As some of you may know, I have a bimonthly column (okay, a sidebar) in Realms of Fantasy, which takes a brief look at YA fantasy and science fiction. With the permission of Carl Gnam of said magazine, I'm going to start reprinting the old columns here once the issue in question is off the stands. Since I'm coming up on a year's worth of these things, I figure I can repost a few before I hit the most recent one.
These aren't deep, philosophical, or as in-depth as my ones for SF Site, but hey, someone might find them interesting. So without further ado, here's my first installment. Due to space considerations, only half of it saw print, so the rest is new.
The Inheritance Trilogy Book 2: Eldest,by Christopher Paolini, Knopf, 2005
Following a costly victory against the forces of the evil Emperor Galbatorix, Eragon and his dragon Saphira journey to Ellesmera, to further Eragon’s magical training under the tutelage of the elves. At the same time, Eragon’s cousin, Roran, embarks upon a quest of his own, to protect the villagers of Carvahall from the Emperor’s retaliation. One ally is lost, secrets are revealed, and the story continues to unfold in the second book of the Inheritance trilogy. Generally, Eldest is a great read with an intriguing storyline, but Paolini’s influences remain all too obvious as he treads upon some familiar territory. The last book in the series will really determine how well Paolini pulls it all off.
The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy-Tale Detectives, by Michael Buckley, Amulet Books, 2005
The Sisters Grimm: The Unusual Suspects, by Michael Buckley, Amulet Books, 2005
When orphaned sisters Sabrina and Daphne Grimm are sent to live with their newly-discovered grandmother, Grenny Relda, in the small town of Ferryport Landing, they’re introduced to a bizarre family heritage involving immortal fairytale characters. In a town where Snow White teaches school, Prince Charming is the mayor, the Three Pigs (in human form) are cops, and the so-called Everafters dwell in secret alongside regular mortals, it takes a very special kind of person to investigate when things go wrong. Now the Grimm sisters must contend with angry giants, monsters stalking the school, and secrets galore, all the while trying to find their missing parents. A wonderfully twisted take on old stories, and a great start to a new series, though rather reminiscent of Bill Willingham’s excellent Fables comic book series. Fans of The Spiderwick Chronicles and A Series of Unfortunate Events should check these books out.
The Lucy Chronicles: High School Bites, by Liza Conrad, NAL JAM, 2006
It’s Dracula all over again when Lucy Hellenberg discovers that she’s the descendant of a certain not-so-fictional heroine, and that the master vampire and his descendants have been stalking her family for generations. Luckily, Lucy’s family is very good at fighting vampires, and she’ll have some help from her friends, including the latest in the Van Helsing line, and a vampire expert descended from Bram Stoker. It’s an entertaining update on the Dracula mythos, with some revisionary work done on both Bram Stoker and Dracula, with a healthy dose of Buffyesque attitude thrown in for good measure.
Duckling Ugly, by Neal Shusterman, Dutton, 2006
Cara De Fido has lived with a profound ugliness all her life, literally capable of curdling milk and breaking mirrors. However, when she discovers how to become beautiful, she also learns of the horrible price her “cure” and subsequent rash actions exact upon those around her. This is the third book in Shusterman’s Dark Fusion series, which mixes retold fairy tales with mythological elements for a horror-laced effect, and he keeps delivering good, solid stories with satisfyingly-uncomfortable twists.
Rebel Angels, by Libba Bray, Delacorte Press, 2005
Gemma Doyle continues to explore the limits of her magical powers and the depths of the mysterious Realms, all the while dodging the manipulations of two separate secret societies out to either kill or co-opt her and the control over the Realms she represents. This is the second book in a fascinating series set in Victorian England, which can best be described as Harry Potter meets A Little Princess. Bray really knows how to invoke the self-contradictory, atmospheric feel of the period, and her characters reflect the mood quite nicely, straddling the line between child and adult, respectable and rebellious.
Wizards At War, by Diane Duane, Harcourt,2005
Teen wizards Nita, Kit, Dairine, and all of their various human and non-human allies are challenged like never before when all of the adult wizards across the universe start losing their powers, just as a great evil threatens to destroy everything once and for all. It’s up to the heroes of this long-running series to save the day once more, but they’ll pay a heavy toll in the process. If not the best in the series to date, certainly one of the most intense, with a promise of more resolution to come in future books.
Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer, Megan Tingley Books, 2005
Isabella Swan moves in with her father in the small town of Forks, Washington, and subsequently falls in love with a mysterious young man who turns out to be a vampire, just like the rest of his family. Their romance is challenged by her stubbornness, his reluctance to get close to anyone, vampire hunters, and fellow vampires with fewer scruples about hunting humans. With more than one question remaining unanswered, here’s hoping there’s more books to come in this series. All in all, it combines young adult romance and vampires to nice effect.
Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace, by MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi, Berkley Jam, 2005
Teenage soccer sensation Jennifer Scales discovers her hidden heritage as a weredragon when puberty causes her dormant abilities to stir. Now she has to balance schoolwork with bizarre transformations, soccer practice with flying practice, and her love life with all sorts of people out to kill her. Best-known for her romantic comedies involving vampires and werewolves, MaryJanice Davidson turns her attention to YA with the help of her husband in this highly enjoyable start to a new series.
Avalon High, by Meg Cabot, HarperCollins, 2005
Arthurian archetypes find themselves reincarnated as teens in Meg Cabot’s newest offering. All the familiar faces are here in one form or another: Arthur, Lancelot, Guinevere, Mordred, even Merlin. But what connection does Ellie (Elaine) have to them? Is she really the reincarnation of the Lady of Shalott, who killed herself out of unrequited love for Lancelot, or does she have a more potent role to play in the ongoing drama of good versus evil, high school style? Altogether quite enjoyable, with a few twists that keep it from being simply rehashed Arthurian legend with teen angst and romance.