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November 17, 2023

3 Young Adult Fantasy Novels to Read

by MK French

The year might be winding down, but there are still some great young adult fantasy novels to read. 

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Divided by Kandi J. Wyatt

book cover of young adult fantasy novel Divided by Kandi J Wyatt
October 2023; Indie; 979-8864132180
ebook, print (459 pages); YA fantasy

Mairead is overwhelmed by ruling the country now that she has been orphaned. Prince Lysander requests a diplomatic visit, and Mairead agrees despite warnings from her council. Lysander understands magic, so as her draconic powers awaken and her relationship with her council deteriorates, Mairead turns to Lysander for help. Magic lessons have them grow closer, but Mairead's closest advisor and father figure warns her that Lysander wants more than what he tells her. Mairead must decide where her loyalties lie and balance that with ruling her country.

This is book six of the Stars over Ardatz series. (Uprooted, Blessed, Exalted, Determined, and Resolved are the prior books, and the links will take you to my reviews.) This book begins after the close of the fifth and is from Mairead's point of view. The loss of her mother after her father had already disappeared is devastating, but she has her mother's advisors as her own as well as her grandparents still living. This allows the time skip until Lysander's request for a visit to forge an alliance between their nations. Dragon powers are beginning to show, and Lugh makes an appearance in the story again. He's just as critical of Hest and dragons as he was in the past, effectively driving Mairead closer to Lysander. Because of his appearance and knowledge of magic, Mairead grows close to him. She makes several decisions that have made me question her and her ability to lead. She's as stubborn and emotion-driven as her parents had been, and she trusts far too easily.

Mairead is sixteen, with her first love and first challenge to her rule as queen. As with any teenager, she's sure she knows better than others, and discounts the advice given and even her own instincts when things don't feel quite right. A surprise is in store for her and the kingdom, as well as a test of her judgment when she must mete out punishment. Many tell her that she's more merciful than she should be, and I agree with that. She's young, and likely in time will learn more about keeping her kingdom safe from others who might wish it harm. There is a seventh book planned in this series, so we'll get a chance to see if she does.

Buy Divided at Amazon

What the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez

book cover of young adult historical fantasy novel What the River Knows by Isabel Ibañez
October 2023; Wednesday Books; 978-1250803375
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); YA historical fantasy

In nineteenth-century Buenos Aires, Bolivian-Argentinian Inez Olivera is part of the upper class but yearns to be with her globetrotting parents. When she hears about their deaths, Inez inherits their fortune and a guardian, an archeologist in partnership with his Egyptian brother-in-law. Inez sails to Cairo, and discovers there’s more to her parent’s disappearance than what her guardian led her to believe. Inez is stymied at every turn as she searches for the truth and must rely on ancient magic or become part of a larger game that will kill her.

What the River Knows is the first book in the Secrets of the Nile duology. Reading this was really fun, because Inez is determined to figure out the truth, and she's a joy to get to know. Everything around her is new, and she delights in it. Her uncle and Whit keep too many secrets, and there is so much corruption in the archaeological world that she can't really trust either of them. That leads her to keep secrets of her own from them, including initially the sense of magic. I love how that's described, and how it's an additional feature to everyday items in the world, not a talent that people readily have. The secrets kept from Inez makes the men look guilty, so she (and we) assume the worst.

Inez has an attraction to Whit, which he returns. Neither wants to act on it, especially when looking for artifacts, but the pull is there. I think the back and forth of their actions is believable,  adding a bit of romance to the tension in the book. The finale to the book is highly emotional and tragic, with a bit of a cliffhanger for the reader to demand the second half of the duology right away.

Buy What the River Knows at Amazon

Godly Heathens by H.E. Edgmon

book cover of young adult fantasy novel Godly Heathens by HE Edgmon
November 2023; Wednesday Books; 978-1250853615
audio, ebook, print (400 pages); YA fantasy

Gem Echols is a Seminole nonbinary teen living in Georgia. They're charming to hide how anxious they feel, and the only one who knows that side of them is Enzo, a trans kid in Brooklyn. Even so, Gem hasn't discussed their visions of magic and violence, yet the new girl in town Willa Mae Hardy seems to know all about them. When Gem is attacked by a stranger claiming to be the Goddess of Death, Willa Mae reveals that the two of them are reincarnated gods. Gem once made a lot of enemies, and like the Goddess of Death, will keep coming.

This is book one of the Ouroboros duology, with book two out next April. This book's tagline is "Infatuation. Reincarnation. Damnation." That pretty much covers the premise of the story. We open with a vision, where Dream Gem is working with a horrible demon, then see what Gem's real world is like. There are some poignant parts, where Gem doesn't feel comfortable in their body or the disconnect from their Seminole heritage, as well as the teen angst and horrors of high school. Then Death arrives in chapter three, and it's all weirdness from there as far as Gem is concerned. They want to keep their human life and this Godhood life separate, though it keeps crashing together at intervals.

It's understandable that Gem is stressed and freaking out, pushing away people that are supposed to love and care for them. Most of their past lives weren't exactly nice people, either, and have often made questionable decisions about not only their own lives but that of others. Having gods reincarnate into teens is a questionable idea, given how hormonal and impulsive they are. Gem isn't exactly a role model in this life, and the people in their life include several of the reincarnated gods. It's a wild ride, and Gem wants to reduce the death toll as much as possible. You'll have to read this to see if that works out.

Buy Godly Heathens 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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