Tuesday, December 23, 2014

New action adventures: Princess of Thorns, Exquisite Captive and The Walled City

It's winter break for students and teachers and time for some escapist reading filled with action and adventure.  Three recent reads that made my Top Titles for 2014 list include Princess of Thorns, a re-imagining of the Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake fairy tales, by Stacey Jay, Exquisite Captive, the first book in the Dark Caravan Cycle by Heather Demetrios, and The Walled City, a tale that focuses on three desperate teens in Hong Kong, by Ryan Graudin.

In Princess of Thorns, Sleeping Beauty's children, Aurora and Jor, have been in hiding with the fey for ten years, since their mother's assassination by the Ogre Queen.  When Jor is kidnapped, fairy blessed Aurora disguises herself as a boy (Ror) and hopes to hire an army to help her rescue him. Then she meets Prince Nikklas, who is cursed to turn into a swan on his 18th birthday unless he can marry a princess.  The Prince promises Ror his help in exchange for an introduction to his "sister" Aurora. With ogres pursuing them tirelessly as they travel across lands filled with enemies, Nikklas and Ror struggle to reach Jor and free him before he dies. Their mutual attraction is fraught with problems as Aurora tries to find a way to tell Nikklas the truth without losing his support. Told from both characters' points of view, this compelling story, filled with adventure and romance, is sure to appeal to fantasy/thriller fans.

Exquisite Captive introduces Nalia, a victim of the dark caravan, a lucrative jinni slave trade between Earth and the jinni world Arjinna.  Although she has great powers, Nalia is tied to Malek, her master who possesses her bottle which enables him to use her to sustain his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.  When she meets Raif, a leader of Arjinna's revolution, he promises to help her break free of her master and rescue her brother who was imprisoned during the revolutionary coup in Arjinna that killed nearly everyone she loved.  Although she should hate him, she finds herself attracted to Raif, but needs to convince Malek she loves him in the hopes of getting close enough to him to steal back her bottle which he wears around his neck. Only then can Riaf perform the unbinding ceremony to free her. This story blends traditional Arabian jinni lore with modern fantasy to create a riveting tale filled with magical political intrigue and romance. Readers will be anxiously awaiting the next book in the series. 

The Walled City takes inspiration from Kowloon Walled City, a Hong Kong slum destroyed in the 1990s. Three teens are struggling to escape their dire fates before the city is leveled.  Jin, a girl disguised as a boy, is searching for her sister who was sold into prostitution by their father.  Mei Yee, her sister, languishes in a brothel run by the Brotherhood of the Red Dragon.  Dai Shing, a drug trafficker, is hoping to obtain the brothel's ledger so he can exchange it for his freedom. The three stories are entwined to create one fast paced narrative, as Dai solicits Jin's help in a drug deal while at the same time establishing a connection with Mei Yee in the hope of convincing her to help him find the brothel's ledger. As their paths cross, they help each other achieve their individual goals and in the process become family. This thriller takes readers into a world of fear, danger and intrigue that will keep them turning pages until the last triumphant chapter.

All three titles are recommended for the more mature reader.  Although there are disturbing situations in each narrative, none of them is overly graphic. However, parents may not want their younger precocious readers exposed to topics of drugs, violence and sexuality.