Graceling The Graphic Novel
– Kristin Cashore and Gareth Hinds –
Published 16 November 2021
It has been quite a number of years since I’ve read Graceling, so it was so delightful to enjoy the story again, this time in graphic novel format.
For those of you who are new to the Graceling Realm, Katsa is Graced. She is the most feared assassin and King Randa uses her to threaten and maintain his power. Katsa knows that what is asked of her is often wrong, so she and her friends have created a council that seek to fight for justice. On one of her missions, Katsa encounters another Graced fighter. When Po turns up at Rwanda’s court, Katsa has no choice but to let him in on the secret of the council. And when troubling news from the Kingdom Monsea of reaches them, Po and Katsa team up to discover the truth behind the rumours.
The Gilded Cage
– Lynette Noni –
The Prison Healer #2
Published 12 October 2021
Lynette Noni seems to take pleasure in her readers’ pain. That’s the only explanation for the cruel ending and the build up in this book that had me putting down the book and needing time away to just breathe and recover and psych myself up again for more torment. But it’s a good pain. Sometimes.
The Gilded Cage is the second book in The Prison Healer series. It picks up soon after the first book concluded. Kiva and Jaren have escaped Zalindov. Kiva and Tipp have moved into the River Palace with Jaren and his family. It’s a whole other world from the despair of the prison that was her home for so many years. While Jaren is ready to lay the world at Kiva’s feet – including fulfilling her dream of training at Silver Thorn healing academy, now Kiva is out of prison, she has the opportunity to reconnect with her brother and sister and rejoin the rebellion. Kiva is torn between her growing feelings for Jaren and his family and the knowledge that he will make a good king and her loyalty to the rebellion cause, seeking justice for her father and brother and fighting alongside her siblings.
Beasts of Prey
– Ayana Gray –
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Published 28 September 2021
A lush fantasy, Beasts of Prey is a beautiful as that cover (prettyyyy….). Beasts of Prey is set in an African-inspired fantasy world (and I loved that the author shared the significance of the mythology, culture and languages used in the world in her author’s note).
Koffi is an indentured servant. She and her mother are just months away from paying off their family debt and finally free themselves from the Night Zoo, where they work as beast keepers. But just when freedom is almost within their grasp, a dangerous power Koffi doesn’t truly understand, let alone know how to control, changes everything. Now she must journey into the Greater Jungle to face the most dangerous beast in the land. Ekon is just one task away from finally becoming a Son of the Six, an elite warrior. But when Ekon allows Koffi to escape from the Night Zoo and is shamed and forbidden from completing his entry into the warrior class, Ekon and Koffi unwillingly team up to hunt down the Shetani – the most feared beast in the land.
Defy the Night
– Brigid Kemmerer –
Published 14 September 2021
Okay, so Brigid Kemmerer is one of my all time favourite authors so it is completely unsurprising that I loved Defy The Night. Maybe not as much as I adore The Curse So Dark and Lonely, but that’s a pretty high standard of adoration to live up to and Defy The Night does not disappoint in any way – it’s just extremely stressful.
Tessa risks everything every night, sneaking into the Royal Sector to steal Moonflowers to make the only medicine that will keep the deadly illness at bay. In the Wilds there is never enough medicine or coins to go around but she and Wes, a fellow outlaw, do what they can. In the palace, Prince Corrick does what he can to keep his brother, the king, safe and barter for enough moonflowers. But being the King’s Justice is a bloody and endless job and it seems even his best efforts may not be enough to prevent a rebellion. Continue reading
Books to Read if you Loved Harry Potter
It has to be the question I get most as a teacher librarian. What should I read after Harry Potter? After students discover their love for Harry Potter and have re read it a few times, worked their way through all the accompanying companion books, information books about how the movies were made, History of Magic, short stories, screen plays and novelty books (the ones with working wands have to be the top favourites), they finally reach a point of wanting something similar but different.
What to read if you liked Harry Potter is also something I deal with for older students. The Harry Potter books might have been the only books they have read. Or maybe the enjoyed the movies, don’t want to read the books but would be open to reading something similar. Having a few titles on hand to suggest is always handing. But searching the web, there must be a million suggestions for Harry Potter readalikes out there. Or, maybe you are a parent with a child who wants to read Harry Potter but you’d like to steer them towards something similar.
There are lots of lists with suggestions out there, so I am not going to recommend the usual suspects, like the Percy Jackson series. While these are perfect for Harry Potter lovers, you’ve probably already seen them in reading suggestion lists, so I am going to chose some of my favourite and more obscure recommendations, as well as books by Australian authors.
Middle Grade Readers
Rise of the Dragons – Angie Sage
I adored The Magyk series by Angie Sage and it remains a perennial favourite with our library’s young readers, and so I jumped at the chance to read and review the first book in her newest fantasy series, Rise of the Dragons. With the promise of game cards and a matching online game, Rise of the Dragons promised to be an exciting release. The new world Sage has created and her daring plot of intrigue, dragon battles and family bonds is both thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable. It is sure to be a hit with our middle-grade readers. After all, everything is better with dragons.
The other books in the series have different authors.
I would also highly recommend Angie Sage’s Magyk series for Harry Potter fans.
The Endless Skies
– Shannon Price –
Published 17 August 2021
If you are looking for a unique fantasy novel, then check out The Endless Skies by Shannon Price. The Endless Skies invites readers into a world where shapeshifting warriors who live on a city that floats in the sky and a community of shapeshifting magical beings protect themselves from the humans who seek to destroy all they know.
You might assume Endless Skies is all about Rowan from the book’s synopsis, but Endless Skies is actually written from three characters’ perspectives. Rowan is a narrator and she is joined by her sister and her best friend. Rowan is a warrior-elect. She has completed years of rigorous training and is about to be sworn in by the king to become an official warrior. Shirene is Rowan’s older sister. She is a sentinel and has just been named as the King’s Hand – a prestigious position of respect and authority. Rowan’s friend Callen is a warrior. He has long hidden his true feelings about Rowan from her, but now he fears it might be too late. On the eve of Rowan’s warrior oath-taking ceremony, the warriors learn of a deadly disease that is targeting the children of Heliana. Teams of warriors are called and sent down to the human world to look for a cure before the prince falls ill, which could be the literal downfall of Heliana. Left behind by her friend and sister, Rowan learns there is far more at stake than what the citizens are being told about the disease and the long-held feud between the Leonodai and humans.
There is a very unique world in The Endless Skies and yet with so much action and so much going on in the book, I feel like I only saw snippets. There are four magical shapeshifting communities, the Leonodai being our main focus in this book. There was also a fifth, but they were wiped out by humans. Rowan is a Leonodai and can change from female human form to a winged lioness. Cool magic enables her weapons and armour to change with her. Her community values loyalty over all and Rowan, Shirene and Callen have committed themselves to serving their city and their king. Their city, Heliana floats above the ocean, protected from the human’s reach and they in turn protect the other shapeshifting communities. While the Leonodai fight with blades, arrows and axes, the humans fight with guns, bullets and late, planes and battleships, which gives a unique mix of modern (or at least the 20th century, the human world has a very WW1 timeline feeling to it) and ancient warfare and a great mix between reality and magic, that we don’t often see in fantasy novels.
– Elayne Audrey Becker –
Published 31 August 2021
I don’t read fantasy novels all that often, but when I do I usually adore them. Forestborn was no different. It is an incredible quest novel. Our three main characters must travel together through perilous terrain, facing the things that haunt them and the pain from their past to find the rarest of magical powers to save the people they love. There is royalty, magic, very cool unique magical creatures, haters-to-lovers romance and a fantastic twist that I just didn’t see coming.
The magic in this book is unique, which I liked, as were the many magical creatures that pop up throughout the story. Rora is a shifter. As is her brother. Over time, Rora has shifted into her three different animal forms, mouse, hawk and lynx. Her brother has yet to shift into his third form. After their parents were killed along with all the other shifters in their village, the two siblings survived on their own in the magical forest, before finally finding refuge in Teylan. Now, Rora works for the king, but she and her brother have never really been accepted by the humans that surround them. When a magical plague that is killing humans gets worse and Rora’s best friend Prince Findley falls ill, Rora, her brother and the elder Prince Weslyn journey into the magical forest to find stardust in the hope it will cure the disease.
What begins as a simple but dangerous quest morphs into a much bigger plot, with a nice twist. War looms and there are biggest politics and more at stake than we readers and the characters realise at the start of the book.
A Dragonbird In The Fern – Laura Rueckert – Flux – Published 3 August 2021
When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice. While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.
Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.
Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.
I really enjoyed this fantasy novel that features political scheming, vengeful ghosts and emphasises the importance of how we communicate. It’s a unique fantasy novel and I liked how refreshing it was. No epic fantasy battles, but plenty of tantalising romance, politics, betrayal, and a touch of magic.
Princess Jiara’s life is utterly changed when her older sister is murdered. Jiara knows they have just months to find her sister’s killer before her sister, left to wander the earth, becomes increasingly violent. In the midst of this her sister’s intended arrives. Raffar, King of Farnskag, makes a proposition – he will marry Jiara instead and seal their countries’ alliance. The Queen and Jiara agree and Jiara is thrust into a new world. She travels with Raffar to Farnskag, but she must rely on a translator as neither she nor her new husband speak the other’s language.
As Jiara travels to Farnskag we learn a little more about her, her relationship with her sister and what she had planned for her future. When her friend and one of her translators has to leave the party, we learn Jiara is a caring person. We also learn how much she struggles with reading and learning. While they never use the word, Jiara has the signs of being dyslexic. It weighs heavily on her mind, especially when she arrives in Farnskag and begins learning their language. Unable to communicate with her new husband, Jiara relies on her translator for everything.
Daughter of Sparta – Claire M. Andrews – Daughter of Sparta #1 – Jimmy Patterson Books – Published 8 June 2021
Seventeen-year-old Daphne has spent her entire life honing her body and mind into that of a warrior, hoping to be accepted by the unyielding people of ancient Sparta. But an unexpected encounter with the goddess Artemis—who holds Daphne’s brother’s fate in her hands—upends the life she’s worked so hard to build. Nine mysterious items have been stolen from Mount Olympus and if Daphne cannot find them, the gods’ waning powers will fade away, the mortal world will descend into chaos, and her brother’s life will be forfeit.
Guided by Artemis’s twin-the handsome and entirely-too-self-assured god Apollo-Daphne’s journey will take her from the labyrinth of the Minotaur to the riddle-spinning Sphinx of Thebes, team her up with mythological legends such as Theseus and Hippolyta of the Amazons, and pit her against the gods themselves.
For every reader who loved Percy Jackson or Greek Mythology, Daughter of Sparta is the book for you. I get so many requests in my school library for books that feature mythology, especially Greek mythology. Daughter of Sparta is a thrilling adventure. It is fresh yet fans of the mythological legends will recognise some familiar characters and quests.
There is so much in this story. The author could have used just one legend to inspire the story but we have multiple, with multiple gods, creatures and challenges that Daphne must face. It makes this book endlessly engaging and there is never a dull moment. I did find it a little confusing to keep track of all the characters, but having the familiar Greek gods and characters was helpful.
This Poison Heart – Kalynn Bayron – This Poison Heart #1 – Bloomsbury YA – Published 29 June 2021
Briseis has a gift: she can grow plants from tiny seeds to rich blooms with a single touch.
When Briseis’s aunt dies and wills her a dilapidated estate in rural New York, Bri and her parents decide to leave Brooklyn behind for the summer. Hopefully there, surrounded by plants and flowers, Bri will finally learn to control her gift. But their new home is sinister in ways they could never have imagined–it comes with a specific set of instructions, an old-school apothecary, and a walled garden filled with the deadliest botanicals in the world that can only be entered by those who share Bri’s unique family lineage.
When strangers begin to arrive on their doorstep, asking for tinctures and elixirs, Bri learns she has a surprising talent for creating them. One of the visitors is Marie, a mysterious young woman who Bri befriends, only to find that Marie is keeping dark secrets about the history of the estate and its surrounding community. There is more to Bri’s sudden inheritance than she could have imagined, and she is determined to uncover it . . . until a nefarious group comes after her in search of a rare and dangerous immortality elixir. Up against a centuries-old curse and the deadliest plant on earth, Bri must harness her gift to protect herself and her family.
This Poison Heart starts with a magical realism vibe but by halfway becomes a thoroughly fun paranormal title with myths, eternal creatures with super speed and strength, and centuries-old feuds. I love books about plants and gardens. I love the vibe they give to books and This Poison Heart brings with it that same plant and garden goodness I adore, with the added benefit that Briseis can control the plants around her – or sort of. She has long hidden her gift and isn’t sure how to master it when she fears it and what it can do.
When Briseis and her mothers receive news that Briseis has been left an estate as an inheritance by her birth family, they think it might be the thing to save their struggling finances. Moving to the country also gives Briseis the first chance to really stretch her powers of controlling plants. Away from the city, she discovers that her birth family have a strange affinity with plants, especially poisonous ones. As Briseis revives the gardens that surround the estate, she begins to learn there is far more to her powers and far more to the secrets that surround her family’s history.
There is a lot to like about This Poison Heart. It kind of felt like two books joined together. The first half is focused on getting to know Briseis, her two mothers, their florist business and their struggling finances. The inheritance is a welcome reprieve for them, as is the move to the country. The banter between Briseis and her mothers is lots of fun, as is the banter the two older women share. They are full on mother-embarrassing, which Briseis pretends to hate but really loves. The move also allows Briseis to experiment with her powers, bringing the garden back to life, learning about the apothecary business her aunt and birth mother were running. She also meets Carter, who works at the bookshop in town and she finally makes a friend who knows the extent of her magical powers and doesn’t shun her for them.