Coven Chat: The Lunar Chronicles and Winter

As you k13206900now from reading Nicola’s post a couple weeks ago, we are huge fans of Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles and are thrilled to share our discussion of Winter, the final book in the series besides Stars Above: A Lunar Chronicles Collection (February, 2016).

As a reminder, our discussion posts often reveal spoilers, so if you haven’t read Winter yet, better do that before reading this post. If you have read the book, let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Alyssa: The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite series. I generally enjoy fairy tale retellings, and I can’t praise enough Meyer’s highly original, inventive, and compelling science fiction re-imaginings of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, and Snow White. I especially love how each subsequent book expands and evolves into a more elaborate ensemble narrative. Every book introduces new characters and their complicated romances (Scarlet and Wolf, Cress and Thorne, Winter and Jacin), which are loosely based on the four fairy tales, and still focuses primarily on this series’ major conflict involving Cinder, Levana, and Kai.

Nicola: Like you, I love the blend of fairy tales and science fiction, along with fairy myth. The Lunar glamours have their roots in the glamours of fairies, but where fairies are inhuman beings Lunars are human, albeit with somewhat divergent evolution from Earth humans. This makes their use of glamour all the more chilling, because instead of being a borderline sociopathic race of immortals who treat humans as playthings, Lunars are good and evil, selfish and generous, kind and cruel, just like their Earth counterparts. What is a disturbing power in a villainous race is even more so in a human society, and I really enjoyed the way that Winter explored the societal ramifications of being able to change one’s appearance at will.

Alyssa: I love that about this series, too. It’s wonderful that Lunars are evolved humans, rather than superhumans, with powers that are very desirable and also incredibly frightening. I’d love to be able to change my appearance at will and manipulate other people’s thoughts and feelings in my favor! But, of course, such a gift would quickly become a curse, and who’s to say I wouldn’t become evil with such powers, like Levana? Especially if not using my powers makes me mad, like what happens to Winter. And if Cinder didn’t have Levana as an antagonist, who’s to say she wouldn’t be more like her mother or aunt?

It would be very difficult to act humanely and set limits based on a moral compass with that kind of power. I think most of us Earthens would resort to some kind of villainy, even if unintentional, if we had Lunar abilities. That’s what makes Levana’s story in Fairest and her ties with Cinder so interesting. Levana is evil and despicable, of course, but I think some of her evilness is understandable too, especially considering how her sister–Cinder’s mother–treated her. I really appreciate that Meyer’s wrote Levana’s story before Winter. Levana is not merely a one-dimensional evil character and I gained a better understanding of her hatred of Cinder and complex connection to Winter.

Allison: One of the things I like best about Winter is that we finally get to see the corrupting influence of the Lunar gift on Cinder. She’s consistently reminded of the fact that using her gift often means deceiving and controlling others, as a person with inherent power to begin with, because of her royal status. I thought it was one of the most compelling aspects of the novel. Though Cinder insists over and over that she isn’t like Levana (to herself and others), I felt that by the end, she realized that being queen and having the Lunar gift might ruin her.

Alyssa: Yes, that was such an important realization and conclusion to the series! Cinder could have easily used her power to take revenge against those who had wronged and demeaned her. She was certainly tempted, since, like Levana before she became powerful, Cinder’s been treated horribly by human and Lunar societies. It’s really important that she has Levana as an extreme antagonist, whose powers ruin her, to keep Cinder from being destroyed by her powers too.

What surprised me the most about this series is that its main storyline–Cinder’s battle with Levana over the Lunar throne (and Kai)–turned out to be less central to me than the other characters and their romances. Before I’d read the sequels, I assumed Cinder would be my favorite character and that her star-crossed romance with Kai would be the focal point of this series and my favorite love story. Yet, even though Cinder is still the main character and her romance with Kai stays significant throughout the series, I found myself caring more about the other POV characters and their difficult relationships. Don’t get me wrong. Cinder and Kai have a swoon-worthy romance and I badly wanted them to be together the whole time, but I LOVE even more Scarlet and Wolf. Cress and Thorne too. Less so, Winter and Jacin. I love Iko, too, and her deep friendship with Cinder. I don’t love specific characters as much as I love how these couples complement one another.  

Allison: Scarlet and Wolf are probably my favorite couple, because they’re so visceral. In Winter, Scarlet accepts her role as Wolf’s mate and it brings out a kind of unconditional love that I found super interesting. They weren’t a cut and dry couple the way I feel like Cinder and Kai were, though honestly, I kind of like that Cinder and Kai are a given. They don’t have much drama (other than, you know, the interstellar conflict between their worlds). What I mean is, they like each other from the beginning and that deepens without complication, whereas Scarlet and Wolf are both such difficult people. I love the fact that they don’t turn away from one another when the other gets “ugly.”

Nicola: I think Cress and Thorne might be my favourite couple in this series, though when they were first introduced I thought they’d be my least, as it seemed very much like a naïve girl’s crush on a boy who would only cause her harm. However, in Winter they become a perfect example of one of my favourite things about romantic relationships in fiction: they challenge each other to confront their shortcomings and become better people. Thorne uses humour and joviality to cover up for self-hatred, considering himself rather heartless, but Cress shows him that he has a kind, gentle side. Likewise, Cress has spent her entire life abused and belittled and feels worthless, but Thorne helps her out of her shell, improving her confidence. Even if they broke up the day after the last page, they would still ultimately be happier individuals because of their relationship than if they had never met, and that is a romance I love.

Alyssa: Cress and Thorne might be my favorite couple, too, for the reasons Nicola mentioned. Scarlet and Wolf is about tied, considering their Beauty and the Beast-like romance with a twist, and like Allison says, they love each other when things get “ugly.” Certainly their mated for life bond is very romantic, but I also love that Cress and Thorne have a more complex, life-altering, more conditional relationship and, as Nicola mentioned, they probably benefited the most as individuals from their relationship. Overall, I loved seeing how all the characters and their relationships evolved from book to book. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to know Winter and Jacin over a series of books, so I wasn’t as emotionally invested in their relationship.

Nicola: Yeah, I’m not as wild about Winter/Jacin as the other three. I think it’s because they only get one book as part of an ensemble cast; while I think the two make a good couple and clearly care for each other, I didn’t feel as invested in their relationship because I just didn’t have as much chance to.

Allison: I agree. There’s so much about Winter to like and I feel glad to know what happened to all the characters, but for me, Winter was probably the most intriguing protagonist of all and we don’t get to know her very well.

Alyssa: Yes, that’s why I have mixed feelings about Winter, even though I really liked it. In most ways it’s a satisfying ending to the series, but I also think it tries to accomplish too much in one book. Maybe it should have been two books? One that focuses on Winter as the main character, and a final volume that focuses primarily on Cinder’s fight for the Lunar throne and wraps up all of the secondary storylines. I wish Winter and Jacin were more fully developed in the series.

Nicola: Yeah, that’s kind of my gut feeling. I mean, I hugely enjoyed the book, and I didn’t feel like it was too long, but I did feel like Winter and Jacin got the short end of the stick as far as character and arc development goes, which is a shame as I feel like there’s so much more depth to Winter than we see.

Allison: I also have mixed feelings about Winter. As an individual book and the last book in the series, I thought it was great. It’s the fact that each female protagonist was so fully developed in the earlier books that made me feel like Winter didn’t give Winter (or Winter and Jacin) a full story. I would like to have known a lot more about these characters.

Alyssa: Hopefully we’ll see more of Winter and Jacin, as well as the other couples, in Stars Above. I’m exciting there will be a wedding! Of course, I’d love to see Cinder and Kai married, but I really hope Scarlet and Wolf get married too. How about you?

Nicola: My first thought was, ‘But they’re all so young!’ I’d be interested to see a wedding taking place several years down the line, giving us a glimpse into what everyone’s been up to in the years following Winter.

Alyssa: True. Sometimes I forget how young they really are! Yes, I hope the weddings take place a few, if not several, years later. 🙂

Allison: I would love it if the wedding in Stars Above was a flash forward, rather than an epilogue that takes place too soon after Winter ends. It would be great to know where they all end up. The description definitely makes it seem like Cinder and Kai are getting married, but that’s such a complicated situation, what with her needing to abdicate her throne and all (or him, who knows?). I think a wedding between Wolf and Scarlet seems better suited to a short story– but I’ll be happy with anything! I know all three of us are excited to read Stars Above and anything else Marissa Meyer writes next!

Thanks for joining us for today’s Coven Chat and let us know what you thought of the series in the comments! Tomorrow Nicola, Alyssa and I are wrapping up our 2015 favorites.

Allison, Alyssa and Nicola are about to take a hiatus from CBC to focus on our TBR piles (that are out of control), but we look forward to bringing you new recs in 2016!

 

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YA Recommendations Roundup: Summer/Fall 2015

I’m going to start recommending my favorite 2016 books next week, so I thought I’d post a roundup of what I’ve recommended at Coven Book Club since June (when I posted my Winter/Spring 2015 roundup post.)

21569527If you haven’t read the first book in Mary E. Pearson’s trilogy, The Kiss of Deception, do so ASAP and you’ll likely be devouring The Heart of Betrayal just a few days later. This series is addictive, and this second book in the trilogy did not suffer from a sophomore slump and is equally good, if not better, than the first book. I want the third book so badly. GIMME NOW.

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In Lair of Dreams, the Diviners must catch a serial killer who is causing a deadly sleeping sickness. After Evie’s frightening showdown with the serial killer that took place in Libba Bray’s The Diviners (2012), she’s become a celebrity Diviner. The world now knows her special talent: she can “read” objects and discern people’s pasts (and their secrets). But despite fame and fortune, her troubles aren’t over. (Read Allison’s recommendation of The Diviners audiobook here.)

23346358The Accident Season, by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, is literary horror at its best: magical realism and eloquent, imaginative prose amplify the horror narratives and play to our most primal fears. Seventeen-year-old Cara’s family is cursed. Every October (The Accident Season), Cara, her mother, her sister Alice, and her step-brother Sam find that no matter how many precautions they take, “[b]ones break, skin tears, bruises bloom,” and sometimes family members (her father and uncle) die. (Read my full recommendation here and Allison’s recommendation here.)

19364719Slasher Girls & Monster Boys, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke: I loved this anthology of scary stories by many of my favorite YA authors (Nova Ren Suma, Leigh Bardugo, Marie Lu, and more). This collection pays homage to classic horror films and literature, urban legends, fairy tales, and myths; yet these stories are original and disturbing in their own right. (Read my full recommendation here.)


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What I like most about Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives–pitched as “Game of Thrones meets The Hunger Games meets Little Women” —is its strong heroine, Jes, who fights for freedom and justice in a very classist, racist, and sexist society that resembles Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt. As the daughters of a Patron father and a Commoner mother who are forbidden from marrying, Jes and her three sisters struggle to fit in with the Imperial Patrons. Jes, especially, doesn’t want to obey the rules and she secretly trains for an elite athletic competition, The Fives. When her family is torn asunder, winning fame and fortune through The Fives becomes of the utmost importance….Even if she is falling in love with a competitor?

23569428Eleanor Herman’s Legacy of Kings (Blood of Gods and Royals #1) reimagines the early years of the reign of Alexander the Great, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, through multiple POV characters. Tangled up in Alexander’s web are Katerina, who’s determined to kill Alexander’s mother; Katerina’s lover, Jacob; and Alexander’s betrothed Persian princess, Zofia.  

17564519Rae Carson’s Walk on Earth a Stranger, the first book in the Gold Seer trilogy, offers a fresh perspective on the Gold Rush narrative. Fifteen-year-old Leah is a brave, resourceful heroine who, masquerading as a boy, runs away to California after a terrible tragedy compromises her freedom. (Read my full recommendation here.)

23719270Like Walk on Earth a Stranger, Erin Bowman’s Vengeance Road  features a tough, gender-bending heroine; this time, in Gold Rush Arizona (1877). Like Leah, eighteen-year-old Kate (a Mexican-American) disguises herself as a boy (Nate) and heads further west, after a tragedy leaves her parentless. (Read my full recommendation here.)

11516221Erin Bow’s The Scorpion Rules is set in a near-post-apocalyptic future. After environmental disasters and devastating wars almost wiped out humanity, an Artificial Intelligence, called Talis, achieves world domination and world peace by forcing all of its territories’ rulers to exchange hostages. A child from each territory (usually the ruler’s son or daughter) must be held hostage at one of Talis’s schools (called Preceptures), governed by A.I. agents, until he or she turns eighteen, to be harmed or even killed if his or her country incites conflict. (Read my full recommendation here.)

24397041Like The Scorpion Rules, Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter (Hunter #1) depicts a treacherous, post-disaster future. The barriers between our world and the Otherworld have opened (called the Diseray), mythical monsters roam the earth, destroying cities, and humanity’s survival depends on the Hunters, a group of magically-gifted, monster-fighting teens. (Read my full recommendation here.)

20734002I can see why Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers is being called “Night Circus meets Romeo and Juliet,” but it is not another Night Circus. This star-crossed romance between the daughter and son of two rival families of traveling performers (white-scaled “mermaids” vs. black-feathered tree-walkers) is inventive, magical, poetic, and multicultural. (Read my full recommendation here.)

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I effortlessly fell in love with Nicola Yoon’s Everything, Everything. Told through diary entries, instant messages, emails, vignettes, charts, illustrations, and more, Yoon’s debut is an imaginative, heartwarming love story about a girl and a boy whose relationship is doomed from the beginning, but that doesn’t stop them from being romantic, funny, hopeful, and adventurous. (Read my full recommendation here.)

22811807Mackenzi Lee’s This Monstrous Thing is an alternative historical fantasy set in 1818, Geneva, that brilliantly reimagines Frankenstein with a steampunk twist. Alasdair Finch is a Shadow Boy, an illegal mechanic who supplies humans with clockwork parts. Two years ago, he secretly brought his brother back from the dead, but Oliver is more monster than man. (Read my recommendation here.)

24376529Mindy McGinnis’s A Madness So Discreet is not as gory as American Horror Story: Asylum, but it does paint a horrific picture of what it’s like for an innocent young woman to be trapped in Boston’s Wayburne Lunatic Asylum in the 19th century. Grace has escaped one hell–an abusive father–for another–the asylum’s dark cellars, where she has no hope of surviving (at least with her brain intact). But she’s saved by a doctor who appreciates her genius and relocates her to an ethical asylum in Ohio. Together they try to catch a killer who preys on young women.

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The first book in a planned trilogy, Illuminae is co-authored by Amie Kaufman (The Starbound Trilogy) and Jay Kristoff (the Lotus War series). Its storyline goes something like this. It’s 2575 A.D. and two interstellar megacorporations are at war. When BeiTech discovers its competitor is running an illegal mining operation, called the Kerenza colony, on a small, isolated planet, it attacks with brutal force. (Read my recommendation here.)

23846013The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2) brings Adelina Amouteru’s villainy to a whole new level. For those of you who don’t know, this series is set in a fantasy world in which some of the malfettos (“marked” survivors of a deadly blood fever) have special powers and are called The Young Elites. As a malfetto, Adelina is vulnerable and victimized until she discovers she’s an Elite, gifted with powers of illusion that feed off of her fear and fury. Adelina is a perfect villain. Motivated by revenge and destruction, not compassion, love and heroism, she’d rather be everyone’s adversary than risk being anyone’s victim. (Read my full recommendation here.)

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Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf, the first book in a duology, reimagines what could have happened if the United States had stayed isolationist and the Axis Powers had won World War II. It’s 1956, and the Third Reich and Imperial Japan have conquered much of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Each spring, to celebrate their joint victory, they host the Axis Tour: a motorcycle race, in which ten Hitler Youth members and ten citizens of Greater East Asia ride from Berlin to Tokyo. The protagonist, Yael, wants desperately to win. The award? A dance with Hitler at the Victor’s Ball. A chance to kill him. (Read my full recommendation here.)

Alyssa recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction (and occasionally middle grade and adult). She thanks Edelweiss, NetGalley, the Boulder Book Store, and publishers for providing her with ARCs and DRCs for review purposes. Please follow her on Tumblr and Twitter.


October Favorite: Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Don’t let Illuminae‘s size (608 pages) scare you away. It’s fast-paced, action-packed, and a quick read (which I practically finished in one sitting). What makes it so compelling? Its unique plot and format. I mean, really unique. I haven’t read anything else even remotely like it.

The first book in a planned trilogy, Illuminae is co-authored by Amie Kaufman (The Starbound Trilogy) and Jay Kristoff (the Lotus War series). Its storyline goes something like this. It’s 2575 A.D. and two interstellar megacorporations are at war. When BeiTech discovers its competitor is running an illegal mining operation, called the Kerenza colony, on a small, isolated planet, it attacks with brutal force.

Among the few thousand survivors are Kady Grant and Ezra Mason, two teens who’ve recently broken up and who are evacuated on different ships (Alexander and Hypatia). But their failed relationship is the least of their worries. A deadly virus is turning survivors into murderers, and Alexander is manned by a potentially threatening Artificial Intelligence that may be doing more harm than good in its mission to protect the fleet. Of course, the truth about what really is going on is kept secret. That is, until Kady discovers how to hack into confidential documents and communicate with Ezra, thus renewing their romance.

Their pursuit of the truth brings us to Illuminae‘s unique format. Not a typical novel, it consists of interview transcripts, emails, instant messages, memos, diagrams, security footage, military files, medical reports, and more. If I haven’t persuaded you yet to pre-order this book, take a look at its trailerIlluminae is a stellar sci-fi horror story and perfect for Halloween.

Alyssa Raymond is a YA blogger for Coven Book Club and its sister site Spellbinding Books. She thanks Edelweiss, NetGalley, the publisher, and the Boulder Book Store for providing her with a digital review copy of this book for review purposes, and her opinions are her own. Please follow Spellbinding Books onTwitter and Tumblr.


Literary Horror: The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Yesterday Allison, Nicola and I recommended read-alikes for A Court of Thorns and Roses fans as part of our new “What Next? Wednesday” series. Since I love recommending similar books, this post compares recent and upcoming favorites.

Bone GapThe walls around us23346358If, like me, you loved the eerie beauty of Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap and Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, I recommend you read Moira Fowley-Doyle’s The Accident Season when it comes out in mid-August. I consider all three books literary horror because their magical realism and eloquent, imaginative prose amplify the horror narratives and play to our most primal fears.

In case you need a reminder, Bone Gap is about a teenage boy, Finn, who was the only witness to the disappearance of his brother’s girlfriend, Roza. While the people of Bone Gap stop looking for her because they think she fled, Finn believes she was kidnapped and he must find her, but he can’t recall what her abductor looks like. (Roza’s narrative reveals that, in fact, a scary man–who’s both magical and realistic–has taken her.)

Also told in alternate voices, The Walls Around Us is a creepy supernatural novel about Juvie inmate Amber and Violet, a competitive dancer haunted by her best friend Orianna’s imprisonment and death in that same detention center. Amber is a ghost who keeps reliving a prison break, while Violet is tormented by memories of the murders that took place three years earlier, leading to Orianna’s arrest.

Like Bone Gap‘s small midwestern town “full of…gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever,”The Accident Season’s small Irish river town, with an enchanting run-down haunted house (an ideal venue for a Halloween party), is a perfect setting for a horror story. Seventeen-year-old Cara’s family is cursed. Every October (the accident season), Cara, her mother, her sister Alice, and her step-brother Sam find that no matter how many precautions they take, “[b]ones break, skin tears, bruises bloom,” and sometimes family members (her father and uncle!) die.

Bone Gap and The Accident Season do not have similar plots, but both books’ characters grapple with confusing romance, dark memories and secrets, violence, and uncertainty about what is real versus imagined. And, like The Walls Around UsThe Accident Season is a ghost story. Haunted by a missing classmate only she remembers (who keeps showing up in her family photos), Cara realizes the accident season is much more than a family curse.

These novels aren’t classic-horror scary, but their lyrical prose and original, creepy narratives will haunt you for a long time to come.

Alyssa Raymond is a regular contributor at Coven Book Club and its YA sister site Spellbinding Books. She thanks Edelweiss, the publisher, and the Boulder Book Store for providing her with digital review copies of these titles for review purposes, and her opinions are her own. Please follow Spellbinding Books onTwitter and Tumblr.


YA Recommendations Roundup: Winter/Spring 2015

2015 has been an amazing year for YA! Since we’re halfway through the year, I thought it would be a great time to post a roundup of what I’ve recommended so far at Coven Book Club (plus a few extras):

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18081228-1Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen: Seventeen-year-old Mare is a “Red” living in Norta: a kingdom divided by red blood and silver blood. The Silvers (and the royal family in particular), with their supernatural powers and wealth, rule over the Reds. (Recommended with The Sin Eater’s Daughter here.)

Melinda Salisbury’s The Sin Eater’s Daughter: Seventeen-year-old Twylla’s life seems ideal and reads like a myth or fairy tale. As a goddess embodied, she has superhuman powers, lives in a castle and is engaged to a handsome prince. But she is at the mercy of a tyrannical queen who has made her the royal executioner.

Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses: Inspired by Beauty and the Beast mixed with faery lore, this series features another strong heroine: nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre. After she kills a wolf in the woods, a beastly creature demands retribution by taking her to a faraway magical land inhabited by the Fae. (Read my discussion with Allison and Nicola here.)

Jodi Meadow’s The Orphan Queen: In this engrossing YA fantasy, a tough princess, Wil, wants desperately to take back her conquered kingdom. Nearly ten years ago, the Indigo army attacked her homeland Aecor and killed every noble adult, putting their children in an orphanage (from which Wil and her orphan “family,” called Ospreys, escaped). The Ospreys are stealthy thieves who have been plotting for years to infiltrate the Indigo Kingdom. To spy on the Indigo Court, Wil and her best friend, Melanie, impersonate refugee nobles who have fled a fallen kingdom for the safety of Skyvale Palace. Not only must Wil hide her true identity from Crown Prince Tobiah (whom she fears might recognize her from ten years ago), but she must keep her magical abilities secret. Magic is banned from the Indigo Kingdom to prevent the toxic by-product of magic (called wraith) from spreading. Wil must also avoid another confrontation with Black Knife, a vigilante who is really good at catching magic-users (besides herself). Full of risky adventure, magic, and romance, The Orphan Queen is a great choice for fans of Graceling and Throne of Glass.

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Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn: This is the first book in a trilogy that reimagines A Thousand and One Nights, with a “Beauty and the Beast” twist. Every evening Khalid, the ruler of Khorasan, takes a new bride whom he executes at dawn. After Shahrzad’s best friend becomes one of his victims, she volunteers to marry Khalid. She intends to stay alive long enough to kill him (by cleverly telling him stories), but then…she falls for him. (Read my recommendations here and here.)

Melissa Grey’s The Girl at Midnight: I immediately loved this book’s protagonist, seventeen-year-old Echo, a runaway pickpocket whose home is a hidden room in the New York Public Library. Like me, she’s a hoarder of books who’s guilty of Tsundoku–letting books pile up without reading them; she also steals treasures and uses magic to travel through the in-between from place to place. Echo has been adopted by the Avicen–an ancient race of feathered people with magical abilities who live beneath the city–and she is the only human who can see them. Her relationship with the Avicen puts her in danger of being caught by the dragon-like Drakharin. For centuries, the Avicen and the Drakharin have been enemies. According to legend, the only way to truly end their conflict is to find the very powerful Firebird. The Girl at Midnight switches between the perspectives of Echo and Dragon Prince Caius as they both seek the Firebird.

Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes:This book explores familiar themes of tyranny, slavery, rebellion, magic, family loyalty, and forbidden love in a complex and unique way. Set in a brutal Rome-like world, the novel alternates between the perspectives of Elias, an elite soldier, and his mother’s slave, Laia. Elias unwillingly attends Blackcliff, where the Commander (his mother) trains him to be a Mask–an enforcer of the Martial empire’s laws. As he plans to desert the military, he’s chosen to compete for the Emperor’s throne, an opportunity that hasn’t come along in centuries. Laia is one of the conquered Scholar people. After her brother was arrested for helping the Scholar Resistance, she agreed to spy for the rebels as the Commander’s slave as long as they help save her brother. As Elias and Laia struggle to hide their true feelings toward the empire in order to survive, their lives intersect, further testing their beliefs and loyalties. I can’t wait to find out what happens next to Elias and Laia! (Allison loves this book too! Check out her recommendation here.)

Virginia Boecker’s The Witch Hunter: This book brilliantly reimagines an alternate 16th century England (Anglia) where magic is real and forbidden. (Read my recommendation here.)

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Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap: Two months ago, Finn was the only witness to the disappearance of Roza, his brother’s girlfriend. While the people of Bone Gap stop looking for her because they think she fled, Finn believes she was kidnapped and he must find her, but he can’t recall what her abductor looks like. (Recommended with The Walls Around Us and Bones & All here.)

Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us: Told through alternate voices, this creepy supernatural tale combines prison drama and dance rivalry — “Orange is the New Black meets Black Swan” as some reviewers have called it. There’s Amber, imprisoned in a girls’ juvenile detention center, and Violet, a dancer haunted by her best friend Orianna’s imprisonment and death in that detention center.

Camille DeAngelis’s Bones & All: Sixteen-year-old Maren wants to belong and feel normal, be loved and love herself; but a dark secret keeps her ashamed and alienated.

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MarcyKate Connolly’s Monstrous: Fairy tale fantasy combines with a Frankenstein motif, as twelve-year-old Kymera is brought back to life by her father, but without her original human body and memories of her previous life. (Recommended with Nightbird and Echo here.)

Alice Hoffman’s Nightbird: Twig is not just a lonely and awkward 12-year-old who has difficulty making friends and feeling normal. A family secret—more specifically, a witch’s ancient curse—keeps her and her mother in self-imposed isolation.

Pam Munoz Ryan’s Echo: In these interconnected stories, a magical harmonica unites two boys and a girl growing up before and during World War II.

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22489107Sarah McGuire’s Valiant: In this retelling of “The Brave Little Tailor,” a clever and courageous tailor’s daughter, masquerading as a boy, defends a kingdom from an immortal duke and his army of giants. (Recommended with The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly here.) 

Stephanie Oakes’s The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly: This debut about real-world violence against women in a religious commune is very cleverly based on the fairy tale “The Handless Maiden.” Minnow Bly lost her hands after she rebelled against the Kevinians, and now she is in a juvenile detention center as the main suspect in the Prophet’s murder investigation. Fortunately, this novel is hopeful as well as harrowing.

Marissa Meyer’s Fairest is the latest book (following Cress) in The Lunar Chronicles: a science-fiction retelling of Cinderella (Cinder, 2011), Little Red Riding Hood (Scarlet, 2012), Rapunzel (Cress, 2012), and Snow White (Winter, Nov 2015). The series’ overarching plot involves the main characters trying to stop the Lunar queen (who can control minds with her powerful glamour) from threatening the humans, androids, cyborgs, and Lunar refugees that live on Earth. If Prince Kai won’t marry Levana, she’ll attack Earth! Fairest (2015) tells Levana’s story of how she became the villain we love to hate. While the other books depict her as rather one-dimensionally evil, Fairest reveals the underlying reasons for her villainy. It does not justify her evil behavior but portrays her as a surprisingly complex and sympathetic character.

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21853636Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places: “Freak” Theodore Finch and “popular” Violet Markey don’t kill themselves by jumping off their high school’s bell tower. They don’t suffer through their darkest days alone. Rather, their meeting on the ledge of the bell tower saves their lives. (Read my recommendation here.)

Becky Albertalli’s Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda: Only one person knows that sixteen-year-old Simon is gay: the anonymous “Blue.” But when Simon forgets to log out of his email account at school, Martin reads his secret email correspondence with Blue and threatens to out him. Unless Simon can convince his new friend Abby to fall for Martin. As Simon’s relationships with his friends, family, and Blue become compromised and more complicated, he has to make tough decisions about what to disclose and what to keep secret. (Recommended with Because You’ll Never Meet Me here.)

Leah Thomas’s Because You’ll Never Meet Me: Ollie and Moritz are not automatic friends and their personalities are very different. While Ollie is willing from the start to befriend and open up to Moritz (his “Dear Fellow Hermit”), Moritz is rude and reluctant to talk about his life and become friends. But Ollie doesn’t give up on Moritz, and eventually their letter writing evolves into an intense and unusual friendship.

Courtney Summers’s All the Rage: No one believes Romy Grey was raped—certainly not by the sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner. Romy was once popular, but after she speaks up about being sexually assaulted her former friends won’t stop bullying her. Branded a liar and an outcast, she’s forced to suffer in silence and shame. (Read my recommendation here.)

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22465597Trisha Leaver’s The Secrets We Keep:  After a heated argument, twin sisters Ella and Maddy are in a car crash and Maddy is killed. When Ella wakes up in the hospital, everyone thinks she’s Maddy. Consumed with survivor’s guilt and convinced that her parents love Maddy more, Ella decides to become her twin. (Recommended with In a World Just Right here; read my author interview here.)

Jen Brooks’s In a World Just Right: Ever since a plane crash left Jonathan’s parents and sister dead and him with disfiguring scars, he has coped with the real world by escaping to other worlds where he can be better versions of himself. (Read my author interview here.)

Lauren Oliver’s Vanishing Girls: If you have read Lauren Oliver’s previous books (Delirium, Panic, etc), then you know she’s an excellent writer who realistically portrays what it’s like to be a teen. With its surprising plot twists and turns, this book is an emotionally turbulent account of how sisters Dara and Nick went from being inseparable to estranged after a terrible car accident pushed them apart.

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22501055-1Lori Goldstein’s Becoming Jinn: Sixteen-year-old Azra tries desperately to cut through a silver bangle, but nothing she conjures–a chisel, a hammer, a wrench–can free her from becoming a Jinn like her ancestors. (Recommended with Written in the Stars and Half Wild here.)

Aisha Saeed’s Written in the StarsSeventeen-year-old Naila has no clue that she will soon travel to Pakistan on a vacation that will become an arranged marriage.

Sally Green’s Half Wild: In modern-day Europe, witches secretly coexist with humans and are divided into two warring factions: White (“good”) versus Black (“bad”) witches. Nathan, as a half code, is at the heart of this conflict.

Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky: Although it takes place in 1849 during the California Gold Rush, this book is not a typical American frontier myth featuring stereotypical cowboys and cowgirls. The “cowgirl” narrator, fifteen-year-old Sammy, is Chinese, and what she struggles to overcome on the American frontier is racism. When her father’s death and another horrible incident force Sammy to flee Missouri, she and a runaway slave, disguised as male, join a group of guys heading for California on the Oregon Trail. Click here to read what Stacey Lee had to say about creating Under a Painted Sky.

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1740889718713071-1Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger: This is the ideal book–and the perfect game–for book-lovers of all ages. You will have so much fun searching for hidden books, solving puzzles, creating secret codes, and dodging danger with Emily and James.

Kathleen Baldwin’s A School for Unusual Girls: This fun historical fantasy book (the first in a series) reimagines an alternate Regency England soon after Napoleon’s exile, where misbehaving girls at a “reform school” play an important role in saving England from its many enemies.

Cheri Priest’s I am Princess X: When her best friend Libby died, so did the heroine they created: Princess X. At least that’s what May thought. Then why, years later, is the Princess showing up everywhere? Could Libby still be alive? The clues are in the webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com.

Jennifer Latham’s Scarlett Undercover: Sixteen-year-old Scarlett is a smart and sarcastic Muslim American PI who will remind you a lot of Veronica Mars. What starts off as a case to solve a suicide enmeshes Scarlett in a supernatural world where magic, jinn and an ancient curse are tied to her own heritage.

Alyssa recommends new and upcoming releases in young adult fiction at Coven Book Club and its sister site Spellbinding Books.