A College of Magics – Caroline Stevermer

684c34b40dca712597a456d5a77434f414f4141Faris is the Duchess of Galazon, but until she reaches her majority, her uncle’s in charge, and he’s shipped her off to Greenlaw College. Faris wants nothing to do with this choice, but it turns out, her mother has specified Greenlaw in her will, because Greenlaw teaches magic.

This story isn’t all about the college –Faris is not actually meant to practice the magic of Greenlaw – she’s meant for something much bigger, and that will bring her back to Galazon, and the neighboring kingdom of Aravill.

This book was not what I expected – it’s much more than just a school story, and Faris does not follow the typical path of plucky girl hero, and this is truly a stand alone book. It was a very interesting read – I’d love to run into more of these.

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The Hero and the Crown – Robin McKinley

2b60d63e26cf9e6593966385251434f414f4141Continuing my rereading theme, here’s the prequel to The Blue Sword. Aerin in the only child of the king, by his second wife, who some considered to be a witch, so there are whispers about her. She won’t inherit the throne – that goes to her cousin Tor. Consequently, she’s not really sure what to do with her life.

A chance encounter with an old book in the library gives her a formula for an old dragon fighter’s heat resistant potion, which she’s able to replicate, and when a representative of a village being menaced by a dragon comes to the palace while her father and Tor are away, she jumps at the chance to prove herself.

She’s wildly successful, but the dragons she’s fighting are barely more intelligent than regular animals, not the legendary creatures of old. Until the day that word comes that Maur, one of the great old dragons, has awakened. The King and Tor are dealing with an upstart baron on the border, and Aerin is therefore the only person capable of fighting this dragon. She wins, but is gravely wounded.

While trying to heal, she has a vision of a man, who may have known her mother, and she knows will heal her. She eventually finds her way to him, which will gain her the Blue Sword, and a heritage she didn’t know she had.

This description is absolutely not giving this story justice – it’s so much more than the above. Again, it’s a perfect example of why I love McKinley’s Damar stories – she’s imagined such a fantastic world.

The Scarlet Thread – D. S. Murphy

1530331625-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_I get a couple different book newsletters for cheap or free ebook deals. I’ve learned to be really leery of the free ones. So I was really pleasantly surprised by this book. It’s definitely more in the YA realm, so has a fair amount of teenage angst, but not anymore than any typical book in the genre. What is also has is a really interesting take on the how the ancient Greek pantheon transitioned into the monotheistic tradition we live in today. (This sounds dry – I swear it’s not.)

Kaidance has been at a sort of juvenile/mental facility for a number of years – because everyone, including her parents, believes she killed her younger brother. She’d actually seen a vision of him dying, and had tried everything she could to prevent it, but everyone believed that her telling people that he would be hit by a red truck had gone on for so long, she had to make it happen. Since then, she’s been careful to never touch anyone, because she never knows when she’ll get a vision of a person’s death.

After a party where she sees a mysterious stranger, Kai’s busted out of the facility and brought to an estate in the middle of nowhere populated by an interesting cast of characters. They know about her power, and while they are offering to help her train it, they also clearly want to use it for their own ends, and it takes Kai a while to uncover why.

It turns out these people are refugees in a war between the gods. Zeus has decided to go it alone – and has been killing as many of his relatives as he can, using an army he created that are basically angels. If a member of that army falters at a command for just a moment, even if it’s an unconscious pause, they’re cast out. These fallen angels have thrown in their lot with the refugees. Have I mentioned those refuges are led by Hades?

This book is very much the set up to this story – it would appear that Kai has been chosen by the Fates to end this war. I’m interested to see how that will happen.

Defying Mars – Cidney Swanson

1939543010-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_This is technically the second book in this series, but I’m starting to get the feeling the author pulled apart one (maybe two – the series is young) books to make more parts.

In the last book, Jess and her brother were among the crew of a Mars ship sent to Earth to get the food they need to survive. Officially, there’s no one on Mars – they’ve been considered dead by Earth for years, but there have black market support back on Earth. Their mission went terribly wrong, and only Jess and the mechanic make it back to Mars. In this book, Jess pretty much steals the ship almost as soon as they get back, and returns to Earth. That’s it.

Yes, there’s a some action on Earth where her brother Ethan is getting used to his new body (long backstory), and other things happens (with characters you won’t understand unless you’ve read book one). That’s why this seems very incomplete to me – the whole book is a transition act. I can’t even say it’s good or bad- it just is.

The Blue Girl – Charles de Lint

ecf562906d3af1959724a656777434f414f4141When Imogene’s mother moves their family into Newford, Imogene is determined to make the most of things. She quickly makes friends with Maxine – who doesn’t seem to have any friends at school, but is the most interesting person Imogene sees. And at the same time, she manages to come to the attention of Adrian, the school’s resident ghost.

Adrian was also a loner in life, until he caught the attention of the school’s brownies. The problem with brownies is that when they’re taken for granted, they get a bit feral, and the school’s brownies are definitely feeling neglected. They think they’re being kind to Adrian, but in a moment of fun, he dies. He’s been hanging around the school ever since, unable to cross over.

This is a definite young adult book, so even though there are some pretty heavy themes in this book (bullying gets some extensive treatment), they’re lighter than the more adult Newford books would be. There is some cross over with some of the other adult Newford characters, but this book easily stands alone. Imogene, Maxine and Adrian are interesting characters, and this is a fun high school story, with a much more realistic feel to it than other YA. (Funny to say about a fundamentally fantasy story, but it’s true.) This is also a great introduction to the larger world of Newford, and would probably work as well for adults as young adults in that way.

Risuko – David Kudler

1938808347-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Risuko’s father was a samarai, but his death has left her family poor. And that is why Risuko’s mother sells her to Lady Chiyome. However, she soon finds that the Lady has plans for her – she’s brought back to the school that Lady Chiyome started to train shrine maidens – but they’re more than just priestesses – some of the women are trained as assassins, and more.

Risuko arrives with two other novices, and they begin their training in the kitchen with the Korean cook – even that isn’t as must drudgery as it would seem – they’re learning about healing herbs, and various other things that can be done with food.

As time goes on, it seems that someone is trying to steal something from the envoy of the local lord who’s staying with them. When most of the rest of the temple falls under a sleeping potion, Risuko must figure out who’s the enemy in the temple, and rescue everyone else.

Risuko’s a great character. This is definitely a young adult book, so it’s pretty straightforward, but she pulls you in quickly, and you want to read more to see what she does next.

Ink and Bone – Rachel Caine

eb77cdc142a1a1c597074656a77434f414f4141Jess Brightwell lives in London in an alternate world where the library in Alexandria was never destroyed. It found a way to transmits copies of books everywhere, and now it controls all the knowledge in the world. Jess’s family are smugglers – obtaining original books for buyers who can afford them.

Jess has never shown the same aptitude for smuggling as his twin brother, and so his father manages to get him into the newest postulant class for the Library. The Brightwells see it as a business opportunity to get someone on the inside. Jess also sees it as an opportunity to surround himself with his beloved books.

Once in Alexandria, it’s clear that the there are many agendas in play – the other postulants also seem to have secrets. And it’s soon also clear that the Library itself will stop at nothing to maintain its grip over the world’s knowledge.

This was a very interesting set up – I definitely want to see what happens to Jess and his friends next. The world building was great – it’s a compelling story.