Saturday, April 16, 2016

CTLC Recommendations: Tell the Wind and Fire, The Shadow Queen, Into the Dim and Salt to the Sea

The Colorado Teen Literature Conference on April 2nd was wonderful as always.  I really enjoyed Eliot Schrefer's keynote address.  I had previously read his book The School For Dangerous Girls, but was unaware of his Ape Quartet, which includes Endangered and Threatened, thus far. His talk on the writing process and why he went in this direction topically was informative and hilarious.  As always, I got new ideas for books I want to read and confirmation that other readers liked some of my recent favorites, which I will discuss in this month's blog. Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan is a dystopian reimagining of A Tale of Two Cities. The Shadow Queen by CJ Redwine is an retelling of Snow White, where the princess is a magician and the prince is a shape-shifting dragon.  Into the Dim by Janet B Taylor is the first in a series about time travelers who go back to the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Finally, Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is a WWII tale by the award-winning author of Between Shades of Grey and Out of the Easy.

Tell the Wind and Fire where to stop...but don't tell me, a quote from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities opens a new dystopian novel in which there are two New York Cities: the Light where affluent light magicians live, and the Dark, where impoverished dark magicians live. Lucie Mannette, a girl of duel parentage, escapes the Dark City with her father, after her mother, a light magician who is using her skills as a healer in the Dark City, mysteriously dies.  Now Lucie is the symbolic "Golden Thread in the Dark," whose boyfriend Ethan Stryker, son of a prominent Light City politician, is accused of passing information to Dark City rebels.  When she attempts to save him, help comes from an unexpected source; Ethan has an illegal doppelganger, who can take the blame.  Filled with action and political intrigue, the book keeps the reader in suspense, never knowing who to trust.

The Shadow Queen imagines Snow White as Princess Lorelai, a magician with emerging powers, and Prince Kol as a shape-shifting dragon.  When the story begins, Lorelai is in hiding, working on strengthening her magic and planning revenge on Queen Irina, who killed her father and stole the throne of Ravenspire.  Meanwhile, Prince Kol has recently inherited the throne of Eldr, when his parents and older brother are killed, and is trying to save his kingdom from an ogre invasion.  He decides to travel to Ravenspire to request Queen Irina's help, but along the way he meets Lorelai, who saves his life.  When he finally enlists Irina's magical assistance, he is disturbed to find out the Princess, whose heart she demands in exchange is Lorelai.  Ultimately, he defies Irina and works with Lorelai to defeat the evil queen, and in doing so falls in love with the strong, selfless princess. I was charmed by this action packed tale of romance and revenge.

The first book in a new fantasy series, Into the Dim introduces Hope Walton, a 16-year-old whose mother supposedly dies on a trip to India.  When Hope is sent to Scotland to visit her aunt, she finds out her mother is actually part of a group of time-travelers known as Viators and she is stuck in London 1154.  Taylor, who discovers she also has the ability to time travel, goes with her friends Collum and Phoebe back to the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine to rescue her mother.  They are also looking for the Nonius Stone which contains special powers and predictably are thwarted by another time traveling family looking for the stone.  This series blends the historical and fantastical in a real page turner whose sequel will be out Spring 2017.

The new WWII historical fiction by Ruta Sepetys Salt to the Sea tells the tale of three young refugees fleeing to the ill-fated Wilhem Gustoff, a German military ship evacuating civilians and wounded soldiers at the end of WWII.  Florian, an art restorer with a secret, Emilia, a pregnant Polish girl, and Joana, a Lithuanian nurse, (Lina's cousin in Between Shades of Gray) are bound together in their flight through the Prussian countryside. Told in alternating points of view, a fourth narrator, Alfred, a low-ranking Nazi stationed aboard the ship, provides an additional perspective.  As their individual back stories are revealed amidst the atrocities of war, the refugees begin to trust each other with their lives. The author's note, including her research and sources as well as maps, adds to the authenticity of this haunting look at a little known tragedy.