Cinder, the first book in Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles, won this year's Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award. This re-imagining of the Cinderella story set in a futuristic dystopian world introduces Cinder, a cyborg who is a gifted mechanic on a plague ridden planet which is under attack by ruthless aliens led by Queen Levana. When Cinder is called in to work on one of Prince Kai's droids, her life becomes intertwined with his, and she finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle and a forbidden romance. The sequel, Scarlet, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, introduces new characters, Scarlet and Wolf, to the tale and Cress, a retelling of Rapunzel, adds Cress and Thorn to the mix. In January Fairest, a prequel that tells Queen Levana's story was released and the final book Winter will come out in November 2015. If you haven't already enjoyed this series, you have some entertaining reading ahead.
The 2016 Blue Spruce nominees include three new fantasy series that I would highly recommend. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes paints a complex world where three kingdoms are vying for power, as Hawks known as Watchers survey the conflict from above. Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch introduces Primoria, a world where the kingdom of Spring has defeated Winter and enslaved all but eight of the surviving Winterians. Those eight are hoping to regain the slain Winterian Queen's magic locket and restore her son to the throne. In The Winner's Curse Marie Rutkoski crafts a world of aristocrats and slaves, where a general's daughter falls in love with a slave with royal heritage.
In Falling Kingdoms three kingdoms, Auranos, Paelsia and Limeros, are struggling for supremacy. A prophecy foretells the birth of a powerful sorceress, ancient legend tells of a ring that provides mastery over the Kindred, four elemental crystals that give their owners god-like power, and Hawks oversee the struggles, hoping to find the Kindred and reclaim power for themselves. Cleo, an Auranian princess who sister is dying, travels to a dangerous land looking for magic to cure her. Jonas, a Paelsian rebel who brother was killed by Cleo's fiance, leads the people's revolution in that land and is looking for revenge. Prince Magnus and his sister Lucia live in Limeros where people are plotting to overthrow Cleo's father, who temporarily is in control. War is on the horizon and these four young people are caught in the middle of it. A quest to find the Kindred, as well as the sorceress who can control all the elements ensues. As the book draws to a close there are many tantalizing questions left unanswered. Rebel Spring and Gathering Darkness, the next two books in the six book series are available. Fans of complex fantasy series will want to read all six.
Snow Like Ashes finds Meira, an orphan who is a Winterian warrior-in-training, in hiding with six other warriors and Prince Mather, the heir to the throne. Meira is in love with Mather, but is deemed unworthy to be his queen. Sixteen years prior to the opening of the book, King Angra of the kingdom of Spring defeated the kingdom of Winter, enslaved its people and stole the Royal Conduit, a locket used by Winter's female ruler to magically aid her country. Meira is able to reclaim half the locket from its hiding place (the other half is around King Angra's neck) but leads Spring scouts back to the Winterian camp. The refugees must flee to the kingdom of Cordell where Meira meets the delightful Prince Theron and discovers she has been betrothed to him in exchange for Cordell's help in killing King Angra. There is a dramatic twist at the end that is both believable and unpredictable and will leave readers clamoring for the sequel Ice Like Fire which is due in 2015.
The Winner's Curse is the first book in the Winner's Trilogy. When Kestrel, the daughter of an Valorian general, buys Arin, a handsome Herrani slave, at an auction, she is not quite sure what motivated her to do so. She soon finds that Arin is cultured, musically gifted, and involved in plotting a Herrani uprising. As they spend more and more time together, they cannot deny their mutual attraction. Tables turn when the Herranis take over the city and Kestrel becomes Arin's prisoner. She uses her skills as a military strategist and gambler in a risky plot to free herself and negotiate peace. The satisfying ending allows this book to be read as a stand alone; however, unfinished elements of the love story will entice readers to pick up The Winner's Crime which comes out in March 2015.
To read about the rest of the 2016 Blue Spruce nominees go to http://www.coloradobluespruceaward.org/