Friday, July 20, 2018

Quiet Heroines

   Among the ranks of kick-ass heroines armed with martial arts, swords, and revolvers are the women and girls who are descendants of Jane Austen's female protagonists and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Like Nancy Drew, they use smarts, and, like Alice in Wonderland, they use curiosity to negotiate their stories.
   Here are some of my favorite bookish heroines:

Ariane in Moonwise by Greer Ilene Gilman 
Set in the contemporary British Isles, this lyrical tale is about Ariane, a gawky girl who must navigate a faery-haunted woods nearby to rescue her best friend. Language is the primary weapon here, and it is used beautifully.

Kate in The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
In this Elizabethan fantasy, Kate, a handmaiden to the the exiled Princess Elizabeth, must use her wits to solve the mystery of a child's disappearance and rescue an arrogant boy she's reluctantly grown fond of from the faeries.

Eddi in War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
In contemporary Minneapolis, Eddi, a young musician, can see what she shouldn't. Like Kate, she must outwit the queen of an ancient race to save those she cares about.

Jenny Waynest in Dragonbane by Barbara Hambly
This woman and mother is a half-taught mage and a female version of those wizards in fantasy novels. She is the center of the story, not her be-spectacled dragonslaying husband. Jenny finds another way to defeat a dragon.

Jane in The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee
In the future, sheltered Jane falls in love with a beautiful boy who happens to be an automaton. She must wage a futile battle against the establishment with a little help from her friends.

Wendy in Winterlong by Elizabeth Hand
In yet another future, Wendy, struggling with mental illness, makes her way across a broken chemical-damaged landscape, seeking her possessed twin brother. Her only weapon is her intellect and the poison within her.

Blue in The Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater
Young Blue is a thoughtful, introverted girl raised by witchy women. Her friends are a group of unique boys. It is Blue who holds them together so none of them face some truly nasty characters alone.

While the quiet heroine might sometimes use magic or other special abilities, she rarely takes up arms. She uses her wits. Despite having a touch of the introvert, she establishes loyal friendships due to her curiosity and compassion for others. And, although it sometimes seems as if she'd rather curl up with a good book and a cup of tea, she will forge onward, against dragons, faery queens, and corrupt governments, fearless.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

11 Fantasy Books For Young Adults

Here are some excellent fantasy books that could be considered crossover YA. All of them our favorites of mine:)

The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee
In a decadent future, a privileged girl falls in love with a beautiful boy, who happens to be a robot. A poignant tale about what makes a soul.

The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
In Elizabethan England, a brave young woman must rescue a bitter young man from his suicidal pact with the faeries, depicted here as a strange, beautiful, and primitive race

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
With its multi-dimensional Londons and trickster hero, Kell, this imaginative series has charismatic protagonists and intriguing villains. Lila is a friend to Kell and a thief to be reckoned with. Add to the mix a decadent prince who is Kell's friend and an inventive magical system.

Archon by Sabrina Benulis
A Gothic fantasy set in a college for witches in a rain-soaked future. Angels, demons, djinn, and rebel priests become problems for troubled student Angela Mathers, who must maneuver through a terrifying landscape to save her soul. For anyone who wondered what a Slytherin college might be like.

Rusalka by C.J. Cherryh
In old Russia, a young rogue named Pyetr is friends with Sasha, a young wizard. On the run, the two stay with an old wizard, and encounter a magical, perilous world. Most perilous is a strange girl who claims to be the wizard's daughter, who was murdered some time ago...A fabulous series based on Russian folk tales.

Godstalk by P.C. Hodgell
An anti-heroine who is a trickster and a killer when she needs to be. Set in a haunted, Gothic, maze-like city, amidst a college of thieves, this is a dark fantasy with complex characters and friendships and a villain named Bane, who is both seductive and horrifying, and perhaps related to Jame. For anyone who liked Sarah Maas's Throne of Glass series.

The Hound and the Falcon by Judith Tarr
The Elf Alfred has been raised as monk and a young man, but must journey into the Medieval world of knights and holy wars. With an excellent blend of history and fantasy involving King Richard, the Fair Folk, and Constantinople, it's epic fantasy with a fascinating protagonist who has to make agonizing choices.

Time of the Dark by Barbara Hambly
A scholarly young woman and a biker-gang young man from the wrong side of town are thrown into a Medieval, Game of Thrones world where survival is key. Their only guide is a tricky old wizard (one of the best wizards written). Gil and Rudy must negotiate feudal battles, a race of wizards, and terrifying, carnivorous creatures called The Dark.

Moonwise by Greer Ilene Gilman
Ariane and Sylvie are best friends. When Ariane arrives to visit her friend in the woods somewhere in contemporary Great Britain, she learns that Sylvie has been lured away into the otherworld by trickster folk. Ariane follows to retrieve her friend. With lush, almost Shakespearean prose, this is a tale to get lost in.

Maledicte by Lane Robins
Miranda is a thief who has traded her soul to a dark divinity so that she might rescue her lover. But not all is as it seems, including Miranda herself, who takes to disguising herself as a male aristocrat to negotiate the decadent court that might have corrupted the man she loves. And to exact her murderous revenge.

The Bordertown series by Terri Windling and other authors
An anthology of stories about a future where Faerie has returned and the border between Faerie and mortals has become an urban refuge for runaways seeking magic. With its punk elves, artists, musicians, and desperate kids, and a cast of eccentric regulars, this is a brilliant series.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

11 YA Fantasy Books You Should Read (If You've Never Read YA Fantasy)

If you think YA fantasy is all about supernatural love triangles and dystopian futures, you'd be doing yourself a disservice. There's some fine fantasy in the YA section. Here are 11 of my favorites:

The Raven Boys (Blue Lily, Lily Blue, The Dream Thieves, The Raven King) series by Maggie Stiefvater
     Five young people are on a quest in the rural south for a legendary Welsh king. The adults are interesting and add layers to the teen characters. The villains are fantastic and wholly original. In fact, everything about this story is pretty much weird and original, the protagonists journeys both fun and poignant.

The Hallowmere series by Tiffany Trent
     Set during the 1800s in America after the Civil War, this fantasy is about a group of young women who have been targeted by the malevolent faery folk. The faery prince, the villain, is seductive and terrifying, not the typical romantic antagonist. Each book features a different heroine and her struggle against these creatures. Unfortunately, this series was cut short by its publisher, but there are still 6 books: In the Serpent's Coils, By Venom's Sweet Sting, Between Golden Jaws, Maiden of the Wolf, Queen of the Masquerade, and Oracle of the Morrigan.

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson
     Truly creepy and set in the contemporary south after a hurricane--which turns out to be a horrifying entity served by demons and other monsters that creep about in the ruined city. The heroine tries to save a dead friend's soul while discovering this underworld with another friend and a charming boy with a sinister secret.

The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman
     A race of good witches, martial and intelligent polar bears, animal familiars, and a tough young heroine and a hero who sacrifices for her make this an original fantasy for all ages.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
     A romance between an angel and a demon, but not what you think. The angels are a martial race who have tried to conquer what they feel as the inferior people--the Chimerae. Karou is a young woman living in Prague, raised by benevolent, if monstrous, Chimerae. When she meets Akiva, the angel, an ancient connection is revealed between them.

Tales of Beauty and Madness (Nameless, Wayfarer, Kin) by Lili St. Crow
     There are darker shades of Once Upon a time in this fantasy series set in a contemporary world that has seen a magical apocalypse. The series is about a friendship between three girls who are Cinderella, Snow White, and Red Riding Hood. Yes, there are boys, but they don't matter as much as the girls' fierce support of one another.

The Winter Prince by Elizabeth E. Wein
     A different and disturbing take on King Arthur, centering around Medraut, King Artos's eldest bastard son. His half-brother, Lleu, is their father's favorite. Artos's sister--Medraut's mother--is a truly unsettling villain. Themes of abuse and twisted family dynamics add new dimension to this myth, made all the darker because it's told from the anti-hero Medraut's point-of-view.

White Cat by Holly Black
     Cassiel is a curse worker,a  young man in this contemporary fantasy who lives, gypsy-like, in an alternative world of almost gangster-like magic. Curse work has some truly horrifying consequences and Cassiel might have to betray his family to save a girl he loves.

The Dark Angel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce
     Set in another world, on the moon, this strange and beautiful fantasy is about a girl named Aeriel who is stolen away, with her beautiful best friend, by one of the feared dark angels--heartless and lovely creatures who steal human girls to make their wives. He takes Aeriel as his servant because she isn't beautiful. His wives are all phantoms--he's a vampire. but Aeriel learns he's also captive to an evil witch.

The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause
     Zoe is losing her mother to cancer. She's targeted by a feral and strange young man named Simon--whose enemy, a creature that pretends to be an innocent little boy, stalks him. It's an exquisite tale of defeating monsters and an acceptance of what it means to live and let go of those you love.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
     This has shades of steampunk, set in a sort of Victorian world with shades of a Vermeer painting, with a dark anti-hero not expected in YA. Kaz is a teenage crime lord who must assemble a crew of young criminals to pull off a heist that might be impossible. Each character has a stake in this heist and failure means something different to each of them. The best scenes are when the young criminals are together, at odds, or saving one another.