I’m back y’all! After a maternity leave immersed in board books and picture books, I’m excited to talk about some new YA titles! I must admit, the titles this month are all things on my TBR…so historical fiction or fantasy. I promise to be more well-rounded for next month’s blog!
“One for All” by Lillie Lainoff
I was looking forward to this book even before I saw it was recommended by my favorite author! This historical fiction is a gender-bent take on “The Three Musketeers.” Tania de Batz’s father, a former Musketeer, trained her to love fencing, despite her disability. With her blood circulation disorder (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome) causing frequent dizzy spells, she’s a bit of an outcast in her small town. When Papa is suddenly killed, it’s his dying wish that Tania attend L’Académie des Mariées, a finishing school in Paris. Confused and grieving, Tania discovers that L’Académie actually trains young women in espionage and swordplay, to be a new kind of Musketeer. When Tania begins to fall for her first target, her Musketeer sisters support and keep her focused on finding her father’s killer. I already love a good gender-bent classic, and the fact that this book centers the experience of a girl with a disability so genuinely is beyond refreshing. An author’s note gives more information about POTS, and her own experience with it.
“Castles in Their Bones” by Laura Sebastian
For more espionage and romance, I’ve got this political fantasy for you. Daphne, Sophronia and Beatriz are triplets, daughters of Empress Margaraux, and have been trained from birth for one thing: to marry into neighboring kingdoms and take them down from within. Each sister is skilled in message-coding, poisons, seduction and court politics, and is prepared to wreak havoc in their new homes so their mother can sweep in and take over. Of course, once they begin to settle in, things no longer seem so simple or straight-forward. Romance, secrets, magic, and duplicitous princesses? There’s a lot to love in this one. Heads up, it’s first in a trilogy, so you’ll have to be patient for the next book!
“Bright Ruined Things” by Samantha Cohoe
This historical fantasy is set in the 1920s, and is loosely based on “The Tempest.” Mae, orphaned daughter of the steward, has spent her whole life on the magical island of the Prosper family. Permitted to continue living there after her father died, Mae longingly dreams of training with the magic the Prospers control. Their magic is tied to the island’s captive spirits, and when Mae discovers a dying spirit she begins to investigate what—or who—is causing the spirits to die. The entire book takes place over one day and a night, the annual party called First Night, that commemorates Lord Prosper first harnessing magic. The mystery weaves through a gilded, opulent and treacherous setting, as Mae learns the cost of the life she dreams of.
“The Book of Living Secrets” by Madeleine Roux
Adelle and Connie are best friends, and love obsessing about “Moira,” a little-known period romance novel set in 1885 Boston. They know the book inside and out, and daydream about their book crushes—Adelle on the handsome Severin, and closeted Connie on the title character Moira. When a mysterious shopkeeper offers to send them into the book, they’re skeptical but agree. Landing in different points of the story line, Connie and Adelle try to find each other and make it back home. The problem is that they keep encountering things that weren’t in the book, as supernatural horrors wait in the shadows and people began to inexplicably walk into the sea. I think we’ve all wished at some point we could be transported into a favorite book, so this is some major wish fulfillment with delightful worldbuilding and character development. I’m definitely going to be picturing Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek the whole time though.
“The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea” by Axie Oh
This is a take on a Korean folktale. Every year, Mina’s village sacrifices a maiden to the Sea God, hoping to appease him so there will be no more natural disasters. Mina’s brother is determined to save his love, this year’s sacrifice, and prepares to fight the Sea God’s dragon servant. To spare her brother pain, Mina jumps into the sea instead, and is whisked away to the Spirit Realm. Mina finds herself tied to the apparently cursed Sea God, and severed from her voice and soul. She must navigate the dangers of the Spirit Realm and find a way to wake the Sea God and restore balance between humans and the gods. Intricately detailed and atmospheric, this folktale interpretation will satisfy fantasy lovers with its courageous heroine.
“A Thousand Steps Into Night” by Traci Chee
For our last book, we’re hopping over to a Japanese inspired fantasy. Miuko is an innkeeper’s daughter, plain, loud, clumsy and utterly ordinary. Until an encounter with a demon, who curses her to slowly turn into a demon herself. In a land where humans, demons and gods exist alongside each other, Miuko is still rejected by her village and left on her own to seek a cure. She makes unexpected friends along the way, including a shape-shifting trickster spirit, and sees her society and all its issues from an outside perspective as she travels. The true question becomes not whether she will find a cure, but if she will be willing to give up the power and freedom she’s found. The author wanted this to read like a “found” book (think Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings“), so it’s filled with fascinating footnotes that provide in-world historical context and pronunciation help for the Japanese inspired language. Come for the immersive worldbuilding, stay for the fierce feminism.
And because I can’t resist, here’s my little bibliophile! He loves turning the pages by himself.