Tag Archives: ya fantasy

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Shadow and Bone has all the elements of successful YA fiction. Magical powers, hot guys, scary monsters, and one ungainly female protagonist. Throw all those into a giant stew pot, add a pinch of Russian influence, and you’ve got the basic premise of S&B.

Alina Starkov and her best friend Mal are members of the First Army. She’s an apprentice cartographer and he’s an expert tracker. She’s gawky and bumbling and he’s gorgeous and talented–she’s sure the only reason they’re still friends is because they bonded at the orphanage after the war-torn country killed their parents. 10194157

Imagine her surprise when the Darkling, second only in power to the king, takes interest in her after an “incident” in the Fold. (The Fold, also known as the “Unsea” is a stretch of land completely engulfed in darkness and filled with monsters).

Maybe there’s more to Alina than meets the eye.

I really enjoyed Shadow and Bone and it wasn’t until I finished it that I read other reviews. Seems like a lot of people have been bitching because Bardugo messed up some of the Russian language words and names she used in the book. Everyone’s totally giving her a hard time for not researching enough. Considering the only thing I know about Russians is that they drink a lot of vodka and spit everywhere when they talk… I didn’t notice.

I do agree that someone should have been there to check the facts (her editor, maybe?) But to play the devil’s advocate, Bardugo said the novel was based on Russian culture. It’s still a made up world. Frankly, since I didn’t notice anything wrong… I don’t really care. The story was good and the Darkling was sexy. I liked the descriptions of the Grisha and all of their unique powers. (I want to be Genya, the girl who can make herself more beautiful at will!)

This is young adult fiction. Stop taking everything so damn seriously. Put away your Russian dictionaries and carry on.

5 mythical deer of 5

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Firebirds Soaring edt. by Sharyn November

Yet another anthology from me–I know, I know! It’s strange for me to be reading so many short stories lately, but they were in the line up! While I did enjoy Firebirds Soaring edt. by Sharyn November, I will say it paled in comparison to Zombies vs. Unicorns. There were a few gems in the bunch, but ZvU was pure megawatt success. November gathered some noteworthy names, and those were the stars that shined the brightest. I’ll be brief… Among my favorite tales were:

  • Dolly the Dog-Soldier, by Candas Jane Dorsey
  • Flatland, by Kara Dalkey
  • The Ghosts of Strangers, by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
  • Power and Magic, by Marly Youmans
  • Little Red, by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
  • Bonechewer’s Legacy, by Clare Bell

Jane Yolen, of course, is a fantasy favorite and so is Nina Kiriki Hoffman. I had never heard of Clare Bell before, but I so enjoyed the world Bonechewer’s Legacy was set in that I fully intend on reading her The Named series. The stories I chose had a bit of edge, a bit of attitude, and enough fantasy/futurism to be interesting. I do think this book is worth reading, but these particular stories could’ve evolved into stand-alone novels for sure.

Read it and see what you think…

3.5 magic eggs out of 5


Zombies vs Unicorns edt. by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier

Since the dawn of time there have been intense (and often violent) rivalries between opposing factions. Vampires vs Werewolves. Bloods vs Crips. KKK vs Black Panthers. Humans vs…. Well, everything really…  But never before has there been a rivalry as blood thirsty and cutthroat as ZOMBIES VS UNICORNS. Holly Black (Team Unicorn) and Justine Larbalestier (Team Zombie) have compiled an anthology of stories about zombies and unicorns to end all anthologies. No, they’ve really outdone themselves. They got the likes of Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, and Meg Cabot to contribute–just to name a few. There’s seriously not a dud in the bunch. 

I LOVED this book. I really do like anthologies. They give you brief snippets of an author’s work and it’s a great way to discover new talent without the time commitment that a whole book demands. That being said, however, usually there are a few that just plain suck. There are no two ways around it. The editors draw you in with a few big names on the cover, and the rest are just lifeless page-fillers. Not so with Zombies vs Unicorns. I absolutely loved/appreciated all the stories compiled and gained a new respect for all the writers involved. I also really liked the commentary between Black and Larbalestier–although I wish Holly had stood up for Team Unicorn a bit more! I know the whole thing is a running joke between the two of them, but she totally let Justine run all over her!

The variety of the stories was also great. We saw killer unicorns, zombies in love, unicorns with suicidal tendencies, gay zombies… Need I go on? These are not your typical Lisa Frank unicorns or your 28 Days Later zombies. You will experience something brand new and freaking awesome with this collection. I would especially recommend:

  • The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund
  • Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare
  • The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey

Love love loved it.

2.5 rotting body parts + 2.5 unicorn farts = one 5 star anthology


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

I read Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children under the duress of my thirteen year old sister. She’s the one that got me hooked on the Hunger Games Trilogy (so she has obviously inherited my good taste in books!) The cover was what initially drew me to it–a creepy black and white photo of an antique little girl hovering in mid-air.  That’s got to be interesting, right?

Right!

The story revolves around our teenage protagonist, Jacob. After witnessing the horrific death of his beloved Grandpa Portman, he sets off on an adventure unlike any other. His quest starts after he helps his father clean out his grandpa’s house–only to discover a box of  antique photographs of unusual children. These are the very same photos Grandpa Portman used to share with him as a child, regaling him with stories of these strange children and their magical abilities. He claimed to have grown up with them on an island-bound orphanage run by a bird who smoked a pipe. Of course, as Jacob grew older these tales became harder to believe, and all the pictures began to look photo-shopped. During the horrific encounter that lead to Grandpa Portman’s death, Jacob thought he glimpsed a monster hiding in the woods. This led him to consider the fact that maybe his grandpa’s tales weren’t so tall after all. After undergoing psychiatric counseling, it is determined that Jacob must go visit this alleged island and see for himself that these stories were fake. Thus begins his discovery of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children…

This story was a great teen novel, one of the best I’ve read recently. I have  loved urban fantasy (a fantasy that’s set in the modern, everyday world) since getting into Holly Black’s writing several years ago. It contains all of the qualities an UF story needs to make it great: another, more magical world, a cast of wacky characters, extraordinary powers, time travel, insurmountable monsters, and just a touch of confusing, teen-angsty romance. *sigh* Loved it.

Ransom Riggs came up with a really unique twist on time travel, as well. Rather than jumping in the Dolorian to go back to a time period (or some other over-played method) he created time “loops.” These loops are repeating circles of time that are created to keep the Peculiars safe. These loops repeat the same day over and over again, in this case, September 3rd, 1940–the day the Germans bombed Wales. Each night the bombs fall, but the loop resets before they hit, and in this way these peculiar children have stayed children for over 80 years. They have also remained safe in this hidden time loop from the Wights–creatures whom are looking to use them to gain immortality.

I really enjoyed the awkward feelings between Jacob and Emma, and the overall image of all these unique people living together in one big Victorian manor. Very cool. I also liked that these children’s talents were very unique, rather than X-men cliche. The way that Riggs used actual antique photographs to build his characters/plot around was a very interesting and enjoyable change from normal teen fiction. Pioneering in story-telling, I love it! There was a bit of lag in the story in the first 1/4 of the book, but not enough to dissuade me from wanting to find out what happened next. There’s a definite set up for a sequel, which I am very much looking forward to.

Good job, Mr. Riggs.

(See? Floridians are special!)

5 of 5 stars


Abarat: Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker

Oh… Clive Barker, you had me fooled, you tricksy devil! Here I was sitting around, waiting for years for the third and FINAL installment in the Abarat series to come out, and what do you know? You leave a freaking cliff hanger at the end! A clear opening for another book! *sigh* And now I get to wait some more… 

I’ve been following this series for about six years now, and I believe that Barker’s work is one of the most sprawling fantasy epics produced in a long time. Plus he paints all of the art work for his books himself, which I really respect. Not quite as magical as Harry Potter (which has pretty much achieved classics status at the point) but pretty amazing nonetheless. I can picture this as a great CGI movie in a few years.

Absolute Midnight is the third and heftiest book in the series thus far. The tension between Candy Quakenbush and co, Christopher Carrion, and Mater Motley has reached an all time high and war has erupted over the 25 islands of their world. (One island for every hour of the day–set up like a clock face–with an ocean in between. Plus one hour to grow on, duh.) Carrion has disappeared, and is presumed dead and Mater Motley has risen to power. She intends to blot out the sun, the moon, and every star in the sky, imposing Absolute Midnight on all of Abarat and thus achieving total domination. Pretty intense stuff.

I really enjoyed this book, although I will say I didn’t get to read it properly. I had to consume it in 15 minute time blocks a few times a week during lunch break. Because of this, it took a looooong time to read. Plus, I made the executive decision not to re-read the other two simply because I don’t like to repeat myself and I didn’t want to eat up time on something I’d already read. Oh well. I still appreciated the story.

However, as is typical in any series, I still feel like the first book was the best. There were parts of Absolute Midnight that seemed to drag a bit, and some scenes I felt weren’t needed at all. I also didn’t like how quickly and randomly a love interest was thrown in the mix for Candy–especially directly after a conversation with Carrion about love. It just seemed too convenient.

Everyone should give Abarat a whirl at least once, maybe twice if you liked it. And any die-hard fan should definitely read book three. It wasn’t my favorite, but we’ll just have to see what Clive Barker has left up his sleeve in another three years…

3 of 5 stars