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August 6, 2023

2 Books for Fans of Young Adult Fantasy & Fairy Tales

by MK French

Your teens will soon be heading back to school (if they haven't already) and soon book reports will be assigned. If your teen loves fantasy or fairy tale re-tellings, then these two novels would be great for them. You can stretch your family's book-buying budgets as these books are great reads for adults, too!

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

Guardians of the Dawn: Zhara by S. Jae-Jones

book cover of young adult fantasy novel Guardians of the Dawn Zhara by S Jae-Jones
August 2023; Wednesday Books; 978-1250191427
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); YA fantasy

Twenty years ago, a plague of monsters destroyed the Morning Realms, and magicians were to blame. Rumors now tell of monsters emerging, but Jin Zhara has other things to worry about. Her stepmother is cruel, she looks after her blind younger sister, and she has burgeoning magical gifts. Meeting Han brings her into contact with a secret magical liberation organization called the Guardians of Dawn. A mysterious plague is corrupting the magicians of Zanhei and transforming them into monsters, and the Guardians of Dawn believe a demon is responsible.

This is the start of a new series, primed for teens and older, inspired by Sailor Moon and the book Cinder. Magic is contained in the Language of Flowers, with the brush, inkstone and seal seen as tools of said magic. All books and those who could read the books were burned to keep Abominations at bay, with purges held every year. This gives very real stakes for Zhara to remain silent and do what her stepmother wants no matter what, and to work hard to pay the bills and care for her sister. She's a kind girl, so it's easy to root for her and hope for the best. Of course that doesn't happen, we wouldn't have a novel to read otherwise. Han isn't an ordinary boy, and he has a vested interest in keeping his younger brother safe with the Guardians of the Dawn.

The novel lays the foundations for magic, for the Just War twenty years ago, the Guardians and their role with those who develop magic. Character names come from different East Asian cultures, and elements of their mythologies are mixed together to become the mythology of the Realms. Zhara has worked and sacrificed out of guilt and piety, to hide her magic and hopefully be seen as worthy. Han doesn't want his heritage and would rather be a boy who likes working out, writing poetry and reading romance novels. Elements of the familiar Cinderella are also woven into the tale, as well as the fight between Order and Chaos. I loved reading it, and look forward to the rest of the series.

Buy Zhara at Amazon

Cloak of Scarlet by Melanie Dickerson

book cover of young adult fairy tale re-telling Cloak of Scarlet by Melanie Dickerson
August 2023; Thomas Nelson; 978-0840708199
audio, ebook, print (336 pages); YA fairy tale retelling

Violet Lambton was adopted when young, and content with her happy small-town life. The most dramatic thing she has is the vivid red cloak her grandmother gifted her. When her grandmother is robbed by Baron Dunham, Violet is determined to end the baron’s mis­treatment. Sir Merek is a knight in the service of Baron Dunham, only learning of the baron’s treachery when he meets Violet. Determined to serve the kingdom and not a wicked baron, he dares to expose the deceitfulness to the king. Violet discovers a secret that shakes the foundation of her world and must trust Merek in his quest to expose the baron.

This is a Dericott Tale, a series that includes Court of Swans and Veil of Winter. These are linked books based on fairy tales, in that similar locations show up and there are cameos in the form of names you might recognize if you read prior books. Don't worry if you didn't! This one only mentions Dericott in passing, and it's not necessary to have read prior books. This one is inspired by Red Riding Hood, given Violet has the red cloak and visits her grandmother with a basket of food. She has learning and a strong desire for justice, leading her to speak out openly when everyone else is so afraid of the baron. Mare is heavy-handed when he sets out to discover the truth; he's so earnest and can't believe that other people aren't. They're quite the pair, with obstacles to their inevitable romance. We know the baron will do as he pleases, but they still believe in the law, justice, and God's benevolent will. 

This is another fun medieval-style romance. Violet is very much not a shrinking violet, and Marek has a temper in the face of injustice and broken ideals. I really like her grandmother,  a mix of serene and feisty, and we have glimpses of real depth in other side characters. While we know it's a romance, the novel keeps the reader on edge to see how it all ends well.

Buy Cloak of Scarlet at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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