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Magic and Mayhem in 1905 New York City: The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer

Magic and Mayhem in 1905 New York City: The Glass Magician by Caroline Stevermer

The Glass Magician CoverBound to a chair, twenty-year-old stage magician Thalia Cutler must escape before the sword hanging above her head plunges down and kills her. She only has a short time – a candle burns through the rope keeping the sword aloft.

The sword is real. The flame is real. The manacles are real.

The trick is called the Siege Perilous. Luckily, the audience can’t see what she’s doing behind the curtain. Thalia pulls out the manacles’ key, which was hidden in her voluminous medieval-style sleeves. It’s a simple matter to unlock the cuffs. Or at least, it should be. The key jams in the left manacle. It won’t release.

She yanks her arm against the restraints, but it no use. She’s caught on this chair, unable to escape. She’s going to die. She knows it. Her body goes numb; her limbs prick with pins and needles.

Just as the rope begins to give way, her arm changes into something else. It’s white; it has feathers… Where her human hand should be, she now has the tip of a wing. It easily slips out of the manacle.

Vaulting out of the chair, she barely makes it through the trapdoor before the sword lands, quivering, on the seat.

Thalia might have just escaped the Siege Perilous, but now she’s in more danger than ever. She had always thought she was nothing more than a Solitaire, a nonmagical human. But her narrow escape from the Siege Perilous reveals she’s really a Trader who can shapeshift into an animal – in her case, some animal with white wings. As a new Trader who can’t control her wild magic, Thalia is a magnet for monsters. Manticores attack, trying to siphon off her power and leave her a soulless shell, soon to perish. Worse yet, by attracting manticores, she endangers everyone around her.

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Thrilling Magical Realism: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Thrilling Magical Realism: Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Call Down the Hawk CoverMeet the brothers Lynch. While all three of them became orphans when their father died, not all of them are human. Arguably none of them are, since their father was a dreamer, someone who can dream things (and people) and bring them back into reality upon waking.

Declan, the eldest, seems the most humanish, since his mother appears to have been a real woman.

Ronan, the middle brother, seems less so, since his mother was a dream. Quite literally. One of the things Ronan’s father brought back from his slumber was an imaginary version of Declan’s mother. This dream woman gave birth to Ronan, who, like his father, is a dreamer.

The youngest brother, Matthew, is most certainly not human. As a child, Ronan dreamed him into existence.

Being not-quite-human is a problem for the Lynch brothers. According to the prophets, a dreamer will someday conjure up the apocalypse, and fire will consume the world. Governments worldwide have created teams of Moderators to stamp out this menace.

Carmen Farooq-Lane, a young woman of extraordinary elegance and poise, is one of these foot soldiers. But no matter how many dreamers she tracks down and kills – including her own brother – the oracles’ visions stay the same. Still, the world is going to burn.

If she finds Ronan, he’s toast.

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A YA Novel that Violates Contemporary Writing Conventions: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason

A YA Novel that Violates Contemporary Writing Conventions: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse by K. Eason

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse CoverYoung Adult fiction is populated with fast-paced novels that sweep readers into adventure from the very first page, only letting up when the final page reads The End. Their prose shows in gorgeous detail, transporting readers into whole new universes, rather than merely telling what’s going on. Novels that feature heroines begin when they are old enough to be the targets of romance; starting when they are younger not only provokes no interest, but also threatens to confuse booksellers, who must decide where to shelve them. According to many writing experts, passive voice must be scoured from the pages. The first chapter should be comprised exclusively of action; exposition kept to a minimum, and sentences clipped short. The author must avoid entire discursive paragraphs like, say, this one.

Eason’s How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is marketed as a Young Adult Hardcover. But it violates these contemporary writing conventions.

We begin before Princess Rory Thorne is born. Indeed, while she is still in the womb. Our heroine, who will cause many kerfluffles throughout her childhood, creates her first by being born a girl, when everyone had planned for her to be a boy.

Shortly after Rory’s birth, thirteen fairies descend onto the palace for Rory’s Naming Ceremony, even though no one really believes in fairies anymore, and the only reason they were invited was as a nod to tradition, silly as it may be. But still, the thirteen fairies suddenly appear in the ballroom, coming from out of nowhere. The first eleven give Rory various gifts, some of which are obviously quite useless, like playing the harp.

The thirteenth fairy gives Rory the ability not just to tell when people are lying, but also to hear the truths they are covering up.

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A Brainy Psychological Fantasy: Fireborne by Rosaria Munda

A Brainy Psychological Fantasy: Fireborne by Rosaria Munda

Fireborne-smallUpon successfully overthrowing the cruel dragonborn families, the leaders of the Revolution imprison their previous masters to await trial. But the oppressed population is hungry for revenge. Vigilantes overrun the building and start to exact their own bloody justice.

Atreus, the new realm’s First Protector, discovers one group still in the process of murdering the Drakarch of the Far Highlands’ family. Only the dragonlord himself and his youngest son, a boy of about seven or eight, are still alive when Atreus arrives.

The Drakarch begs Atreus to spare his son. Atreus murmurs an order to a guard, who takes the boy away. Then he slits the dragonlord’s throat.

Lee, the Drakarch’s son, becomes the only member of the dragonborn caste to survive the Revolution. He grows up in an orphanage in Cheapside, where he befriends another orphan, Annie. No one knows who he really is. Even the First Protector, his savior, appears to have forgotten him. He knows he must keep his identity secret, but at the same time, he thirsts to regain the exalted position that had once been his birthright. Stripped of his privileges, Lee must fight for his rank like everyone else.

Now a teenager, Lee stands on the brink of attaining his dream: to become Firstrider, the best dragonrider in the land and commander of the dragon fleet. He has aced the entrance exam, been chosen by a dragon, and gained recognition as an elite rider. Now he must compete against the other top riders to prove he’s the best. Perhaps it’s ironic that Lee rides to serve those who killed his family. But if he can become Firstrider, not only will he win back the power that his father lost, but also he will prove himself to have been worthy of his birthright all along.

Prevailing over his classmates is Lee’s greatest concern, that is, until he learns that he isn’t the last remaining member of the dragonborn, after all. His cousin, with whom he played as a child, contacts him in secret. She reveals that members of the other dragonborn families escaped and created a refuge in another land. They have their own dragons and riders. Now the time has come for them to retake their ancestral country, restoring the old order.

Lee must choose. Will he defend the life he’s made for himself under the new regime? Or will he help the dragonlords recapture the possibilities he had thought were dead?

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A Sci Fi / Fantasy Hybrid with a Middle Eastern Ambiance: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

A Sci Fi / Fantasy Hybrid with a Middle Eastern Ambiance: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Mirage Somaiya Daud-smallThe nameless young Andalaan boy has yet to reach his majority, so he doesn’t have his face tattoos yet. But that’s what makes him a perfect assassin. The evil Vath invaders won’t be able to trace him back to his family and tribe.

For his whole young life, the boy has known the cruelty of the Vath. If he kills their crown princess, he’ll win a cottage for his family and a husband for his sister. He knows it’s a suicide mission, but he accepts. He readies his weapon and goes to the event where the Vath heir appears.

She looks so much like his own people. Her blood is only half Vathek – her mother was a native of this planet. But she’s rumored to be even more vicious than her iron-fisted father.

He raises his blaster and fires twice.

Amina is an Andalaan girl on the verge of becoming a woman. On the night that she gains her majority, she goes to the festival with her family to have her face tattooed. This is one of the few Andalaan traditions that persist. And since the Vath have burnt the farmers’ fields, leaving no provisions for the upcoming winter, the whole tribe needs an excuse to come together and enjoy an evening of ritual, however brief.

But the ink on Amani’s face hasn’t even dried before a squadron of Vath droids burst into the gathering. They separate Amani and the other teenage girls from the rest of the tribe and make them stand in a line.

One by one, the robots move down the row, scanning the girls’ faces. One by one, the scanners flash a green light, clearing them with a beep.

Amina hasn’t done anything wrong. She hasn’t aided the rebels or raised a hand against the Vath. Still, when a droid scans her face, an alarm erupts and the robots seize her. They drag her away and load her onto a Vath spaceship even while the droids set fire to the building that holds her family and friends.

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A Thrilling Gothic Fantasy: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

A Thrilling Gothic Fantasy: Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Sorcery-of-Thorns-smallElisabeth has sworn to do her duty onto death, and death has just shown up.

Panicked horses draw a carriage up to the Great Library. A Class Eight grimoire, bound in an iron coffer secured with more than a dozen locks, rattles inside the vehicle. A pair of wardens jump down from the driver’s seat.

The grimoire – the Book of Eyes – is centuries old and has driven dozens of people mad. As an apprentice librarian, Elisabeth shouldn’t be anywhere near it. But the library’s Director specifically summoned her here to help.

The Director must be testing Elisabeth. If she fails, the Book of Eyes will claim her life. But if she manages to survive this encounter, then she’ll show she really is a warden in the making. That is Elisabeth’s dearest wish: to prove herself worthy to the Director by becoming a warden herself. After all, she owes the Director everything. If it hadn’t been for her, Elisabeth would have been raised in an orphanage.

As Elizabeth and the Director carry the foul-smelling book down into the vault where the most dangerous tomes are isolated, it lurches in its bindings and tries to break free. When they reach its appointed cell, the table in the middle is gouged with enormous gashes. It looks like a demon clawed it. Grimoires that are damaged turn into Maleficts, huge monsters of ink and leather that kill the villagers and ravage the countryside. The wardens risk their own lives in hunting down and destroying them.

A Malefict must have been born on that very expanse of wood.

While the Director examines the Book of Eyes for damage, keeping the greasy black volume contained in a circle of salt and wearing iron-lined gloves, the grimoire opens its warty eyes and fastens them on Elisabeth. Sensing her inexperience and vulnerability, it calls to her, a whisper that threads through her mind…

She tries to ignore the voice, but it’s no use. Her gaze drifts down to the book… She feels like she’s sinking… The Director’s voice comes from very far away, as though she’s speaking underwater…

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A Fast-Action Space Romp: The Disasters by M. K. England

A Fast-Action Space Romp: The Disasters by M. K. England

The-Disasters-small The-Disasters-back-small

Nax has wanted to be a space pilot his whole life, but he washes out of the Academy on his very first day. Walking to the shuttle that will take him back to Earth in disgrace, he realizes that he will never get behind the controls of a real spaceship. His dream of cruising among the stars is over before it even began. He’ll spend the rest of his life on his family’s farm, feeding chickens and herding goats.

Three other Academy rejects are waiting for the shuttle when he arrives at the gate: Case the girl genius, Zee the athletic doctor, and Rion the smooth-talking diplomat.

The shuttle arrives. They’re about to board it when Case notices something bright blue and green on its hull.

That’s when the lights go out and alarms start to sound.

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A Feminist Retelling of Cinderella: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

A Feminist Retelling of Cinderella: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Stepsister CoverIsabella is ugly and mean, and that’s why readers love her.

She isn’t pretty. She isn’t perfect. She likes things she’s not supposed to like, such as military history, swordplay, and horseback riding. She does things she’s not supposed to do. She says what she actually thinks, rather than what men want to hear.

Isabella’s nonconformity makes her a target. Her mother tries to control everything she does, shoehorning her into the rigid mold for a marriageable young woman. Acquiring a wealthy husband is the only acceptable future her mother can imagine in this patriarchal society.

Yes, Isabella knows she’s been a real bitch to Ella, her stepsister. But Ella is beautiful, sweet, and unfailingly pleasant. She always fits in. Men are eager to give her whatever she wants, including chocolate bonbons.

When the prince comes to their house with a glass slipper, looking for his lost love, her mother coerces Isabella to cut off her toes to fit her foot into the shoe. The prince and his retinue accept Isabella as the new princess until she’s walking to the coach, when her blood gives her away. The prince sets her aside and turns to leave, when Ella bursts out of the house.

There she is – the love he was looking for.

The captain of the guard comes forward with the glass slipper, nested on a pillow. He trips on something, falls… The glass slipper shatters.

But then Ella pulls its partner out of a pocket in her dress. It goes on her foot perfectly, as we knew it would.

Reunited, the prince and his beloved climb onto the coach and ride off into the countryside.

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A Mashup of Firefly, The Rowan, and Star Wars: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

A Mashup of Firefly, The Rowan, and Star Wars: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Aurora Rising-smallThe spaceship disintegrates around Tyler, sagging and rupturing, giving way to the void. He’s going to die out here in hyperspace, taken out by one of its freak Foldstorms.

He isn’t supposed to be here. It’s the night before the Draft, and he should be sleeping, preparing to tap the team he wants. As the top-ranked Alpha in the League, he’s got the strongest draft picks of anyone.

But he couldn’t sleep. And then the distress call came in.

Everyone knows that the Hadfield colony ship was lost more than two hundred years ago. But somehow, impossibly, it shows up on radar. And according to the initial scan, it contains tens of thousands of corpses, but also a single heat signature…

Somewhere deep in the hold of the Hadfield, someone’s alive.

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Cyborgs in Space: Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie

Cyborgs in Space: Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie

Hullmetal-Girls-smallerOnly the most desperate try to become Scela warriors. That’s because few humans survive being fused with the robotic exoskeletons. Yet Aisha sits with thirty others, waiting for her turn, while the body of her mentor, ripped in half, is carried past on its way to the incinerator.

She knows she’s probably going to die. But this is her last chance to save her siblings. Her younger brother is dying of a wasting disease, and treatment is expensive. She’ll also do anything to keep her younger sister from working in the dyeing plant that killed their mother. So that’s why Aisha has signed on for the chance to become a Scela. She has never wanted to be a soldier for the State. But if she can survive the process of becoming a cyborg, her salary will be enough to support her family.

The surgery is even worse than she’d imagined. But when she wakes, the full truth hits her – she hasn’t just signed away her human body. She’s also surrendered her mind. The exo seems to have a will of its own. And since the Scela fighters are literally the hands the State, the authorities can override her will at any time. She’s nothing but a tool, a drone. She can no longer control what her body does.

Of the thirty people in that waiting room, only Aisha and three others survive. It’s hard enough for each of them to control their own bodies individually. When the trainer flips a switch, yoking their minds together, all four are suddenly four places at once.

Aisha’s new teammate Key’s mind has been destroyed so badly, she can’t even remember why she signed up to become a Scela in the first place. Since she’s from the upper class, it makes no sense that she would risk her life to do so.

The only boy in the squad, Wooj, was caught in a felony and forced to become a Scela. While he managed to survive the procedure, there’s something wrong with his exo. Sometimes, it’s too loose. Others, the robot eclipses his humanity completely.

Praava’s life doesn’t matter. Only her older sister’s does. Praava knows her sister will solve the puzzle of the wasting disease and save humanity, but only if she has enough money for her research. That’s why she went under the blade.

With their vastly different backgrounds and agendas, these four will never be able to work together. Except they must, if humanity is going to survive.

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