When Lena’s younger sister Fressa is found dead, their whole Viking clan mourns—but it is Lena alone who never recovers. Fressa is the sister that should’ve lived, and Lena cannot rest until she knows exactly what killed Fressa and why—and how to bring her back. She strikes a dark deal with Hela, the Norse goddess of death, and begins a new double life to save her sister.
But as Lena gets closer to bringing Fressa back, she dredges up dangerous discoveries about her own family, and finds herself in the middle of a devastating plan to spur Ragnarök –a deadly chain of events leading to total world destruction.
Still, with her sister’s life in the balance, Lena is willing to risk it all. She’s willing to kill. How far will she go before the darkness consumes her?
The Weight of a Soul by Elizabeth Tammi was insightful, descriptive, fun, and showcases one of my favorite things: the love between two sisters. There were a lot of things to like about this book.
Probably my favorite aspect of this story was the emphasis of Nordic Mythology. Tammi does a great job of interweaving the mythos with the rest of the world and the story and I loved that she took a spin on the topic that most don’t. The Nordic angle still feels fresh and new and original and it was fascinating to me to be introduced to myths I wasn’t already so familiar with. The viking characters care deeply about these myths and gods and I loved that the author took the time to connect that to the characters’ culture. It really was well done.
Another thing I loved is that this book starts off fast right out of the gate. Before we even get to know anyone too well, things are turned on their head and we have to reorient ourselves all over again. Usually this would be jarring, but for some reason here it worked well. I liked having to relearn the new rules of the story. The pace does lag in the middle and I struggled to get through some bits, but it picks back up near the end and ties off nicely.
The sister relationship between Lena and Fressa was another high point for this story. Their closeness felt real and relatable instead of too sweet or too formal, and the lengths they would go for each other are vast. I have a sister and reading this made me think of all the things I would do for her. I was really touched.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit overall, even though I struggled in the middle. The mythology is rich and the world is immersive, the relationships are touching and intuitive and the story was pretty interesting. If you’re a lover of myths, this might just be the next book for you.
Elizabeth Tammi was born in California and grew up in Florida, but is currently double-majoring in Creative Writing and Journalism as an undergraduate at Mercer University in Georgia. When she’s not writing, you can probably find Elizabeth at work for her university’s newspaper and literary magazine. Her other interests include traveling, caffeinated beverages, and mythology.
You can find Elizabeth online on Tumblr at (annabethisterrified), Twitter at (@ElizabethTammi), Instagram at (elizabeth_tammi), and at elizabethtammi.com.
After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade―until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.
With fast pacing and riveting characters, this is a book that you’ll finish in one sitting.
Refraction by Naomi Hughes was an intense, compelling, ultimately fun read that I kept itching to pick back up. During work or driving home, I’d be thinking about where I left off and what theories or guesses I had about the story. Ultimately, I enjoyed this a lot. Another win for YA Horror in 2019.
First and foremost, the characters felt real and so did their connection. They felt like people: engaging, likable and flawed. I still rooted for them. I wanted them to survive. Marty’s drive to get to his brother and Eliot’s need for approval were so relatable, honest, and human that my empathy survived through every fumble, twist, and turn.
I also loved that there wasn’t a romance in this book. I don’t mind romance, usually I enjoy it, but because it seems to be in absolutely every story lately, this was— a refreshing change of pace. It was nice to not be distracted for once, especially in a story where it would have felt forced. It wasn’t needed. The story kicked ass on its own.
The plot was wild, dark, and frequently terrifying. I’ve always been particularly creeped out by scary stories involving mirrors and this one took that trope and ran with it. The author does a fantastic job of keeping the reader guessing and the reveal(s) took me off guard more than once.
Not everyone likes an open ending, but I do. This one left just enough room for the imagination, while providing enough of a foundation to still be satisfying. I’d love to read a sequel, if that’s in the cards. Who knows?
Ultimately, I enjoyed Refraction a whole lot. I have high hopes whenever I dive into a YA scary story, and this mix of horror and sci-fi was the perfect tone to set my spine tingling. I loved the focus and detail the story was written with, and it was just unbelievable enough that I was swept up along for the ride. If this genre is your jam, don’t miss Refraction this year.
Hey! I’m Naomi Hughes, writer of quirky young adult fiction (usually involving physics and/or unicorns). I live in the Midwest US, a region I love even though it tries to murder me with tornadoes every spring. When not writing, my hobbies include reading (of course), traveling, and geeking out over Marvel superheroes and certain time-traveling Doctors. My debut YA sci-fi standalone novel, Afterimage, is available now from Page Street Publishing. My next novel, Refraction (also a standalone YA sci-fi), comes out in Nov 2019. I also offer freelance critique services at naomiedits.com.
From the acclaimed author of DEFY, Sara B. Larson, SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT is a timeless and fantastical tale of sisterly love and powerful magic.
“The night my sister was born, the stars died and were reborn in her eyes…”.
Zuhra and Inara have grown up in the Citadel of the Paladins, an abandoned fortress where legendary, magical warriors once lived before disappearing from the world―including their Paladin father the night Inara was born.
On that same night, a massive, magical hedge grew and imprisoned them within the citadel. Inara inherited their father’s Paladin power; her eyes glow blue and she is able to make plants grow at unbelievable rates, but she has been trapped in her own mind because of a “roar” that drowns everything else out―leaving Zuhra virtually alone with their emotionally broken human mother.
For fifteen years they have lived, trapped in the citadel, with little contact from the outside world…until the day a stranger passes through the hedge, and everything changes.
Sisters of Shadow and Light is not a simple story, but it’s a wildly intriguing one. It was readable, relatable, fantastical, and most of all it felt original. The story moved in ways that I didn’t expect at all, which is saying something considering that I’d pegged the story for an ending early on in the book. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I enjoyed it a lot.
Following two sisters with vastly different talents and experiences in the world, this book is told from alternating perspectives for the most part and the effect this creates is masterful. Zuhra, the sister we hear from first and most often, has had her life formed around caring for her sister and keeping their family’s secrets. Inara, on the other hand, is struggling with powers that make her so sensitive that she can’t even communicate for part of the book’s story. Her moments of lucidity are cherished and then used as a device to further the story, it really is well done.
I enjoyed the characters as much as the book in this one. These girls aren’t perfect, but they are strong. Both whole and interesting characters in their own right, both sisters are ambitious and headstrong, committed and focused, and they do not give up. Their bond was my favorite part of this whole story. Yes, I know, I’m a bit biased in that I love a good sisterly bond in a book, but adding the fantasy and the dynamic between them, this felt new and fun.
I hesitate to say too much else about the magic system or plot lines because I truly enjoyed being confused and confounded throughout the course of this story. I truly enjoyed Sisters of Shadow and Light and (gah! with that ending??) I cannot wait for the sequel that hopefully comes.
Sara B. Larson is the best-selling and critically acclaimed author of the YA fantasy DEFY trilogy (DEFY, IGNITE, and ENDURE) and the DARK BREAKS THE DAWN duology. Her next YA fantasy, SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT, comes out November 5th from Tor Teen. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband, their four children, and their Maltese, Loki. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction.
A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand.
Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…
Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.
But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.
Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.
I don’t pick up YA contemporary as often as I pick up other genre’s— this year I’ve read a lot of it though, and The How and the Why has been one of the high points throughout that journey.
The How and the Why by Cynthia hand is, at its heart, a story about love, family, and hope. I loved so many things about this book.
First and foremost, this is an emotional book in the best of ways. I am an emotional reader, I tend to read with my heart first and this book took that and tugged me along by the heartstrings again and again. The way Hand writes emotion is also notable too, she does such a good job of writing about the way something feels. Unlike many others who fall into familiar metaphor, I felt the characters emotions because the description was subtle but so accurate and insightful. I felt for these characters, I felt with these characters.
This book also uses alternating storylines that are set in different times, which I thought was a masterful decision for this book. One timeline follows our main character, Cass, as she struggles through her Senior Year in High School, and the other follows Cass’ birth mother while she was pregnant, writing a series of letters to her daughter. The effect was compelling, kept me reading long into the night, and brought on laughs and tears alike.
Lastly, I really liked the characters in this book. They felt real and whole, lived in and alive, and so relatable. Cass herself is a theatre kid at her High School, which I loved. I was also a theatre kid, and all the funny and relatable experiences she goes through, as both a student and theatre nerd, brought me back to all those years of being a theatre nerd myself.
The How and the Why was beautiful, relatable, endlessly readable, and heartbreaking in the best of ways. If you read with your heart and love to love the characters on the page, do yourself a favor and don’t miss this wholehearted, authentic little gem of a debut.
Cynthia Hand is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for teens, including the UNEARTHLY trilogy, THE LAST TIME WE SAY GOODBYE, MY LADY JANE and MY PLAIN JANE (with fellow authors Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows), THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE, and the upcoming novels THE HOW AND THE WHY and MY CALAMITY JANE (also with Ashton and Meadows). Before turning to writing for young adults, she studied literary fiction and earned both an M.F.A. and a Ph.D. in fiction writing. She currently resides in Boise, Idaho, with her husband, two cats, one crazy dog, two kids, and mountain of books.
Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen…
Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons.
Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.
But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.
When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.
A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom…
Are you kidding? A spooky, LGBTQ+, fantasy read that just happens to fall in the spoooooky month of October? I was SO in.
Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland was a fun read. It was dark and moody, gothic and spooky, fantastic and magical, and just complex enough to keep me reading all the way until the end. More than anything about this book, I was just– interested: to see how it ended, to see what happened next, to see what would happen to Kamai in the end.
The magic in this system is completely new and original, which I loved. The concept of “soul walkers” was wild and a little esoteric, but what I found so wonderful about this book was the way that the system and the explanations of this form of magic were written so well. Her concepts are complex, but the way Strickland writes about them was accessible, relatable, and dare I say- magical.
I loved the representation in this book most of all, I was so excited to see a book (especially a fantasy book) lean into a character who falls into the Aromantic/Asexual spectrum. Especially given that the character, internally, struggles with these feelings and perspectives, which I found wholly and utterly relatable. This book uses many metaphors to show how asexuality is a grey area where many people fall along a wide spectrum. I loved the use of moon phases, which also tied into the magic in this story, to examine gender identity and the character’s conflicts with sex and her work.
I rooted for Kamai throughout this book. I wanted her to succeed and find what she was looking for, even when things became murky and it looked like that might be unlikely. Kamai is impulsive, flawed, stubborn, and has her own internal conflicts aplenty, but all of this combines to make a immensely human character inside an already fantastical world.
I hesitate to talk too much about to romance or “romance,” depending on your POV, because I don’t want to give anything away. Needless to say, it was refreshing to see a dark, villainous love interest actually— you know, stay dark and villainous. So often in YA novels, when an author is trying to write an abusive or manipulative or dark romantic plot like, these edges can be somewhat rounded off and instead we get a villain that is sympathetic and understandable. I enjoyed the fact that this was not the point of the romance in Beyond the Black Door. The fact that this relationship in the book is unhealthy, manipulative, and dangerous is never argued, ignored, or glossed over. I am always so grateful when an author can acknowledge these dark truths, especially in a romantic plot line, because as much as we enjoy these stories, it also reminds us that this is not how romance ‘should’ be.
I will say one thing: I want more. I have so many questions left and I go back and forth over whether or not that’s a great thing or a frustrating thing. I just want to know more. So here’s hoping!
Overall, this was a strong debut for Strickland into the crowded field of YA and I will be keeping my eye out for what comes next from this author.
Check it out for yourselves and I hope you enjoy!
AdriAnne Strickland was a bibliophile who wanted to be an author before she knew what either of those words meant. She shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, her pugs, and her piles and piles of books. She loves traveling, dancing, vests, tattoos, and every shade of teal in existence, but especially the darker ones. She is the coauthor of SHADOW RUN and SHADOW CALL (Delacorte/Penguin Random House) and author of the forthcoming BEYOND THE BLACK DOOR (Imprint/Macmillan).
Hey all! I am so excited to share with you my stop on the Angel Mage Tour. I’ve got some creative content for you, a review of this awesome new book, and a giveaway down at the bottom! Hope you enjoy. x
“More than a century has passed since Liliath crept into the empty sarcophagus of Saint Marguerite, fleeing the Fall of Ystara. But she emerges from her magical sleep still beautiful, looking no more than nineteen, and once again renews her single-minded quest to be united with her lover, Palleniel, the archangel of Ystara.
A seemingly impossible quest, but Liliath is one of the greatest practitioners of angelic magic to have ever lived, summoning angels and forcing them to do her bidding.
Liliath knew that most of the inhabitants of Ystara died from the Ash Blood plague or were transformed into beastlings, and she herself led the survivors who fled into neighboring Sarance. Now she learns that angels shun the Ystaran’s descendants. If they are touched by angelic magic, their blood will turn to ash. They are known as Refusers, and can only live the most lowly lives.
But Liliath cares nothing for the descendants of her people, save how they can serve her. It is four young Sarancians who hold her interest: Simeon, a studious doctor-in-training; Henri, a dedicated fortune hunter; Agnez, an adventurous musketeer cadet; and Dorotea, an icon-maker and scholar of angelic magic. They are the key to her quest.
The four feel a strange kinship from the moment they meet, but do not know why, or suspect their importance. All become pawns in Liliath’s grand scheme to fulfill her destiny and be united with the love of her life. No matter the cost to everyone else. . .”
When I heard that Garth Nix was releasing another book, I was SO excited. Then even more excited when I earned an advanced copy and a spot on this tour!
If you don’t know this about me, I used to read Nix’s Old Kingdom series when I was younger and it was one that I consistently went back to as I grew up. Starting with Sabriel, the Old Kingdom series was like quicksand for me, it sucked me in and never let me out again. But the wonderful thing about the way Nix writes is that it seemed to almost age with me: I noticed new things, I understood the relationships and complex world even better, it was a whole new experience.
Suffice to say, because of all this, I had high expectations for Angel Mage. After all, this is the same world as the Old Kingdom series…only 100 years later. If you’re familiar with the Old Kingdom series, you’ll recognize and enjoy callbacks and references to parts of the world you remember. But the real joy of the way Nix has written this book is that it can also stand alone. You don’t need any credentials to pick up and enjoy this book, aside from wanting to.
And Angel Mage starts off with a bang. Nix throws us into this insane world without warning and with plenty of action. Given that Nix has a writing style that not everyone finds easy to read, I was pleasantly surprised by how fast-paced, action-packed, and tight this book really was. The plot moves quickly and I found myself waiting, on the edge of my seat many times, just to find out what was going to happen next.
It wouldn’t be possible to talk about a Garth Nix book without pointing out what a beautiful job he does with the world-building and mythology in his work. The World of Angel Mage is so full of fascinating things to latch onto, question, and wonder about. The magical and ‘religious’ and/or angelic pantheon system that Nix has created in this story is immense and complex and so unique. I’ve yet to read anything else like it and it was one of my favorite parts of the book, figuring out how this fascinating new system of fantasy worked.
Another thing Nix always delivers well is a solid, character-driven story. Despite the plot moving full speed ahead, the characters that we travel with throughout this story have not been forgotten about in the least. I loved to hate the main character in the weirdest way: I empathized with her, felt so deeply for her, and also constantly wanted to shake her by the shoulders. Her drive and stubbornness are such a deep part of her character and mission that she felt alive.
Even Angel Mage’s side characters, of which there are four of note, are all unique and full and tangible. I felt their friendship for each other, which is another feat I appreciate so much in books, it felt so real. Their complex histories and personal drives were all so rich and woven into the story so as to dangerously intertwine at just the right moment.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Angel Mage was gripping, character-driven, quick, and wonderfully magical. Once you ease into the style of Nix’s writing, the world is immersive and beautifully written and I think anyone, adult or young adult, who enjoys fantasy might enjoy this too.
Sound interesting? I thought so! In fact I LOVE a good book that can take something so big and vast and complex as the topics of Angels and Gods and turn it into something fresh, original, and new.
Here are a few more of my favorite books that delight in showing off the most original facets of the Divine:
This might be my favorite take on angels today. (Yes, its also my favorite series, so I am biased, but still.) I hesitate to say too much here, for the simple fact that you might be reading this series and not have gotten to and/or realized the bigger picture of this bizarre and fascinating urban fantasy world. If not, you are in luck; there are huge, shocking, wonderful, horrible twists ahead for you. Butcher uses a myriad of references and entities to weave a bigger story into his narrative and it continues to blow me away. If you like your Angels and Demons smart, subtle, and truly old-as-time, this is the series for you. (Adult, Urban Fantasy)
Is there another book that uses gods and angels and higher beings so creatively? I’m not sure. American Gods is a big, wandering, complex book that is a wild ride to read, I’ve enjoyed it many times. What I love most about it though is how it uses America, a country that’s (ideally) known for being a ‘melting pot’ of different beliefs and cultures, to show a new side to how that might affect those gods being believed in. What happens to a god when their worshippers are driven from their homes and have to find a new way of life? What happens to a god when their people have to assimilate into a new culture? What happens to a god when they are forgotten about? There are so many questions, and so many more, that American Gods both answers and poses, but if these questions interest you then the book will too. If you like your Angels and Demons a little bit gritty, jaded, and all varieties of pissed off, this might be the book for you. (Adult, Urban Fantasy)
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Gaiman made this list twice. But given that these two list entries could not be more different from each other, I’m going to say its a fair count. Good Omens is the antithesis of American Gods in many ways, but also it’s just…its own wonderful thing. Good Omens is funny and irreverent, smart and clever, and full of Gaiman’s trademark profundity and Pratchett’s beloved sense of humor. The two of them come together to create something that is, all at once, a thriller, a coming of age story, a cosmic battle between good and evil, and also just a story of a boy and his dog. This book is hilarious, beautiful, sad, and sweet, and most of all, just a great time. If you like your Angels and Demons to be equal turns snarky and adorable, human-loving and rule-breaking, really into their organizations and maybe a little bit in love with each other too- this book is for you. (Adult, Fantasy)
I didn’t expect this series to have anything at all to do with gods or angels or the like, but Megan Whalen Turner has a way of surprising me in everything she does. While these books center on political and royal intrigues for the most part, the reader can’t deny that a bigger picture starts forming early on. The main character, Eugenidies, doesn’t want the gods’ attention and didn’t ask for it, but he seems to have it. Between being sent dreams, his fate being turned at a whim, and even direct contact, Eugenidies can’t ignore the very real truth that the gods want something with him. And they want something bigger, too. As each book builds on itself and his life changes in ways he couldn’t imagine, the picture starts to become clearer and so many things hinge on his trust in his gods. If you like your Angels and Demons subtle but direct, amused, and willing to change a person’s fate to meet their own ends, this may be the series for you. (MG/YA, Fantasy)
Tamora Pierce has been a beloved author of mine since I was young, and I’ve read all her books. She’s written multiple series, but all of them fall into one of two worlds: Tortall or Emelan, named after the countries these stories spend the most time in. Each of these series are different, with different protagonists, struggles, and even magical and religious systems across the two worlds. There is so much variety in the way the people in these worlds worship, which gods they worship, and especially how magic factors into it all. In one world Pierce paints her gods as distant but accessible, benevolent. They exist but on a more practical, worldly level that each character can turn over and decide how it makes them feel. It feels fresh and honest and magically fascinating, and if that sounds like something you’d like be sure to check out her books in Emelan. In Tortall, the gods may feel distant for some but they are ever so very, very present. If you like your gods and angels and spiritual entities meddling and emotional, personal and relational, and potentially able to visit, that might be the series for you instead. Pierce has so much to offer in this arena.
This series is relatively new; its a trilogy but only two of the books have been published so far, Furyborn and Kingsbane. I enjoyed them both. The most fascinating part for me, in both of them, was the way that Legrand writes this world: magic and religion and angels and science all wrapped up together into one complex thread that cannot be unraveled. If you like your Angels and gods to span centuries and stories, to do whatever it takes to complete their mission, this might be the series for you.
All of the books from Tolkien’s Middle-Earth
Oh, Tolkien. How could I not include Tolkien? I don’t know about you but I am a huge fan of Middle-Earth and all of its stories. Tolkien’s work may be dense, but what makes up for it, especially when it comes to angels, demons and gods, is the immense amount of culture and world-building that he manages to fit into every story. Tolkien’s world has gods and beliefs and cultures that go back so far into the history of Middle-Earth that most people on real Earth don’t know the half of it. If you like your Angels and Demons to be distant, more mythological than personable, more story than entity, this is the right world for you. There are so many facets to explore.
I had so much fun reading Angel Mage and honestly I had so much fun making this list. I could ramble on here about more ideas for the rest of the day, but I hope I’ve at least given you some new titles to check out for your next divine read. What a wild world it is.
Garth Nix has been a full-time writer since 2001, but has also worked as a literary agent, marketing consultant, book editor, book publicist, book sales representative, bookseller, and as a part-time soldier in the Australian Army Reserve.
Garth’s books include the Old Kingdom fantasy series, comprising Sabriel, Lirael; Abhorsen; Clariel and Goldenhand; SF novels Shade’s Children and A Confusion of Princes; and a Regency romance with magic, Newt’s Emerald. His novels for children include The Ragwitch; the six books of The Seventh Tower sequence; The Keys to the Kingdom series and others. He has co-written several books with Sean Williams, including the Troubletwisters series; Spirit Animals Book Three: Blood Ties; Have Sword, Will Travel; and the forthcoming sequel Let Sleeping Dragons Lie. A contributor to many anthologies and magazines, Garth’s selected short fiction has been collected in Across the Wall and To Hold the Bridge.
More than five million copies of his books have been sold around the world, they have appeared on the bestseller lists of The New York Times, Publishers Weekly and USA Today and his work has been translated into 42 languages. His most recent book is Frogkisser! now being developed as a film by Twentieth Century Fox/Blue Sky Animation.