Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

A Master of Djinn by P. Djèlí Clark

June 3, 2021


I’ve been on a bit of a historical fantasy kick lately, which is a genre I love because you get the wonderful time and place perspective of historical fiction, plus magic! Add a touch of police procedural to the mix and you get this extremely enjoyable new novel, which takes us to Cairo, Egypt in 1912. In this alternate history, the world is still reeling from the fact that the gates to the magical realm were suddenly thrown open by the mysterious al-Jahiz about 50 years earlier, and now Djinn and other magical creatures live among humans. Tensions start running high when someone claiming to be al-Jahiz returns to Cairo, causing chaos in the city. When murders begin to occur, Agent Fatma el-Sha’arawi of the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, is called in to investigate. Fatma is a wonderful character, brilliant, a little battle-weary, and a spiffy dresser in fancy suits and bowler hats. She teams up with her new partner, Agent Hadia, who is fresh out of the academy and eager to impress, and Fatma’s girlfriend Siti, to tackle the mystery. The book weaves themes of colonialism, racism, sexism, class struggle and sexuality into this extremely engaging, enjoyable novel. It’s the first in a series and I will definitely be reading more from this author!

You can find A Master of Djinn at the Library.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

May 13, 2021


I’m finding a theme in a lot of the books I’m reading lately of people in difficult circumstances choosing kindness and compassion. In this fantasy novel, it is Maia, half-Goblin, half-Elf, who is making this choice. Maia is the exiled and mostly forgotten youngest son of the Emperor of the Elflands, who finds himself thrust into the role of Emperor when his father and his older brothers are killed in an airship crash. Maia is only 18, and has grown up isolated and unloved after the early death of his beloved Goblin mother. Raised by an angry and abusive cousin, he knows nothing of the politics or etiquette of the Court, and is ill at ease among others in general, and particularly among the aristocratic Elf Court. His anxiety and sense of isolation only increase when he learns that the airship accident that killed his father and brothers was sabotage.

What I liked so much about his book, as strange as it may sound, was the lack of action. Maia is a very lonely and anxious character, and in the midst of trying to understand the political intrigue and ways of the Court, he is just trying to figure out who he can trust, who he is, and who, if anyone, he can count as a friend. There is no real love story, no epic battles in this book. Just a thoughtful, cerebral story of a young man trying to figure out how to be a good person, how to be a good leader, and how to find a friend. It is a surprisingly gentle and heartfelt book, and it was nice to see goblins get some love for a change. I listened to this audiobook on Hoopla and very much enjoyed it.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

April 27, 2021


This vibrant, rich debut YA fantasy novel tells the story of Tarisai, who we first meet as a lonely, isolated child. Tarisai is the daughter of The Lady, a mysterious woman who drops in and out of Tarisai’s life. Tarisai has the gift of being able to read, change and erase people’s memories when she touches them, which leads to a childhood of people avoiding her touch. She is eventually brought to the Capitol to compete to become part of the Prince’s Council of 11, a council of gifted children who will swear loyalty to the Crown Prince for life, and form a family in which they are able to telepathically communicate. This is the dream for Tarisai – to have this kind of closeness and connection with others. However, her mother has implanted in her an order to kill the Crown Prince if and when she is anointed as part of his Council.

I loved the world building of this book, which is rich and vivid and inspired by pre-colonial West African history and folklore. I was immediately drawn into this world and Tarisai’s story. The book does a nice job of weaving in broader issues of imperialism and the role of culture, with Tarisai’s personal struggles with trust and loyalty, and finding her voice and her purpose. I also appreciated the nuances in the positions and beliefs of the characters, where things are more complicated than just good vs evil. This is a highly readable and enjoyable book – I gobbled up the audiobook in a couple of days. I’m really excited to read book 2 when it comes out!

You can find this book at the Library and both the eBook and the audiobook on Hoopla.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

March 23, 2021


Looking for a comfort read? This whimsical, gentle fantasy really hit the spot for me during turbulent times. It tells the story of Linus, who works for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He is a rule follower whose job is to check in on orphanages for magical children, to make sure they are safe and that the children’s magic is being handled (contained) properly. While not particularly inspired in his position, he does believes in the work he is doing. However, when he is assigned to spend a month at a house for the magical children who are considered the most dangerous, his world view begins to shift. Along with Linus you get to know and love the unusual, magical children who live there. Linus also begins to fall for Arthur, the mysterious head of the orphanage. This is a lovely, big-hearted, hopeful book about creating your own family, and finding your own voice and power. You can find this book at the Library and on Libby/Overdrive.

Title details for The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune - Wait list

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix

March 21, 2021


More, please! I loved this book — I would read 100 more in a booksellers series. Are you listening Garth Nix??

I’m a librarian, so any weapon-wielding, superhero, secret book people society is going to be right up my alley. Then throw in that the first left-handed bookseller that Susan (more about her in a minute) meets is named Merlin and his sister (a right-handed bookseller) is Vivien and I’m in.

It’s 1980’s London and when Susan Arkshaw sets out to track down the father she’s never meant with only her nearly untethered mother’s “clues” she stumbles into the shadowy realm of the booksellers. Or maybe it is more that they stumble into her, it’s hard to say. Merlin and Vivien are the generation that is starting to push back against the old way of doing things and teaming up with Susan speeds it up.

Merlin is completely hilarious – he can barely get out of his own way – and Vivien is the total opposite, always in control and super capable. Yet neither one could succeed (or survive) without the other – and it turns out they both need Susan. One reviewer said this reads like Derek Landy, Lev Grossman, and Neil Gaiman all in one — I already thought Garth Nix was in this camp, and it’s a decent way to describe his writing. I do think this is quite a bit lighter than I expect from Grossman or Gaiman but the humor, playfulness, and sharp dialog are here.

Will Susan learn who, or what, her father was/is? Are the booksellers on the side of good or evil – or somewhere in between? And, what about Susan’s mother? There are a lot of questions and mysteries in this book and the ride is so fast and so fun I wasn’t in a hurry to get the answers! You can find this book at the Library, and as an ebook and audiobook on Libby/Overdrive.

The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

February 16, 2021


Are you looking for a rich, exciting fantasy book to take you out of the dreary February weather? For me, The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty was just that book. The City of Brass is the first book in the Daevabad trilogy, a fantasy series immersed in Middle Eastern folklore. The protagonist, Nahri, is a smart and savvy con-woman who grew up alone in the streets of 18th Century Cairo, making money by using her unusual ability to spot illness in others to con the rich into buying unnecessary treatments. During one of her cons, Nahri uses a language that she knows in her head but has never heard anyone else speak, and accidentally conjures Dara, a Djinn. Realizing her life is in danger, and recognizing her abilities, Dara takes her to Daevabad, a magical city invisible to humans. Nahri is thrust into the position of becoming the City’s Nahid, or Healer, taken in by the Royal Family. It is hard to know who to trust in this world, unlike in Cairo, where Nahri had the lay of the land and was able to read people easily. Dara is her friend, yet she comes to learn he has a very dark and frightening past. Ali, the second son of the Royal Family, becomes a friend, but has his own secret motivations for doing so. Ali is conflicted about his role, and is himself trying to figure out who to trust, and where he stands. There is a lot going on in this book, and the politics and dynamics of Daevabad got a little confusing for me at times, but I really found myself swept away in this magical world, and I loved the Middle Eastern setting and folklore. I have not yet read the other two books in the trilogy, but I am very much looking forward to it. Fans of Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, the Orisha series by Tomi Adeyemi and Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik might enjoy this series.

The entire Daevabad trilogy is available at the Library and on Libby/Overdrive.

Title details for The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty - Wait list

A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik

January 14, 2021


Just about the most fun you can have in a malevolent magical school where everything (and I do mean everything!) is out to get you, even your fellow students! If you survive long enough to get to graduation, you might wish you hadn’t.

If “magical school” makes you think of Hogwarts or Brakebills, get ready for something different. The Scholomance is theoretically a school, but really is more of a gauntlet. Students take their lives in their hands to go to the cafeteria (look out for the monsters hiding in the food on the line, and don’t sit with your back to any doorway, vent, or other opening), the library (you know those quiet study carrels? Not so quiet…), or shop class (half-built projects are almost sure to come to life), and it’s every one for themselves.

Our main character, El (short for Galadriel – yup, like that Galadriel), is some kind of dark magician who is doing everything she can to resist her natural alignment. Unfortunately, very evil, dark things are drawn to her. Luckily (?), the local hero Orion is on the scene to fight off deadly creatures. Of course, he has no idea that El could destroy even the worst of the monsters with hardly any effort at all…

Magical schools have become a genre of their own, and this one shares a lot of the characteristics: magic is unpredictable (so the idea of “learning” it is a bit tricky), there’s more than a little danger and a lot of it is tied into the school itself, a group of unlikely students become friends and face danger stronger together than any of them would be alone. What makes this one stand out is the over-the-top chaos and bizarre monsters, and the combination of El’s sarcastic, self-deprecating, evil power with Orion’s hero-complex, powerful, desperate attempts to save pretty much everyone. It’s a wild ride and I loved every page. Can’t wait for #2!

Find in our catalog: A Deadly Education
Ebook on Libby/OverDrive
Audiobook on Libby/OverDrive

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

December 29, 2020


With elements of historical fiction and fantasy, and a strong and compelling female protagonist — this book was right up my alley. It tells the story of Addie LaRue, who lives in a small town in France in the early 1700s. She yearns for a life of adventure and independence, but as she has no say in her own life decisions, she is set to be married. In desperation she runs off to escape the life she doesn’t want, and begs the ancient gods for freedom. As it turns dark, one of the dark gods answers her plea and she ends up trading her soul for freedom and immortality. However, she soon realizes that this freedom comes with the devastating price that no one will ever remember her. As someone who loved to draw, she is no longer able to make so much as a mark with chalk, and is unable to speak her own name or tell her own story. The ways in which she manages to survive and navigate the parameters of her curse, are really compelling. It’s gritty and hard, but she continually chooses to go on and create a life for herself rather than surrendering her soul. There are elements of romance, both with Luc, the demon who has cursed her, and with Henry, the first one who remembers her after 300 years, but the story remains Addie’s, with the focus on her need to tell her story and make a mark in whatever way she can. If you enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, or Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, you might give this one a try. I really enjoyed it.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is available at the Library and on Libby/Overdrive.

Title details for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab - Wait list

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

December 1, 2020


I try to remember not to read the first book in a trilogy when it comes out, because I know there will be such a long wait to read the other installments. But I did it anyway, again, with Black Sun, the first in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, and I’m really glad I did. This is a fantasy novel inspired by the cultures of pre-Columbian Americas, and it is full of magic and adventure, a prophecy revolving around an eclipse during the solstice, memorable characters, diversity of representation, and it is thoroughly enjoyable. There are multiple storylines, and I was particularly taken with the Xiala and Serapio one. This is a great choice for fans of N.K. Jemison, Julianna Baggott and Charlie Jane Anders. Black Sun is available at the Library

book cover of Black Sun

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

November 19, 2020


If you loved her first bestselling book “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell”, you’ll be totally rapt by this new magical fantasy novel. The Journal Entry format is really clever. And who’s the Other that visits Piranesi from time to time in this infinite labyrinth of halls and staircases? The quest for the Great and Secret knowledge will reveal a terrible truth that finds its source in the journals. And the ending will take you to a whole new place…in your mind. How could the reader be fooled by this magical and imaginary world the whole time? What a performance! You can find Piranesi at the Library and on Libby/Overdrive.

Media of Piranesi