It is the height of summer reading at Central Rappahannock Regional Library, and I have thoroughly been enjoying making my way through my TBR (To Be Read) pile over the past few weeks. My favorite genre is fantasy, and I have read some really satisfying fantasy titles this summer. These are all teen titles, but they are also fun for adult readers!
Jade Fire Gold, opens a new window by June CL Tan. Ahn and Altan
One, an orphan with unexplained (and forbidden) magical powers. The other, a boy who should be king except his family murdered him (or, so they thought). When the Shi Empire’s throne enters a period of transition, Altan understands it is time to make his move and restore his birthright. But to retake the throne and rid the empire of the dark magic that has ruined the land, he must find a legendary sword. With unknown origins and a limited understanding of her power, Ahn must keep her magic hidden, because magic-wielding Tiensai like her are said to be the cause of the destruction of the land and are hunted by the Shi Empire. Thrown together by fate and wary of each other, Ahn and Altan come to understand that by working together they can help each other unlock the truth of the past as well as their ultimate destinies. This is a début novel by Tan, but it doesn’t read like one. The main and secondary characters are well-developed, the plot is intriguing, and the world-building is vivid.
The Ogress and the Orphans, opens a new window by Kelly Regan Barnhill
Full disclosure here: Barnhill’s book The Girl Who Drank the Moon, opens a new window is one of my favorites, so I went into this one expecting to like it. Barnhill writes beautifully about magic people and places, and her books sweep me away. In “The Ogress and the Orphans,” she transports the reader to the village of Stone-in-the-Glen, which used to be a beautiful community filled with caring and compassionate people. But everyone there would admit that Stone-in-the-Glen is not what it used to be. People don’t care about each other any more, and sometimes are even aggressively mean. No one can quite put their finger on why this has happened, and no one seems to be working to make it better. When the villagers are told that a local girl has been abducted by the gentle ogress on the outskirts of the village, the worst in them comes out. A group of kindhearted orphans from the village set out to help the ogress and remind village residents about the importance of kindness and compassion.
Year of the Reaper, opens a new window by Makiia Lucier
I loved Lucier’s 2018 book, Isle of Blood and Stone, and I was very excited to dive into this latest title, which I was delighted to find I liked even more. Lucier combines a page-turning plot with well-developed and intriguing characters, then throws in an unexpected twist or two. In "Year of the Reaper," Lord Cassia of Palmerin has finally made his way home after three years in an enemy prison and then being left for dead during a plague. But Cassia finds his family home bursting with the king and queen and others of the royal court who have taken refuge from the plague in Palmerin. Cassia immediately finds himself at the center of a mystery when he rescues the infant prince from an assassin’s arrow, and then he gets swept into hunting down the assassin with Lena, a royal historian. As Cassia and Lena get closer to uncovering the assassin, it becomes clear that the true question is not “who is the assassin?” but “why are they targeting the royal court?”
Darcie Caswell is the Youth Services Coordinator at CRRL. This column originally appeared in The Free Lance-Star newspaper.