Meg’s Wish List

This is a feature for upcoming books that I have heard of from various blogs, through my job at the bookshop, or from Goodreads, inspired by On the Smuggler’s Radar over at The Book Smugglers. My to-read list is ever-growing, and these are just a few that I’m hanging out for!


Fearless by Cornelia Funke

I absolutely adore Cornelia Funke and have been a huge fan since the Inkheart days. However, Reckless captured my heart even more thoroughly than her books for younger readers. And now, after a torturous two-year wait, we have book two! Let’s hope it is just as brilliant as the first novel.

Jacob Reckless has only a few months left to live. He’s tried everything to shake the fairy curse that traded his life for his brother’s—legends like the All-Healing Apple, the Well of Eternal Youth, the blood of a northern djinn. And yet hope after hope is extinguished. After months of fruitless searching, Jacob journeys to Mirrorland one last time to deliver the bad news to Fox.

But there they hear of one last possibility. An item so legendary that not even Mirrorworlders believe it exists. A crossbow that could kill thousands, or heal one, when shot through the heart. To find it, Jacob is going to have to beat out a Goyl treasure hunter who is also searching for the prized crossbow— and somehow convince Fox to do whatever it takes to save him.

The Madness Underneath: Shades of London Book Two by Maureen Johnson

The Name of the Star surprised me with how clever and unique and funny it was. It shouldn’t; I’ve always been a fan of Maureen Johnson. Now the Queen of Teen is bringing us back into the charming world of Rory Devereaux with book two in her Shades of London series.

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades— the city’s secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late.

In this follow-up to the Edgar Award-nominated The Name of the Star, Maureen Johnson adds another layer of spectacularly gruesome details to the streets of London that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.

Legacy – Night School Book Two by C.J. Daugherty

This is another series that surprised me with a strong initial book. I’m excited to see where Daugherty is going with this next!

In the last year, Allie’s survived three arrests, two breakups and one family breakdown. The only bright point has been her new life at Cimmeria Academy. It’s the one place she’s felt she belongs. And the fact that it’s brought the dreamy Carter West into her life hasn’t hurt…But far from being a safe haven, the cloistered walls of Cimmeria are proving more dangerous than Allie could’ve imagined. The students, and faculty, are under threat and Allie’s family – from her mysterious grandma to her runaway brother – are at the centre of the storm. Allie is going to have to choose between protecting her family and trusting her friends. But secrets have a way of ripping even the strongest relationships apart…

Spirit and Dust by Rosemary Clement-Moore

This is the follow-up/companion novel to Texas Gothic, a gorgeous supernatural witchy tale that is bound to be a favourite of fans of Beautiful Creatures and Unspoken.

Daisy Goodnight can speak to the dead. It’s not the result of a head injury or some near-death experience. She was just born that way. And she’s really good at it. Good enough to help the police solve the occasional homicide.

But helping the local authorities clear cold cases is one thing. Being whisked out of chemistry class by the FBI and flown to the scene of a murder/kidnapping in Minnesota? That’s the real deal.

Before the promotion can go to Daisy’s head, she’s up to her neck in trouble. The spirits are talking, and they’re terrified. There’s a real living girl in danger. And when Daisy is kidnapped by a crime boss with no scruples about using magic—and Daisy—to get what he wants, it looks like hers is the next soul on the line.

Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman

NEW ALYSSA BRUGMAN!!! Do I really need to say anything else?

What do you do when everybody says you’re someone you’re not?

Alex wants change. Massive change. More radical than you could imagine.

Her mother is not happy, in fact she’s imploding. Her dad walked out.

Alex has turned vegetarian, ditched one school, enrolled in another, thrown out her clothes. And created a new identity. An identity that changes her world.

And Alex—the other Alex—has a lot to say about it.

Alex As Well is a confronting and heartfelt story of adolescent experience—of questioning identity, discovering sexuality, navigating friendships and finding a place to belong. Alex is a strong, vulnerable, confident, shy and determined character, one you will never forget.

With the same tenderness and insight as YA stars such as John Green and David Levithan, Alyssa Brugman has crafted a knockout story about identity, sexuality and family that speaks effortlessly to a universal teen experience.


Review: Black Spring

Black Spring – Alison Croggon

Published: October 2012

Rating: 6/10

Sourced: Proof copy


I’m not a big one for re-tellings of the classics. Mostly, they seem to run the range between cliché and blatant plagiarism with a rare few stand-outs. Wuthering Heights, in all its Gothic splendour, happens to be one of my favourite classics, so it was with a great deal of apprehension that I started Alison Croggon’s fantasy twist on this tale – and it wasn’t exactly a brilliant beginning. The format of this YA title is pretty much exactly the same as the original. Our narrator is the same arrogant, snobbish and frustrating figure, who then falls ill and is entertained by the maid and her shocking tale of the neighbours’ murky past. Sound familiar? The setting is apparently the same as the original, both in time and place, except for one thing: in this world, we have wizards and witches. And our Cathy figure, named Lina? Yeah, she’s a witch. And related to the royal family, and therefore rather fittingly a royal pain in the ass.

Basic storyline remains: Imperious, wilful Cathy’s life on the moors changes when her father brings home a gypsy boy (except, in this, Heathcliff is named Damek and is the bastard son of the king) for her to play with. Cue the beginning of an epic, intense and disturbingly co-dependent relationship in which both parties make it their mission to make each other’s lives – and those of everyone around them – utterly miserable. You know the story: Heathcliff/Damek leaves, Cathy/Lina marries the wrong guy, everyone is desperately unhappy and vicious with it, Lina dies and the cycle begins again with her daughter. For the sake of clarity (I assume) Croggon has eliminated a bunch of characters and simplified many others.

But this is where things get a little different. Croggon’s society is basically run by wizards and the weird and somewhat undefined relationship they have with the crown. They hate Lina, for reasons that are only vaguely sketched out as having something to do with her father’s choice of wife, thus Lina and her family don’t move to the north until she’s roughly ten. And the north is a land of strange, superstitious folk, with curious ways – such as the complicated law of vendetta. To summarise: basically, someone is murdered, and by law their murderer must be killed by a member of the victim’s family. This avenging figure is then taken out by one of their victim’s (the original murderer’s) family members, and so on and so forth until everyone is dead or grieving. The murderers also have to pay a Blood Tax for the privilege of killing and being killed, so everyone is actually dead, grieving or broke.

There are a whole bunch more complicated details to this bizarre rule – ones that, perhaps, if they had a whole novel devoted to them, could become an interesting premise that actually makes sense. As it is, this story reads like two tales crammed unsuccessfully into one: the demented love story of two damaged individuals; and a dark fantasy tale about a superstitious and strange community. It sticks too closely to the storyline of Wuthering Heights to be original, and the magical elements it seeks to add are just not well developed enough to bring anything new to the story. Lina’s powers are never fully explored and neither are the boundaries of magic in general. Somewhat impressively, Croggon has managed to indulge in several info-dumping passages (in part acceptable due to Anna’s narration, but still annoying) as well  as failing to fully explain and develop the world she has created.

That’s the bad. Now for the good.

The relationships are pitch-perfect, and the ‘maid’ figure, known as Anna, has far more personality and air-time in this story than in Emily Bronte’s version. She also has nearly enough good qualities to redeem the rest of the morally bankrupt cast. I know, I know – they are meant to be terrible. I’m perfectly OK with that. If anything, Croggon’s Lina is stronger, smarter and blessed with a kinder soul than Bronte’s Cathy. Sure, she’s likely to throw a tantrum if she doesn’t get her way and her maternal instincts are dubious at best, but she also has a strong sense of her own worth and a fundamentally loving heart. For all the weaknesses in the plot, Croggon certainly captured the essence of the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff – sorry, Lina and Damek – in all its twisted glory. It does, however, lack the absolutely gut-wrenching impact of the original.

The problem with this isn’t that it is bad – it just isn’t good, either. Like the original, it is seductive, dark and slightly addictive. If you manage to get into this story, and do your best to forget the Wuthering Heights connection, it is a decent – if slightly weird and incomprehensible – Gothic fantasy with great characters. However, if you’re like me and think the Bronte sisters are just about the best thing to emerge from the desolate English moors, you might struggle to look past the bastardisation of the storyline and lack of inventive spin. While I’m not exactly highly recommending this, it is an interesting addition to the ever-widening field of classic adaptations and will appeal to a certain group of enthusiasts.


Read an excerpt here.


Cover love: It’s great, until you wake up in the middle of the night and catch a glimpse of those terrifying eyes watching you…

Review: Unspoken

Unspoken – Sarah Rees Brennan

Published: September 2012

Rating: 9/10

Sourced: Bought copy

Forest deep, silent bells

There’s a story no one tells

Valley quiet, water still

Lynburns watching on the hill

Apples red, corn gold

Almost everyone grows old.

And there we have it. If you’re not running out to buy a copy of Unspoken after reading that deliciously creepy little taster, then we clearly are never going to get along and this relationship was doomed from the beginning.

I have been hanging out for Unspoken for months and months, for two reasons: one, I adore Sarah Rees Brennan. She’s funny, she’s sassy, she’s really good at diverse and complex characters, and she joined up with one of my favourite Australian authors to deliver us the beauty that was Team Human earlier this year (see my review here). Two, she’s written an intrepid gothic journalist heroine who not only speaks to a possibly imaginary boy in her head, but has been compared to my favourite girl-detective, Veronica Mars (and, again, if you’re not buried in this book after that note, we’re done).

When you spend so much time anticipating a particular title, there is always that moment of dread – will it be as great as I hope? What if this is a one-off awful title from an otherwise brilliant author?

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to announce that Sarah Rees Brennan has delivered yet another cracking young adult read, full of spine-tinglingly spooky old houses, giggle-inducing witty banter and a cast of characters just as charming as they are diverse.

Welcome to the small English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale (see also: Sorriest River and Crying Pools. Brennan, have I mentioned that I love you?), where secrets run deep and fear/reverence of the town’s founding family, the Lynburns, is practically ingrained at birth. But they’ve been gone for years, and, for our heroine Kami, the power of the Lynburns has been reduced to a story. One she would like to crack right open in an expose for her school newspaper when they return to town with two teenage boys in tow. The only problem? One of those boys might just be the ‘imaginary’ friend she’s been talking to in her head for her whole life.

Along with her winning (albeit reluctant) investigative team; including her slightly narcoleptic best friend Angela and her brother Rusty; Holly, the girl whose family has lived in the town for generations; and Ash, the other Lynburn boy, Kami makes it her mission to discover exactly what it is that the Lynburns are hiding – even as it puts her life in danger.

Unspoken is funny, gorgeous, a little bit scary and painfully realistic despite the paranormal elements. The relationship between Kami and Jared is astonishingly well explored. Their history, their fear of the impact that the other could have upon their lives and their growing feelings for one another are so incredibly well played out, although simultaneously frustrating and slightly torturous. You’ll want to shake Jared for being so stubborn and always jumping to conclusions; you’ll want to sigh at Kami and remind her not to over think everything. Their relationship is anything but instantaneous; it is the sum of years and years of being both the most comforting thing in one another’s lives and the most terrifying. The bond between Kami and Jared is utterly unique and completely engrossing.

But while this relationship is magnificent, it is the more peripheral ones that really show Brennan’s skill. Kami’s parents are, in full defiance of the typical YA ‘MIA parent’ trope, very present and supportive of their daughter. Kami’s relationship with her mother, in particular, feels natural and familiar – if my mother and I discussed spells and curses and imaginary-but-not-voices in my head, that is. Same goes for her relationship the incredibly beautiful Angela, who although at times disappears from the storyline rather conveniently, nonetheless manages to exist outside of her position as sidekick to Kami. She’s interesting, full of sass, and pretty much the opposite of the typical, boy crazy best mate (I’m looking at you, Vee from Hush Hush). She and Kami also have a shared background of being outsiders to the town (Angela’s family moved there in recent years, Kami’s grandmother was Japanese) which allows Brennan to have them ignorant of the finer points of town history. It works well, since the audience gets to discover the secrets of Sorry-in-the-Vale along with the main characters.

As for the rest of the story, well, the fantasy elements are cool and quirky, and I look forward to seeing them further developed in the next book. The plot does tend to jump around a little, and there are a few elements that feel slightly familiar to Beautiful Creatures, but other than that there really isn’t fault to be found with this creepy and intriguing tale. Oh, and the ending? Predictable, but heartbreaking. Have you ever noticed that people really tend to stare when you yell at a book on public transport? Not the best idea I’ve had, I’ll admit. This one is great for fans of Maureen Johnson’s The Name of the Star, and for those who enjoyed Rosemary Clement-Moore’s gothic witchy stories, The Splendour Falls and Texas Gothic.

Cover love: I actually went out of my way to avoid having to buy the UK edition (below) of this title. I have even tried to hide it behind the US edition in the bookshop I work in. The US cover is unique, meaningful and absolutely gorgeous. The UK edition is pretty much the antithesis: it’s stock-standard, gives a misleading impression of the characters, and, well, the colours are awful. On the plus side, yay for no whitewashing!

Meg’s Wish List

This is a feature for upcoming books that I have heard of from various blogs, through my job at the bookshop, or from Goodreads, inspired by On the Smuggler’s Radar over at The Book Smugglers. My to-read list is ever-growing, and these are just a few that I’m hanging out for!

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

I LOVE the sound of this, and it certainly helps that the cover is all kinds of gorgeous!

16-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Dusty is a magical being who feeds on human dreams.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder. The setting is Arkwell.

And then it comes true.

Now the Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

Splintered by A. G. Howard

I have to confess that I’m not a huge fan of any of the Alice in Wonderland movies, but I re-read the books in my first year of uni and was very impressed by how fantastically weird the stories are. While I’m wary of spin-offs/based ons/retellings of as a general rule, this sounds pretty awesome!

This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

Who Done It? Edited by Jon Scieszka.

I’ll admit it. I might have hyperventilated just a little after I first saw this title. With big YA names like Libba Bray, John Green and Lemony Snicket contributing to this quirky collection of stories, I really don’t feel like I overreacted! The proceeds are going towards the fantastic nonprofit literacy organization, 826NYC – so the only problem with this one is that we have to wait until February to read it.

When the world’s most horrible editor turns up dead, investigator Jon Scieszka has his work cut out for him. The suspect list is long. Very long. Think 83-famous-YA-authors long, including Libba Bray, David Levithan, John Green, Lemony Snicket, Lauren Myracle…you get the picture. They’ve all got alibis, collected in this very anthology. But the question is…Who done it?

Fire Spell by Laura Amy Schlitz

Marionettes? Evil magicians? 19th century London? What’s not to love in this gorgeous intermediate (or middle grade) fantasy title? Schlitz is a Newbery Award winner, so it will be interesting to see how her latest title turns out. This was published as Splendors and Glooms in the USA.

It begins with a girl in London, 1860. Her family is exceptionally wealthy and she is exceptionally lonely. The closest thing to friendship Clara has experienced was a brief encounter with the two ragged children who work with the puppeteer in the park. For her birthday she asks to see them perform in the drawing room, and her father, to her surprise, allows it. The puppeteer, Grisini, kidnaps Clara and uses his sinister powers to imprison her body and mind in the form of a marionette to add to his theatre. His two young assistants realise what has happened, and all three children find themselves caught up in a terrible struggle for supernatural eminence between Grisini and a dying witch of extraordinary power.

Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill

I’ve had my eye on this one for MONTHS, and with its release date just around the corner (the ninth), I’m more excited than ever!

The end of their world begins with a story.

This one.
In most fairy tales, princesses are beautiful, dragons are terrifying, and stories are harmless. This isn’t most fairy tales.
Princess Violet is plain, reckless, and quite possibly too clever for her own good. Particularly when it comes to telling stories. One day she and her best friend, Demetrius, stumble upon a hidden room and find a peculiar book. A forbidden book. It tells a story of an evil being — called the Nybbas — imprisoned in their world. The story cannot be true — not really. But then the whispers start. Violet and Demetrius, along with an ancient, scarred dragon, may hold the key to the Nybbas’s triumph . . . or its demise. It all depends on how they tell the story. After all, stories make their own rules.
Iron Hearted Violet is a story of a princess unlike any other. It is a story of the last dragon in existence, deathly afraid of its own reflection. Above all, it is a story about the power of stories, our belief in them, and how one enchanted tale changed the course of an entire kingdom.
So this Wish List ended up being mostly Intermediate or Middle Grade – I promise more YA next time!
What are you wishing for?

Review: Friday Brown

Friday Brown – Vikki Wakefield

Published: August 2012

Sourced: ARC from publisher

Rating: 9/10

I thought it was about time I threw in a review of a book by an author from my own country, so this week’s featured title is of one of my favourite recent Australian YA releases by the star author of All I Ever Wanted.

When Friday’s mother dies, it brings an end to their nomadic life of drifting from town to town whenever things get too difficult. Friday quickly discovers that the stagnant life of living with her grandfather doesn’t quite suit her, and that it is very difficult to stop running from your past when running is all you know.

Meeting Silence, the damaged boy with a loyal, loving heart and a horrific past, Friday falls in with a bunch of street kids who are just about as horrible as they are wonderful. Ruling over them all with an iron fist and a sweet smile is the charismatic and dangerous Arden. And even as Friday is drawn further into their strange world, losing her power and feeling desperately out of place as she falls victim to Arden’s machinations, she manages to find something worth staying for. Something worth fighting for, for the first time in her life.

This is one of the most beautiful and terrifying coming-of-age novels to be found in the Aussie YA market. Melina Marchetta’s On the Jellicoe Road meets John Larkin’s The Shadow Girl, and for those of you who don’t worship at the altar of Marchetta, that basically translates as, well, amazing is a criminal understatement. It is horrible and wonderful and very Australian without begin over-the-top and tacky (quite the achievement). Friday is a turbulent, complex character who makes frustrating choices and can appear both incredibly strong and annoyingly weak, which all just manages to make her growth that much more organic.

While the beginning of the novel didn’t capture my interest overmuch (really, homeless teenagers – hasn’t this been done before?), I was quickly drawn in by the fascinating characters and the nail-biting tension of the second half. Vikki Wakefield’s writing is masterful, powered by her talent for capturing a sense of place. Plus, there is a sinister and terrifying family curse. I love a good family curse.

Vikki Wakefield’s second novel is the sort of book that plays around in your mind for days afterwards. It affects your thinking and leaves you feeling unsettled in the way that only the best books can. It is marvellous and complex and utterly, devastatingly beautiful. Friday Brown is a unique addition to the world of Australian YA literature, and one that is bound to become a classic.  

The Curiosities – Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff

The Curiosities – Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff

Published: August 2012

Sourced: ARC from NetGalley

Rating: 9/10 for this wonderful read, which basically means I will recommend it to anyone who will stand still long enough to listen.

YA titans Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton and Brenna Yovanoff – otherwise known as the Merry Sisters of Fate, who have been blogging short stories on their website since 2008  – have bought together a whole bunch of wonderfully creepy tales that play with myths, fairy tales and traditional YA themes to create something entirely unique. In an interesting twist, each story is introduced by the author and one of the other Sisters, exploring their relationship to both the stories and each other. Throughout the text, handwritten notes and sketches add to the experience, making this not only a brilliant collection of short stories but a fascinating look at creativity and the writing process. Fans of Maggie will rejoice at ‘Heart-shaped Box’ – the story that inspired the character Cole St. Clair of the Shiver trilogy fame. Personal favourites of mine were Maggie’s snarky and sarcastic ‘Rain Maker’ and her shocking paranormal story ‘Another Sun’. From Tessa, you can’t go past the deliciously strange and suspenseful ‘The Vampire Box’ and her gorgeous and heartfelt take on the berserker myth, ‘Berserk’. Brenna’s uncomfortable high-school story ‘Girls Raised by Wolves’ is a bizarre and yet strangely accurate look at the dynamic between teenage girls, and her ‘King Arthur’ twist, ‘The Madness of Lancelot’ is eerie and compelling.  All up, this is one of my favourite books of recent times – wonderfully creepy, filled with powerful, complex characters and just weird enough to make it absolutely fantastic. A must read not only for fans of these authors, but for those intrigued by the fantastic, the unearthly, and all the things that go into the creative process.

Dark Star – Bethany Frenette

Dark Star – Bethany Frenette

Published: October 2012

Sourced: ARC from NetGalley

Rating: 7/10

Ordinary is not a word Audrey would use to describe her family. Between her mother the superhero/vigilante ‘Morning Star’ and the psychic ability she shares with her grandmother, Audrey is well accustomed to strange happenings in her household. But none of that could have prepared her for learning (rather violently) that her mother isn’t fighting criminals, but demons. And something is stirring in this new world she finds herself in – something that threatens to destroy the family she has only just discovered. Something that Audrey might just be able to stop.

This is quite honestly the best urban fantasy novel I have read since City of Bones. The world building is thorough but efficient, using Audrey’s ‘Knowing’ as a way of discovering the new reality that she is falling into. The plot is well-paced, gripping, and addictive in that incredible way that makes you forget that it helps to pay attention to which train station you are pulling into if you actually want to get to work on time. Audrey makes for a tough yet believably vulnerable heroine whose growth as a character feels incredibly natural. The more peripheral characters are similarly well developed and certainly manage to earn their place in this novel. Audrey’s relationships with those around her, particularly her mother, are beautifully explored and feel refreshingly real. While there is a love story (with a positively gorgeous guy as Audrey’s love-interest), it takes a definite back-seat to what is primarily a tale of good-vs-evil – with a few quirky twists.

City of Bones meets Storm in this thrilling and captivating YA read – and if it happens to promote a few extra books showing up in the ‘superpower’ genre, well, I won’t be complaining.

Currently Reading: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan. Review will be coming soon!

Seraphina – Rachel Hartman

Seraphina – Rachel Hartman.

Published: July 2012

Sourced:  Bought copy

Rating: 8/10

I couldn’t do this book justice in a summary if I had three years to try, and certainly not without giving away a few juicy spoilers.  Basic premise is this: in Goredd, humans and dragons co-exist – although rather unwillingly. With the forty-year anniversary of the peace treaty between the two races looming, it is a really, really bad time for a member of the royal family to be murdered. Especially when it looks like a dragon may be the killer. Enter Seraphina Dombegh, our plucky protagonist and an incredibly gifted musician, recently taking on a place as assistant to the royal court composer. Drawn into the murder investigation by the alarmingly perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs, the pair begin to uncover the truth behind a terrible plot to sabotage relations between humans and dragons. Only Seraphina has secrets of her own to keep hidden, secrets that threaten to emerge as she is goes deeper into this world of danger and politics.

Seraphina is one of the most interesting, well developed and perfectly executed fantasy reads I have had the pleasure of consuming in years. It ranks up there with Tamora Pierce and Kristen Cashore, for all the same reasons that I love these authors – political intrigue, fantastical creatures, strong, independent female main characters, and, of course, beautifully explored relationships.

In a world where dragons and humans live in a peaceful but tenuous co-existence, it could take only the smallest of sparks to bring the war back to life. Hartman illustrates the distrust and prejudice between humans and dragons with astonishing skill, especially for a debut author. Their world is perfectly built, with simmering tensions between the parties soaring to an epic conclusion. The timing in this novel is excellent, carrying the plot along at a steady pace and imparting knowledge without falling into the trap of the nefarious info-dump. The political element to this story is well-balanced with the human, and it makes for a fascinating and involving read.

Not to mention that the fantasy elements are – well, fantastic. Dragons walking around in human skin with their emotions on lockdown and rationality as religion? Genius! The most exquisitely fashioned relationship in this novel is that between the very human, very emotional Seraphina and her dragon mentor Orma. The conflict between reason and emotion is torturously played out. I felt for Orma, I felt for Seraphina, I felt for their astonishing world and I felt a very, very strong need to get my hands on the next book ASAP!

This is a great addition to the treasure trove of high-fantasy we’ve got going on in YA at the moment, and definitely my pick of the bunch.

Cover love: I am a huge fan of the US cover (below), but, alas, I live in Australia and instead have the edition pictured above.

Welcome to The Next Read!

Welcome to The Next Read, where you can expect to find a whole range of YA book reviews and news. I am a 21-year-old girl who has been working in bookshops for seven years and writing book reviews for nearly as long. Pair that with a borderline unhealthy obsession with young adult books and a degree in journalism, and this blog is the outcome! All my fellow fans of YA are welcome here, and since I’ll devour basically any book you place before me you’ll find a variety of genres covered. I aim to write weekly book reviews with a few extra features hopefully appearing over the next few weeks/months. I’ll cheekily thank you in advance for your patience as The Next Read finds its proverbial feet. Please find The Next Read on Facebook, and remember that comments are always welcome.

To kick things off, I’ll be posting two reviews over the next couple of days, the first being of Rachel Hartman’s superb story of very unusual dragons, Seraphina, and the second of a fun urban fantasy, Dark Star, written by Bethany Frenette.

I hope you enjoy!