Title: And I Darken
Author: Kiersten White
Published by: Delacorte Press
Publication date: June 28, 2016
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Summary from Goodreads:
No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.
Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.
But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.
Lada is described as a princess, but is so far from the literary and historical idea that this book caught me off guard. She’s also based of off Vlad the Impaler, who the author describes as this: “Vlad the Impaler was a national hero, a freedom fighter, a brilliant military mind. Or he was a deeply disturbed psycho-path, a vicious despot who murdered tens of thousands and literally sustained himself on their flesh.”
The Falconer Series
Author: Elizabeth May
The Vanishing Throne
The Fallen Kingdom (Ex. Pub June 2017)
Published by: Chronicle Books LLC
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Steampunk, Romance
Amazon Summary for The Falconer
Edinburgh, 1844. Beautiful Aileana Kameron only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. In fact, she's spent the year since her mother died developing her ability to sense the presence of Sithichean, a faery race bent on slaughtering humans. She has a secret mission: to destroy the faery who murdered her mother. But when she learns she's a Falconer, the last in a line of female warriors and the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity, her quest for revenge gets a whole lot more complicated. The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller blends romance and action with steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read.
I’m minutes from finishing The Vanishing Throne, and I’m still reeling from Elizabeth May’s cliffhanger! It’s her thing. I was hoping this book wouldn’t end as abruptly as the first; it was only slightly better. Despite May’s less-than-appealing method for ending stories, she writes a really fun series.
Aileana is to fae as Buffy is to vampires—she slays them with super human strength and speed. And like Buffy, Aileana is inconspicuous in her role. A select few know of her gift while she attempts to protect humans from being consumed by faeries. Aileana is fueled by revenge for her mother’s death, but also by love for her friends. She feels responsible for the lives of all mankind, and carries the weight of their protection on her shoulders. But she’s not alone. Kiaran is Aileana’s trainer and partner against the fae, but he’s also an extremely powerful one himself with lots of secrets.
Title: Walk On Earth A Stranger
Author: Rae Carson
Published by: Greenwillow Books
Publication date: September 22, 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Western, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance
Summary from Goodreads:
Gold is in my blood, in my breath, even in the flecks in my eyes.
Lee Westfall has a strong, loving family. She has a home she loves and a loyal steed. She has a best friend—who might want to be something more.
She also has a secret.
Lee can sense gold in the world around her. Veins deep in the earth. Small nuggets in a stream. Even gold dust caught underneath a fingernail. She has kept her family safe and able to buy provisions, even through the harshest winters. But what would someone do to control a girl with that kind of power? A person might murder for it.
When everything Lee holds dear is ripped away, she flees west to California—where gold has just been discovered. Perhaps this will be the one place a magical girl can be herself. If she survives the journey.
The acclaimed Rae Carson begins a sweeping new trilogy set in Gold Rush-era America, about a young woman with a powerful and dangerous gift.
When I started this book, I remembered that I’ve already read a series by Rae Carson. I enjoyed her Fire and Thorns trilogy a few years ago and recommend it for everyone 12 and older. I like that Carson develops realistic relationships between her characters, both in friendship and romance. Her romantic developments might be a little too slow moving for some, but I find the simmering approach charming, delighting in every small, secret smile.
Walk on Earth a Stranger is a fantastical western based in 1849 during the California Gold Rush. The story follows a young girl forced to trek across young America on her own, hoping to reunite with her best friend, Jefferson. It’s the Oregon Trail (Oh no, you died of Cholera! You've killed an offensive amount of bison and cannot carry all that meat, leave it behind for scavengers. Ford the river! Talulla suffered a snakebite [lose 3 days]) featuring a magical girl who can sense gold—Leah (Lee).
Title: The Rose and The Dagger
(The Wrath and the Dawn Book 2)
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Published by: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication date: April 26, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Historical Fiction
Summary from Goodreads:
I am surrounded on all sides by a desert. A guest, in a prison of sand and sun. My family is here. And I do not know whom I can trust.
In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid's empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.
While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn't yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.
[Spoilers for The Wrath and the Dawn, only keep reading if you haven’t read the first book.]
I’m in love with your story. From the stars, to the stars.
I missed all the wonderful descriptions of food, but I was filled with satisfaction by your magical storytelling and selfless, brave characters in this conclusion to the Wrath/Dawn series. When finished with the book, I just sat smiling for some time (before I turned my Kindle back on to reread certain scenes!). Though there was less mystery to unwind, you succeeded in bringing all our characters together in a dramatic fashion with well-timed twists in a story worth retelling on platformed beds with green silk cushions. Like Shahrzad, you griped and enticed me to the very end.
Khalid and Shahrzad’s worlds expand and collide in Rose/Dagger. Shazi is back with her family trying to unravel Khalid’s curse while being held prisoner by those she loves. We get to know Irsa, Shazi’s sister, who is steady and faithful (I love her and Khalid’s relationship!). Tariq’s character could’ve gone many ways as a lover scorned, but he, along with many other characters, chooses to put others before himself, and quickly realizes that rash decisions made out of anger and fear can be disastrous. This story does not conclude without heartbreak, but it draws these characters together in a more poignant conclusion.
“Sometimes, “ he gasped, “the family you choose …is stronger than blood.”
Title: Legacy of Kings
Author: Eleanor Herman
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Publication date: August 18, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Summary from Goodreads:
Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.
Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to a newcomer…
Katerina must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But she doesn’t account for her first love…
Jacob will go to unthinkable lengths to win Katerina, even if it means having to compete for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince.
And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet betrothed, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.
In Legacy of Kings, Eleanor Herman writes about a compelling group of characters all on the brink of becoming who their fated to be. This first book in the series feels like the coming-of-age story, where characters discover themselves and begin to take on their specific roles in fate.
While Alexander stands out as the notable historical figure (think: The Great), the story focused more on the surrounding characters, especially, Katerina. While I anticipated Alexander becoming who he’s famous to be, my interest stayed with Katerina—her mission and mysterious abilities. And while there’s supposed to be a great connection between Katerina and Alex, I never felt the connection, only kept hearing about it by the author’s insistence. Katerina and Jacob’s relationship also fell short for me. Eleanor Herman is better at plot than character development, which is somewhat problematic for a book about multiple characters.
I read a lot. I'm a Mom. I'm officially in my 30s, but strangers often don't believe I'm old enough to drink. I love Young Adult fiction, and thought it was worthwhile to help teens and adults find age-appropriate options.