I wrote a review recently which listed my top picks for adult fantasy books (you can read it here). Now it’s time to list my top picks for young adult fantasy! I’m going to attempt to write three young adult pick posts, because I can’t separate out my favourite authors from each other unless I do so by separating out their subgenres. My goal is to write one for fantasy (well done me, I’m already a third of the way there), dystopian and contemporary. Now there are plenty of other sub genres, but let’s just say those are my favourite three.
Today we start with fantasy. What I love about YA fantasy at the moment is that it is doing things that other people, other genres, can’t or don’t dare to do. There are so many layers of subtext and cultural critique in YA fantasy right now, and it works because it doesn't offend anyone, because the cultures and the powers -that-be are fictional. So, here are my top five:
Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas
This is a bit of a sprawling epic (weighing in at 8 volumes, including a collection of prequel novellas, with the last book to be released later this year). These were the books that made me fall in love with ready fantasy again. These were the books that inspired me to write my own. The series begins with Celaena - an assassin who has been captured and in serving time in a prison camp. She is enlisted by the prince to compete to become his father’s champion. If she wins the competition she is to serve the king for four years and will then be granted her freedom. The problem is, she hates the king with every fibre of her being.
It’s difficult to do this series justice in a short summary, and to do so without giving major spoilers away is impossible. Let’s just say this series includes badass assassins, magic, Fae, love, heartbreak, grief, friendship, demons and a WHOLE lot of sass.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
Karou is a blue-hair art student, living in Prague. By day, she goes to school, sketches and hangs out with her best friend Zuanna. By night, she collects teeth for monsters in exchange for wishes. But when devastation comes to those she loves, she is forced to face her past and take up the mantle of her future. This trilogy is about love and discrimination, about forgiveness and revenge. It’s Romeo and Juliet, but with monsters and angels. Laini Taylor is one of my all time favourite linguistic writers, her words and sentences and paragraphs are beautiful perfection - evoking emotions, imagery and drawing you into this exceptional world she has created. She is also releasing the final installment in her duology (Strange the Dreamer) later this year.
Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo
This duology is Ocean’s 11 meets Avatar the Last Airbender. Kaz Brekker is tasked with breaking a man out of a prison no one has ever escaped from. This man is the creator of a drug that could mean the undoing of the world Kaz knows. He puts together a team of 6 individuals, all who bring their own unique talents to the mission. “A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.”
Leigh Bardugo is the queen of plot twists, and this book will keep you twisting and guessing and gasping just like a good heist novel should. There is another trilogy that technically comes before this series, set in the same world just a few decades earlier. It is not necessary to read that series first (I didn’t) but if you love this one you might just want to read Shadow and Bone too.
An Ember in the Ashes - Sabaa Tahir
What I loved most about this series when I first heard about it, is that it is a fantasy world inspired by ancient Rome rather than medieval britain. It is a quartet and the third book (A Reaper at the Gates) has just been released in July. The story follows two protagonists; Laia and Elias. Laia is a Scholar who has grown up in the slums, witnessing the oppression of her people. Elias is a Martial, training at one of the empire's finest military schools despite detesting the very tyranny he’s being taught to enforce. When a mission for the Scholar Resistance sends Laia uncover into the school, she uncovers that there is more going on than the endless war against the Scholar and the Martials, and her life and Elais’ are changed forever.
Ink and Bone - Rachel Caine
This world revolves around the questions: What if the Great Library of Alexandria had never burnt down? With a little bit of magic thrown in for good measure. In this world, the Library is the ultimate power; higher than law, higher than religion. The Library controls the flow of knowledge to the masses —but it is illegal to own a book. Jess has grown up in a family of book smugglers, but he believes in the values of the Library. When he is sent to train as a scholar of the Library by his father, to work as a double agent and steal books for the family to sell, Jess is confronted with a choice: The Library or his family. What he doesn’t yet know is that the library has been repressing the invention of a device that would make books easy to create and distribute to the masses, the revelation of which sets Jess and his friends on a dangerous path.
The world building in this series is fantastic, it has the perfect mix of real world, what could of been, and fantasy elements. The plot moves slowly, but keeps you hooked in and wanting to know more. This series is also a quartet, and the last in the series was just released last month.
Hello again. It is no small secret that one of my favourite genres is fantasy. Anyone who follows me on Goodreads will easily see that my fantasy shelf is twice the size of any other. It makes me sad that there are lots of people who look down on this genre, but I also know there are plenty of fantasy nerds out there like me. Well, this one’s for you guys.
Here are my favourite adult fantasy series, as opposed to my favourite young adult series which is a whole other blog post:
Nevernight - Jay Kristoff
If you’ve been in the shop in the last six months you might know that this has been my ‘pick’ off and on all year. This is a fantastic series (number two is out - Godsgrave - and number three will be out next year!) about a girl called Mia, who is determined to avenge her family who were murdered in front of her when she was a child. It is dark (like, really dark), full of murder and betrayal and set in an amazing world. Kristoff’s catch phrase for this book on social media is ‘stab, stab, stab. (if you loved this series you might also enjoy Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister.)
A Darker Shade of Magic - V. E. Schwab
From one of my favourite authors of all time, this series is packed full of magic, action and fantastic characters. Imagine there are three Londons: Grey London, the world we know, Red London, a world rich with magic, and White London, a world of savage bloodshed. There are a few who have the power to walk between worlds, the Antari, and Kell is one of them. When he accidentally brings a piece of the long lost Black London into his world he unleashes hell, with deadly consequences. (The whole series is out now and Schwab is also writing a new series set in the same world for any fans of the original books)
Uprooted - Naomi Nivok
t is rare to find a really good fantasy stand alone story. There is a real talent in being able to take a reader through a satisfying story arch in just one book when following the rules of the fantasy genre, and Nivok does this seamlessly. The story follows Agnieszka, a simple girl from a simple village that stands near the border of the corrupted Wood. Her people rely on the protection of a wizard known only as the Dragon, who takes a young woman to serve him every ten years. What I loved most about this story was the incredibly creepy forest and the way in which a place stood in the role of evil antagonist to the story. (Novik has also just released Spinning Silver, another stand alone which is next on my TBR pile!)
The Name of The Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
It surprises me how many fantasy lovers who come into the shop haven’t heard of or read this series. For fans of more traditional ‘epic’ fantasy, like The Lord of the Rings, Robin Hobb or Game of Thrones, Rothfuss presents a very detailed world and scope of story. The series follows the life of Kvothe, a legend known as the Kingkiller. The story is told in two time periods, the first is of Kvothe as a grown man telling his life story to a scribe, and the second is that retelling of his life. Book two is out - The Wise Man’s Fear - and we are all eagerly awaiting book three…
The Golem and the Djinni - Helene Wecker
This is the only urban fantasy on this list, meaning that it is set in our world but with magical elements included. The story is of two creatures, a Golem created by a disgraced rabbi who is relocating to New York, and a Djinni who is awoken from his lamp by an unwitting tinsmith living in Little Syria. The two find each other and become friends, figuring out what it means to be in this new country and in their new lives of freedom, but not freedom. This story draws many parallels to immigration and has great subtextual observations about ‘otherness’.
If you keep up with our Instagram feed (@dogsattimeout), you are already aware that here at the bookshop we are borderline obsessed with dogs, doggos, doggerinos, schnoodles, and any other small creature that inspires a "LOOK AT THAT _____. I must go give a pat right now. BRB." So, we thought to ourselves: what better way to honour our obsession than with a few hand-picked lists of our top summer reads, all inspired by our furry visitors?
THE "Ph.D (PARTICULARLY HIGH BROW)" READ
Similar to Einstein, this floof has a killer 'do, and eyebrows to boot. It's quite possible this doggo stays up all night contemplating the universe - wearing a puppy-sized tinfoil hat - watching old episodes of Cosmos, and/or brushing up on some of the most up-to-date science reads. Join them on their quest for knowledge and dig into our picks below!
NATURE - SCIENCE - PSYCHOLOGY
THE "REALITY-IS EXHAUSTING-BUT-I'M-THIRSTY-FOR-MORE" READ
This pup looks beat - aren't we all? The holidays have come and gone, and it seems that the general consensus is a need for rest and relaxation this summer. Well, what better way to relax than to hit the beach, and inform yourself on the current state-of-things and political turmoil? Rosé optional.
POLITICS - CURRENT AFFAIRS - HISTORY
THE "CAN'T-STOP-GRINNING-EAR-TO-EAR" READ
Had a RUFF day or feeling melan-collie? If you need a laugh, we've got you covered.
HUMOUR - QUIRKY
FICTION & NON-FICTION
THE "SO-STRANGE-IT'S-WONDERFUL" READ
Meet Clarice, our new intern. Clarice suggests checking out some of the strangest & quirkiest books in our inventory. Fall down the rabbit hole this summer and pick up a WILD CARD!
FICTION & NON-FICTION
THE "ONCE-YOU'RE-IN-MY HANDS-I'M NEVER-GOING-TO-PUT-YOU-DOWN" READ
We're falling pretty hard for this puppy and their soulful, dark brown eyes. If only there were a book that could match the amount of emotion we feel from gazing at this angelic dog . . .
Below are some worthy contenders (that may make you cry, just a little).
THE "DON'T-GO-DOWN-TO-THE-BASEMENT-OR-TURN-OFF-THE-LIGHTS" READ
"What a sweet looking doggo!" you think. "Look at that cute little tail!" you say. But there may be some darkness behind that sweet face, something shadowed or mysterious we can't quite put our finger on. This list is for those who are ready to dive into a something darker: a new release crime, thriller, or dystopian novel. Just don't turn off the lights . . .
CRIME - THRILLER - DARK
THE "TAKE-ME-TO-YOUR-PLANET" READ
There are no words for this fantastical creature and we're quite keen on traveling with them to an alternate reality inhabited by similar mystical doggos. Everyone at the shop would shed more than a few tears if this creature were to go the route à la Poochy.
SCI FI - FANTASY - DYSTOPIAN
THE "POLYJUICE" READ
So you want to take a walk in someone else's shoes . . . Sadly, it might take us at least a month to brew up some polyjuice potion (sorry). While our book wizards are whipping that up in the holds cave, take a glug of a new bio or memoir.
BIOGRAPHY - MEMOIR
#1. It's Howl-O-Ween!
You may see some dogs, you may see some dogs IN COSTUMES! (This is what we're hoping for anyway.) You may also see some dressed up staff...!
#2. PURINA DOG TREATS
If you bring your dog to visit, they will receive a packet of Purina Dentalife treats.
#3. A GECKO PRESS WOLFY PACK IS TO BE WON!
To celebrate the NZ release of Grégoire Solotareff's Wolfy, we will give the best dressed dog this wonderful book prize from our friends Gecko Press.
#4. Giselle Draws Tote Bags
We have a very limited number of Bookshop Day Tote Bags to give away with your book purchases. Get in early for these.
#5. Free 2 for 1 Movie Tickets!
Thanks to Trigger Marketing, we have a bunch of movie tickets to give away. Choose from one of these 3 films:
Our magical Katie, will be whipping up some of her famous ginger cookies. (Here's a peek at what she created last year.)
#7. BOOK REVIEW WINNERS!
We will announce the winners of our book review competition at 5pm. YOU CAN STILL ENTER!
#8. LONELY PLANET SPOT PRIZES
Once the NZ Bookshop Day totes are gone, we've got Lonely Planet totes to give away with your book purchases. These ones might have an extra book or two in them(!)
#9. ALL THE BOOKS
There are so many new books in stock, we can barely fit them in. You can get signed copies of Jessica Townsend's Nevermoor, check our Lucinda in The New Zealand Cat, put your name down for the incoming Man Booker Winner Lincoln in the Bardo and perhaps start on on Christmas shopping?
#10. SAY GOODBYE TO SURI
This isn't actually very good news, but Saturday will be our wonderful Suri's last day before she travels to distant shores. Come in and say farewell.
1) Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban (Illustrated Edition) by J.K. Rowling
Wendy's Grandson Jacob has been spending the holidays with us and his top pick is the new illustrated edition of Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban.
If you haven't yet read one of the illustrated editions of Harry Potter, you're missing out! It's a wonderful way to experience the series.
4) Competition time for National Bookshop Day
In celebration of our Howl-O-Ween NZ Bookshop Day, we are giving away TWO bespoke bi monthly book bundles for 2018. All you need to do is create a review for us! See details below...
Another GREAT competition to check out is the Booksellers NZ 'Love Letter to your Bookshop' here:
All we have to say is that this is one of the most beautiful books in the kid's room right now. From the author of Landmarks and The Wild Places with tender and rich illustrations, The Lost Words is a book for every age.
Here is a round up of our picks for week one of the school holidays.
1) The Traitor and the Thief by Gareth Ward.
Listen to our youngest bookseller Eli speak with Mikey Havoc on 95bFM's Loose Reads about what he's reading at the moment, plus a review of Gareth Ward's steampunk novel.
2) Aotearoa by Gavin Bishop
This incredible book follows suit of popular, sophisticated non fiction titles such as Timeline & Maps. Check out this interview on RNZ's Standing Room Only.
3) The Dragon Defenders by James Russell
We had a visit from James and the real life Dragon Defenders, Flynn & Paddy. This book is great chapter book for those 7+ readers who love the Treehouse series, Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates..
4) Annual 2 edited by Kate De Goldi and Susan Paris
Annual is BACK and it is just amazing as ever. A collection of stories, games, poetry, comics & illustrations from some of New Zealand's most talented creatives.
5) The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
Did you know Cressida Cowell, author of How to Train your Dragon, has released the first book of a new series? The Wizards of Once is a GREAT read for fans of magic, adventure and friendship. We would recommend this for young readers 8+.
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