Bree Matthews and her friend Alice are accepted into the Early College program at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Bree’s mother recently died in a car accident, and she doesn’t always make the best choices. Assigned a peer mentor, Nick, she realizes he can also see magical creatures like hellhounds, and asks to join his secret society at the college as a page. She doesn’t realize he’s connected to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Meanwhile, Bree’s new counselor, who knew her mother, introduces her to her Black Southern magical roots, where she learns that her female ancestors still have stories to tell. While Bree’s classes are barely mentioned and Bree doesn’t share what’s going on with Alice or her father, this is an immersive and suspenseful fantasy novel with numerous plots twists that neither Bree nor the reader will see coming. The well-developed and diverse characters, especially mysterious and menacing Sel, have me looking forward to a sequel expected next year.
Reading this fantasy novel about an orphanage for magical youth is as comforting as a warm hug. Scrupulously honest Linus Baker is a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. After work, Linus retreats to his small house, listening to records and talking to Calliope, his grumpy cat, while dreaming of a sunny day by the sea. After being summoned by Extremely Upper Management, Linus is sent to inspect an island orphanage for especially dangerous magical children. After a long train ride (with Calliope the cat, of course), he meets the children, their charming caretaker Arthur, and island local Zoe. After getting acquainted with the children, then encountering prejudice in a nearby village, Linus finally finds his voice. The six children are unique, and I can’t pick a favorite. They include eager Chauncey, who wants to be a bellhop, Talia the fierce gardening gnome, and a scary six-year-old boy nicknamed Lucy. Linus evens gets to dance with Arthur, once, before returning home to file his final report. Readalikes include Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and the Tom Hanks movie Joe Versus the Volcano.
Eagerly awaited by the legion of fans of Chicago wizard Harry Dresden, this 16th book in the series is definitely worth the wait. While there is another cliffhanger ending, there is also a welcome surprise: Book 17, Battle Ground, is to be published on September 29. Karrin Murphy, no longer with the Chicago Police Department is Harry’s closest friend, recovering from serious injuries. There are some wonderful scenes featuring magical illusions, and many characters from earlier books return as there are peace talks in Chicago. Not much is peaceful for Harry, as the wizards might kick him off the White Council, faerie Queen Mab wants Harry to do a couple of favors for vampire Lara, and Harry’s half-brother is in prison after an assassination attempt. In addition, Harry has other family members and friends to worry about, but there are some very funny scenes to balance the danger. If you’re new to this exciting Chicago set fantasy series, start with Storm Front, and you’ll have plenty of books to binge read. Peace Talks is scheduled for publication on July 14.
Lucy Jordan works in an ice cream shop and creates costumes for her high school’s musicals. Her friend Dawn, who loves to sing, hopes they can make a living on Broadway after graduation. But Dawn’s aunts won’t even let her attend Lucy’s party on their shared sixteenth birthday, so that dream seems unlikely. After Lucy, Dawn, and their friend Jeremy celebrate early, Lucy gets kidnapped while wearing Dawn’s necklace. Mistaken for a princess, she escapes a castle with the help of Sebastian, a young soldier. Jeremy and Dawn search for Lucy in a land with talking animals, ending up with a troupe of traveling entertainers. In a fast-paced adventure with a bit of romance, this modern adaptation of Sleeping Beauty is an entertaining read. The author’s Enchanted, Inc series is a good readalike. Spindled is available from Media on Demand, our Overdrive/Libby collection.
Ileth, 14, camps out on the doorstep of the Serpentine, persisting in her request to be a novice. Ileth is stubborn, resourceful, loyal, often in trouble, and content with very little. Orphaned Ileth, who stutters, met a dragon and his rider when she was 7 and dreamed of a different life. Finally, Ileth takes the novice oath and gets the worst job, cleaning fish for the dragons. Later she learns to dance for the dragons, and gets some unexpected flight time. In her world, there seems to be no magic other than the flying dragons, who can be noble, greedy, or grouchy, and are not always loyal. She reminds me of Keladry in First Test, by Tamora Pierce, who wants to be only the second lady knight in Tortall, or Keevan in “The Smallest Dragonboy” in A Gift of Dragons by Anne McCaffrey, who can only dream of being a dragonrider. I was fascinated to learn that the author studied ballet in doing research for this book, and why he chose to give Ileth a stutter. I look forward to finding out what’s next for Ileth in the hoped for sequel in the Dragoneer Academy series, which is off to a memorable start in this compelling read.
Gabriel’s Road: A Novella of the Devil’s West by Laura Anne Gilman
After a year spent mentoring Isobel, Gabriel has completed his bargain and is free of obligations in the territory. But the Devil’s West and especially the call of the river aren’t done with Gabriel Kasun quite yet. Starting out on a solitary journey in this alternate western America, Gabriel looks back on his past, worries about how Isobel is doing on her own, then has encounters with strange and wild beings. There is a strong sense of place in this mostly uninhabited and dry part of the West, and Gabriel is intriguing company. When he needs shelter from a storm, a small community takes him in and then asks for his help protecting their well and their village. This novella can be read before or after the fantasy trilogy beginning with Silver on the Road, and is available as an e-book in our Media on Demand collection from Overdrive, along with the short story collection West Wind’s Fool.
In a land much like Renaissance Italy, only in a world with two moons and no Greece, the ripple effects of decisions made by a tailor’s son and a pagan healer have lasting impact. Kay is known for his epic fantasy; this book reads more like historical fiction. Not fast-paced except for a few notable scenes including two horse races, this is a novel to savor. The setting is gorgeously drawn without being overly detailed and the numerous characters are realistic. Strong female characters such as a duke’s daughter turned assassin add appeal. If you haven’t discovered Kay, who’s published a novel every two to three years since 1984, then you’re in for a real treat if you enjoy historical fiction or fantasy. Start anywhere, perhaps with Tigana, The Lions of al-Rassan, Ysabel, or Under Heaven. His previous book, Children of Earth and Sky is set twenty-five years after A Brightness Long Ago.
I found this first book in the Sixth World post-apocalyptic Navajo fantasy series to be a compelling read. After a great flood, walls have risen around the Dinétah, the southwestern Navajo lands. Gods and monsters have appeared, and some Diné have developed special powers. Maggie Hoskie has been trained to fight monsters, but lacks self-confidence and is reluctant to trust after some bad experiences. The Dinétah world is vividly described, and the story is fast-paced and exciting, if a little violent. Maggie is asked to help Coyote, and reluctantly partners with young medicine man Kai, who refuses to use guns, but has some hidden powers. A finalist for two major awards, this novel has already won the Locus Award for best first novel. The sequel, Storm of Locusts, is available now.
Mercy Thompson is a coyote shape-shifter married to Adam, an alpha werewolf. Adam, with Mercy’s reluctant help, is trying to arrange talks between the fae lords and a U.S. senator. Recently Mercy declared that their region of the Pacific Northwest was under the protection of Adam’s pack, so she gets to take care of supernatural problems that crop up. Mercy and werewolf Mary Jo need the help of Larry the goblin king to take care of a goblin issue, then they’re off to deal with twenty miniature zombie goats. Miniature zombie goats are a bit of comic relief before there’s serious trouble at the home of Elizaveta, the local grey witch. There’s gruesome evidence of black witchcraft there (feel free to skim that chapter), but unexpected help comes from amnesiac werewolf Sherwood and vampire Wulfe, who turns out to have a lighter side. Plenty of action, a fair amount of humor and great dialogue keep the pages turning quickly. I listened to the audiobook, skillfully narrated by Lorelei King. Moon Called is the first Mercy Thompson book; another, Smoke Bitten, is expected in 2020. Readalikes include books by Ilona Andrews and Kelley Armstrong.
This is an unusual, quirky book by the author of the Thursday Next series, set in an alternate Wales. Charlie Worthing has just joined the Winter Consul Service and heads out on his first assignment, only to get trapped in Sector 12 when the trains stop running. Winters are so long and bitterly cold that most people hibernate, bulking up before their long sleep. Some unfortunates turn into Nightwalkers, sort of zombies who can work menial jobs. Charlie has many adventures as he tries to make it through his first winter awake and investigates a viral dream about a blue Buick. Darkly humorous and witty with an appealing protagonist.