Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Best of 2012: YA Fantasy

Two of the many items [old and new] enjoyed by Burbank Public Library staff during 2012, recommended for your consideration:

I couldn't pick one, so I picked two, and they are both sequels (which is great if you like to read, because you can read the first books first!):

Froi of the Exiles is the sequel to Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock, and it is an amazing story. While I enjoyed Finnikin quite a bit, Froi grabs hold and doesn't let go, and I can hardly wait to pick up these characters again in the third book, Quintana of Charyn, coming out next year.

In Finnikin, Froi was a somewhat peripheral character, but in this one he is the star, and he is the quintessential bad boy that you hate to love and love to hate. He is an orphan and a street thief, taken in hand by the rulers of the kingdom of Lumatere after the curse on that land was lifted, and the royal family's Guard has given him special attention to help him master his temper and channel it in positive ways. His facility with languages and his ability to blend in, to intrigue, and to get into and out of dicey situations leads the rulers to send him to the neighboring kingdom of Charyn, to assassinate that country's corrupt king. He has a complicated cover story: The last child was born in Charyn 18 years ago, and since that time all its citizens have been barren, due to a curse. It is said that only a last-born son of one of Charyn's provinces can break the curse by conceiving a child with the king's daughter, Quintana, so Froi is pretending to be one of these last-born to get close to his target, the king. But Quintana's unbearable situation touches him, and almost against his will he finds himself drawn into the political and emotional quicksand surrounding her plight.

This book isn't for the faint of heart, nor is it for anyone below, let's say, grade nine--Marchetta is undaunted by the exploration of humanity at its ugliest (including rape and massacre), but she also illustrates the inherent possibilities of nobility in a multi-layered and complex story with compellingly drawn characters.

Bitterblue is the third book from Kristin Cashore, although it is more of a sequel to her first book, Graceling, than to her second book, Fire, which is a "companion novel" rather than a part of the series. That sounds confusing--what I'm trying to say is, you could read Graceling and then read Bitterblue without reading Fire and still understand the story. But why would you? They are all three great books--as multilayered and complex as Marchetta's, and equally intriguing.

Since I extensively reviewed all three books for Burbank Public Library's teen blog, YA Think? back in June, I will simply provide you with a link, should you wish to read about this author and series. I encourage you to do so--Cashore provides some fine fantasy writing--among the best of the year!

Melissa E., Teen Librarian

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