeds, your hands itching to get out there and brew your own green syrup. The voice throughout is fresh and filled with surprise.

Molly grows throughout the book, realizing that her own unique upbringing is nothing to be ashamed of. I love that it is Ellen, the normal one, who teaches her this. She speaks directly to Molly about how it feels to be excluded and how important it is to trust. The writing in the book is very special, creating moments like these that are less about lectures and more about sudden inspiration and realizations.

A gorgeously written novel that offers potions, magic and wonder. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

 

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

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Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake (InfoSoup)

The author of Anna Dressed in Blood returns with a spectacular series opener. On the isolated and shrouded island of Fennbirn, magic still exists. Separated from the mainland, the island governs itself. Every generation triplets are born to the queen, each one heir to their own type of magic. But only one of them can become queen, the other two are destined to die. Katharine is a poisoner and she should be able to feast on poisons that would kill others, but her magic is weak though that fact is hidden. Arsinoe is a naturalist and should have the ability to grow plants and find an animal familiar, but her familiar has never come. Mirabella is an elemental, able to call down enormous storms and dance with fire. She has more power than any elementalist before her. Behind the three girls exists a web of politics and power willing to lie, steal and kill their queen onto the throne. Let the fight begin.

Blake has created a deep tension in this book that plays across the page beautifully. Everything is balanced on a knife’s edge, from the deception of the two weak queens to the unwillingness of the strong queen to kill her sisters. Readers get to see the mechanization behind the throne, the various factions teaching the queens, pushing them into power and punishing them when they fail. For each queen, there is pain, threats and powerlessness despite their station, each expressed in different ways.

The world building here is exquisite from the mist shrouding the island to the vague mentions of the mainland. It is the politics that frame the book, making the horror of the climb to power so immensely readable. The entire novel is riveting with pacing that is skillfully done, the slower sections allowing for the build of despair or horror, love or lust.

A dark delight of a novel that is a rich mix of fantasy and horror. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from library copy.

You can check out the book trailer too!

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

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When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (InfoSoup)

Best friends, Miel and Sam each have secrets that they wear both outside and inside themselves. Sam was the first person to approach Miel when she was dumped from the town’s water tower the day it was knocked down. She is a girl whose past is tied to the water, whose skirt hem is always damp. She fears pumpkins and was taken in by Aracely, a woman who can rescue people from their own heartache. Miel also has roses that grow out of one of her wrists, marking her a danger to her family. Sam has lived as a boy, serving as the son his mother never had even though his anatomy is that of a girl. At some point, he was expected to return to being a girl but Sam doesn’t know if he will ever be ready. Meanwhile the four sisters in town seek to control Miel and her roses and restore their power, but first they must discover the secret that will make her do their bidding.

Oh my word, this is a beautiful book. It is written in prose that is wildly lush, almost aromatic, so vivid that it remains in your head after you read it. From descriptions of pumpkins as a world of their own to the beautiful danger of the four redheaded sisters to the delicacy of the eggs and herbs that remove heartbreak from a person, each description is its own painting of magic. It creates a world that is ours and yet not, a world of moons and honey, roses and water, stained glass and blood.

To this beautiful and intense writing you add an understanding of the transgender experience and a willingness to write of sexuality and desire and lust for someone who is deciding how they will transition and what their terms will be. It is a book that captures that in-between moment, allows us to linger there with Miel and Sam as their love is just blooming and they are allowing themselves to explore each other in new ways.

Gorgeous, breathtaking and wise, this is one of the most magical and transcendent books I have ever experienced. Bravo for the courage it took to write this and the love that is expressed on each and every page. Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from library copy.