Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Every Christmas, Wren is chased through the woods near her isolated village by her family’s enemies—the Judges—and there’s nothing that she can do to stop it. Once her people, the Augurs, controlled a powerful magic. But now that power lies with the Judges, who are set on destroying her kind for good.
In a desperate bid to save her family, Wren takes a dangerous undercover assignment—as an intern to an influential Judge named Cassa Harkness. Cassa has spent her life researching a transformative spell, which could bring the war between the factions to its absolute end. Caught in a web of deceit, Wren must decide whether or not to gamble on the spell and seal the Augurs’ fate. Why I can’t wait to read The Wren Hunt:
- Warring factions remind me of Romeo and Juliet. There is so much possible conflict, and the most interesting question isn’t why would she use the spell, it is why wouldn’t she?
- Wren sounds like a headstrong, independent character. I am interested in the research she has done, and why a young girl is doing this rather than elders within the community.
- The hunt reminds me of S.T.A.Gs, one of my favourite YA reads of 2017. I want to know what agenda there is to the hunt, and whether there is something Wren has to learn about herself. Why is Wren hunted, and not other members of her clan?
- If there are spells to end the war, what other magic exists? Is there a limit to magical power within the world?
- The wren hunt is a real folk tradition from Britain. As you know, I love my folk history. I love the current spate of folksy books – old traditions are being given a bite for the YA audience.
Synopsis: (from WalkerYA.com):
A sweet and kooky romcom starring flying-trapeze double act and brother/sister twins, Finch and Birdie Franconi, and their geeky friend, Hector Hazzard. After Birdie’s terrifying trapeze accident, serious performer Finch and clumsy wannabe Hector must work together to save the family circus school and put on the biggest show ever. Together they learn to walk the high-wire of teen life and juggle the demands of friends, family, first love and facing up to who they are – all served up with a dash of circus-showbiz magic. Why I can’t wait to read Flying Tips For Flightless Birds:
- Did I mention that I love circus settings? OK, ten or twenty times, but saving the family circus school is another take one of my favourite settings.
- I love the tagline ‘Life is a Circus, Don’t Miss the Show’. Circuses are a great place for characters to do something even though it is dangerous, or crazy, because they want to be part of the magic, and will never live with themselves if they don’t step out.
- Following on from the above thought, this is a great metaphor for the theme of sexuality. Romance feels big and scary, especially for a young protagonist, but what if the only thing to do is ‘jump’? Something wonderful might happen.
- Circuses are often used in fantasy stories, something I devour and applaud, but it is nice to see a circus setting in a novel which looks to be contemporary. Contemporary YA has really come into its own this year, and it is lovely to see how many different books come under that banner.
- It is great to see a rise in LGBTQA+ stories which explore the building relationship between the characters, rather than ‘the issue’. 2017 has definitely seen a shift in what is being published, and Flying Tips For Flightless Birds looks set to start 2018 on the right foot.
Flying Tips For Flightless Birds
Synopsis (From GoodReads):
In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be dark—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death bringer.
These are the legends that Asha, daughter of the king of Firgaard, has grown up hearing in hushed whispers, drawn to the forbidden figures of the past. But it isn’t until she becomes the fiercest, most feared dragon slayer in the land that she takes on the role of the next Iskari—a lonely destiny that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl.
Asha conquers each dragon and brings its head to the king, but no kill can free her from the shackles that await at home: her betrothal to the cruel commandant, a man who holds the truth about her nature in his palm. When she’s offered the chance to gain her freedom in exchange for the life of the most powerful dragon in Firgaard, she finds that there may be more truth to the ancient stories than she ever could have expected. With the help of a secret friend—a slave boy from her betrothed’s household—Asha must shed the layers of her Iskari bondage and open her heart to love, light, and a truth that has been kept from her.
Why I can’t wait to read The Last Namsara:
- I am interested in the role the story of the Iskari plays within the story. I loved Ink by Alice Broadway and The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury. Both books looked at how folk stories come to life, and the reasons people attach significance to those stories.
- This is about storytelling, and the role of stories. I love stories which have a message about storytelling under their surface, and I love the idea of the dragon which must be coaxed from the sand with words.
- Enough said. I have loved dragons in stories since the first time I heard The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader at a very young age. My other favourite dragon is from Merlin. Deliciously voiced by John Hurt, dragon has been locked in the caverns beneath Camelot for too many centuries. Dragons represent different things in stories, but are often associated with fear, or the threat in the dark, or sometimes the darkness inside ourselves.
- I loved the sampler. This was a real favourite of the samplers I was sent after YALC. It feels like proper fantasy, when YA often tends towards fantasy lite. I went through a major Robin Hobb devotion in my teens, when fantasy was largely dismissed as something a bit geeky. I’m always glad to see money being invested in well-written YA fantasy.
The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
Betrayal. Sacrifice. Survival. Welcome to The Extinction Trials…
In Stormchaser and Lincoln’s ruined world, the only way to survive is to risk everything. To face a contest more dangerous than anyone can imagine. And they will do anything to win.
But in a land full of monsters – human and reptilian – they can’t afford to trust anyone. Perhaps not even each other…
Why I can’t wait to read The Extiction Trials –
- The opening chapter sets the story in an overpopulated world. Overpopulation is one of the greatest dangers facing our planet, and it is something we need to talk about. The other evening on television, I watched an eminent scientist explaining that the human species will need to find another habitable planet within 100 years if it is to survive. The programme went on to discuss the practicalities of this, but totally skipped over the ethics. Should we destroy another planet? Haven’t we destroyed enough? Not everybody would be saved. These are the questions which interest me, and which young readers need to think about. The ethical conflicts. In conflict lies story.
- It’s great to see dinosaurs marketed at YA. It’s strange, isn’t it, that we want small children to know about dinosaurs, but by the teenage market, dinosaurs seem to be niche. Geeky. Every small child I have ever known has owned plastic dinosaurs, and books. Maybe a t-shirt. It is time that interest was made attractive to teenagers.
- Dinos in a dystopian future? Bring it on. It is nice to see a setting work with the unexpected. It makes the first part of the book more interesting as a reader, figuring the rules of a totally unique world.
- I want to know whether Stormchaser and Lincoln stick together. If they turn against each other, what brings them back together? What is (possibly) bigger and more important than their own survival? I’m already interested, given the dystopian setting, to know what the pair will learn about their world.
- Zoe at No Safer Place gave this a rave review.I was interested by what to she made of comparisons to the Hunger Games, (and turn your nose up if you will, but I think there is lots to love about THG. Team Peeta, if you’re interested.)
The Extinction Trials
Synopsis (taken from Goodreads):
Sometimes, I imagine alternate endings to the story: last-minute miracles, touches of magic. I picture how things might have gone, if I wasn’t there. If I’d left just a few minutes later. If I hadn’t been alone. It doesn’t make any difference. One way or another, the crash always comes.
Ten days after Jaya Mackenzie’s mum dies, angels start falling from the sky. Smashing down to earth at extraordinary speeds, wings bent, faces contorted, not a single one has survived.
Hysteria mounting with every Being that drops, Jaya’s father uproots the family to Edinburgh intent on catching one alive. But Jaya can’t stand this obsession and, struggling to make sense of her mother’s sudden death and her own role on that fateful day, she’s determined to stay out of it.
When her best friend disappears and her father’s mania spirals, things hit rock bottom and it’s at that moment something extraordinary happens: An angel lands right at Jaya’s feet, and it’s alive. Finally she is forced to acknowledge just how significant these celestial beings are.
Set against the backdrop of the frenzied Edinburgh festival, OUT OF THE BLUE tackles questions of grief and guilt and fear over who we really are. But it’s also about love and acceptance and finding your place in this world as angels drop out of another.
Why I can’t wait to read Out of the Blue:
- I read an extract last year, when the novel was listed for the Bath Novel Award. The story has been in my imagination all year, from the angel-hunting app, to the Dad desperate to find an angel following the loss of his wife. It’s the sort of novel which gets under your skin, and stays there. It’s the sort of novel you think about during random moments, six months later.
- Angels, crash-landing. Angels had their run alongside Vampires and faeries, and a lot of it was predictable. Done differently, angels make fascinating subject matter, (see Phillip Pullman, David Almond and Pat Walsh for interesting interpretations of angels.) There is something different about Sophie Cameron’s crash-landing angels.
- The world in hysteria. To my memory, people have downloaded an angel-hunting app, and are tracking angels for monetary gain. I love it when authors think about how events of their story would affect the wider population, (see Astercote by Penelope Lively, or The Great Chocoplot by Chris Callaghan.)
- The Edinburgh Festival. What a setting, and one so specific it is possible to visit, and walk through the story. As regular readers of WoW know, I love stories set in specific locations.
Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron
Macmillan Children’s Books
Extract (from the ChickenHouse website):
A encounter with a boy dangling from the sky changes pickpocket Magpie’s life forever. Like her, the boy dreams of flying over the rooftops of Paris. His family, the Montgolfiers, are desperate to be first to discover the secret of flight. Together with Pierre, Magpie is soon caught up in a world of inflatable bloomers, spies and a trio of unruly animals in a race to be the first to fly a hot air balloon – in front of the King and Queen of France …
A rich and inspirational story based on the true story of the first hot air balloon flight over Paris in the eighteenth century; beautifully written by acclaimed author Emma Carroll from an original idea by Neal Jackson, and with stunning cover art from Waterstones’ Children’s Book Prize winner David Litchfield.Why I can’t wait to read Sky Chasers:
- I love stories about early aviation. Fictional or historical, from the adventures of Amelia Earhart, to the post-apocalyptic rediscovery of aviation in A Web of Air by Phillip Reeve. Humans taking to the skies made a sensational story when it happened. Fiction allows us to share in that awe and wonder, when we are used to taking flight for granted.
- Spies? It doesn’t sound as if this is going to be a straightforward competition. Having read the extract, I want to know the extent to which other competitors will go to win the race.
- Paris is a setting which captures people’s imaginations. One of the (many) things which made Rooftopppers by Katherine Rundell a wonderful book was the way it found a different angle (literally) from which to view Paris. I look forward to birds-eye view of the city, and to the historical setting.
- Emma Carroll’s writing is amazing. She was the perfect choice for a historical narrative. I love her atmospheric settings, from a Victorian fair on a frozen river, to the suspicion and fear of a coastal town in WW2, and a modern-day wood riddled with fairies. She finds a story in every setting.
- The idea for the story, by Neal Jackson, won The Big Idea competition. Held in 2014, the competition aimed to identify multi-platform stories – stories which could be sold as films, television programmes, computer games and beyond. I’m excited to see the results. The competition was also responsible for the pairing of Anna Day with runner-up Angela McCann. The resulting book, The Fandom, is a hugely anticipated release.
Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll
Chicken House Books
It sounded like a respectable and worthy enough death for an explorer – tumbling from an ice bridge to be impaled upon a mammoth tusk – but Stella really, really didn’t want that to happen, just the same.
Join Stella Starflake Pearl and her three fellow explorers as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages . . .
When Stella and three other junior explorers get separated from their expedition can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?
- Frozen Charlotte, Alex Bell’s first YA title, was a thriller which sent shivers down my spine. I still think of those Frozen Charlotte dolls. I hope Alex Bell’s Middle Grade adventure will be as vividly described.
- Unicorns and frost fairies? Outlaw hideouts? The thing I love best about Andersen’s The Snow Queen is the settings inspired by the four seasons. My favourite is the autumnal robber’s hideout, although I do love the Snow Queen’s palace with its magical mirror. It sounds as though The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club features equally magical settings.
- September is upon us. I’m looking forward to some Autumn/Winter releases. I loved Winter Magic last year, with its varied depictions of Winter, and I’m ready for more winter magic. Goodbye beach books; hello hot chocolate and magical spells.
- I want to know the purpose of Stella’s expedition, and whether she and her friends were lead off course. I want to know the stories of all those beings out on the ice, and if/how their stories intersect with Stella’s.
The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club by Alex Bell
Faber & Faber