It is a rare thing to find a series of books for Young Adult readers that ticks all your favourite boxes: mystery and magic underscored with macabre and gothic elements, strong female characters, quirky twists, and themes and ideas that are universally compelling and interesting for teen and adult readers alike.
Just as it exists in the world-famous Harry Potter series, it exists in The Network Series by Katie Cross. This first book in The Network Series delivers a well-paced, expertly constructed story that ticks all of those boxes and more.
Make no mistake, though: This is no mere imitation. ‘Miss Mabel’s School For Girls’ is original and unique, and the story is thoroughly engaging. The book ends with sufficient resolution to bring the story to a satisfying conclusion while dangling enough magical carrots to leave the reader wanting to just keep reading.
The writing is excellent, creating an environment and atmosphere that is vivid and almost tangible, and propelling the reader into a story full of mystery, suspense and foreboding.
Readers of all ages will find this book hard to put down, and should expect to be left wanting more. Thankfully, there is an entire nine book series, and another fantasy series featuring dragons by the same author, to look forward to.
A prequel to the Keepers of the Wellsprings series, this is a story that easily stands alone as a most excellent work of fantasy fiction. Sheldrake’s storytelling is as mesmerising as the songs of her minstrels, making this magical sword and sorcery fantasy for Young Adult and older readers a spellbinding tale that, once started, is hard to put down.
Magically and mystically gifted, Mya is a young woman like no other, Her story is one of adventure and friendship, of seeking and fulfilling her destiny, and one in which danger is always conspiring or lurking around one corner or another. She is a wonderful heroine – she is engaging and loveable, straightforward yet complex, and humble despite her abilities. Through the adventure and the challenges she faces, Mya does not only become more resilient and self-reliant, she learns to trust both her own instincts and the destiny to which she is called.
The cast of characters surrounding Mya is varied and interesting, each one portrayed in full colour and lively detail. The story is told with rich imagery and well-paced action that moves along at a very good pace.
Sheldrake is an author who should be much more widely read, as her books are highly original and hold enormous appeal for lovers of fantasy, adventure and coming of age stories alike.
‘The Grimoire Prophecies’ is a YA paranormal romance story featuring Sophie Seymour, a high school senior who makes a likeable and engaging main character.
While some of Sophie’s challenges are specific to her own situation, others are highly relatable for most teens. As Sophie begins to discover that there is a lot more to the world around her than meets the eye, she is confronted by choices and decisions that she must make, regardless of how ill-equipped she feels to do so.
In the midst of her trying to reconcile the past and the present, Sophie’s senior school year is made far more interesting than anticipated by the arrival of a mysterious pair of twins. Readers with siblings will easily relate to the tension between Joshua and Ethan, which adds another layer of intrigue and complexity to the story.
As the story develops, the author infuses the narrative with a tantalising blend of anticipation and curiosity that draws the reader in and hooks them in the story, causing them to invest in Sophie’s dilemmas and develop hopes for her future and wellbeing.
The writing is good and the story is well paced. The end of the book leaves the reader keen for the next instalment in the series, and for answers to the questions that remain unresolved thus far.
This is a book with lots of appeal for readers of YA paranormal romance.
In ‘The Bone Witch’, there are two narratives which seem at first to be separate, but eventually reveal themselves to be interwoven to create a vast, rich tapestry of storytelling that binds the listener in its magic.
This magical dark fantasy is a spellbinding story in which fate and magic balance one another as Tea discovers her destiny and learns to use her powers and make important choices wisely.
The narrators tell the story fluently and engagingly, with clear diction and good expression. Both are pleasant to listen to, and the two complement each other as effectively as their stories do.
’The Bone Witch’ is a brilliant fantasy coming of age story, whether enjoyed as a novel or an audiobook.
As Marco embarks on an errand to deliver an important package, his life takes a most unexpected turn.
What ensues is a riotous escapade full of diverse and interesting characters, situations full of danger and challenge, and enduring friendships that change not only Marco’s outlook on life but also his entire future.
The storytelling is lively and colourful, carrying the reader along at a good pace and immersing them in Marco’s experiences. The narrative is infused with good humor and witty banter between characters, making this a most entertaining young adult fantasy adventure.
Reecah’s Flight is Book 1 in the Legends of the Lurker fantasy series by Richard H Stephens.
There’s something strange about the woman living on top of the hill and the people of Fishmonger Bay leave her alone. At least until the day she pays a visit to the village witch.
There’s something strange about the woman living on top of the hill and the people of Fishmonger Bay leave her alone. At least until the day she pays a visit to the village witch. Banding together, the villagers take action. One magic user is bad enough; the emergence of a second—intolerable. Her life spinning out of control, Reecah Draakvriend tries desperately to unravel the dark secret hanging over her head. In a never-ending battle to survive, she must decide whether it is wiser to slay the dragon or become a victim of her people. If Reecah can’t find the key to unlock her family heritage, will she fall prey to the mystery so many others have died to protect?
Banding together, the villagers take action. One magic user is bad enough; the emergence of a second—intolerable.
Her life spinning out of control, Reecah Draakvriend tries desperately to unravel the dark secret hanging over her head. In a never-ending battle to survive, she must decide whether it is wiser to slay the dragon or become a victim of her people.
If Reecah can’t find the key to unlock her family heritage, will she fall prey to the mystery so many others have died to protect?
It is during times of significant trial that one experiences growth and development far beyond that achieved by luxury or effort.
Themes of endurance and resilience and the survival of the fittest are explored in depth in this sequel to ‘Gates of Golorath’. (link) ‘Angels of Perdition’ is a saga focused on Arielle and Angus, characters from the previous book who begin a new phase of their lives in this next instalment in the series. The cast of characters and the incredibly complex world established in the first book are continued in the second, but because they are already familiar to the reader, it feels as much like a reunion as it does a continuation. The banter and interactions between various characters are highly engaging and draws the reader deeper into the story as the action and drama build.
The story is really well told and expertly paced. The writing is infused with energy and rich imagery that really makes the scenes and characters come to life in the reader’s mind. The action scenes are well developed with excellent attention to detail.
This is a captivating and quite inspiring read that holds definite appeal to readers of epic fantasy, particularly those who want to discover sophisticated worlds and complex societies with a rich history and a future to fight for.
Teen peer pressure reaches terrifying new levels in this YA paranormal thriller, in which the protagonist Luna Ketz appears to be a most unlikely heroine: she’s not popular, she’s Muslim in a predominantly white community, and she hates Chance, the boy who is determined to get her attention.
The tension between Luna and Chance continues to escalate as the story progresses and Luna finds herself caught in a web of conspiracy, secrecy and deceit. In a highly original blend of YA paranormal, mystery and horror, the gripping storyline is evidence of author’s ability to blend reality and fantasy in an intriguing way that engages the reader and causes them to invest emotionally in Luna’s fate.
‘Dead By Morning’ is easy to read and hard to put down once started.
The fourth book in The Kingfountain Series, ‘The Hollow Crown’ is another wonderful foray into the kingdom of Ceredigion and the surrounding lands.
This book changes the focus of the story from Owen Kiskaddon to his daughter, Tryneowy, and the reader is once again drawn into the intrigue and adventure of life among the noble families, wizrs, the fountain-blessed folk, and the villains who conspire against them. It is an exciting and enchanting tale in which the reader becomes deeply immersed. The storytelling is mesmerising and the settings and scenery are richly and vividly drawn.
Tryneowy’s story is both compelling and interesting. As she grows up, she becomes a young woman of strength and determination, guided by her ethics and loyal to her loved ones and the oaths she makes. She is a character that young women can admire, speaking up for equality in an era where women were not able to do all that men could, and showing that people should be valued for their integrity and abilities regardless of gender.
Readers who have not read the previous books in this series will find this to be a complete story on its own, and thoroughly enjoyable as such.
There is, however, a profound sense of being part of something much bigger—an overarching, ‘big picture’ narrative — and evening a sense of belonging that the reader develops throughout this most excellent series. This is the magic and allure of Wheeler’s writing and the world he has created with Kingfountain and the Kiskaddons at its centre.
Echo Navarri thought she was exchanging an unusual life with her parents for a more settled life with her aunt in Port Royal. She also thought that paranormal creatures were fictional. She was wrong on both counts.
Echo is a teenager with whom the reader quickly develops empathy, developing the understanding that one can be flawed and ideal, weak and strong, and perfectly imperfect all at the same time. Her experiences of family, love, loss, friendship and self-esteem are relatable for readers, while her determination, confidence, loyalty and honesty about herself and others make her a character that readers can admire and respect. Her introversion, awkwardness and bookishness make a refreshing change from the ‘social butterfly’ or ‘fairy tale princess’ style heroines who seem so popular.
Supported by her friends and her aunt, Echo navigates her way through a story that is engaging and interesting, full of challenges and change, punctuated by failures and victories along the way.
The story is well crafted and well-written, with some great surprises and unpredictable twists. The characters, settings, and plot combine to deliver a book that holds strong appeal to Young Adult and paranormal romance readers.
13 Ways to Midnight’ is an excellent opening to a four book series which this reader is keen to enjoy.