Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Soaring Eagle book award nominees -- part 2

Last week, I began my annual review of the titles that make up the current year's list of Wyoming Soaring Eagle book award nominees; the three titles in last week's post shared a common genre -- post-apocalyptic dystopias. As I stated, the popularity of dystopia among young adult literature fans is not a new trend.

The popularity of the fantasy genre among teen readers is not a new trend, either: indeed, over the history of young adult literature, those novels that have enjoyed both the highest sales and the longest staying power have largely been fantasy novels. However, the genre experienced a definite decline in popularity after the Harry Potter age.  That decline seems to have ended, and readers are showing a renewed interest in tales of magic and alternate worlds. This week's selection of SEBA nominees include two traditional fantasy novels, one mermaid fantasy, and one genre-blending sci-fi/dystopian fantasy.

Throne of Glass
Sarah J. Maas

Celaena Sardothien, the Assassin of Erilea, has been a slave in the mine of Endovier for a year and a half, enduring brutal conditions and nearly impossible physical labor. She believes she will die in the mines. . . until the day when she is summoned to meet the crown prince of Adarlan. He offers Celaena her freedom: the catch is that she has to prove her worth by defeating several other Champions from all over the kingdom.  If she wins the competition, she will have work for four years as the personal assassin of the kind of Ardalan -- the very man who killed her people and imprisoned her.
Still, Celeana knows his offer is her only chance, so she allows him to take her to the castle to begin preparing for the competition.  Celeana realizes that she must work harder than the other Champions if she’s going to be able to make up for the time she spent starving at the mines. Furthermore, Celeana is not at the castle long before strange dreams of ancient fairies asking for her help begin to haunt her.
Soon, Champions are being violently murdered and strange symbols begin to appear around the castle.  Somehow, Celeana knows the symbols, her new friend from another country, and even the king, are all connected. Celeana must solve the mystery of the murders and learn who she can trust before she, too, is killed.  This is the first title is Maas' Throne of Glass series; the sequels are Crown of Midnight; Heir of Fire; and Queen of Shadows. Maas has also published a short story collection, The Assassin's Blade, and has started a second fantasy series.

Shadow and Bone
Leigh Bardugo
If you had secret powers, would you reveal them?  What if revealing your power meant that you had to leave your best friend behind forever?
Alisha and Mal are orphans living in Ravka, a cold, dangerous country controlled by wizards, known as Grisha, who command the various elements of earth. By law, each orphan is tested to see if they, like the Grisha, possess the Small Science. When it is their turn to be tested, Alisha, in order to stay with Mal, hides her secret powers.  Years later, when she and Mal are both serving in the King’s First Army, she uses her latent powers to save Mal from flesh-eating volcra -- huge, vulture-like birds that live in the skies above the Dark Fold.
When Alisha’s power is revealed, she is whisked away to the palace by the Darkling Prince. At the palace, Alisha begins an entirely new life, filled with trainings in the Grisha magic, court appearances, friendship, and intrigue. Alisha soon finds out that she doesn’t know who to trust. They say that Alisha is the Sun Summoner, able to destroy the creatures of the Dark Fold and bring light to her country.  If she really has such powers, shouldn’t she be able to recognize the darkness in the people around her . . . and in herself? This title is the first in Bardugo's Grisha trilogy; the sequels are Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising.  Bardugo returns to the land of the Grisha in her newest novel, Six of Crows.

Of Poseidon
Anna Banks
Emma hates to swim, hates seafood, hates anything to do with the ocean. The tragedy that strikes when she and her best friend, Chloe, vacation in Florida only reinforces her hate. While Emma clings to a surfboard, Chloe is brutally attacked, and Emma cannot help.
Galen watches the attack, because he’s been watching Emma. He sees her helplessness, but he sees something else, too – something no one else will believe, including Emma.  Galen follows her back to her hometown, wanting to convince her of her special nature. But what Galen tells Emma borders on insanity – Emma, the girl who hates the sea and all things associated with it – how could she be a long-lost mermaid princess? How could she possess the gift of the god Poseidon?
It’s up to Galen to convince Emma of her gift, and to bring her back to his world, before the entire kingdom is lost.  Of Poseidon is the first of Banks' trilogy, The Syrena Legacy:  sequels are Of Neptune, and Of Triton.

Marissa Meyer
Cinder has no memory of the accident that caused more than half of her body to be replaced by robotic parts. She lives in futuristic China and spends her days working as a mechanic, making money to help support her cruel step family. Cinder works hard but the world she lives in doesn’t trust androids, and when they see the small, outgrown robotic foot she is forced to wear, they don’t trust her, either. One day, by chance, Cinder meets the future emperor of China and begins doing repair work for him. Through her association with the castle, she discovers that there may be more to her past than her hateful step-mother has revealed.  Meanwhile, a vicious epidemic has forced the future emperor to become betrothed to the queen of Luna, an empire of people who live on the moon and have the power to control people with their minds. Cinder realizes that the emperor is in grave danger from the queen and that she must fight to escape her evil step-family, and save the emporer -- and her country. 
This is the first in Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series; each successive novel is play on a different fairy tale.  The sequels to Cinder are Scarlet, Cress and Winter.  

Soaring Eagle voting happens soon:  from February 15 to March 15.  Readers who read at least three titles are allowed to vote for their favorite; if you are a fan of fantasy, I hope one of these four novels will earn your vote!

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