November 24, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Werewolves, Zombies, Space Operas, & Gaslamp Fantasies | Adult Books 4 Teens

Mark Lawrence opens Red Sister, the first book of his new series, with a great first line: “It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men.” That sentence is a perfect example of why I love fantasy and why teens flock to the genre, too. Lawrence has created a convent school setting similar to Hogwarts in that young people are sorted into different houses by their abilities. Young Nona is saved from the hangman’s noose and given a chance to thrive in a new setting. In today’s column, we’ll look at five other adventures that will satisfy fantasy readers.

Library staff serving youth can’t forget to include popular fiction, and Lincoln Child’s latest, Full Wolf Moon, would be a great addition to any collection. Though it’s the fifth title in the “Jeremy Logan” series, teens need not have read the other installments, and the combination of gruesome murders in the mountains and the possibility of werewolves might attract new readers to this prolific author.

If I mention space opera, a few die-hard fans probably come to mind. Two books in today’s column will keep them happy and perhaps entice new readers to the genre: Alastair Reynolds’s Revenger and Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Star’s End. Both feature strong female protagonists and enough drama to warrant the label opera. Published for young adults in the UK, Revenger was marketed to adults in the United States, making it a perfect crossover science fiction adventure that includes some paranormal themes. Star’s End adds corporate intrigue to the space opera plotline, and our reviewer notes that it’s “the space opera odyssey you didn’t know you needed.”

I’ve been a fan of gaslamp fantasies since before I knew what they were. Gail Carriger’s Soulless, a 2010 Alex Award winner, and Cassandra Clare’s “The Infernal Devices” series are perfect examples of this genre—which blends a Victorian/Edwardian setting with fantasy elements. Emma Newman’s Brother’s Ruin centers on a young woman who wishes to conceal her magical powers from a potentially deadly institution. This title introduces an intriguing British setting and is a series opener—look for Weaver’s Lament, out later this year.

Finally, I’ll end with a companion novel to M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts. The Boy on the Bridge, the second in the series, is more of a prequel, explaining what happened 10 years before the first installment. The “hungries” are back, and Stephen, a young teen who might be on the autism spectrum, could be the key to fighting these zombielike humans. Zombie fiction isn’t going away, and Carey’s latest addition won’t disappoint. 

FICTION

CAREY, M.R. The Boy on the Bridge. 400p.  Hachette/Orbit. May 2017. Tr $26. ISBN 9780316300339.

Teens still clamor for pandemic apocalyptic fiction—nearly as much as zombies crave flesh! Ten years ago, a parasitic fungus started hijacking the brains and bodies of humans with frightening speed, decimating England’s population and turning those afflicted into zombielike “hungries.” Now, leaders at a fortified settlement called Beacon are desperate to halt the growth of the cataclysmic Cordyceps. They send a second mobile armored vehicle to take six soldiers, five scientists, and a teenager on a Hail Mary mission to collect samples left behind from a first group that never returned and to learn what they can to save the human race. Carey effectively brings to life many of the dozen characters. Young adults will especially appreciate the brilliant Stephen Greaves, 15, who might be on the autism spectrum. He was permitted to join the crew at the behest of Samrina Khan, the group’s epidemiologist and his foster mother of sorts. Readers will be engrossed as Stephen searches for data to understand the hungries and the fungus and looks for ways to combat them, such as the e-blocker he develops to stymie the hungries’ acute olfactory sense. A villainous civilian commander, an unplanned pregnancy for Khan, backbiting among the soldiers, and Stephen’s work with the hungries add up to an intriguing read. VERDICT Lovers of speculative fiction or sci-fi will devour this fresh take on the genre.–Suzanne Gordon, Lanier High School, Gwinnett County, GA

CHILD, Lincoln. Full Wolf Moon. 256p. (Jeremy Logan: Bk. 5). Doubleday. May 2017. Tr $26.95. ISBN 9780385531429.

When a hiker is found slain in the remote Adirondack Mountains, followed by another, the authorities are baffled. The only connection between the two crimes is that both men were murdered during the full moon. Superstitious townsfolk contend that a reclusive, inbred family of werewolves are responsible. With lycanthropy as his only lead, Head Park Ranger Randall Jessup appeals to his old schoolmate and now famous paranormal expert Jeremy Logan. Logan, the renowned “enigmologist,” once again sets out to find the truth behind the impossible. Intriguing scientific exposition and the distinctly atmospheric setting of upstate New York add a little something more to this supernatural whodunit. Readers will be satisfied with the twist ending. The mystery is more cerebral than violent, and there is no romance for this masculine hero and the predominantly male cast. Though the book is part of the “Jeremy Logan” series, those who are unfamiliar with the other titles won’t have trouble immersing themselves in this novel. VERDICT  Recommend to those seeking a quick, suspenseful read and to fans of James Patterson, Michael Crichton, and Child and Douglas Preston’s “Pendergast” series.–Tara Kehoe, formerly at the New Jersey State Library Talking Book and Braille Center, Trenton

CLARKE, Cassandra Rose. Star’s End. 432p. S. & S./Saga. Mar. 2017. Tr ISBN 9781481444293.

The space opera odyssey you didn’t know you needed, this is a moving epic about Esme, who as the eldest of four daughters stands to inherit a powerful corporate empire—but at the cost of losing her sisters. Readers learn that Esme and her father, Phillip, have a sinister secret that led to Esme’s siblings becoming estranged from the family. This sci-fi blend that alternates between past and present is both a family drama of redemption and a gripping space story. The novel is full of powerful moments of devastation and self-discovery. While there are plenty of familiar sci-fi elements, it is the well-developed cast that will pull readers in. VERDICT With strong characters, gripping action, detailed world-building, and lots of mystery, this title will enthrall science fiction fans, adults and teens alike.–Ashley Selima, Lincoln Public Library, RI

LAWRENCE, Mark. Red Sister. 480p. (Book of the Ancestor: Bk. 1).  Berkley/Ace. Apr. 2017. Tr $27. ISBN 9781101988855.

Charged with attempted murder, young Nona is saved from the noose by a nun. Taken to the Convent of Sweet Mercy to be trained in the Path, Nona learns that she belongs to the hunska, a “tribe” known for speed. The nunnery is home to students from four tribes. These young women each have special talents according to their tribes and bloodlines; however, those who are most valued display traits from other groups. Much like the pupils at Hogwarts, Nona forms strong friendships, but her life is constantly under threat because of the powerful man she tried to kill years ago. Relying on her friends and her wits and power, Nona survives to continue her education in the next installment in the series. Fantasy readers love underdog stories, and Lawrence, best-selling author of the “Broken Empire” trilogy, has cast Nona as the typical female epic fantasy hero. She’s strong, smart, stubborn, and still quite young in this novel, although the book isn’t for younger readers. Violence and gore abound as the Red Sisters, those trained in combat, protect Nona, her classmates, and holy objects from the greedy emperor’s family. VERDICT Perfect for readers of Robin LeFevers’s Grave Mercy and Kristin Cashore’s Graceling.–Sarah Hill, Lake Land College, Mattoon, IL 

NEWMAN, Emma. Brother’s Ruin. 192p. (Industrial Magic: Bk. 1). Tor.com. Mar. 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9780765393968.

Elements of steampunk pepper Newman’s new series opener, set in 1850 Great Britain, but the gothic-style romance and generous helping of magic are what will draw teens. Attractive and self-assured, Charlotte Gunn is passionate about her work as an artist and plans to marry the dependable young man who’s been courting her. But she is harboring dangerous secrets, including powerful magical abilities that are becoming harder to keep concealed. If the Royal Society of Esoteric Arts learns the truth, Charlotte will be forced into a life of servitude. Staying under the radar indefinitely is becoming increasingly unlikely, though, especially when her father can’t pay off his debts. He intends to collect the past due amount by selling Charlotte’s brother to the Royal Society as a mage. But her brother has little if any talent. When Charlotte discovers the debtor’s deadly prison cell for clientele who can’t pay up, she knows she must deal directly with the society to cover for her brother and save her father. Worse still, one of the members of the society may be linked to her father’s debtors. Plus, another, disarmingly handsome member is taking particular interest in Charlotte. This is a satisfying story full of enticing possibilities and a promise of more to come. VERDICT A tempting mix of fantasy, mystery, and titillating romance, minus the raw sexuality, this novel is a good choice for young teens seeking a holiday read or weekend diversion.–Cary Frostick, formerly at Mary Riley Styles Public Library, Falls Church, VA

REYNOLDS, Alastair. Revenger. 432p. Hachette/Orbit. Mar. 2017. pap. $15.99. ISBN 9780316555562.

If Pirates of the Caribbean were set in a galaxy far, far away, you might have the tale that unfolds for teenage Arafura. Caught up in her sister Adrana’s plans, Arafura agrees to join the crew of a ship as a Bone Reader, one who can give and receive messages through telepathy. The ship is attacked by the dreaded Bosa Sennen, who captures Adrana and sets the gears in motion for revenge. The plot holds few twists, and more mature readers may become frustrated by the sudden and unbelievable resurrection of Paladin, the loyal family robot. There are some scenes of graphic violence, but they are balanced by Arafura’s wry humor, the development of a new friendship, and her heroic quest. The straightforward writing will appeal to young adults, even though the story is less than thought provoking. VERDICT For those seeking a quick sci-fi adventure that leaves room for a sequel.–Pamela Schembri, Horace Greeley High School, Chappaqua, NY

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Sarah Hill About Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill is SLJ's Adult Books 4 Teens cocolumnist and an information services librarian at Lake Land College in Mattoon, IL.

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