For the past 5000 years, one million souls have inhabited Range, reincarnated in a new body each time they die. Ana is the first newsoul in all that time, and her existence raises questions others don’t want to think about. Her own mother calls her a nosoul and removed her from civilization to raise her in the woods away from people. After years of abuse from a woman who denies her ability to experience emotions, she sets off for the city to search for answers.
Ana is not necessarily welcome in the capital, Heart, either. Her curiosity and impulsive nature don’t endear her to the many people who have lived thousands of years and are unsettled by the change she represents.
One man who finds her fascinating and welcomes change is Sam, the most well-known musician on Range. Her own love of music draws the two of them together, and she enlists him in her mission to find out why she suddenly appeared and what happened to the soul her’s replaced. Others are not as pleased about her rejoining civilization and her search for answers. When she was out of sight, those who were disturbed by her existence could forget about her.
In a hard world filled with dragons, sylph, trolls, centaurs and other dangerous creatures, Ana must also worry about humans who see her as a threat to be eliminated.
Incarnate is Jodi Meadows’ debut novel and the first book in a planned trilogy.
It’s a popular belief that there are no new stories, only different ways of telling them. And sometimes that isn’t such a bad thing. The old myths and fairy tales became popular for a reason. They are stories that tell us about people’s deepest desires and fears. Retellings of the old myths and fairy tales go in and out of style periodically. This is one of those periods of popularity, and there have been some recent imaginative, worthwhile retellings.
If you’re interested in reading retellings by some of the best writers currently writing fantasy, horror, and young adult fiction, you’ll want to pick up Happily Ever After, an anthology of 33 myth and fairy tale retellings from the past two decades. Some of the authors included are Susanna Clarke, Gregory Maguire, Kelly Link, Garth Nix and Holly Black.
A new book that came out in February of this year that has received a lot of attention is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. The novel is based on the Russian folk tale, transplanted to 1920s Alaska. Jack and Mabel are a childless couple who move to Alaska from Pennsylvania to start over after a heartbreaking miscarriage. After two years they are each slowly succumbing to despair. To distract themselves from their worries one evening, they build a girl out of snow. The next day the snow girl is gone and Jack sees a real, seemingly feral, child running in the woods.
Another book set in the winter but meant for middle-grade readers, is Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Jack and Hazel have been best friends for five years, so when Jack suddenly stops talking to Hazel, she’s devastated. We find out a shard of magic mirror has made its way into Jack’s heart, and he later disappears without a trace. Hazel must brave the cold Minnesota winter and enter the woods to find her friend. This imaginative tale contains many allusions to beloved children’s stories from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe to A Wrinkle in Time.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer is meant for teenage readers, but it’s proved very popular with adults, too. This may be because the title character, Cinder, is a cyborg mechanic who has a hopeless romantic of an android for a sidekick. Cinder is a second-class citizen, as are all cyborgs, in this futuristic retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale. Cinder lives with her stepmother and two stepsisters and supports her family through her work as a mechanic. Her reputation reaches Prince Kai, the heir to the throne, who brings her an android to repair.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman is not a new novel. It originally came out in 2001, but a new, enhanced edition came out in 2011. This is a novel about the complex religious and mythological heritage of America and is, therefore, complex and meandering itself. Shadow is released a few days early from prison when his wife dies in a car accident. He accepts a job from Mr. Wednesday, a former god, and embarks on a trip across America, where he encounters the old gods and creatures of myth immigrants brought with them to the United States. If you’ve read American Gods before, it’s probably worth it to pick it up again, since the 10th Anniversary edition has a new introduction and contains Gaiman’s preferred text.
The end of the world seems like a good place to end this list. In Norse mythology, the end of the world comes with the deaths of the gods and the world being squeezed by a serpent that has grown so large she encircles the world and crushes it. Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt takes this story and presents it through the eyes of a young girl living through World War II who has been presented with a book of the Norse myth Asgard and the Gods.
>If you’re waiting for Inheritance, the newest Christopher Paolini featuring Eragon and Saphira, you have some choices of other books to read while you wait.
One wonderful series that has been overlooked by many is the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix. Sabriel, the first book in the series, was published in 1996, two years before the first Harry Potter and before children’s/young adult literature captured popular attention. Sabriel is the daughter of the Abhorsen, a necromancer who puts the dead to rest and prevents the restless Dead from returning to Life. When Sabriel receives a message from him while she is away at school in Ancelstierre (where magic does not work), she must return to the Old Kingdom (where magic works) to take up his duties and try to free him from where he is trapped in Death. Sabriel is followed by Lirael and Abhorsen.
In an Asian-inspired fantasy realm, young Eon is in a fierce competition to apprentice to the Rat Dragon, one of twelve dragons who guard the realm. Twelve-year-old Eon is actually 16-year-old Eona in disguise. Hiding her sex is the only way for Eona to study Dragon magic, a pursuit forbidden to girls. If she is caught, she will face disembowelment. Eona is not chosen by the Rat Dragon, but that is, of course, not the end of the story. Eon is a fast-paced novel that will have you racing to pick up Eona, the conclusion to this complex and well-crafted story.
Princess Raisa is on the cusp of her sixteenth birthday, when she will be of age to make a politically advantageous arranged marriage. Han is a young man living in poverty and supporting his family through odd jobs after leaving his street gang. The two meet when Raisa is out in disguise investigating discontent in her kingdom and Han is fleeing from the authorities who believe he is guilty of a crime he didn’t commit. Chima weaves together a number of complex story lines in this tale of intrigue and politics. The Demon King is followed by The Exiled Queen and The Gray Wolf Throne. The fourth book in the series, The Crimson Crown, will be released in fall of 2012, according to the author’s website.
And if none of these books look to be to your taste, stop by the young adult section of the library and pick up one of the handouts of suggestions for those who liked Eragon, created by our talented YA librarian.
So begins Erin Morgenstern’s lushly descriptive, beautifully written novel, The Night Circus. The circus is an experience like no other. It opens at nightfall and closes at dawn. The food tastes better than food eaten elsewhere. The smell of caramel and apples permeates the air. The circus and its performers are dressed entirely in black, white, and silver. This background that fills the senses and maintains an air of mystery only adds to the amazing performances and tents contained within the circus. No one ever forgets their time at Le Cirque des Rêves.
The circus is not simply a masterful and magical place of entertainment for its patrons. It is also the venue for a competition between Celia and Marco, two young illusionists trained by their masters to participate in a “game,” using the circus to demonstrate their skills and imaginations. Celia and Marco have been bound to this “game” by their masters, and the winner is the last person left standing. The two competitors were chosen to compliment and contrast each other, but they are too well matched, and their tale becomes that of star-crossed lovers.
The real treat of this book is the descriptions of the circus. While the characters are compelling, the circus itself is so richly and lovingly described that it is an intense pleasure to read about some of the circus acts and attractions created by Ms. Morgenstern’s characters as part of their competition.
>Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs is a rather odd book about a young man whose grandfather is killed in a violent manner, but it’s also much more than that. Sixteen-year-old Jacob has always worshiped his grandfather and loved the stories his grandfather told about his life at a home for children in Wales when he was a young orphan. At some point the stories lost their luster and Jacob asked his grandfather to stop telling him fairy stories. After his grandfather is killed, Jacob decides he must go to the island where his grandfather lived in order to find some closure.
What he finds there makes him question his knowledge of his grandfather and his entire view of how the world works.
The story of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a wonderful work of fiction enhanced by the addition of authentic (mostly unaltered) old photographs from private collections.
A wail of mourning is floating through the land as long-faithful readers face the end of the Harry Potter Series. For all of you grown-up Potter fans, NPR has some suggestions for books to ease your sense of loss. All three titles are available at your friendly Manhattan Public Library.
>Graveminder is the first adult novel published by Melissa Marr (author of the popular young adult Wicked Lovely series). Claysville is a world unto itself. Its residents are born there, and they must die there, though they are ignorant of what is truly going on around them and why they feel an irresistible pull to the place where they were born. In Claysville, if a body isn’t minded after death, the dead don’t stay where they’re put.
Rebekkah must unexpectedly return to Claysville upon the death of her grandmother, Maylene. When she arrives, she finds out Maylene was murdered in her home and that attacks continue to occur. Her old flame, Byron, a man who still loves her, must convince her she has to take up her grandmother’s place and as Graveminder to mind the dead and lay the Hungry Dead who have already woken to rest. He must also convince her she belongs to him and to the dead. Together they act as enforcers of a three hundred year old contract between the enigmatic ruler of the world of the dead and the town of Claysville.
This atmospheric gothic mystery pulls you in and doesn’t let you go until the end.
>Dream a little with James Patterson as his imagination allows children to flap their wings and fly. In The Angel Experiment children have been taken from their parents and injected with avian DNA by evil scientists. They may be 98 percent human, but the 2 percent avian DNA creates wings that allow them to soar. They are on the run from their captors and must use other special abilities to protect themselves from the Erasers, wolf-like, extremely strong, genetically-modified creatures who want them back in order to do further experiments. This group of kids looks out for each other and have compassion for each other’s failings and abilities. After freeing Angel, the youngest of their adopted family, the setting varies from Death Valley to the subway of New York City as the kids flee from the Erasers. More books follow to continue the story of Maximum Ride, the leader of the bird family and narrator of The Angel Experiment.
>I have a confession to make. I did not like Twilight. I found Bella annoying, and I am of the decided opinion that vampires should not sparkle. That said, I really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches, even though it reminded me of a grown-up version of Twilight in some ways (it also reminded me of Kostova’s The Historian and Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale).
Diana Bishop lives in a world where humanity lives alongside three types of “creatures”: witches, vampires, and daemons. Diana herself is a witch in denial who refuses to use her powers. By profession she is a historian of alchemy and currently conducting research at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Events and rivalries hundreds of years in the making are tipped out of balance when Diana recalls a manuscript from the stacks known as Ashmole 782. The manuscript is clearly enchanted, but as Diana wants nothing to do with magic, she takes her notes on the manuscript and sends it back into the stacks.
Diana getting her hands on Ashmole 782 attracts the attention of creatures of all three types, including the mysterious vampire Matthew Clairmont. As Diana and Matthew get to know each other and try to sort out the events Diana has set in motion, Diana learns about the habits and instincts of vampires and the world of creatures she has studiously ignored up to now.
A Discovery of Witches is a dark story of romance, intrigue, history, and magic. The cliffhanger ending will have you eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series.
> Carrie Vaughn is most well known for her urban fantasy Kitty Norville series featuring a werewolf radio DJ. Discord’s Apple goes in a completely different direction. The story is set in the not-too-distant future in a world where many of the simmering conflicts between nations today have errupted into violent conflict, spurred on by the actions of terrorists. Evie is a comic book author living in L.A. who heads home to Hopes Fort, Colorado when her father calls to tell her he’s dying. Strange things are happening at home, beginning with an elderly woman coming to the house asking for a pair of glass slippers, which Evie unerringly finds in the cluttered basement of her father’s house (which she never entered before going to retrieve the slippers because it was off-limits while she was growing up). Scenes like these continue to occur. Merlin shows up looking for a certain sword, and Hera arrives looking for a golden apple. The apple is not meant for Hera, though, and the storeroom doesn’t want to give it up to her. Hera is determined, though, and takes matters into her own hands to gain access to the apple.
This is a beautifully imagined story and after having read it, I’m surprised I haven’t read something like this before now. The ending was a bit of a let-down, but the story in general was well-worth the read and will definitely appeal to those who enjoy the incorporation of myths and fairytales into a modern-day setting.
>The Hunger Games trilogy has become a cultural phenomenon over the past couple years, and the final book in the trilogy, Mockingjay, goes on sale tonight at 12:01 AM. Like Harry Potter, there will be midnight release parties for this one. If you’re on the hold list for Mockingjay (or The Hunger Games or Catching Fire, for that matter), below are some other books you’ll find in the library that might appeal to you.
Uglies is the first book in a trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. In this dystopic future, people go through surgery to become “pretties” at 16, a change that enhances similar characteristics and shifts features toward the ideal of beauty. Teens are then free to party and play. Tally is one young Ugly who yearns to become a Pretty, but things get turned upside down when her friend Shay runs away and Tally is told to go spy on her or never be allowed to become a Pretty.
Yelena is convicted of killing a general’s son and sentenced to death by hanging. Granted a reprieve in exchange for becoming a poison taster for the Commander, ruler of Ixia, Yelena is soon caught up in castle politics. She also realizes some people want her dead and Ixia is not a terribly stable country at the moment. Poison Study,with a strong leading female character, complicated political machinations and a riveting romance will suck in readers as surely as The Hunger Games did.
For a more grown-up version of The Hunger Games, Genesis may appeal. In this near-future dystopia, Anax is a young historian living in an island society that is a refuge from the rest of the devastated planet. The island is founded on security and order above freedom, modeled after Plato’s Republic. Anax wants to enter the Academy, and completes her entrance exam paper on Adam Forde, a soldier who rescued a young girl from a raft and was sentenced to work with an advanced robot named Art as his punishment. This short novel is a philosophical work centered on the interaction of humanity, technology and the environment, but it manages to read like a thriller the whole way through.
A few other ideas for books like those in The Hunger Games trilogy include:
Audiobooks are not usually my favorite medium. It takes longer to get through the book, and I don’t always like the voice of the person performing the reading. By happy accident, I picked up Skulduggery Pleasant on audiobook for a long car ride, and I’m very happy I did. The book is performed by Rupert Degas (and he does all the voices). I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t have liked the book as well as I did if I hadn’t listened to it.
Twelve-year-old Stephanie Edgley’s uncle dies suddenly and leaves her most of his possessions in his will. His death also means she meets one of his old friends, Skulduggery Pleasant, at the funeral and the reading of the will. Skulduggery is rather an odd character. He wears a tailored suit, a long trench coat, a hat, wig, scarf and sunglasses. Turns out he’s a skeleton. He also doesn’t think Stephanie’s Uncle Gordon died of natural causes. Thus begins the investigation into Gordon Edgley’s murder and the introduction of Stephanie into a different side of reality she never knew existed. A world filled with things from living skeletons to vampires to old gods some are trying to bring back.
Derek Landy’s story is filled with humor. This novel would probably fit well under the heading “screwball fantasy.” It also won the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book of the Decade Award and is part of a series. Three of the series have already been released and the fourth is set to be released on April 1.
Whenever a work is translated into a new medium, some things are gained and others are lost. This is definitely the case for The Discworld Graphic Novels: The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic, graphic novel adaptions of the first two books in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. I really enjoyed this graphic novel because I felt the illustrations added quite a bit to the story. Pratchett’s humor was conveyed quite well through this new medium and I enjoyed the stories just as much as when I read the novels.
The Colour of Magic tells the story of Twoflower, the first tourist to visit Ankh-Morpork, and his guide Rincewind, a failed wizard given the task of watching over Twoflower. The stories follow their travels around the Discworld (a world that rides on the back of the giant turtle Great A’Tuin) as they travel to see all the sights Twoflower has read about in his guidebook (everything from pub fights to dragons).
In The Light Fantastic, only Rincewind has the knowledge to save the world (the spell in his head that scares off all the other ones he tried to learn). The problem is, the last time Rincewind was seen, he was falling off the edge of the Disc.
Not only does the library own The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic in their full length novel forms, it also owns The Color of Magic movie adaptation with Sean Astin (Samwise Gamgees in The Lord of the Rings) playing Twoflower.
Robin Hood has been a popular character lately in film and television (BBC TV-series Robin Hood). Stephen Lawhead’s novel Hood, first book in the King Raven Trilogy, adds a new dimension to the Robin Hood legend. Set in the dense forests of Wales in 1093, during the Norman conquest of Britain, the story is filled with earthy atmosphere and adventure. After his father the king is killed by the Normans, Bran ap Byrchan is wounded and forced to flee for his life. He is healed by an ancient storyteller and reluctantly and gradually comes to realize that he must accept his role as leader and fight to save his displaced people and his land. Familiar characters make an appearance and are believable and interesting, and the many historical details and languages used bring this exciting and original story to life. The second and third titles in the trilogy are Scarlet and Tuck–the series is off to an thrilling start with Hood!!
Parasite positives, or “peeps,” are those infected with a parasite that turns them into light-avoiding cannibals with drastically increased life spans (they prefer to avoid the v-word). Cal is infected by his girlfriend, but it turns out he’s a natural carrier of the parasite and simply acquires excellent night vision, superhuman strength and a craving for rare meat. He joins a secret branch of the New York City government dedicated to tracking the infected but learns when he finds the woman who infected him that there’s more to the story. This novel is well thought out with scientifically based explanations for all the symptoms of vampirism. Not your average vampire novel, but it will appeal to a wide range of ages, from high school students up to adults.