YA Fantasy

Waterwight

Waterwight
Publisher:
Published: February 29, 2016
Author's Twitter: @LeadvilleLaurel
In a post-cataclysmic world threatened by stinking ooze, a brave girl searches for her missing parents with the help of talking animals and evolving powers. When a mountain spirit challenges her to save the planet, she and a flying frog must overcome a magical, malicious castle of sand and a shapeshifter who wants her dead.

4 Stars

Waterwight by Laurel McHargue is a dystopian fantasy adventure about an orphan named Celeste who must go on a quest to stop a mysterious ooze that is infecting what’s left of her world. While this might be considered a post-apocalyptic story, the “Event” that caused the world to be in the state that we find it is left shrouded in mystery, as are a lot of other elements in the book. As the first book in a series, it is forgivable to leave some puzzles to be solved down the road, but some readers might find the lack of direct information limiting in some ways. The book reads like a hallucination, and readers who are interested in the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of things might find some frustration. The imaginative experience we are presented with compensates for the lack of answers with likable characters and inventive conflicts.
The writing itself is fluid and accessible, and it’s clear that McHargue is a poet as well as a teacher. Many lines of the story caught my attention, and the author has a way of drawing beauty out of even the most grotesque imagery. McHargue has a gift for language (more than one are featured in this work) and writing engaging dialogue, and I found myself empathizing with Celeste easily. The secondary characters, too, are enjoyable – Sharon and Orville are standouts – although not as fleshed out as I would have liked. Without giving too much away, developments later in the story suddenly add to and elaborate on many facets of who Celeste and the secondary characters are. While to some it could be likened to a superhero or arthurian origin-story, to others it could seem like a prologue without enough detail to fully set up an entire universe or a broader quest-line. With that said, there is enough intriguing stuff going on in this work to keep the reader invested until the end. The finale is satisfactory for the first entry in a series, but again leaves behind more questions than answers.
If you’re a reader who loves a little mystery in your fantasy and are looking for a book with adventure, magic, likable characters and an interesting world, Waterwight is a solid beginning to a series that promises more to come from Celeste and her friends. I give Waterwight 4 stars, but it should be noted that Awesome Indies recommends this book at 4 stars for young adult readers.

 

The Mighty

The Mighty
Published: February 3, 2016
He's not crazy. Honest, he's not. He's just Wyatt. Wyatt the Mighty. Fifteen-year-old Wyatt has been sent to a treatment center for "disturbed youth." No one understands him. He wants nothing more than to escape from it all. And he does. Through a magic he doesn't understand, he finds himself in Hagion, a realm of fantastical creatures and immense wonder. He quickly finds himself in the company of a runaway warrior and two Children--a strange race of underground creatures that seem forever joyful. They claim Wyatt is a Druid, a powerful figure of myth and legend, sent to restore peace to all of the Realms. He doesn't bother correcting them. Finally, he can be the hero he's always dreamed of. But claiming to be a hero and actually being a hero are two different things. And it's a lesson Wyatt may have to pay dearly for.

Reviewed 

5 Stars

The Mighty, Book 1 Of The Druid’s Guise is one of those rare fantasy tales that takes you to another plane while keeping you firmly grounded in our reality. Most fantastic tales, even the best ones, often take characters from our reality and plunge them into a magical world, separating them from their normal lives entirely, only to return them at the end having completed their quest. The Mighty takes you on the journey, but plants your feet firmly in the present, real world. While the character grows and accomplishes the tasks set in front of him, it is clear from the outset that this is an introduction to a sprawling universe that has much more to give us. This is a book that will scratch the adventuring itch as well as remind you that the world we come from is itself a broken and unjust place. Wyatt is a hero in both of these planes.

The story begins with Wyatt as a new patient/student at a school for children with special psychological needs. To Wyatt, he alternates existence in this world and the land of Hagion, where he is believed to be a powerful wizard and combat tactician, and not just a boy without a home who likely lies somewhere on the autism spectrum.

Wyatt’s journey can be taken as a coming-of-age tale for those who see themselves in captivity. It is a bildungsroman that takes place in the mind, and the depth and reality of Hagion is indeed seen almost entirely through the eyes of our protagonist, who we are shown from the outset might not be entirely in control of his cognition. This allows the reader to give as much credence to the fantastical elements as they like. Is Wyatt really a transplanar avatar, imposing his will across vast distances of time and space? Or is he a young and unwell child, abandoned and coping by escaping from reality? The book will pull you in both directions, and Wyatt’s story hits all of the emotional notes.

The supporting cast of characters compliments both worlds. In the children’s home of Shephard’s Crook, Wyatt is antagonized by bullies, managed by a staff of volunteers and social workers and befriends a girl with a troubled past named Athena. In the fantasy realm, he is beset upon by all manner of fantastic beasts, ranging from half-flora/half-fauna fern wolves to the undead Fallen and the ominous Regents. He makes friends in the form of Mareck and Gareck, two golem-like beings who call themselves Children, in service to the Mother. He also meets a character that is very much like Athena in the Draygan (a half-dragonlike race) Rozen. At the beginning we are told that the world of Hagion is a vast and fantastic place, and a map Wyatt wields (albeit poorly) reveals locations like The Barren Plains, The Endless Sea, Krémnos, The Wastes, The Shadow Forest, Ouranos, Mesos, and the Peaks of Servitude. Fans of the work of J.R.R. Tolkien will find lots to like about the main quest, punctuated with gritty action sequences that will have you imagining them taking place on the big screen. The pacing is good for an adventure tale, and the dialogue is sharp and funny. The book is well-edited overall and great care has been taken to shape the world of Hagion.

The Mighty, Druid’s Guise Book I sets up a series with a lot of room to grow. The characters we are introduced to are quirky, but have a lot of depth. The places we are brought to are brilliantly realized and the author’s attention to detail is reminiscent of the great classics of fantasy. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, and give this first adventure of Wyatt, The Mighty 5 stars.

 

Memories of Ash

Memories of Ash
Categories: ,
Published: May 30, 2016
Author's Twitter: @IntisarKhanani
In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges. Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery. If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thrall

Thrall
Published: June 1, 2012
Author's Twitter: @jennq
When 16-year old Braedyn learns she’s a descendent of Lilith–the mother of all demons—she is swept into an ancient war with no easy answers.   Welcome to Braedyn Murphy’s life. She’s a typical—if shy—sophomore navigating the slings and arrows of high school life with her two best friends, Royal and Cassie. Then a new boy, Lucas, moves into the house next door, and Braedyn finds herself falling in love for the first time. But Braedyn’s normal life comes crashing down around her ears when she learns she’s a descendent of Lilith, the mother of all demons – and that she might play a critical role in an ancient war between the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Lilith. Turns out the right answers aren’t always clear or easy. And as for “good” and “evil” – it all depends on how you choose to act. Inspired by the ancient Mesopotamian myths of Lilith and her offspring, Thrall explores first love, strong friendships, and taking on adult responsibilities against the backdrop of powerful supernatural forces and life-and-death stakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Last of the Firedrakes

The Last of the Firedrakes
Published: August 15, 2015
Author's Twitter: @FarahOomerbhoy
16-year-old Aurora Darlington is an orphan. Mistreated by her adopted family and bullied at school, she dreams of running away and being free. But when she is kidnapped and dragged through a portal into a magical world, suddenly her old life doesn’t seem so bad. Avalonia is a dangerous land ruled by powerful mages and a cruel, selfish queen who will do anything to control all seven kingdoms–including killing anyone who stands in her way. Thrust headlong into this new, magical world, Aurora’s arrival sets plans in motion that threaten to destroy all she holds dear. With the help of a young fae, a magical pegasus, and a handsome mage, Aurora journeys across Avalonia to learn the truth about her past and unleash the power within herself. Kingdoms collide as a complicated web of political intrigue and ancient magic lead Aurora to unravel a shocking secret that will change her life forever.    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paladin

Paladin
Categories: ,
Author:
Published: May 14, 2015
Author's Twitter: @sallyroseslater
Brash, cocky, and unbeatable with a sword (well, almost), Sam of Haywood is the most promising Paladin trainee in the kingdom of Thule… and knows it. The only problem is that Sam is really Lady Samantha, daughter of a duke, and if anyone finds her out, she’ll be marrying a Paladin, not becoming one. But Sam has never held much interest in playing damsel-in-distress, and so she rescues herself from a lifetime of boredom and matrimonial drudgery. Disguised as a boy, Sam leaves home behind to fight demons — the most dangerous monsters in Thule — alongside the kingdom’s elite warriors. Pity that Tristan Lyons, the Paladin assigned to train her, is none other than the hero of her childhood. He hasn’t recognized her — yet — but if he does, he’ll send her packing. Sam is not the only trainee hiding secrets: Braeden is a half-demon with a dark past that might be unforgivable. Whether he can be trusted is anyone’s guess, including his. As demons wreak havoc across the land, rebellion stirs in the West, led by a rival warrior faction. A war is coming, and Sam must pick a side. Will saving the kingdom cost her life — or just her heart?

Reviewed by Katt Pemble

4 Stars

Who doesn’t love a plucky young heroine who bucks the trend in terms of propriety and generations of tradition?

Disney is doing it more and more these days, to great success, and Sally Slater has also done so.

Sam (Lady Samantha of Haywood) is a young woman who certainly knows her own mind. She’s stubborn, cheeky and a bit too rambunctious for her own good sometimes. But hey, a girl’s gotta stand up for herself.

I liked Sam, quite a lot more than I expected to. You know, you go into a Young Adult Fantasy with the expectation that you might not quite ‘get’ the protagonist because you’re not a young adult anymore… too many stories have had protagonists that come across as too young and silly. But not Sam, no, she was a great character. She had her silly moments (as everyone does) but she was also strong and snarky, while at the same time – and I don’t know how Sally did this – vulnerable and sweet in the same breath.

I am so glad that this book didn’t go where I was expecting it to in regard to the love interest. I was totally prepared to roll my eyes and sigh, but Sally didn’t do that. Instead she chose the path less travelled. She made Sam’s choices realistic, hard and fraught with danger. I loved that.

I also liked how Sam and her band of merry men and half-demons didn’t get everything they wanted to get or do everything they wanted to do. This meant that they had to work for their goals, when faced with adversity they did the unexpected and sometimes they didn’t win. I loved that some of the personal choices the characters made were negative and had real impacts on those around them. It was like watching the story unfold for real people.

The plot was spot on. The pacing perfection. The writing almost flawless. Humour and silliness even occurred in measured and amusing doses throughout the story too. So, why not 5 stars then?

I couldn’t help feeling that there was something missing: other strong female characters. We have one other female character that plays a nice role and I like her (I have an idea how she’ll come in to play in the rest of the series which I hope comes to fruition) but it felt as if the women were becoming extinct. And that was a let down.

A couple of things I noticed:

79% – I would have though(t) the ten years I spent in his company…
88% – …and it didn’t (take) long to talk himself…

**Note: I was provided an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

 

 

The Dragons’ Chosen

The Dragons’ Chosen
Categories: ,
Published: January 1, 2016
Author's Twitter: @Gwen_fntsy_writ
The dragons came from beyond the Crystal Mountains, demanding a virgin sacrifice… and Princess Genevieve learns she’s it when she’s handed a golden token – the mark of the chosen. Genevieve accepts her fate. She must, in order to save her kingdom. But the journey to her final destiny is complicated by the arrival of Chris, a 1970s Berkeley co-ed. To Chris, the whole scenario reeks of deception. Where she comes from, corsets are for burning and virgins are hard to find. She’s sure the dragons are out for more than innocent blood, but the only way to find out what they really want is to accompany Genevieve on her journey. Not what she had planned for her sophomore year of college. Genevieve is duty-bound–unless Chris is right. Then her sacrifice would mean nothing. Other than woe to those who duped her…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Western Desert

Western Desert
In post-apocalyptic 2057, genetically enhanced teens Lily Carmichael and Will Callahan must journey across a sun-ravaged U.S. to the Western desert on a dangerous rescue mission.   WESTERN DESERT, Book Two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, takes off where WANING MOON ends. Genetically enhanced sixteen-year-old Lily Carmichael, and seventeen-year-old Will Callahan embark on a journey across a sun-ravaged and decimated US in the year 2057, bound for the Western Desert on a dangerous rescue mission. The survivors they meet along the way put Lily’s healing abilities to the test and challenge Will’s resolve to find his missing father—no matter the cost. But even with the burden of life and death on their shoulders, and the Industry hot on their trail, the greatest challenge they face is trusting their hearts to each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wind Catcher : A Chosen Novel

Wind Catcher : A Chosen Novel
Published: March 21, 2015
Author's Twitter: @jeffaltabef
Juliet Wildfire Stone hears voices and sees visions, but she can’t make out what they mean. Her eccentric grandfather tells her stories about the Great Wind Spirit and Coyote, but he might as well be speaking another language. None of it makes any sense. When she stumbles upon a series of murders she can’t help but worry her grandfather might be involved. To discover the truth, Juliet must choose between her new life at an elite private school and her Native American heritage. Once she uncovers an ancient secret society formed over two hundred years ago to keep her safe, she starts to wonder whether there’s some truth to those old stories her grandfather has been telling her. All she wants is to be an average sixteen-year-old girl, but she has never been average—could never be average. Betrayed by those she loves, she must decide whether to run or risk everything by fulfilling her destiny as the Chosen.