Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.
Fall is the season for book sales and building up the library. I recently got a wonderful stack from a local sale, which included many wonderful books often classified as “hidden gems,” which are often donated to libraries and book sales or sold at Goodwill and garage sales because their covers are uninteresting and style is old. These books are usually amazing stories, with rich fantasy, deep romance, and a magical style of writing more advanced than most modern young adult novels. Here is a list of some of my favorites, most of which I picked up at book sales for 25 cents each.
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
Keturah follows a legendary hart deep into the forest, where she becomes hopelessly lost. Her strength diminishes until, finally, she realizes that death is near–and learns then that death is a young lord, melancholy and stern. Renowned for her storytelling, Keturah is able to charm Lord Death with a story and gain a reprieve–but he grants her only a day, and within that day she must find true love. Martine Leavitt offers a spellbinding story, interweaving elements of classic fantasy and romance.
The Claidi Journals: Wolf Tower, Wolf Star, Wolf Queen, Wolf Wing by Tanith Lee
All her life, Claidi has endured hardship in the House, where she must obey a spoiled princess. Then a golden stranger arrives, living proof of a world beyond the House walls. Claidi risks all to free the charming prisoner and accompanies him across the Waste toward his faraway home. It is a difficult yet marvelous journey, and all the while Claidi is at the side of a man she could come to love. That is, until they reach his home . . . and the Wolf Tower.
Cecelia and Kate series: Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, The Grand Tour, The Mislaid Magician: or Ten Years After by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer
A great deal is happening in London and the country this season.
For starters, there’s the witch who tried to poison Kate at the Royal College of Wizards. There’s also the man who seems to be spying on Cecelia. (Though he’s not doing a very good job of it–so just what are his intentions?) And then there’s Oliver. Ever since he was turned into a tree, he hasn’t bothered to tell anyone where he is.
Clearly, magic is a deadly and dangerous business. And the girls might be in fear for their lives . . . if only they weren’t having so much fun!
Crown & Court series: Crown Duel and Court Duel by Sherwood Smith
Young Countess Meliara swears to her dying father that she and her brother will defend their people from the growing greed of the king. That promise leads them into a war for which they are ill-prepared, which threatens the very people they are trying to protect. But war is simple compared to what follows, in peacetime. Meliara is summoned to live at the royal palace, where friends and enemies look alike, and intrigue fills the dance halls and the drawing rooms. If she is to survive, Meliara must learn a whole new way of fighting-with wits and words and secret alliances.
In war, at least, she knew in whom she could trust. Now she can trust no one.
Wildwood series: Wildwood Dancing and Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier
High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It’s an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle’s hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.
But their peace is shattered when Father falls ill and must go to the southern parts to recover, for that is when cousin Cezar arrives. Though he’s there to help the girls survive the brutal winter, Jena suspects he has darker motives in store. Meanwhile, Jena’s sister has fallen in love with a dangerous creature of the Other Kingdom–an impossible union it’s up to Jena to stop.
When Cezar’s grip of power begins to tighten, at stake is everything Jena loves: her home, her family, and the Other Kingdom she has come to cherish. To save her world, Jena will be tested in ways she can’t imagine–tests of trust, strength, and true love.
Doran series: Wise Child, Juniper, and Colman by Monica Furlong
Quest for a Maid by Frances Mary Hendry
Meg Wright is nine when she hides under a table and hears her sister Inge kill the King of Scotland by witchcraft, setting in motion a treacherous power struggle.
To-read: There are also many books of this “genre” that I am looking forward to reading in the future, and have been scanning the book sale tables for.
The Hollow Kingdom Trilogy: The Hollow Kingdom, Close Kin, and In the Coils of the Snake by Clare B. Dunkle
For thousands of years, young women have been vanishing from Hallow Hill, never to be seen again. Now Kate and Emily have moved there with no idea of the land’s dreadful heritage–until Marak decides to tell them himself. Marak is a powerful magician who claims to be the goblin king, and he has very specific plans for the two new girls who have trespassed into his kingdom . . .
Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn
As a child, Coriel Halsing spent many glorious summers at Castle Auburn with her half-sister-and fell in love with a handsome prince who could never be hers. But now that she is a young woman, she begins to see the dark side of this magical place…
The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope
In 1558, while exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard, young Kate Sutton becomes involved in a series of mysterious events that lead her to an underground world peopled by Fairy Folk—whose customs are even older than the Druids’ and include human sacrifice.
The Chanters of Tremaris series: The Singer of All Songs, The Waterless Sea, and The Tenth Power by Kate Constable
Calwyn has never been beyond the high ice-wall that guards the sisters of Antaris from the world of Tremaris. She knows only the rounds of her life as a novice ice priestess, tending her bees, singing her ice chantments, and dreaming.
But then Calwyn befriends Darrow, a mysterious Outlander who appears inside the Wall and warns of an approaching danger. To help Darrow, to see the world, and perhaps to save it, Calwyn will leave the safety of the Wall for a journey with a man she barely knows–and an adventure as beautiful and dangerous as the music of chantment itself.
Healer and Seer series: The Seer and the Sword, The Healer’s Keep, and The Light of the Oracle by Victoria Hanley
Legend states that there exists a mighty sword that makes its possessor invincible to his enemies. But there is a curse on anyone who lifts the sword for conquest. King Kareed of Archeld goes after this sword anyway, winning it from the King of Bellandra. When he returns home from battle, he brings his daughter, Princess Torina, two special gifts. One is a unique crystal, in which she can view visions of the future. The other gift is the defeated king’s son Landen, who is to be her slave. Torina immediately releases Landen, who becomes a member of the King’s army and her close friend.
But trouble is lurking in the kingdom of Archeld and people are accusing Landen of plotting against the King. Torina refuses to believe he would hurt her family. Then Torina begins seeing deadly visions in her crystal. Can she save her father’s life and the future of her kingdom?
(Descriptions from Goodreads.com)