Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Dear Pitchwars 2015

Dear Pitchwarriors--

(Including my own! Who is, as I write this post, still undetermined . . . )

Some of you will be reading this before the actual mentees are announced. Most of you are probably sick with dread, looking squint-eyed at the #pitchwars feed, half-hoping, half-fearing you'll see something that will tell you the fate of your manuscript.

I know. I was there last year. Right before Brenda announced the mentees on her blog, I was so nervous my entire body shook. I'm a pessimist by nature, so I was pretty sure I was out. And then my mentor followed me on Twitter just moments before the announcement and my hope immediately shot up.

It was painful.

And then elating. For a few days, I was on top of the world. Someone LOVED my manuscript. I was going to do a few edits, make it shiny, and send it out into the world for agents to shower me with praise and book deals.


Um. Not quite.

When I got my five-page single-spaced edit letter from my mentor, I wondered for a wild moment if she'd regretted picking my manuscript. Maybe she was overwhelmed and hadn't read all the entries and she was now cursing herself because she was stuck with this flawed manuscript.

(Turns out, this feeling is really common. Almost every successful writer has this moment, whether it's getting the feedback from your mentor, doing revisions with your agent, or that first edit letter from your new editor.)

For a day or two I couldn't even respond to my mentor. I was sure she hated me.


She didn't--in fact, she had a vision for my story that made it MUCH better. But it took me a few days to wrap my head around the changes (they were daunting) and start to be excited. Over the next two months, I cut nearly a third of my MS and rewrote it. I finished just before the agent round. It was brutal--but so worth it.

So what does this mean for you? 

If you don't get picked

This is the part that kills me. The contest is set up so that each mentor only chooses one. But really, most of us could have chosen dozens. I just want to hug everyone who's disappointed when the picks come out. And maybe add this:

It's not the end of the world. Really. This kind of contest is highly subjective, and not making it in really only means that your chosen mentors felt another manuscript was a better fit for them. Another set of mentors might have felt differently.

You've already done a brave thing by putting your work out there. If you keep putting yourself out there, if you keep looking for feedback and ways to make your writing better, it will happen. (And if you're looking for other contest opportunities, here's a start). It probably won't happen as fast as you're hoping it will--but it will happen.

Pitch Wars IS a great contest, but it's not the only way to an agent. None of my Pitch Wars requests ended in offers. (I actually met my agent at a conference. Two of my other offers were from cold queries).

Take a little time to wallow, if you need it (with your favorite poison: mine's chocolate). Revise, if you get feedback from the mentors that inspires you to. And then send your work out again.

I'll be cheering from the sidelines.

If you do get picked: 

Know that the roller-coaster doesn't end here. Some of you have already been in the query trenches: you get this. But the wild elation of being chosen and the crippling insecurity of reading through your mentor's notes and thinking, "How did I get picked if my story has that many flaws?" keeps going.

A lot of it will be hard:

It's hard to put your ego aside and take the critique that will make your story better.

It's hard to take your story apart without any assurance that it will be better on the other side. (It will be. Probably.)

It's hard to realize that no matter how much you think you know about writing, you still have more to learn.

It's hard to watch other people get more requests than you--in the agent round, and later when querying. (Tracie has a wonderful post on this, if you haven't already read it).

But there are wonderful parts too, so make sure you hold onto those.

Someone LOVED your manuscript. They loved it enough to champion it in the face of other mentor interest, and they're excited to work with you. You're about to get detailed, quality feedback for free that can help you turn your story around.

The community of writers is the best part of Pitch Wars. Really. Some of you have already connected on the #pitchwars feed, and that's a beautiful thing. Last year, as several people have mentioned, most of the mentees/alternates formed a private Facebook group that's still going strong. We've answered each other's questions, cheered each other on when agent offers arrived, and mourned when deals fell through or agents did. Reach out to your fellow mentees--you're all on this writing journey together, and it's so much easier in company.

And celebrate!

I'm learning that with this writing thing it's easy to focus on the next milestone (get into Pitch Wars, get an agent, get a book deal, get a foreign rights deal, get a starred review . . . ). But the milestones are never ending, so remember to celebrate the good things while you can.


To read the rest of the letters, please see the bloghop at Tracie' s blog. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Indulgences

I turned in my edits last Monday and spent the rest of the week indulging in a bit of a reading binge. Among this week's offerings: 

Simon v. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Before picking up this book, I'd been hearing how adorable it was--and the book didn't disappoint. Simon Spier is the kind of warm-hearted, cynical, Harry Potter loving teenage boy you just want to hug. His voice carries the story, which is, in its essentials, pretty simple: Simon has been emailing with a boy (Blue) whom he may be falling for, and he's perfectly happy with his friends and his not-quite-out yet romance, until another boy sees their emails and not-so-subtly blackmails Simon into playing his wingman--or he'll tell the school Simon is gay. But the story isn't really about the blackmail, or Simon coming out, or even the question of who is Blue? (which I figured out fairly early). The story is more about what it feels like to be human, to fall in love for the first time, to navigate your changing self around family and friends who have known you forever, and figuring out how to be yourself. The story exudes warmth and humor--and can I just say how much I loved that Simon has a healthy family relationship? His parents are together, he actually likes his sisters, and while they're not perfect, Albertalli didn't unecessarily pad the story with angst in the form of family drama. I smiled a lot while reading this. Sometimes it even made me laugh.

Romancing the Dark in the City of Light, by Ann Jacobus.

Romancing the Dark in the City of Light I got an ARC of this book from the author, for review purposes. She attached a sticky note warning me that the story was not for the faint of heart, so I started reading with a little trepidation. But while it's true that the story IS dark, it's also a story about hope and redemption. Summer Barnes is in Paris for her last semester of school, hoping not to get kicked out here as she has every other school she's attended. She just wants to get through, and maybe hold a boy's hand. She meets Moony, a classmate recovering from a serious car accident--and Kurt, a hot older guy who shows her a part of the city she's never seen before. And while Moony charms her, Kurt stirs something dark and dangerous inside her. But this is not your typical love triangle, and the unfolding relationship between these three is surprising and even shocking. Much of the tension of the story comes from Summer trying to master her demons (drinking, a haunted past, feelings of loneliness and isolation) before she succumbs to the lure of ending everything.

This definitely isn't a story for very young readers (drug abuse, sexual situations, some language), but it's beautifully written and thought-provoking.

Courting Kat, by Stephanie Burgis

Courting Magic (Kat, Incorrigible, #3.5) Stephanie Burgis has created such a perfectly delightful heroine in Katherine Stephenson (Kat), that it's almost impossible not to be charmed by the novels. In this novella, Kat is all grown up (18), and enduring her social debut to please her sisters. When she's asked to take on Guardian business to find an illusionist who's been impersonating nobility and stealing from them, she's relieved--something to make this society business more endurable. That is, until she finds that three other Guardians have been assigned to the case as well, and they've been asked to "court" her to make their presence at the same balls less suspicious. Of course, since one of the young men is someone wholly ineligible from her past (not that this has made her stop thinking about him for the past five years), things get problematic very quickly. For me, this was the perfect mix of fantasy, humor, romance, and Regency and I adored it. Except, of course, that it wasn't nearly long enough!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cover Reveal! Monica Wagner's FROSH

Monica has been a fixture in the YA writing community for the last few years, mentoring everywhere from Pitch Wars to the Writer's Voice. But she just got her cover for her upcoming NA, Frosh, and the book looks like so much fun!

Here's the blurb:

During welcome week at Hillson University, the FROSH will hit the fan.

Type-A aspiring journalist Ellie plans to take freshman year by storm. But hell-bent on breaking a huge on-campus scandal, she risks becoming one herself—and getting the mysterious, heart-melting QB in serious trouble.

Grant, star quarterback and charismatic chick-magnet, is hiding a life-altering secret. The last thing he needs is an overeager (absolutely adorable) journalist asking questions. He’s got a reputation to protect.

High-society legacy student Devon is ready to catch the football hottie of her dreams. If the tabloids feature her with the “it” boy on her arm, her tainted past will be buried—or so she thinks.

Charlie, pre-med, is done being the sweet and funny geek that girls like Devon ignore. But if he tries to impress her with a new edgy, spontaneous attitude, will his heart end up in the emergency room?

FROSH intertwines the stories of Ellie, Grant, Devon, and Charlie in Mónica B. Wagner’s sexy NA debut series, about falling in love and falling apart.

 Without further ado, here's the cover!

Displaying FROSHfinal.jpg

The book releases October 20th, and you can add the book to Goodreads here.

Displaying FOTO YO.jpg
Mónica was born in a Peruvian city by a snow-capped volcano. Growing up, books were her constant companion as she traveled with her family to places like India (where she became a vegetarian), Thailand (where she *almost* met Leonardo di Caprio), France (where she pretended to learn French), and countless other places that inspired her to write. Now, Mónica lives in Chile with her husband, three boys, eleven hens, and stray dog.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Pitch Wars Mentor Bio

Writers are supposed to be good with words, but all I can think to say is--I am so thrilled to be a Pitch Wars mentor this year! (If you're not familiar with Pitch Wars, it's a fabulous contest hosted by the equally fabulous Brenda Drake, where unpublished writers work with a mentor to polish their work before agents request pages. You can read a fuller explanation here).

I was lucky enough to be mentored by the fabulous Virginia Boecker last fall, and her insights made my book so much better. I got my agent (Josh Adams) a month after Pitch Wars ended, and sold my YA fantasy debut, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION (Fall 2016, first in a planned trilogy) to Knopf/Random House in February.

Pitch Wars was definitely instrumental in my success, and I'm so excited to get to pay it forward this year!

What I'm looking for:

 I'm a YA mentor.

I read widely in YA, so I'm open to anything, as long as it's well written. That said, I'm partial to fantasy (contemporary or historical) and historical novels. I love reading contemporary (Jandie Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun blew me away, and I adore Rainbow Rowell), but I was a bona fide nerd in high school and my high school experience is a bit dated. I do love a good sci-fi novel, but I lean toward space opera (think Miles Vorkosigan or Firefly) or light sci-fi. You can take a look at my Goodreads book shelf to see what I've read and liked, or scroll through some of the reviews on this blog.

I have a serious weakness for BBC period dramas: if you've got anything reminiscent of Poldark, Wives and Daughters, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Sherlock, etc., I will fight to the (figurative) death for your book! I take my historicals with or without magic. I'm not picky. But give me drama, an authentic setting, a bit of manners, smart dialogue, and a healthy dose of romance, and I will love you.

I also love fantasy: rich, sweeping epic settings with high stakes (think Marie Rutkowski's The Winner's Curse, Megan Whalen Turner's Attolia books) or vivid worlds with a folkloric feeling (Naomi Novik's Uprooted, Juliet Marillier's Wildwood Dancing), send them my way!

I adore contemporary romance (Kasie West, Stephanie Perkins) and would seriously consider anything in that vein, but I might not be as helpful as some of the contemporary mentors.

Mostly, though, I'm looking for someone who's not afraid of working hard to make their book better. If you're just hoping to make surface level revisions, or for someone to put their stamp of approval on the book, I'm probably not the right mentor. Good revisions take work--last year, I rewrote nearly 1/3 of my manuscript for Pitch Wars. While the revisions I suggest may not be that drastic, you need to be prepared to cut and rework.

I'm open to diversity as long as you've done your research and the characters are fleshed-out, compelling, and respectfully presented.

What I'm not looking for: 

I'm not a huge fan of thrillers or hard-boiled mystery novels; I also don't do straight-up horror or anything that's ultra violent. Dark, gritty realistic fiction is probably not a good fit for me either. I don't mind some sex or swearing in books, but lots of it is a turn-off for me (esp. in YA).

Anything above 100k words. Two months is not a lot of time to workshop an entire novel, and I'm afraid I wouldn't be able to give the level of attention I need to a longer novel.


What I can offer you:

I'm good at giving feedback on both big-picture and sentence-level issues. I have a PhD in English from Penn State, and I've taught college writing for over a decade. Giving feedback is part of what I'm paid to do professionally, and I love it. There's something so rewarding about seeing a piece of writing go to the next level.

For Pitch Wars, my feedback will focus primarily on big-picture issues: plot arc, characterization, setting, description, dialogue, etc. I won't focus on editing for grammar, though if there's a recurrent issue I will point it out.

Beyond that, my entry was fairly successful last fall in Pitch Wars (twelve requests and three ninja requests), so I have a reasonably good sense of what it takes to craft a compelling pitch and opening page.

My plan is to provide you with an edit letter that gives an overview to the strengths and weaknesses in your book, along with more detailed line edits in the manuscript itself. Ideally, we'll finish one round of revisions with time for me to do another read through before Pitch Wars.

Sometimes it's also helpful to know about mentoring style: I'm most comfortable working via email or google docs (I'm available to talk on the phone for crisis issues, but generally speaking talking on the phone makes my introvert self break into hives). I typically respond promptly to emails.

More about me:

If you're still reading, you're either unusually persistent or you're considering me as a mentor. Either way: hooray! I live in the red rock of the Southwest with three small children and a chemistry professor husband. When I'm not reading and writing, I enjoy cooking (if someone else cleans), watching BBC dramas with my long-suffering husband, hiking, traveling, and generally avoiding housework. I love: anything British, European cities, mountains, fog, rocky coasts, good chocolate, and sleeping.

If you think we'd be a good fit, send your manuscript my way! If you have questions relating to Pitch Wars, just send me a tweet @rosalyneves or comment below.

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets -- Auto-Linky widget will appear right here!This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

YA Historical Fantasy, Part Four: Upcoming debuts!

One of the best parts of being a debut author is getting to meet lots of other new authors. I'm much more attuned to the new books coming out than I have been in the past, and I have to say that the next year or so promises to be a banner year for books in general, and particularly for YA historical fantasy.

Here are some books that I'm particularly excited for:

Mackenzi Lee, This Monstrous Thing (September 22, 2015)

This Monstrous Thing Mackenzie's upcoming Frankenstein retelling looks creepy and awesome all at once, and it's getting rave reviews. Here's the Goodreads description:

In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

Heidi Heilig, The Girl from Everywhere (February 16, 2016)

The Hawaiian setting alone has me intrigued.
The Girl from Everywhere (From Goodreads) Heidi Heilig’s debut teen fantasy sweeps from modern-day New York City to nineteenth-century Hawaii to places of myth and legend. Sixteen-year-old Nix has sailed across the globe and through centuries aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. But when he gambles with her very existence, it all may be about to end. The Girl from Everywhere, the first of two books, will dazzle readers of Sabaa Tahir, Rae Carson, and Rachel Hartman.

Nix’s life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales of One Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix’s father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he’s uncovered the one map he’s always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix’s mother died in childbirth. Nix’s life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix’s future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who’s been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own.

In The Girl from Everywhere, Heidi Heilig blends fantasy, history, and a modern sensibility with witty, fast-paced dialogue, breathless adventure, and enchanting romance.

Kathryn Purdie, Burning Glass (March 1, 2016)

 Katie's book has all the elements I love in a story: romance, fantasy, high society intrigue, set in a Russian-esque world. Plus, I've known Katie since before her book sold, and I can't wait to read this!

Burning Glass(From Goodreads):
Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.

Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. One mistake, one small failure, will cost her own life and the lives of the few people left in the world who still trust her.

But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, her feelings easily usurped, and she sometimes can’t decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.

As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.

BURNING GLASS is debut author Kathryn Purdie’s stunning tale of dangerous magic, heart-rending romance, and the hard-won courage it takes to let go.

Janet Taylor, Into the Dim (March 1, 2016)

Into the Dim (From Goodreads): “Her future is a thousand years in the past.”

Being “the home-schooled girl” in a small town, Hope Walton’s crippling phobias and photographic memory don’t endear her to her dad's perfectly blond, very Southern family. When her mother is killed in a natural disaster thousands of miles from home, Hope’s secluded world implodes. After being shipped off to an aunt she's never met, Hope learns there's more to her mother's "death" than she ever dreamed. At her aunt's manor, high in the Scottish Highlands, Hope begins to unravel the shocking truth about her family. Her mom isn't just a brilliant academic. She’s a member of a secret society of time travelers, and is currently trapped in the twelfth century in the age of King Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. To stage a rescue, the sheltered teen must join the Indiana Jones-wannabe team of time-jumpers, before her mother is lost for good. In a brutal, medieval world, Hope will discover more family secrets, and a mysterious boy who could be vital to setting her mother free…or the very key to Hope’s undoing.

Addictive and rich with historical detail, INTO THE DIM (Coming Spring 2016 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) is an unlikely heroine's story of adventure, sacrifice, and first love, in a high stakes race against time itself.

The others are far enough out that they don't have covers, but they all sound amazing. 


Julie Eshbaugh, Ivory and Bone (May 2016)

Julie's new book has been pitched as a YA Clan of the Cave Bear, which sounds awesome. Here's the description:

The only life seventeen-year-old Kol knows is hunting at the foot of the Great Ice with his brothers. But food is becoming scarce, and without another clan to align with, Kol, his family, and their entire group are facing an uncertain future.

Traveling from the south, Mya and her family arrive at Kol’s camp with a trail of hurt and loss behind them, and hope for a new beginning. When Kol meets Mya, her strength, independence, and beauty instantly captivate him, igniting a desire for much more than survival.

Then on a hunt, Kol makes a grave mistake that jeopardizes the relationship that he and Mya have only just started to build. Mya was guarded to begin with—and for good reason—but no apology or gesture is enough for her to forgive him. Soon after, another clan arrives on their shores. And when Mya spots Lo, a daughter of this new clan, her anger intensifies, adding to the already simmering tension between families. After befriending Lo, Kol learns of a dark history between Lo and Mya that is rooted in a tangle of their pasts.

When violence erupts, Kol is forced to choose between fighting alongside Mya or trusting Lo’s claims. And when things quickly turn deadly, it becomes clear that this was a war that one of them had been planning all along.

Jessica Cluess, A Shadow Bright and Burning (August 30, 2016)

I've wanted to read this one since I found it was set in an alternate Victorian England (one of my very favorite eras!). And her pinterest board makes me want to read this even more.

A Shadow Bright and Burning is set in the early Victorian era, an alternate history in which sorcerers are advisors to the crown and magic is very much out in the open. 

England has been at war with the Ancients, a group of seven hideous monsters, for over a decade. Henrietta Howel, a sixteen-year-old schoolteacher in Yorkshire, is found to have active sorcerer powers. She shouldn't have them--women can't do magic--but is believed to be the sorcerers' long-awaited Chosen One. 

Brought to London to train, Henrietta enters a world of power and privilege she never could have imagined. In addition to mastering the elemental abilities of a sorcerer, she has to contend with the handsome and frustrating young men who are her fellow students. Despite the pressures of London society and the looming threat of war, Henrietta is determined to succeed.

But there's one great problem: she might not be the Chosen One after all.

Henrietta's ball gown
Found at http://buttercupbungalow.blogspot.com/2012/01/faded-fairy-tales.html

Roshani Chokshi, The Star Touched Queen (Summer 2016)

Roshani's upcoming fantasy draws on both Indian and Greek mythology, a premise that already shoots it to the top of my to-read lists.

Cursed with a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, 16-year-old Maya has only earned the contempt of her father’s kingdom. But when the ceremony for her arranged marriage takes a fatal turn, she becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Yet neither roles are what she expected. As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds friendship and warmth.

But Akaran has its own secrets — thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, mirrors that don’t reflect the viewer and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Beneath Akaran’s lush magic, she begins to suspect a sinister shadow that may be the key to understanding the horoscope that has shadowed her whole life. But to dig into Akaran’s secrets means betraying Amar’s trust. How far will she go to know herself? And what will happen when she finds out?

THE STAR TOUCHED QUEEN reinterprets the Greek myths of Hades and Persephone and Cupid and Psyche with the rich mythology and folklore of India.


Sarah Glenn Marsh, Fear the Drowning Deep (September 2016)

The description of Sarah's book reminds me of Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races, which I loved. 

Witch's apprentice Bridey Corkill has hated the ocean ever since she watched her granddad dive in and drown with a smile on his face. So when a dead girl rolls in with the tide in the summer of 1913, sixteen-year-old Bridey suspects that whatever compelled her granddad to leap into the sea has made its return to the Isle of Man.
Soon, villagers are vanishing in the night, but no one shares Bridey’s suspicions about the sea. No one but the island's witch, who isn’t as frightening as she first appears, and the handsome dark-haired lad Bridey rescues from a grim and watery fate. The cause of the deep gashes in Fynn’s stomach and his lost memories are, like the recent disappearances, a mystery well-guarded by the sea. In exchange for saving his life, Fynn teaches Bridey to master her fear of the water—stealing her heart in the process. 

Now, Bridey must work with the Isle's eccentric witch and the boy she isn't sure she can trust—because if she can't uncover the truth about the ancient evil in the water, everyone she loves will walk into the sea, never to return

Evelyn Skye, The Crown's Game (2016)

Set in an alternate 1825 Tsarist Russia--this one has so much promise!(And while you're at it, check out her cool website).

Sixteen-year-old Vika Andreyev can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Eighteen-year-old Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters, and with the Ottoman Empire and other enemies threatening Russia, the Tsar wants an enchanter by his side.

Two enchanters in the same generation, however, are a rarity. And a problem. There is only so much magic in Russia, and it cannot be diluted. So the Crown’s Game was invented, a duel of magical skill. The victor becomes the Royal Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected advisor. The defeated is sentenced to death.

The Crown’s Game is not one to lose.

Of course, they both want to win. Until now, Vika’s magic has been confined to her tiny island home, and she’s eager to showcase her skill in the capital city of St. Petersburg. It also doesn’t hurt that the competition allows her to express her mischievous streak. Nikolai, on the other hand, is a study in seriousness. As an orphan with not a drop of noble blood in his veins, becoming the Royal Enchanter is an opportunity he could, until now, only dream of. But when Vika and Nikolai begin to fall for each other, the stakes change.

And then, the stakes change again, as secrets from both their pasts threaten to upset the balance of the Tsar’s—and the Russian Empire’s—power.

The Game is so much more complicated than it looks.


Tara Sim, Timekeeper (Fall 2016)

Tara's book promises romance, intrigue, clocks, time-magic, and a fascinating alternate Victorian world. (I haven't read this one, but I've read another of Tara's books and she's definitely an author to watch).

(From Goodreads): Every city in the world is run by a clock tower. If one breaks, time stops. It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old Danny knows well; his father has been trapped in a town east of London for three years. Despite being a clock mechanic prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but time itself, Danny has been unable to free his father.

Danny’s assigned to a damaged clock tower in the small town of Enfield. The boy he mistakes for his apprentice is odd, but that’s to be expected when he’s the clock spirit who controls Enfield’s time. Although Danny and the spirit are drawn to each other’s loneliness, falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, no matter how cute his smiles are.

But when someone plants bombs in nearby towers, cities are in danger of becoming trapped in time—and Enfield is one of them.

Danny must discover who’s stopping time and prevent it from happening to Enfield, or else he’ll lose not only his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

And last, the one I'm most looking forward to--only because it's mine, and it's still hard to believe it's going to be a real book some day:

Rosalyn Eves, The Blood Rose Rebellion (Fall 2016) 

In an alternate Victorian England where social prestige stems from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, sixteen-year old Anna Arden is barred from the society she yearns for by a defect of blood. She believes herself Barren, unable to perform the most rudimentary spells. Anna would do anything to belong, but after inadvertently breaking her sister’s debutante spells, Anna finds herself exiled with her aging grandmother to her grandmother’s native Hungary.

Her life might well be over.

But in Hungary, Anna finds that nothing about her world or her own lack of magic is quite as it seems. Fissures in the Binding that holds her world’s magic are expanding, and the ancient creatures bound by that spell beg Anna to release them. As rebellion sweeps across Hungary, Anna’s unique ability to break spells becomes the catalyst everyone is seeking. In the company of nobles, revolutionaries, and gypsies, Anna must choose: deny her unique power and cling to the life she’s always wanted—or embrace her ability, destroy the Binding, spark a revolution, and change the face of magic itself.

What books--historical fantasy or not--are you most excited for?

Sunday, July 26, 2015


After seeing Naomi Novik's newest, UPROOTED, recommended a couple of different places, by people whose judgment I trust, I promptly ordered it. And I'm so glad I did! It was a wonderful novel: rich, warm, deeply-rooted in the best kind of folklore. It felt familiar and new all at once, set in a world vaguely recognizable as Poland (here: Polnya) with magic.

UprootedAgnieszka has grown up in the shadow of the Dragon, the reclusive wizard that protects her valley from the Wood. Every ten years, he selects a village girl from the valley to come back to his tower. No one knows exactly what he wants them for (though of course there's gossip), but after ten years when he releases the girls, they never come home again. Oh, they might visit, but they're unalterably changed. Agnieszka belongs to the cohort of girls from whom the Dragon will chose his next girl, but everyone knows he's going to choose her best friend, the best and brightest and prettiest of the girls. Imagine her surprise, then, when the Dragon chooses her.

Her surprise deepens when she discovers, in the Dragon's tower, a latent talent for magic. A talent that might just be called upon to save not only her beloved valley but the kingdom itself from the encroaching evil of the Wood.

I think one of the things I loved about the story is that the hook here isn't huge: it's not some end of the world, wizards pitted to the death kind of scenario. But it's no less compelling and fast-paced for all that. The wood is a very real menace: the kind of thing nightmares are made of. (And the ultimate secret of the wood is startling and wonderful).

I loved Agnieszka. I loved the Dragon. (And I'm nerd enough to feel chuffed that I figured out the source for the Dragon's name: he goes by Sarkan, a variation of sarkany, a Hungarian shape-shifting dragon--a minor bit of trivia I would not have known except I've recently been immersed in Hungarian folklore for bookish purposes. Novik graciously confirmed my guess on Twitter). Their unfolding relationship is sweet and spiky and charming.

This book isn't for everyone--there are a couple of adultish scenes that make it inappropriate for young teens. But I loved it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

YA Historical Fantasy, Part Three: European

I'm not sure what it is about the shift in setting, but most of the historical fantasy books I've read with European settings are darker and more deeply rooted in folklore than their proper British counterparts (Clare Dunkel's Hollow Kingdom is a good exception to this). Personally, I adore both kinds, but for different reasons. I love the manners and courtly society--but I also love the earthier, almost fey approach of the latter.

Some of my favorites include:


Wildwood Dancing (Wildwood, #1)My very favorite 12 Dancing Princesses retelling (and TDP is one of my favorite fairy tales, so that says a lot). Marillier sets her retelling in Romania, so in addition to the enchanting otherworld beneath the castle, there's a lovely cultural setting. In this case, the culture and the story mesh perfectly. The story is told primarily through the point of view of Jena, second of five daughters, whose world is upset when her father goes south to recover from a mysterious illness and her cousin Cezar arrives, bringing with him dark secrets.

Elizabeth Bunce, CURSE DARK AS GOLD

A Curse Dark as GoldThis was a wonderful adaptation of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale. Charlotte Miller, as the miller's daughter, inherits her father's mill after his death and struggles to keep the mill going despite what she insists is mere bad luck, but may in fact be something much darker . . . The author has created a plausible world here, peopled with interesting and believable characters. Well worth the read. I'd recommend this particularly to readers who enjoyed Shannon Hale's Goose Girl--this has a similar feel. 


Jessica Day George, SILVER IN THE BLOOD

Silver in the Blood (Silver in the Blood, #1)From the moment I heard George was setting her newest book in 19th century Romania, I was intrigued. I loved WILDWOOD DANCING, and I've been looking for something like that for some time. And while this isn't quite that book--it was a different kind of enchanting (more in line with SORCERY AND CECILIA). Lou and Dacia are wealthy American heiresses with Romanian mothers. When they turn sixteen, they return to Romania to visit their extended family--and find, instead, that their family hides a dangerous secret and magic, and are sworn to protect the ancient Dracula family--including the handsome, charismatic (possibly unstable) prince Mihai. Lou and Dacia must defy almost every convention they've learned to stay true to themselves and save their kingdom. I thought Lou and Dacia were charming, and there was just enough grit and darkness to ground the story. Oh, and romance! The girl's suitors were equally adorable, but the romance was just a nice addition, not the main plot. 

Sun and Moon, Ice and SnowJessica Day George, SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW

Another of George's novels, this Beauty and the Beast style story is a twist on a Norwegian fairy tale. The heroine, Lass, agrees to live with an isbjorn (ice bear) to save her family and finds, instead, that she must save the bear from his own curse.

Scott Westerfield, LEVIATHAN (series)

Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)(from Goodreads): Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered. With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

While this is technically more steam-punk than fantasy, Westerfield's concept is a fascinating alternate-history that envisions World War I as a conflict between the British Darwinists (who have bred fascinating air-borne creatures) and the German Clankers. The European world in the books is vividly imagined and fun to read. 


Still on my TBR list:
Naomi Novik, UPROOTED 
Robin LeFevers, HIS FAIR ASSASSIN series
Laura Whitcomb, THE FETCH

What other European historical fantasy books should I add to my TBR list?