Taylor

Staff Blog: Taylor's Top YA Fantasy Picks by Time Out Bookstore

 Taylor with Laini Taylor in 2014.

Taylor with Laini Taylor in 2014.

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:


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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.


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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.


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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.

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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.

Staff Blog: Taylor's Top Fantasy Picks by Time Out Bookstore

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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:


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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.)

 

 


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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)

 


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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!)


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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…

 

 


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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’.