This week I thought I would do some book recommendations. I’ve been reading a lot lately, mostly within historical YA. So if you’re writing in this genre or love to read it, listen up.
First up, we have GRACELING by Kristin Cashore. This was one of the first YA high fantasies that I ever read. It changed my view of books. We have this amazing female protagonist who is an assassin being controlled by her uncle, the king, to do his dirty work. Some of the people have magical abilities, called “graces,” and Katsa is graced with killing. She meets Prince Po, who is graced with fighting skills, and together they leave their lives behind to perform a task more worthy of their talents. Like save the kingdom. Lots of action. Lots of plot twists. A beautiful romance. GRACELING is wonderful.
Next we have MAID OF SECRETS by Jennifer McGowan. This book focuses less on the romance and more on the political intrigue of the Elizabethan Era. Meg is an orphan who has made a living picking pockets, until she gets caught by a nobleman. Rather than get sent to prison, she is forced to serve Queen Elizabeth as a spy. Meg is blessed with perfect recall, which makes her ideal for overhearing enemy conversations. Jennifer McGowan manages to seep you into the era without taking away from the storytelling. Lots of sneaking, thievery, and play acting. MAID OF SECRETS is lots of fun.
DEFY by Sara B. Larson is my most recent “dagger book.” I bought this one on a whim at a conference I went to several months ago. So glad I did. The kingdom has been at war for years, and everything that the people have goes to the cause. When the border villages are raided and people are killed, the orphans are brought to the palace. The boys are taken to train for the army, while the girls are sent to the breeding houses to make more boys for the army. When twins Alexa and Marcel are orphaned, Alexa cuts her hair and pretends to be a boy so she can go into war training with Marcel and avoid being a prostitute. Years later, Alexa, the prince, and a fellow guard are kidnapped—naturally a love triangle ensues. Figuring out everyone’s motives is the fun part of this book. No one is ever as they seem.
Sarah J. Maas’s THRONE OF GLASS also features a female assassin. Celaena was sent to the salt mines for her crimes, until the prince releases her on the condition that she be his champion. Up against various killers, thieves, and spies, Celaena must compete to become the king’s assassin or return to the mines. But when her fellow competitors start dying, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for her life. Very romantic. Very action-packed. Lots of great dialogue and character interactions.
Last is probably my favorite book of all time: Robin LaFevers’s DARK TRIUMPH. This is another assassin book, but it’s so much more than that. The victims of violence at the hands of men are sent to St. Mortain’s convent, where they are trained to kill for their god. Sybella has a dark past—she’s been hurt deeply by the men closest to her, but she is sent on an assignment to the house of her own father—the very man who has tormented her for years. This book is beautiful. Not only is it about finding a will to live after living through hell, but it’s full of romance and danger and deceit and betrayal and basically all the other good things to be found in books. Go read the first book about Ismae, GRAVE MERCY, then crack open DARK TRIUMPH.
Coming up on my reading list are THE FALCONER by Elizabeth May, which is described as “The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy. This electrifying thriller combines romance and action, steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read” on the cover, and THE WINNER’S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski, “a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.”
So go get in some good reads before Nano takes over your life!