YA – This Vicious Grace

Thiede, Emily. This Vicious Grace. Wednesday Books, 2022. 978-1-399-70305-5. 436 p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Alessa’s gift has killed three people, and she somehow needs to convince someone to marry her again…which isn’t going well. There is an army of demons headed to destroy her island in a few weeks. There is a priest who is convincing people that Alessa needs to die, and her own soldiers are trying to kill her. All of these things are causing Alessa to feel like she needs to take desperate measures to save herself, and her island.  Enter Dante, an outcast who Alessa hires to try to protect her; however, he wants nothing to do with her or her plan to save the island. Will Alessa be able to protect the island she calls home? Will she be able to convince someone to marry her? Or she is destined to fail at everything, no matter how hard she tries, while Dante is hiding a secret from her that could ruin everything. 

THOUGHTS: This is a fast paced young adult fantasy novel with some romance throughout. There are some predictable twists and turns, but the writing is really well done. There is a sequel planned for this book coming out in 2023.

Fantasy            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Tags: demons, romance, friendship. 

YA – The Ivory Key

Raman, Akshaya. The Ivory Key. Clarion Books, 2022. 978-0-358-46833-2. $18.99. 384 p. Grades 7-12.

Magic in Ashoka is running out. Vira, the young maharani, is desperate to keep this secret from the rest of the country. Her only hope is to find the Ivory Key and live up to her mother’s legacy. Legend says the key will lead to a new source of magic. However, Vira cannot find the key on her own, and she isn’t the only one who is after it. Vira’s siblings, Ronak, Kaleb, and Riya, embark on this adventure with her, but the siblings have their own plans for the key. For Kalab, his knowledge of the key freed him from his prison cell, and his involvement isn’t so much as a choice as it is a path to freedom. For Ronak, he sees it as his escape from his royal duties and knows others who would pay handsomely for it, and although Riya has returned to her siblings, she believes that all of the people of Ashoka deserve this magic and longs to return to her new family of thieves fighting against the royal family. Four siblings, and one key. If they find it, will this new magic be enough to save both their country and their family?

THOUGHTS: In this Indian inspired fantasy, readers will enjoy the adventure that the four conflicting siblings embark on together as well as the mystery, traps, and puzzles surrounding the ivory key. The surprise ending should leave readers impatiently waiting for the final book in this duology. 

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

YA – The Ghosts of Rose Hill

Romaro, R.M. The Ghosts of Rose Hill. Peachtree Teen, 2022. 978-1-682-63338-0. $18.99. 384 p. Grades 9-12.

“Maybe sixteen is a curse, a time when everyone is stuck between being a child and being something else.” Ilana is 16, and more than anything else, she wants to be a musician. Her parents, both refugees, want Ilana to pick a different career path, one that offers her more stability in her future. When she travels from her hometown of Miami to Prague to spend the summer with her aunt, she discovers an overgrown Jewish cemetery. As a member of the Jewish faith, she feels the need to uncover the forgotten headstones, and while she spends time clearing the cemetery, she meets a ghost named Benjamin and a mysterious man named Rudolph Wasserman. As she befriends Benjamin, Wasserman encourages her to play her music and follow her heart. As Ilana discovers the truth about Benjamin and his connection to the city, Wasserman offers her a place within his house where she can play music and live forever. Although the offer sounds like a dream, Benjamin reveals it’s really a nightmare, and Ilana must find a way to save him and the other children bound to Wasserman and his magic, even if it means risking everything.

THOUGHTS: The Ghosts of Rose Hill is written in prose and incorporates both Jewish and Prague history into this unique ghost story. In many ways, this story reminded me of Coraline. Rudolph Wasserman lures children into his home with promises of a perfect life away from their families before stealing and hiding their souls.

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

YA – A Far Wilder Magic

Saft, Allison. A Far Wilder Magic. Wednesday Books, 2022. 978-1250623652. $18.99. 384 p. Grades 9-12.

Margaret Welty spends most of her time living alone with her dog, Trouble. Her mother, a famous alchemist, spends most of her time traveling, away from home. Weston Winters is desperate to become an official alchemist, and when he arrives at the Welty house looking for the famous alchemist to become her apprentice, Margaret strikes a deal with him: she will allow him to stay until her mother returns if he agrees to join her in the annual hunt to kill the legendary Hala, a mythical and deadly fox that stalks the town until the hunt begins. Margaret knows she has a great shot, but she needs an alchemist as a part of her team in order to enter the competition. These two strangers soon find that they are drawn to each other and have more in common than they know. As the competition looms closer, so does danger, and together they must learn to trust each other in order to survive.

THOUGHTS: This unique, stand alone fantasy takes place in a made up world influenced by the culture and lifestyle of the 1920s. Although fantastical, the story also tackles more serious and relatable issues like prejudice and racism. Readers will be drawn into Saft’s world and the slow romance that builds between Margaret and Weston and the connection they have as outcasts in their communities.

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

YA – This Wicked Fate

Bayron, Kaylnn. This Wicked Fate. Bloomsbury, 2022. 978-1-5476-0920-8. 307 pg. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

This Wicked Fate starts right where the first book (This Poison Heart) ends, with Briseis trying to find a way to rescue her mother. However, that means that Briseis needs to put together the pieces of the Absyrtus Heart plant, which is deadly. Throughout this book, Briseis gets to know her relatives that she has never really met while there are others who want the heart. What will Briseis do in order to save her mother, as well as those she loves? Will she be able to rescue her mother, or is this a mission that is doomed to fail no matter what?

THOUGHTS: This was a great ending to this duology!! The way the author delves into the family dynamic as well as the interpersonal relationships between these characters is done spectacularly. The character arcs are very well done, and everything feels very natural. This duology would be great for fans of mythology or fans of a fantasy series. 

Fantasy            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy 

YA – Together We Burn

Ibanez, Isabel. Together We Burn. Wednesday Books, 2022. 978-1-250-87031-5. 354 p. $18.99. Grades 12+.

Together We Burn follows 18-year-old Zarela whose family is famous for their flamenco dancing and Dragonador in Hispalia. When the story opens, the reader learns how Zarela’s mother died in an unfortunate accident and how she and her father have coped with that loss. During the 500th anniversary performance, though, disaster strikes again and Zarela has to try to pick up the pieces of this life that her family has built by becoming the next Dragonador. However, Zarela has no clue what she is doing, so she needs to find someone to train her. Enter Arturo who wants nothing to do with helping her, but Zarela refuses to take no for an answer. Will she be able to recover her family’s rightful place in the Dragon Guild or will everything just go up in flames?

THOUGHTS: This is a more unique young adult fantasy novel with the dragon and Dragonador element. There are some more graphic scenes throughout, so this book is not for a sensitive reader. There also are some spicy romantic scenes, so this book would fit best for upper high school.  

Fantasy            Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

YA – The Ballad of Never After

Garber, Stephanie. The Ballad of Never After. Hodder and Stoughton, 2022. 978-1-250-87543-3. 403 pg. $19.99. Grades 10-12.

The Ballad of Never After starts right after the events of the first book, bringing the reader along with Evangeline after she was betrayed by the Prince of Hearts. Evangeline still has the issue of her true love, Apollo, being cursed and now it seems that the curse is affecting her as well. In order to break this curse, Evangeline finds herself working with Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, against her better judgment. Will she be able to break the curse before it kills her? Evangeline always has been able to follow her heart, but this time it might lead her into the wrong arms.

THOUGHTS: This series is super easy to follow and isn’t extremely fantasy heavy, which makes it a great series for readers who aren’t into heavier fantasy reads. There is a lot of romance found within both books. There also are some spicy scenes, so this would be more appropriate for higher high school grades.  

Fantasy          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem./MG – The Marvellers

Clayton, Dhonielle. The Marvellers. Henry Holt and Co, 2022. 978-1-250-17494-9. 416 p. $16.99. Grades 4-8. 

The Marvellers introduces us to Ella, the first Conjurer to attend the Arcanum Training Academy, which should be the most exciting thing. However Ella’s excitement quickly changes when she learns that her magic is looked at as “unnatural” and “bad.” Ella makes friends with 2 other students who don’t quite fit into the school either, and things seem to be looking up. That’s when the Ace of Anarchy, an extremely dangerous person, escapes prison with the help of a Conjurer. Now Ella is a target of suspicion, and she is forced to try to clear her family’s name and prove that all Conjurers aren’t awful. Will Ella be able to with the help of her friends, or will she be forced to leave the Arcanum Training Academy in shame?

THOUGHTS: This was a highly fast paced middle grade fantasy with some great commentary on society’s opinions of individuals who don’t fit into the “norm.” Readers will enjoy the nods to other popular authors sprinkled throughout the book as characters. This book is a must own for any upper elementary or middle school collection.

Fantasy          Mary McEndree, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

YA – Castles in their Bones

Sebastian, Laura. Castles in their Bones. Delacorte Press, 2022. 978-0-593-11816-0. $18.99. 528p. Grades 9-12.

Sophronia, Daphne, and Beatriz are triplets, and from the time they were young, they have been raised to be the future rulers of Vesteria. Their mother, Empress Margaraux, has had this plan in place since before they were born. At sixteen years old, the sisters are leaving each other for the first time. Each is engaged to a prince so that they may infiltrate the kingdoms from within and use their talents to bring down each monarchy for their mother. However, when the girls arrive at their new homes, they begin to realize that the world is not quite the way described to them by their mother. Will the girls change the plan as they form new relationships and see the struggles of each kingdom, or will they stay faithful to their mother?

THOUGHTS: Castles in their Bones hooked me from the very beginning. Saphronia, Daphne, and Beatriz change so much throughout the novel when they are finally on their own. They have to navigate challenges they never anticipated, and their real personalities start to emerge as they spend more time away from their mother. Thanks to the cliffhanger ending, I’m impatiently waiting for book two in the duology.

Fantasy           Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD

YA – This Woven Kingdom

Mafi, Tahereh. This Woven Kingdom. HarperCollins, 2022. 978-0-062-97244-6. $19.99. 512 p. Grades 9-12.

In the fantastic world of Ardunia, humans and Jinn are allowed to live among each other, according to the Fire Accords set in place by the current king, as long as they don’t use their powers and lie low. Despite the accords, Alizeh keeps her Jinn identity a secret from everyone around her. Although Alizeh is a powerful Jinn with ice in her veins, she lives a lonely life as a servant, cleaning the home of a duchess and working as a seamstress on the side for extra money. When she accidentally crosses paths with Prince Kamran, both her world and his are turned upside down. Kamran can’t stop thinking about her, even when he discovers her true identity and the prophecy that predicts she’ll be the downfall of his royal family. As their lives continue to intertwine, Alizeh holds onto her secrets while Kamran discovers the ones lurking within his own palace. These two are destined to be enemies, but can they become allies – or something more?

THOUGHTS: This Woven Kingdom is based on Persian mythology; however, it still reminded me of the Cinderella fairy tale. Although Alizeh is working as a servant, she’s actually a princess in disguise. At one point in the story, she’s given an opportunity to attend a ball in honor of Prince Kamran, and Alizeh is dressed and disguised using magic. Alizeh still has a lot of secrets that have yet to be revealed, and I think readers will be waiting impatiently for book two after the cliffhanger ending!

Fantasy          Emily Hoffman, Conestoga Valley SD