Several years ago, during a visit to New York City’s Books of Wonder, I picked up a copy of The Game of Sunken Places, by this author I had never heard of, and thought it was great. And though I’ve read a number of his other books, it was only quite recently that I found out that the above title is only the first book in the “Norumbegan Quartet.” This second book in the series did not prove very easy to come by. Barnes and Noble will let you order it, but won’t carry it on their shelves. I poked around the online catalog of my city’s public library system and found exactly one copy of it, residing in the branch just down the street from where I live, its last-known status “on the shelf.” So I put in a request for it, and nothing happened. I went to the branch in person and searched the shelves. Though I found a copy of the third book in the series (The Empire of Gut and Bone), I could not find th...Read More
Young Adult tagged posts
There was a time in the British Commonwealth when crimes that would formerly have been punished by death were commuted to a sentence of “transportation.” This is to say, the convicted criminals were packed into prison-ships and banished to Australia, to become forced colonists. There they led such a hard life that only the toughest succeeded—but even the most successful colonials would have gone home to England, if they could have. And that’s why the second half of their punishment was an automatic sentence of death if they ever came back.
It is at this time in history, in a village close to the marshes along a stretch of the Thames River where the prison-ships anchored, narrator “Pip” cites his earliest memories...Read More
In the sequel to Flora Segunda, Flora Fyrdraaca ov Fyrdraaca, fourteen-year-old heroine of an alternate-history version of San Francisco called Califa, finds out what her true name is. And while I’m mentioning it, I might add that the full title of this book is Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room)...Read More
It’s the 13th century. Kublai Khan has conquered China, spreading the Mongolian empire from Ukraine to Korea. His epoch-making attempt to invade Japan is about to get underway—the one that will end with Kublai’s army at the bottom of the Yellow Sea, thanks to a storm that will go down in Japanese memory as “Kamikaze” (divine wind). At that crucial point in history—to the Eastern world what the sinking of the Spanish Armada was to the West—Gou Haoyou is a sailor’s son living in the coastal village of Dagu, downriver from the great city of Dadu (now Beijing). Haoyou’s father, Gou Pei, stirs the jealousy of another sailor named Di Chou, who wants Pei’s beautiful wife for his own. So, before Haoyou’s horrified eyes, Chou has Pei rigged to a makeshift kite and sent aloft to “test the wind” and see whether the spirits are in favor of their ship’s journey...Read More
In Book Two of the Century Quartet, four kids with Leap Day birthdays come together again to solve another puzzle, this time in New York City. Elettra from Rome, Mistral from Paris, Sheng from Shanghai, and Harvey from Manhattan face an evil nightclub owner, five dangerous women, a one-eyed crow flying surveillance for a shadowy group of Native Americans, and a trail of clues seemingly left behind by a man who lived over 100 years without growing old. Their friend Ermete, master of disguise, comes along to help and ends up in the hospital. And while Elettra still struggles to understand the strange power over the element of fire that emerged in her during their previous adventure, the sweetness of first love connects her to Harvey.
Harvey is at the center in this installment...Read More
I was so overwhelmed by the strangeness and originality of this book’s fantasy conceits that, in spite of several clues, I got halfway through it before I realized that it is a retelling of the Arthurian legend. Color me embarrassed! It mentions a round table. It features a sword in a stone, which only the rightful king can pull loose. It has characters in it named Ector, Uther, Kay, Mark, and Morgan—obvious references to the Arthur mythos—as well as less-obvious but still recognizable aliases, such as Ambrose (Merlin), Murther (Mordred), and Draco (Pendragon). The legend of King Arthur—at least, its earlier parts—provides the overall shape of this story, and thereby makes it deeply and timelessly compelling. Yet at the same time, that outline is filled in with an amazing piece of world-building, whose vivid colors and unique textures transform it almost out of recognition.
Welcome to Lyon...Read More
Iphigenia ‘Gene’ Laurus is the heiress of a noble family, bound by corsets and her Mother’s rich ideals. Micah Grey is a runaway, taking refuge in R.H. Ragona’s Circus of Magic, the greatest circus in Ellada. With a head for heights, the beckoning call of the aerialists is too tempting to resist, and a new life is forged in the heart of the tumbling circus life where anything seems possible. But not all is as it first appears, and identity is given the sleight of hand. Surrounded by the mystical blue Penglass and remnants of a civilisation half-forgotten, the adventure is only just beginning, with danger lurking at every turn. What does it take to learn about yourself under the weight of expectation?
The cover copy of Pantomime is deliberately misleading, as such the following review contains spoilers:
This book takes the magic of childhood dreams and the thrill of adventure, and catapults it into a fast paced ...Read More
The Hardscrabble children are (let’s face it) strange. Elder brother Otto never takes off the scarf he has worn since their mother disappeared, and speaks only in a private sign language understood only by his siblings. Youngest child Max is a walking encyclopedia with a head for heights. And in the middle is Lucia, the narrator (though she pretends to be anonymous), scared and vulnerable and mouthy and fiercely protective of her family. A lot of self-deprecating humor works its way into her narrative, as she admits to being afraid of heights, repeatedly mistakes the meanings of words Max knows and uses, and addresses back-chatty remarks to the English teacher who asked her to write this studiously dramatic account of her family’s most gothically creepy adventure.
Otto, Lucia, and Max live alone with their father, who is a portrait painter—except, when their father goes out of town to sketch studies of fallen...Read More
In Book 5 of the Codex Alera series, young Tavi of Calderon, recently outed as Gaius Octavian—the grandson of Alera’s ruling First Lord Gaius Sextus, and thereby Princeps of the realm—faces a crisis in which the antagonistic races that populate his world must either come together or perish separately. At the same time, the question of who will succeed Gaius Sextus reaches a crucial climax that will only be resolved in Book 6, First Lord’s Fury.
In the previous books, we have seen Tavi grow from a spirited apprentice shepherd, through being a resourceful student and a daring secret agent, up to a gifted military leader with a knack for turning enemies into allies...Read More
Hunters of the Dusk—buy it
by Darren Shan
Recommended Ages: 12+
“Vampire War,” the third trilogy within the 12-book “Saga of Darren Shan,” begins with this book. More like the previous “Book 1″ than the first book in the overall series, it does not so much tell a free-standing story as set the gears in motion for a new chapter in the career of Darren Shan, half-vampire, magician’s assistant, and (increasingly now) warrior prince. It promises to be a chapter filled with savage conflicts, creepy magics, strange surprises, and the dread of a sinister destiny.
Speaking of destiny, Mr. Desmond Tiny (Des for short) shows up at the Vampire Mountain one day, some six years after Darren established himself as a vampire prince. In the middle of a costly war with their vampaneze cousins (who, unlike vampires, actually kill the people whose blood they drink), the vampires are hardly in a mood to hear more bad news from the ancient mage and meddler in fate. But Mr...Read More