An intriguing and spiritual YA fantasy tale.

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RORY

KING OF PETLA

In Zartman’s debut young-adult novel, a high schooler gets thrust into a fantasy realm under siege, spurring his transformation from an “epic nerd” to a king.

Rory Anderson is in the middle of a field trip when a strange purple mist beckons him to the dimension of Zed. Once there, the King of the Fountain of Life sends Rory and Adam, a skilled stranger chosen as Rory’s helper, to the medieval-style land of Petla. They immediately meet Lady Serena, who’s thrilled by their arrival. It was foretold that the High King of Petla, Roderick Gilroy Montgomery, Son of Anders—aka Rory Anderson—would return to the land to dispel an invading menace. That menace is the Iverns, who are invading Petla from another world. Rory must use his skills to rid the land of these hostile forces. He adapts quickly to his new, unusual circumstances and treats the responsibility of saving Petla with appropriate seriousness. Some fantastic technology, such as flying vests, already exists in this fantasy realm, and merely requires someone to figure it out. Other inventions, such as gunpowder, are only possible thanks to Rory’s knowledge, and he applies this knowledge so effectively that he proves his worthiness as a ruler. Rory frequently asks the King of the Fountain of Life, in a prayer-like manner, for guidance along his journey; although the book has notable Christian undertones, it never becomes preachy. However, the book’s romance element doesn’t shine as brightly as its main plot, as tensions between romantic interests never get very high. Overall, the novel’s greatest strength lies in its appealing, clever characters, who keep readers engaged throughout the story.

An intriguing and spiritual YA fantasy tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2011

ISBN: 978-1463696559

Page Count: 426

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2013

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A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

THE HOUSE IN THE CERULEAN SEA

A tightly wound caseworker is pushed out of his comfort zone when he’s sent to observe a remote orphanage for magical children.

Linus Baker loves rules, which makes him perfectly suited for his job as a midlevel bureaucrat working for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth, where he investigates orphanages for children who can do things like make objects float, who have tails or feathers, and even those who are young witches. Linus clings to the notion that his job is about saving children from cruel or dangerous homes, but really he’s a cog in a government machine that treats magical children as second-class citizens. When Extremely Upper Management sends for Linus, he learns that his next assignment is a mission to an island orphanage for especially dangerous kids. He is to stay on the island for a month and write reports for Extremely Upper Management, which warns him to be especially meticulous in his observations. When he reaches the island, he meets extraordinary kids like Talia the gnome, Theodore the wyvern, and Chauncey, an amorphous blob whose parentage is unknown. The proprietor of the orphanage is a strange but charming man named Arthur, who makes it clear to Linus that he will do anything in his power to give his charges a loving home on the island. As Linus spends more time with Arthur and the kids, he starts to question a world that would shun them for being different, and he even develops romantic feelings for Arthur. Lambda Literary Award–winning author Klune (The Art of Breathing, 2019, etc.) has a knack for creating endearing characters, and readers will grow to love Arthur and the orphans alongside Linus. Linus himself is a lovable protagonist despite his prickliness, and Klune aptly handles his evolving feelings and morals. The prose is a touch wooden in places, but fans of quirky fantasy will eat it up.

A breezy and fun contemporary fantasy.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21728-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

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MEXICAN GOTHIC

Moreno-Garcia offers a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror, set in 1950s Mexico.

Inquisitive 22-year-old socialite and anthropology enthusiast Noemí Taboada adores beautiful clothes and nights on the town in Mexico City with a bevy of handsome suitors, but her carefree existence is cut short when her father shows her a disturbing letter from her cousin Catalina, who recently married fair-haired and blue-eyed Virgil Doyle, who comes from a prominent English mining family that built their now-dwindling fortune on the backs of Indigenous laborers. Catalina lives in High Place, the Doyle family’s crumbling mansion near the former mining town of El Triunfo. In the letter, Catalina begs for Noemí’s help, claiming that she is “bound, threads like iron through my mind and my skin,” and that High Place is “sick with rot, stinks of decay, brims with every single evil and cruel sentiment.” Upon Noemí’s arrival at High Place, she’s struck by the Doyle family’s cool reception of her and their unabashed racism. She's alarmed by the once-vibrant Catalina’s listless state and by the enigmatic Virgil and his ancient, leering father, Howard. Nightmares, hallucinations, and phantasmagoric dreams of golden dust and fleshy bodies plague Noemí, and it becomes apparent that the Doyles haven’t left their blood-soaked legacy behind. Luckily, the brave Noemí is no delicate flower, and she’ll need all her wits about her for the battle ahead. Moreno-Garcia weaves elements of Mexican folklore with themes of decay, sacrifice, and rebirth, casting a dark spell all the way to the visceral and heart-pounding finale.

Fans of gothic classics like Rebecca will be enthralled as long as they don’t mind a heaping dose of all-out horror.

Pub Date: June 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-62078-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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