Recently read & loved:
A magical, lush debut with fierce sisterly love at its core. Alternating chapters in both poetry and prose tell the story of Liba and Laya, two sisters that discover their family history is something straight out of a fairy tale: Liba, like her father is part bear, and Laya, like her mother is part swan. As each sister navigates their new abilities of transformation, so too must they learn how to protect each other when a mysterious group of merchants arrive in their village, selling magical fruit and spinning malicious, deadly lies. Sisters of the Winter Wood is a lush reworking of Christina Rossetti's The Goblin Market, but with deep characterization, historical details, and a magical setting, it is also utterly original. I was swept away in Rossner's book and you will be too!
At once mysterious and imaginative, In the Night Wood is a thoughtful and moving novel about what it takes to find --and conquer--the darkness within. When literature professor Charles Hayden travels to a small England town to begin writing a biography of the author of his favorite Victorian children's book, Caedmon's Hollow, he does so in the hopes that he can leave the harsh realities of his past behind. But it's not long before the past and present catch up with Charles. When an ancient and otherworldly power from the Night Wood threatens to overcome the small town, he soon finds the lines between fantasy and reality blurred. Using elements of Victorian literature, medieval fairy tales, and ancient folklore, Bailey paints a heart-wrenching and intimate portrayal of loss, madness, and magic. – Kelly
In the vein of Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles and Circe, comes another enthralling retelling of classic Homeric mythology. Set during the Trojan War from the perspective of the captured "gift to Achilles" Briseis, Barker's novel explores mortality, passion, freedom and captivity of an ancient war. Compelling storytelling and poignant characterizations of classic figures make this not only an impressive and unique retelling of The Iliad, but also a sweeping narrative of the often overlooked woman's experience in antiquity. Timeless in its scope and stunning in its imaginative force, The Silence of the Girls is your next must-read of 2018.
Beautifully composed and deeply compelling, Circe is hands-down one of the best novels of 2018. As she did in Song of Achilles, Miller recreates the ancient and enchanting world of Greek mythology, this time focusing on ocean nymph Circe. Cast out of her home and exiled to the island of Aiaia, Circe turns not only to her enchantments, but also to the world of Mortals, becoming close with legendary figures like Daedalus, Odysseus, and Penelope. Miller’s delicate, yet stunning prose swept me off my feet — I wanted to savor every moment with Circe in her immortal world. Introspective, soft, at times simply breathtaking, but always beautiful. So, so beautiful.
What would the world look like if men lived in constant fear of their physical safety from women? The Power is a terrifying yet illuminating book that flips a very real issue on its head. Naomi Alderman will not only make you think about gender, but also race, class, war, religion, refugees, and so much more. Reading this book is powerful in itself: its basis in reality is frightening, yet the light Naomi is able to shed on that reality is a timely reminder of why we read and write speculative fiction in today’s world. A moving novel—and a call to arms for everyone to pay close attention to the power within themselves.
“Luke Skywalker? I thought he was a myth.” – Rey. A motley crew of characters huddle around each other in Canto Bight exchanging stories of the mysterious and mythical Luke Skywalker. Some think he’s a hero, some think he’s a hack. This book holds an interesting place in the Star Wars canon, introducing new tales to readers that may — or may not — be true. The stories in The Legends of Luke Skywalker are fun and thoughtful, and they play with our own conception of what Luke has been up to since Return of the Jedi. At times, the tales reward readers who know the Star Wars films well with inside jokes. At other times, it challenges us to rethink what we do know. Overall, a fun and unique Star Wars read.
I cannot recommend this series enough. Brilliant. Touching. Thoughtful. The Arc of a Scythe series is quickly topping my list of books that I think anyone and everyone should read. Thunderhead is set a year after we last saw Citra and Rowan in Scythe and the growing tensions and divided loyalties within the Scythedom have only escalated. Now on the brink of total and devastating revolution, the Scythedom--and perhaps even all of humanity--relies on the actions of two teenagers. Naturally, Shusterman uses this second book to expand the Scythe world and its cast of characters: the titular Thunderhead (the omniscient governing consciousness over society) is given plenty of fresh and fascinating attention. But Thunderhead is in and of itself a deep exploration of not only the perennial question of what it means to be human, but also of some of the biggest and most pressing issues of our time. Ultimately, Shusterman delivers a gripping, page-turner story, yet all the while gives us completely thought-provoking material on the past, present, and future of humanity. Thunderhead is a novel deftly written and one that is utterly absorbing to read.
Poignant. Perfect. My highest recommendation and my deepest implore: read. this. book.
A gripping new novel by Neal Shusterman where there is no sickness, no injury, no war that can kill humans. In this perfect world there is only one way to die: at the hands of those called Scythes, revered killers who keep the population under control. Even though killing is the last thing young and empathetic Citra and Rowan want to do, both are chosen to become apprentices to a Scythe and master the art of taking lives. As the story unfolds, so does a captivating plight of two teenagers trying to both keep and understand their own humanity in a sea of red. A perfect read for dystopian lovers who want something fresh to add to their bookshelf—I couldn’t put this one down once I started!
"I didn't quite know what to expect from this book when I first read its title.The Tempest is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and I was wary that Carey might force something into the story that wasn't there. But this book has my wholehearted recommendation. This is a soft and tender version of Shakespeare's The Tempest that delicately tells the story of Miranda and Caliban growing up on the island with magician Prospero and his servant Ariel. As the only two young people on the island, Miranda and Caliban begin to form a deep friendship. But Prospero has dark secrets and a mysterious magic that threatens everything Miranda might know about herself and the island she inhabits. Carey takes Shakespeare's characters and the events of the original play and weaves her own tale that explores themes of monstrosity and sexuality, isolation and companionship, magic and reality, knowledge and ignorance. A simply beautiful book. "
If you’ve read the Silmarillion, you know the tale of Beren and Lúthien. How Beren, a mortal man fell in love with the elven Lúthien, and their quest to recover a Silmaril from the evil Morgoth. But the tale –as was so often the case with Tolkien—was written in many variations throughout his life. Although most versions have been collected in Christopher Tolkien’s 12 volume History of Middle-earth series, for the first time the tales of Beren and Lúthien are collected together with light commentary. Whether you’re a casual fan, or whether you’ve poured over the HoMe series, there is a lot to savor in this book, and it is definitely one to add to your collection!
Growing up in his small town, Prosper Redding always knew one thing: that among the illustrious and famous Redding family, he was extraordinarily unexceptional. That is, until he finds out that a 400 year old demon set out to curse his family is actually living inside him. NBD. Now Prosper has to find a way to rid himself of the fiend without hurting himself in the process or caving into the fiend’s incessant demands to strike a deal for his soul. But as he teams up with a young witch and as his relationship with the demon Alastor grows, Prosper begins to realize that things in the demon underworld might be circling out of control. Between its Autumn setting, ancient family curses, witchy friends, and sarcastic demons, The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding is perfect Halloween reading. I adored this book!
Pratchett and Gaiman. Heaven and hell. Angels and demons. Witches and Witchfinders. Footnotes*
I waited way too long to read this. Don't be like me. Read it now!
*and more footnotes.
This is one of the finest fantasy books I've ever read. In fact, with its dark, classical magic, rich history, and elegant writing, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is one of the best novels I've read hands down. Don't let the length deter you--by the time you get to the last page, you'll be aching for more.
Henry reimagines Peter Pan in this prequel novel that tells the story of how Jamie, the first – and Peter’s favorite – lost boy became Captain Hook. Lost Boy is a completely character-driven novel, and I loved getting a close look into Henry’s savage, heartless Peter and her unique Jamie. As was the case with Henry’s Alice, the pages turn themselves. The story itself moves at a perfect speed, giving plenty of time to flesh out characters and get the reader invested in the story. An immensely fun, dark, and twisted book.
If there were only one book that I could recommend to anyone, it would be this one. Read it and fall into the magical and tumultuous world of King Arthur and Merlyn. Read it and learn what it is to laugh and despair and cry and love. This is a magical and fun and tragic novel, perfect for fantasy readers or those who love the Arthurian legend. But above all it's a novel that celebrates being human and is utterly beautiful for doing so.
Tales of brutality. Tales of beauty. Romantic faerie lovers. Abusive husbands. Master fantasist Tanith Lee’s stories of twisted fairy tales, newly collected in this volume, presents heart-wrenching stories of cruelty and darkness blended beautifully with a strange loveliness. A collection that is arresting and striking, and yet one that evokes that essential fairy tale feeling. I devoured these tales whole.
Return of the Shadow (an abandoned title for The Lord of the Rings) contains the early drafts of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. In it you’ll find early character names (did you know Frodo was once Bingo, Bilbo’s son? That Merry was once called Marmaduke?), threads of forgotten plots (Bilbo getting married! Farmer Maggot as a Tom Bombadil-like being! Elf-wraiths!), all the while witnessing the development of ideas and plots that became a central part of The Lord of the Rings. As a whole, Christopher Tolkien’s History of Middle-earth series is a remarkable feat of scholarship and The Return of the Shadow is no different. Looking into the early drafts of The Lord of the Rings is not only fun and fascinating, but feels incredibly special. What a treat!
Learn about the women rebels, pioneers, revolutionizers, and warriors throughout history in this fully illustrated collection. Rejected Princesses not only brings to life 100 of history’s fiercest and most overlooked women, but each story runs just a few digestible pages and is accompanied by a full illustration, art notes, and maturity/violence meters. A book that’s perfect for anyone anytime.
What else can I say about this book that hasn't been said already? This very quickly became one of my favorite fantasy books: it's not only fun story but it is also beautifully written. If you like fantasy at all, The Name of the Wind is a no-brainer. Read it.
Lazlo Strange: Orphan. Reader. Dreamer. Ever since a book of fairy tales fell off a shelf and broke his nose, Lazlo has read and dreamed of lost cities and extraordinary heroes—especially of the land of Weep, a city once full of magic but now lost to the world. Lost, that is, until now. The plot and action of this book moves slowly—but in its beautiful, enchanting slowness, I fell in love with reading all over again. Laini Taylor is a master wordsmith and throughout her story she pulls on the threads of enchantment, weaving a tale of sorrow and beauty, love and hate, wonder and bewitchment. A story intricately written and intimately read. Undoubtedly one of the best books of 2017.
An enchanting retelling of Norse mythology that includes all of our favorite Norse stories. Each myth is written traditionally, without any heavy reworking or modernizing, but Neil’s signature dark, compelling, and original style shines through. Gaiman has constructed a lively retelling of mythology with realistic gods and digestible material for any myth or story lover. A rewarding book for the well-seasoned and novice mythology enthusiast alike!
Diana Wynne Jones has a magic like none other. I picked up Howl's Moving Castle when I was a kid, desperately trying to fill the void in between Harry Potter novels. I quickly devoured everything I could by her and never looked back. The books of Chrestomanci are still some of my favorite books to read.
"She always gave the impression that the stories, the ones she wrote and wrote so very well and wisely, had simply happened, and all she had to do was hold the pen."
A perfect read for dark December nights! A new book that explores the roots of the Germanic folkloric figure, the Krampus, detailing its dark and fascinating origins to its eventual popularity in America and most recently, Hollywood. In its exploration of the darker figures of Christmas, we not only meet the Krampus but a slew of creatures that haunt pagan folklore at Yule time. A very accessible read with full color pictures throughout and a book not to be missed if you’re a fan of the dark and the strange
As many know, The Hobbit started as stories a young J.R.R. Tolkien told his children. But Tolkien was full of many tales and every December he wrote letters to his children addressed from Father Christmas. In them, Father Christmas details his adventures at the North Pole: from mix ups with presents, to how the silly North Polar Bear both helps and hinders him, and even his dealings with elves and goblins! This collection offers not only a glimpse into the creative and fantastic mind of a beloved fantasy writer, but is a delightfully charming and creative blend of magic and Christmas in its own right. Readers of all ages will enjoy this collection of letters from a loving and imaginative father to his children, all delicately illustrated, handwritten and utterly, beautifully, Tolkien.
Prague, 1934. As the world descends into war around him, a young boy named Mosche finds wonder and magic in a traveling circus act. The Trick follows young Mosche as he leaves his world—and his Jewish identity—behind to join the circus as a stage magician. In alternating chapters we watch Mosche grow into adulthood in world ravaged by hate as modern day 10 year old Max seeks out the now elderly, cantankerous magician in attempt to restore his family. Two boys. Two stories. Two lives converging into one poignant and utterly absorbing story of love and hate, rejection and belonging, defeat and victory. Like a true magician, Bergmann casts a spell, weaving a tale that will make us all believe in the eternal magic of storytelling.
Kay Harper is a circus performer who’s recently moved to the Old City of Quebec with her new husband. Each night she walks home from the circus and stops at the window of an old puppet shop that is never open, falling a little more in love with the puppet in the window every time. One night Kay, fearful a dark figure is following her, tries the handle of the door and as she steps in she is immediately transformed into a puppet herself. From then on, Kay and her fellow puppets come alive only during the darkest hours of the night and in a narrative echoing Orpheus and Eurydice, her only escape is if her husband finds and recognizes her. A spooky novel told lushly and beautifully, with alternating chapters of Kay’s experience in the puppet show and her husband’s desperate search for her. The result is a beautiful, strange novel that explores the constrictions and freedoms of the human body, soul, and spirit.
A poignant and heartbreaking tale of magic, humanity, and loss. When a unicorn wakes up one day to the realization that she is the very last unicorn, she leaves the safety of the enchanted forest to find out what's happened to the rest of her kind. Teamed up with the inadequate but lovable Schmendrick the magician and the fiery Molly Grue, she embarks on a journey to discover what happened to all the unicorns and face their mysterious enemy, the Red Bull. Fantasy readers will enjoy this book for its magical characters and setting, but ultimately it's the novel's look into loss, mortality, and time that will change you forever.
Read it in its classic book form, read it in its graphic novel form. Just read it.
One of the most lush and lively retellings I’ve read in a long time. Alias Hook tells the story of Captain James Hookbridge, a man who sailed into Neverland one day destined to never leave—and never die. Trapped in Pan’s eternal game, Hook only wishes for escape. He seems hopelessly fated to forever stay in Neverland until one day he finds a woman aboard his ship, about whom Pan knows nothing. In a world where Pan’s will rules all, this woman just might be the key to Hook’s escape from Neverland.
Dark and dangerous faeries, magnificent but terrifying mermaids, and fresh characterization of Pan and Hook all make this an outstanding Peter Pan retelling. Jensen deftly weaves faerie with fairy tale, mortality with hope, children’s games and bitter reality, all the while moving elegantly between the present events of Neverland and Hook’s past. An interesting and thought-provoking novel from start to finish.
Enter the 15th century Ottoman Empire, where Lada and her brother Radu are wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia from a young age and cast into Ottoman rule. Together they learn to not only survive, but help Mehmed, the son of the Sultan, claim his title and conquer the lands. Lada, who is a re-imagined Vlad the Impaler, is a brutal, fierce, unfeeling—and compulsively readable character. I loved the dual perspectives of both Lada to Radu, which lets us fully experience the tensions of religion, politics, war, and love in 15th century eastern rule. This is a novel rich in setting and thoughtful in narrative, and ultimately one I loved every minute of.
Midnight is a boy trying to start a new life. Wink is the wild, unpredictable bright eyed girl who is his new neighbor. And Poppy is the beautiful bully who always gets her way. This is their story. Brief chapters in each of their perspectives make up this tumultuous, twisted story of deceit, love, and jealousy. Tucholke’s ghostlike writing borders on the gothic and its twists and turns leave the characters and readers alike guessing who is telling the truth. The book moves quickly and yet lingers in the best way possible, leaving you to question what—and who—is real. Ethereal, strangely timeless, and haunting, this book stays with you long after you turn its last page.
A deliciously dark retelling of Peter Pan filled with fantastic illustrations from the author. In Child Thief, Peter moves between the world of Faerie and our own, convincing teenage boys to join him a magical land where time stands still. But Neverland is no longer the paradise it used to be...
If you haven't heard of Krampus, the devilish Yule Lord who punishes children during Christmas, then let master storyteller and illustrator Brom be your guide. In this dark and imaginative novel, the lines between good and evil, Christmas cheer and Christmas greed, love and hate are all blurred. Hundreds of years ago Santa Claus captured Krampus, stole his magic, and left him to die imprisoned in a cave. But Krampus has endured. Now, with his power diminishing and his reputation long forgotten by the world, the only thing Krampus cares for is getting revenge on Santa. Their ancient feud is brought to light when Krampus finally breaks free. Brom pulls from the folktale's long Germanic history, connects it with Norse mythology, and fills it with macabre details and rich illustrations. As it was for Brom's Peter Pan retelling, Child Thief. the result is a fun, dark, and strangely heartwarming tale that's perfect for this time of year (and beyond).
A dark visit to Wonderland, opening with an adult Alice imprisoned in--and then escaping--a madhouse. She can't remember what happened to her in Wonderland but she's haunted by the few memories she has of it. As she goes through the Old City we see all our favorite characters grimly reimagined. Dark and engaging, I loved this so much that I read in it in a single day!
This is a fun and imaginative graphic novel that explores friendship, magic, and what it really means to be a hero. Nimona is a young girl who is fiercely independent, a bit impulsive, and plenty eager to create havoc around her. When she joins forces with the notorious villain, Lord Ballister Blackheart she thinks they can finally prove that the heroes at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't exactly who they say they are. But the lines between villainy and heroism aren't so clear and Nimona and Ballister must both work through their painful pasts before they can help make the present world a better place. Full of science, magical shapeshifting, heroes, villains and plenty of laugh out loud moments, this is a graphic novel readers of all ages can enjoy.
Sometimes you come across a book and as you glance at its cover and start reading the first page you get the feeling that this is a book that you could simply fall in love with. I got that feeling with Circus Mirandus almost immediately and I was not wrong-- this is a special and magical book that pulls you in the way only a magical circus could. Here is a story about a magical, wondrous circus, of flying girls, miracles, and impossible things. But here is also a story of young Micah and his beloved dying grandfather. Written poignantly and imaginatively, this is a touching and beautiful novel for readers of all ages.
Ever wondered who all the Prince Charmings were in your favorite fairy tales? This book hilariously follows them as they bumble their way about the kingdom trying to make a real name for themselves by rescuing princesses who, as it turns out, don't actually need a whole lot of saving! If you like books that make you laugh (and who doesn't?) then you'll love this!
I was so pleasantly surprised by this debut. The premise may not be anything new but this novel pulled me right in. Barker's writing style and subtle magic reminded me of one of my favorite writers, Diana Wynne Jones. The plot is well-paced, moving slowly when you want to enjoy the world and quickly when the action rises. Great for readers who enjoyed Night Circus, Howl's Moving Castle, The Magicians, or Outlander.
One of the best fantasy series! Cornelia Funke is an incredible storyteller and has written some of my favorite characters of all time.