Speedy Hearth: YA Fantasy, July 2020

Speedy Hearth: YA Fantasy, July 2020

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Two series starters that hissed and two new authors to enjoy.

* *Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer. Page Street Kids, 2020. 400 pages.

The first hint (besides the nice cover) that the book would be good: Rosamund Hodge liked it. The second hint: Mention of the "Spinner of Stories" Diana Wynne Jones and Robin McKinley in their dedication. The third clue? I was too busy reading to notice. . .

Echo North is an absolutely beautiful fairytale retelling and firmly puts Joanna Ruth Meyer in the tradition of story-spinners. (Kirkus and Publishers Weekly both gave a star rating.)

Echoes of different fairy tales are interwoven in a vague Russian landscape. Beautiful sentences, memorable characters and original elements, including the power of the stories themselves, make this fair to young and old readers of fairy tales.

Overall rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

  • Weltanschauung / moral value: 4.5
  • Artistic / literary value: 5

A curse so dark and lonely from Brigid Kemmerer. Bloomsbury YA, 2020. 512 pages.

A dark, sensual retelling of Beauty and the Beast. The story is clever in juxtaposing the modern world with fairy tales, but full of sensuality and fear, including an almost love triangle and a small gay love story. The story ends without much hope. Instead of a solution, there are enough dangling ends for a sequel – that has just arrived, but none that I want to read.

Overall rating: 2.5 (out of 5)

  • Weltanschauung / moral value: 3
  • Artistic / literary value: 2

Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao. Delacorte Press, 2019. 464 pages.

Interesting premise, any fantasy with Russian elements is fascinating, but the story is frustrating with jerky actions, repetitions and characters that are difficult to compare. The level of violence and blood is high and honest, quite unsettling as protagonists kill reflexively and their regrets feel fake. The climax also feels rushed, but not yet finished, as this is part of a trilogy. Another series that I don't want to follow.

Overall rating: 2 (out of 5)

  • Weltanschauung / moral value: 2
  • Artistic / literary value: 2

* *Thorn by Intisar Khanani. HarperTeen, 2020. 512 pages.

In a vaguely Middle Eastern setting, a humble princess is chosen as the wife of the heir to the wealthy neighboring kingdom. Alyrra is not sure of her future and suspects that this commitment involves more than you think. Still, she has no choice but to agree to the engagement and travel to fulfill her purpose.

Enter a goosegirl retelling that is original and hopeful – yet balanced with justice and a clear condemnation of corrupt systems. This is not a book for advanced MG readers, as it deals with some more difficult issues: Alyrra has an emotional trauma and will have to stop unwanted progress at some point – there is also a small line of action that includes rape and justice. Though mentioned, faith is a distant form of belief, more meditation than religion, but the book characters' strong moral compass and well-told story make for a refreshing, deep, and engaging YA novel.

Overall rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

  • Weltanschauung / moral value: 4
  • Artistic / literary value: 5

Also with Redeemed Reader:

  • Looking for a fantasy that YA is still targeting young readers? Megan Whalen Turner's Thief series is excellent. Andrew Klavan's Mindwar trilogy is a good start, and The Rithmatist is a great loner.

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