Infographic

Infographic — Sci Fi or Fantasy?

Choosing the Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Book

I love these top number or best of lists for everything, especially books.  Two years ago, NPR came out with the Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy books as chosen by their listeners.  For most people familiar with these genres, you may have read or at least heard of most of the books and series on this list.  For the uninitiated, or for someone looking for a book that’s a little different off this list, where should they start.  Today’s infographic is a fabulous flowchart and will help you navigate the list and find the perfect Science Fiction or Fantasy book for you.  Why not give it a try and add a few to your summer reading list? [VIA]

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SciFi or Fantasy?
Fiction, March 2020

Shadowscent by P.M. Freestone

Shadowscent by P.M. Freestone. November 5, 2019. Scholastic Press, 362 p. ISBN: 9781338335446.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

An Ember in the Ashes meets Indiana Jones in an electrifying, steal-your-breath away, supercharge-your-senses YA fantasy adventure.

Across the Aramtesh Empire, scent is everything. Prayers only reach heaven on sacred incense, and perfumes are prized status symbols. 17-year-old Rakel has an uncanny ability with fragrances, but her skills aren’t enough to buy her dying father more time.

Ash bears the tattoos of an imperial bodyguard. When his prince, Nisai, insists on a diplomatic mission to an outer province, Ash is duty-bound to join the caravan. It’s a nightmare protecting Nisai on the road. But it’s even harder for Ash to conceal a secret that could see him exiled or executed.

Rakel and Ash have nothing in common until smoke draws them to a field of the Empire’s rarest flower. Nisai’s been poisoned, flames devour the priceless blooms, and the pair have “suspect” clinging to them like a bad stench. Their futures depend on them working together to decipher clues, defy dangers and defeat their own demons in a race to source an antidote . . . before the imperial army hunts them down.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 5))
Grades 8-11. In a society dependent on perfumes, oils, and elixirs, all Rakel wants is to use her gift for fragrances to make enough money to care for her dying father—easier said than done if you aren’t born into the right family. Ash’s only desire is to serve his best friend Nisai, the prince and heir to the empire, as his faithful Shield guard—and to protect a secret that could cost him his life. Yet somehow, when the prince is poisoned and left comatose, Rakel and Ash end up on the run to save their lives as well as Nisai’s. Journeying through the five provinces in search of a way to save him, Rakel must use her skills and Ash his swords to overcome the endless challenges before them. In her debut, Freestone crafts rich, fantastical imagery through mythical creatures, magical lands, and mysterious abilities, all tied up in an engrossing plot that will have readers begging for the sequel. Hand this book to fantasy-lovers and mystery aficionados alike.

Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2019)
A girl who gets mixed up in politics and the crown prince’s bodyguard must work together to save the prince—and themselves. Rakel has an affinity for scents: She can understand what’s in them and how to re-create them. In a world that runs on fragrances and magic, she should be able to care for herself and her ailing father. But when she goes to the city of Aphorai to find work as a perfumer, she learns that things are not so simple. Despite her best intentions, she is accused of a plot to assassinate the First Prince. Her only hope of survival lies in unraveling the components of the poison and concocting an antidote. Joined by the prince’s Shield, Ash, Rakel sets out on a quest through each of the kingdom’s regions, uncovering secrets about each of their pasts along the way. Following standard plot beats, Rakel and Ash confront corruption and conspiracy within their kingdom while exploring relationships, with each other and with others in their lives, both present and absent. While overdramatic at times, with characters painted in broad strokes, the romance and tension will appeal to readers hungry for adventures set against an intriguing, if underexplored magical world. Few physical descriptions make ethnicity difficult to determine in this desert kingdom; homosexuality is briefly mentioned and not stigmatized. A standard fantasy romp built on lush descriptions of fragrances. (Fantasy. 12-16)

About the Author

P. M. Freestone hails from Melbourne, Australia, and now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland with her partner, their Romanian rescue dog, and a collection of NASA-approved house plants. She is a Clarion Writers‘ Workshop (University of California) graduate and a Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award winner, and holds degrees in archaeology, religious history and a PhD in the sociology of infectious diseases. She’s only ever met one cheese she didn’t like.

Her website is pmfreestone.com

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Fiction, March 2020

salt slow by Julia Armfield

salt slow by Julia Armfield. October 8, 2019.Flatiron Books, 195 p. ISBN: 9781250224774.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

In her electrifying debut, Julia Armfield explores women’s experiences in contemporary society, mapped through their bodies. As urban dwellers’ sleeps become disassociated from them, like Peter Pan’s shadow, a city turns insomniac. A teenager entering puberty finds her body transforming in ways very different than her classmates’. As a popular band gathers momentum, the fangirls following their tour turn into something monstrous. After their parents remarry, two step-sisters, one a girl and one a wolf, develop a dangerously close bond. And in an apocalyptic landscape, a pregnant woman begins to realize that the creature in her belly is not what she expected.

Blending elements of horror, science fiction, mythology, and feminism, salt slow is an utterly original collection of short stories that are sure to dazzle and shock, heralding the arrival of a daring new voice.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (September 1, 2019 (Vol. 116, No. 1))
Armfield, winner of the White Review Short Story Prize, debuts a short-story collection that is both provocative and thrilling. A city is plagued with insomnia as Sleep disassociates itself and becomes its own ethereal entity. A teenager going through puberty finds her body changing in very unusual ways. A PhD student scavenges beautiful body parts of men to create the perfect male specimen for herself. A teenage girl gains a wolf as her new stepsister, and their bond grows dangerously close after the wolf-sister defends her from a persistent boy. As a woman in her thirties falls in love, her beloved becomes increasingly stiff and statuesque. A pregnant woman living during the time of the apocalypse realizes that the creature in her womb is not the child she expected. Armfield’s collection is exemplary as she pushes the limits of reality into beautifully eerie and unsettling worlds. She blends elements of horror, science fiction, mythology, and feminism in a way that is sure to shock and amaze readers of short fiction.

Kirkus Reviews (August 1, 2019)
Between man-eating insects, a fashionably dressed sister-wolf, and a hypnotic feminist girl band, Armfield leaves no supernatural stone unturned in this dazzling debut. Writing with an elegant and often poetic style, British author Armfield conjures nine uncanny worlds in her first short story collection. And while her tales are notable for their concepts, they don’t lack in substance, either. Behind each of her stories lie undercurrents of loss, metamorphosis, and the ever shifting nature of human relationships. The horror of her work comes not only from the eerie occurrences on each page, but also in the relatability of her characters and the connections a reader can draw between their situations and the absurdity of everyday life. In “Formerly Feral,” for example, an adolescent girl copes with her parents’ divorce, her father’s remarriage, and her own shifting identity as she faces school bullies and bonds with the newest member of her family—a wolf. “Smack” also deals with divorce but depicts the breakup of a marriage through the eyes of a wife holding on to her disintegrating relationship by locking herself—sans nutrition or power —in the beach house she and her husband once shared. Perhaps most extraordinary is “The Great Awake,” which captures the sleeplessness of city life and the bitter, competitive spirit that accompanies it. In this strange world, plagued by the “removal of the sleep-state from the body,” shadelike “Sleeps” step out of their human hosts while the tired people left behind reshape society to take advantage of the mass insomnia. The title story, meanwhile, follows a couple navigating both the salt waters that have flooded the Earth and their unspoken feelings about their future. While a story or two ends abruptly or doesn’t delve quite as deeply as the most spectacular in the collection, each piece is filled with magic, insight, and a rare level of creativity that mark Armfield as a fresh new voice of magical realism. Artistic and perceptive, Armfield’s debut explores the ebbs and flows of human connection in lives touched by the bizarre.

About the Author

Julia Armfield is a fiction writer and occasional playwright with a Masters in Victorian Art and Literature from Royal Holloway University. Her work has been published in The White Review, Lighthouse, Analog Magazine, Neon Magazine and The Stockholm Review. She was commended in the Moth Short Story Prize 2017 and won the White Review Short Story Prize with two of the stories in this collection. She lives in London, where she is at work on her debut novel.

Her website is https://www.juliaarmfield.co.uk/

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Fiction, March 2020

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco. October 15, 2019. HarperTeen, 481 p. ISBN: 9780062821799.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

A world split between day and night. Two sisters who must unite it. The author of The Bone Witch kicks off an epic YA fantasy duology perfect for fans of Furyborn.

Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon―until one sister’s betrayal split their world in two. A Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in eternal night, the other scorched beneath an ever-burning sun.

While one sister rules the frozen fortress of Aranth, her twin rules the sand-locked Golden City―each with a daughter by their side. Now those young goddesses must set out on separate, equally dangerous journeys in hopes of healing their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

Told from four interweaving perspectives, this sweeping epic fantasy packs elemental magic, star-crossed romance, and incredible landscapes into a spectacular adventure with the fierce sisterhood of Frozen and the breakneck action of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Strong sexual themes; Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Grades 8-12. Chupeco brings her trademark blend of magic, romance, Pan-Asian cultures, and inventive world building to a new series about twin goddesses whose falling out literally breaks the world in two. Asteria, mother of Odessa, rules the dark, frozen half, while Latona, mother of Haidee, rules the hot desert realm. The two daughters’ stories are told in parallel through four narrators: Haidee, Odessa, and their respective love interests, the warriors Arjun and Lady Tianlan. Chapter headings and distinct narrative voices guide the reader with ease from one action-packed scene to the next, featuring many different and imaginative locales as Odessa and Haidee navigate their ways to the origin of the world’s breaking, where their paths intersect. Of special note is a matter-of-fact lesbian relationship that avoids the pitfalls of tokenism and tragedy; it’s happily just another love story. Multiple plot twists, plenty of gore and intimacy, and a breathlessly cinematic tone will attract fantasy and romance fans alike, who will be anxious for the second part of this exciting duology.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
Can 17-year-old goddesses fix the world? Ever since the Breaking, the world of Aeon has stopped turning. One hemisphere exists in perpetual night plagued by ceaseless tsunamis while the other half is scorched by constant oppressive sunlight. Aeon is a dystopian world where critical resources are scarce and monsters and spectres lurk dangerously. Living in opposite hemispheres and unaware of the other’s existence, twin goddesses Odessa and Haidee embark on treacherous parallel journeys to the Great Abyss to revisit the site of the Breaking and try to heal the world that their mothers made so wrong. These are teens aching to understand the broken world they’ve inherited and figure out how to set it to rights. What are they willing to fight for and defend? In a book narrated by four alternating voices, Chupeco (contributor: His Hideous Heart, 2019, etc.) offers up an exciting page-turner that is so visually vivid that reading it feels like watching a movie. It’s chock full of narrow escapes, plot twists, and great characters—even a queer romance—that work in concert… Most characters are presumed white; two major and several secondary characters are coded as East or South Asian. Magical and exhilarating. (map) (Fantasy. 14-18)

About the Author

Rin Chupeco has written obscure manuals for complicated computer programs, talked people out of their money at event shows, and done many other terrible things. She now writes about ghosts and fantastic worlds but is still sometimes mistaken for a revenant. She is the author of The Girl from the Well, its sequel, The Suffering, and the Bone Witch trilogy.

Her website is www.rinchupeco.com.

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Fiction, March 2020

A Constellation of Roses by Miranda Asebedo

A Constellation of Roses by Miranda Asebedo. November 5, 2019. HarperTeen, 326 p. ISBN: 9780062747105.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile:.

Ever since her troubled mother abandoned her, Trix McCabe has preferred to stay on the move.

But when she lands with her long-lost relatives, she finds out that the McCabe women have talents like her own that defy explanation: pies that cure all ills, palm-reading that never misses the mark, knowledge of secrets that have never been told.

Before long, Trix feels like she might finally have found somewhere she belongs. But when her past comes back to haunt her, she’ll have to decide whether to take a chance on this new life . . . or keep running from the one she’s always known.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild sexual themes; Strong language; Underage drinking; Discussion of domestic abuse; Discussion of a parent’s drug addiction

 

About the Author

Miranda Asebedo was born and raised in rural Kansas with a love of fast cars, open skies, and books. She carried that love of books to college, where she got her B.A. and M.A. in English, with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Literature. A Seaton Fellowship recipient, her short fiction has appeared in Kansas Voices, Touchstone, and Midway Journal. If Miranda’s not writing or reading, she’s most likely convinced everyone to load up in the family muscle car and hit the road.

Her website is www.mirandaasebedo.com

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February 2020, Fiction

A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy

A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy. October 29, 2019. G.P. Putnam’s Son, 351 p. ISBN: 9780525518587.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 800.

Sixteen-year-old Eva is a princess, born with the magick of blood and marrow–a dark and terrible magick that hasn’t been seen for generations in the vibrant but fractured country of Myre. Its last known practitioner was Queen Raina, who toppled the native khimaer royalty and massacred thousands, including her own sister, eight generations ago, thus beginning the Rival Heir tradition. Living in Raina’s long and dark shadow, Eva must now face her older sister, Isa, in a battle to the death if she hopes to ascend to the Ivory Throne–because in the Queendom of Myre only the strongest, most ruthless rulers survive.

When Eva is attacked by an assassin just weeks before the battle with her sister, she discovers there is more to the attempt on her life than meets the eye–and it isn’t just her sister who wants to see her dead. As tensions escalate, Eva is forced to turn to a fey instructor of mythic proportions and a mysterious and handsome khimaer prince for help in growing her magick into something to fear. Because despite the love she still has for her sister, Eva will have to choose- Isa’s death or her own.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
Princess Evalina Killeen attempts to tap into her magical abilities in preparation for a magical showdown. Eva has always known she was born with the feared magick of marrow and blood which she is supposed to use in a fight to the death with her sister, Isa, for the queendom once they both come of age. But Eva’s only accessed her magic twice, and both times its violence frightened her. Mere months before her nameday, Eva is desperately searching for a magick teacher when she stumbles across Baccha, a fey of immense power who shares her magical abilities. Though Eva is often empathetic, she’s sometimes whiny, and her lack of awareness and acknowledgement of her own privilege—and complete obliviousness toward other people’s needs—may irritate readers. However, as she learns to access her magic and begins uncovering family secrets, she also continues to grapple with the current and historical bias (species, not color, based) of Myre, whose diverse population is made up of humans, fey, bloodkin, and khimaer. Her willingness to question the status quo may help readers forgive her for being otherwise self-centered and sometimes rash. A surprising twist and multiple unsolved mysteries will leave readers looking forward to the next book. Black-haired Eva is biracial (her father is brown-skinned while her mother has light pink skin) while Isa has golden hair and lighter brown skin. Supporting characters are racially diverse. A compelling debut. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Publishers Weekly (August 26, 2019)
Evalina Grace Killeen is the younger princess of the Queendom of Myre, a land populated by humans, fey, bloodkin, and the subjugated khimaer, formerly Myre’s ruling class. Since her magick was declared “marrow and blood,” like that of the most powerful, ruthless human queen in Myre’s history, Eva has been the subject of fear and isolation by courtiers, citizens, and her queen mother, who has long favored the persuasive magick of the elder princess, Isadore. When Eva reaches her 17th year, the magick-wielding sisters will fight for the sitting monarch’s throne, battling to the death for the right to rule. Biracial Eva, who can seem reactive, regards her own magick as a curse and loathes the thought of fratricide, but after she is attacked repeatedly before the battle, she must unlock the secrets of magic and heritage that have haunted her family and her Queendom for years. Debut author Joy’s engrossing, North African-inspired series opener draws effectively on real-world prejudices to inform her richly created universe’s complex history of species-based oppression and imperialism.

About the Author

Amanda Joy has an MFA from The New School, and lives in Chicago with her dog Luna.

Her website is www.amandajoywrites.com

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December 2019, Fiction

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdeih

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdeih. October 8, 2019. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 425 p. ISBN: 9781524738174.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

In 1872, New Orleans is a city ruled by the dead. But to seventeen-year-old Celine Rousseau, New Orleans is a safe haven after she’s forced to flee her life as a dressmaker in Paris. Taken in by the sisters of the Ursuline convent in the middle of the carnival season, Celine is quickly enraptured by the vibrant city, from its music to its fancy soirées and even its danger. She becomes embroiled in the city’s glitzy underworld, known as La Cour des Lions, after catching the eye of the group’s enigmatic leader, Sébastien Saint Germain.

When the body of one of the girls from the convent is found in Sébastien’s own lair–the second dead girl to turn up in recent weeks–Celine battles her attraction to Sébastien and suspicions about his guilt along with the shame of her own horrible secret.

After a third murder, New Orleans becomes gripped by the terror of a serial killer on the loose–one who has now set Celine in his sights. As the murderer stalks her, Celine finally takes matters into her own hands, only to find herself caught in the midst of an age-old feud between the darkest creatures of the night, where the price of forbidden love is her life.

Part of Series: The Beautiful (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Sexual assault, Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Video Reviews

Reviews

Booklist (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. When Celine arrives in New Orleans fresh from Paris, she’s looking for a new start. It’s 1872, and options for a woman alone are limited, but Celine, who has dark secrets in her past, is determined to find a way. Celine finds herself falling in love with New Orleans, which, in the middle of carnival season, has a wild, seductive beauty. But the city has its dangers: Celine meets Bastien, a man she is attracted to but resists, who is at the forefront of a mysterious group active in the city’s underworld. And a vicious serial killer begins stalking the city—one who drains the blood of his victims . . . one who may not be entirely human. Eventually Celine catches his eye, but he doesn’t know what’s in her past. Ahdieh (Flame in the Mist, 2017) kick-starts the vampire story with a series opener that, while it owes more to Interview with the Vampire than it does to Twilight, is all its own. An action-packed third act and a final reveal will have readers grasping for the sequel.

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2019)
Forbidden love is tested by suspicion and murder in this latest addition to YA vampire lore. Celine Rousseau, a French and Asian (mother’s exact origins unknown) seamstress, sails from Europe to America in hopes of leaving her shadowy past behind. En route, she bonds with Pippa, a white English émigrée, and both girls find refuge in an Ursuline convent. Celine’s talent as a couturier leads to a commission from Odette, a beautiful member of the opulent-yet-mysterious Cour des Lions, where students of the occult practice their craft unmolested. Before long, Celine is swept up in a world of mystical forces centering around Sébastien Saint Germain, an enigmatic aristocrat to whom she is irresistibly attracted. When a fellow convent member is found murdered, Celine suspects all her acquaintances, including Sébastien. The novel, wading into the waters of forbidden romance between teenage girl and hunky immortal vampire previously navigated by Buffy Summers and Bella Swan, feels less magical than it should despite the lush Victorian-era New Orleans setting. At times the mounting attraction between Bastien and Celine is told rather than shown, which makes the central relationship feel forced rather than organic and passion filled. Ahdieh (Smoke in the Sun, 2018, etc.) brings New Orleans vibrantly to life, particularly when exploring the complicated racial and gender restrictions of high society through main and supporting characters of mixed-race origin. Sure to please fans of the author and of the vampire-romance genre. (Fantasy. 12-adult)

About the Author

Renée Ahdieh is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In her spare time, she likes to dance salsa and collect shoes. She is passionate about all kinds of curry, rescue dogs, and college basketball. The first few years of her life were spent in a high-rise in South Korea; consequently, Renée enjoys having her head in the clouds. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and their tiny overlord of a dog. She is the author of Flame in the Mist and Smoke in the Sun as well as the #1 New York Times bestselling The Wrath and the Dawn and its sequel, The Rose and the Dagger.

Her website is www.reneeahdieh.com

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December 2019, Fiction

Caster by Elsie Chapman

Caster by Elsie Chapman. September 3, 2019. Scholastic, 326 p. ISBN: 9781338332629.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 810.

Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Fight Club in this action-packed fantasy about a secret, underground magic fighting tournament.

If the magic doesn’t kill her, the truth just might.

Aza Wu knows that real magic is dangerous and illegal. After all, casting killed her sister, Shire. As with all magic, everything comes at a price. For Aza, it feels like everything in her life has some kind of cost attached to it. Her sister had been casting for money to pay off Saint Willow, the gang leader that oversees her sector of Lotusland. If you want to operate a business there, you have to pay your tribute. And now with Shire dead, Aza must step in to save the legacy of Wu Teas, the teahouse that has been in her family for centuries.

When Aza comes across a secret invitation, she decides she doesn’t have much else to lose. She quickly realizes that she’s entered herself into an underground casting tournament, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Real magic, real consequences. As she competes, Aza fights for her life against some very strong and devious competitors.

When the facts about Shire’s death don’t add up, the police start to investigate. When the tributes to Saint Willow aren’t paid, the gang comes to collect. When Aza is caught sneaking around with fresh casting wounds, her parents are alarmed. As Aza’s dangerous web of lies continues to grow, she is caught between trying to find a way out and trapping herself permanently.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 22))
Grades 9-12. The world is falling apart. Real magic, rare and potent, drains energy from the earth every time a spell is cast, leaving behind charred land, frozen oceans, and smog heavy in the air. Aza is secretly a full caster, but she hides her powers, pretending to be someone who can only do small, leftover magic. She’s trying desperately to pay her family’s debt to sector boss Saint Willow before goons come to bust up her home and torture her family. Stuck in the shadow of her now-dead sister, Shire, Aza has one week left until Saint Willow’s people come for her parents. When a note left by an old tutor leads her to an underground magic-fighting ring, she realizes she has the chance, the power, and the skill to get out from under Saint Willow’s thumb—possibly for good. The fighting ring leads to more questions still, as well as more danger. Could learning the secrets of magic and the truth behind her sister’s death be worth it all? Chapman (Along the Indigo, 2018) has created compelling young adult novels before, but this is a cut above; the fully realized and atmospheric dystopia is crafted at a level not seen often. This stunning fantasy will fly off the shelves.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2019)
In a dystopian world broken apart by magic, Aza Wu struggles to unravel the mystery of her sister’s death while fending off gangsters and dodging Scouts who hunt full-magic casters like herself. The rules of magic set up by Chapman (Hungry Hearts, 2019, etc.) come down to this: The more magic you use, the more magic you pull from the Earth, leaving behind a scar ranging from a buckled road to an earthquake that levels buildings. A full caster is limited by their level of control and the physical pain that follows a spell. Despite the dangers and the guilt she feels for damaging the world around her, Aza desperately casts magic for marks to pay off the family debt. This leads her to the underground Tournament of Casters, where she will risk her life for marks and answers. The main character identifies as Chinese, and though some racial and cultural discrimination is discussed, the story focuses more heavily on the haves and have-nots of magic and power. The pacing is fast and furious, upheld by the deadline Aza faces of a single week, which almost becomes a running joke. Some characters are ham-handed in their villainy, but most are genuine in their struggle to do what it takes to survive. A dark and, at times, vicious and violent story of will and questionable honor. (Dystopian fantasy. 13-17)

About the Author

Elsie Chapman grew up in Prince George, Canada, and has a degree in English literature from the University of British Columbia. She is the author of the YA novels DualedDividedAlong the Indigo, and Caster as well as the MG novel All the Ways Home, and co-editor of A Thousand Beginnings and Endings and Hungry Hearts. She currently lives in Tokyo, Japan, with her family.

Her website is elsiechapman.com

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Fiction, November 2019

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton. August 6, 2019. Grand Central Publishing, 320 p. ISBN: 9781538745823.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD.

One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.

S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle’s wild crows (those idiots), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.

Then Big Jim’s eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn’t quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies–from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim’s loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis–fail to cure Big Jim’s debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he discovers that the neighbors are devouring each other and the local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators roaming Seattle. Humanity’s extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education.

Hollow Kingdom is a humorous, big-hearted, and boundlessly beautiful romp through the apocalypse and the world that comes after, where even a cowardly crow can become a hero.

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (June 1, 2019 (Vol. 115, No. 19))
When a wise-cracking, curse-spewing narrator identifies himself as a Seattle-born talking crow named S.T. who’s just witnessed an eyeball popping out of his “MoFo” owner’s head, readers willing to get on board this bizarrely captivating debut novel will know they’re in for a bumpy ride, seat belts not included. Unfortunately, the eyeball incident is just the beginning of S.T.’s troubles as Big Jim, his master and trainer, explodes into a zombie-like rage, forcing S.T. to flee the house on the hirsute back of Dennis, the floppy-eared family bloodhound, and into an unexpectedly frightening outside world. It seems every square mile of Seattle’s streets and parks is now teeming with frenzied undead MoFos, Big Jim’s contemptuous label for humankind, all of whom get especially crazed by beeping smartphones. Eager to find one or two disease-free humans to save the day, S.T. narrowly escapes gnashing zombie jaws and inexplicably uncaged zoo animals until he crosses paths with a wise fellow crow named Kraii, and realizes his true mission in life: to free other domesticated animals from their housebound prisons before it’s too late. While S.T.’s floridly descriptive, expletive-laden narration sometimes feels self-indulgent, Buxton’s quirky ideas and compelling nonhuman characters will satisfy literary fiction and zombie genre enthusiasts alike who are looking for something beguilingly different.

Kirkus Reviews (June 1, 2019)
When a deadly virus changes humankind forever, S.T., a domesticated crow with a mouth like a sailor, and his dog, Dennis, teach the animal kingdom how to survive the apocalypse. After their owner becomes a slobbering, zombielike creature with a deadly cellphone obsession, unflappable crow S.T. and loyal canine Dennis venture out into Seattle. They soon realize other domesticated animals aren’t as lucky and are trapped in their locked homes. With his innate knowledge of the MoFo (human) world, S.T. uses his corvid intelligence and Dennis’ high-powered sniffer to come to the rescue. When old and new predators emerge in a city quickly returning to nature, S.T. and Dennis join forces with wild crows and other animals to keep their territory safe. It’s an intriguing and fun premise that starts with a strong and saucy voice, but this debut novel gets very muddled very quickly. In lieu of giving her lively animal characters a rich narrative arc, the author focuses too heavily on not-so-subtle morality tales about every injustice and environmental crisis in the world today. The science is messy, wins feel too easy, and losses don’t cut as deeply as they’re meant to, though it’s possibly saved by witty one-liners and the author’s sharp take on a bird’s eye-view of Seattle. A heavy-handed zombie apocalypse-meets-nature documentary meant to inspire humans to do better, but it loses its way.

About the Author

Kira Jane Buxton’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, NewYorker.com, McSweeney’s, The RumpusHuffington Post, and more. She calls the tropical utopia of Seattle, Washington, home and spends her time with three cats, a dog, two crows, a charm of hummingbirds, and a husband.

Her website is www.kirajanebuxton.com

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Fiction, November 2019

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron

Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron. September 3, 2019. HarperTeen, 485 p. ISBN: 9780062870957.  Int Lvl: YA.

A girl with no gifts must bargain for the power to fight her own mother’s dark schemes—even if the price is her life.

Heir to two lines of powerful witch doctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. Yet she fails at bone magic, fails to call upon her ancestors, and fails to live up to her family’s legacy. Under the disapproving eye of her mother, the Kingdom’s most powerful priestess and seer, she fears she may never be good enough.

But when the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, Arrah is desperate enough to turn to a forbidden, dangerous ritual. If she has no magic of her own, she’ll have to buy it—by trading away years of her own life.

Arrah’s borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal, and on its heels, a rising tide of darkness that threatens to consume her and all those she loves. She must race to unravel a twisted and deadly scheme… before the fight costs more than she can afford.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong sexual themes, Violence

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2019)
A teenage girl ashamed of her lack of magic must step up when she discovers evil at work in her kingdom. Privileged Arrah has never wanted for anything—except magic. Though she comes from powerful magical lineages on both her parents’ sides, when she turns 16 without developing any gifts, she must finally admit she won’t be blessed with magic. Heartbroken, Arrah throws herself into discovering who’s behind the recent child abductions in her kingdom. The magic needed to accomplish such a task has a high cost, and her discovery of the culprit proves to be a devastating revelation. In Arrah’s West African–based world, there are orishas as well as other gods and demons, and orishas are able to converse directly with humans. Arrah, aided by her friends (including love interest Rudjek), must mine hitherto unknown depths in herself in order to stop the ascension of the Demon King, who supposedly was vanquished by the orishas long ago. Though the pace is sometimes slow and the page count perhaps higher than needed, Arrah’s a compelling heroine, relatable in her fallibility, and her story is intriguing. Most characters are black; Rudjek is biracial (his light-skinned mother and a handful of other characters hail from the north). An imperfect but promising series opener. (Fantasy. 12-18)

School Library Journal (August 1, 2019)
Gr 9 Up-Legend has it that the orisha destroyed all of the demons in the Almighty Kingdom, but when children begin to disappear from the Kingdom and a great evil looms, it seems that perhaps the orisha were wrong. And if they were wrong about this, where else have they failed? Sixteen-year-old Arrah is the daughter of two powerful witch doctors in a long lineage of magic. For as long as she can remember, she has waited to come into magic of her own, and though she has the ability to see magic, she cannot touch it. Magic in the Kingdom, however, can be acquired at a cost. Will Arrah be willing to give up years of her life in exchange for the magic that might be able to save the people she loves? In this epic West African-inspired debut, Barron weaves a story filled with blood magic, political intrigue, epic world-building, and a brilliant cast of characters. VERDICT Fans of folklore-inspired fantasy and Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer will relish in this masterful tale. From start to finish, this magical debut is not to be missed.-India Winslow, Cary Memorial Library, Lexington, MA

About the Author

Rena Barron grew up in small-town Alabama where stories of magic and adventure sparked her imagination. After penning her first awful poem in middle school, she graduated to writing short stories and novels by high school. Rena loves all things science fiction, ghosts, and superheroes. She’s a self-proclaimed space nerd. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading or brushing up on her French.

Her website is renabarron.com.

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Kingdom of Souls on Amazon

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Kingdom of Souls Publisher Page