-posted by Meghan
So, when you have kids in school, they get sick. They get you sick. You pass it back to them. This has been a brutal winter for the flu, and in our house, someone had been out cold with something violent for the last 2 months. Knock wood, it’s over with. On the downside, we watched a lot more TV in our house than we usually do. On the upside, we also read more. And there were times when we were all sick, and I didn’t feel up to reading, so they watched TV, and I read. And when I read comfort books, I read YA. So I did a fair bit of catching up this winter. I read lots of sequels in series I already love, but I also discovered two new series that I’m enjoying, and as they have some nice similarities, I thought I’d put them together.
Neither is set in a dystopic future, rather in more of a old fashioned world of the past. Both concern rulers, but not princess-in-disguise ones (well, one is a prince in disguise) as it’s actually about the making of a ruler. Both have a love interest, but those are incidental, not central. And one features a boy, one a girl. So pick your pleasure. I recommend them both.
Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Elisa is the heroine, and at the beginning, a very unlikely, unlovely and unworthy one. At least that’s how she sees herself. And since she’s our narrator, that’s also how we see her. Set in a world of magic and divine right, Elisa was born with a godstone, meaning she is blessed (or cursed) with the charge of being “the one” to do something great. Overweight, pampered and cosseted, yet slightly useless, she lives in the shadow of her beautiful and dynamic older sister. We meet her on her wedding day to a handsome prince of a near by kingdom. And while she does undergo a transformation, it’s mental (the physical changes are secondary). The ugly duckling doesn’t necessarily become a swan, but she becomes a strong duck who sees her own capabilities and worth. Interesting for it’s exploration of religion without being a treatise on religion, this book makes you think. And for all that heroines like Katniss or Tris are every/any girl, their strength and beauty somehow sets them apart. Yet for all that Elisa is the God-chosen one, she somehow feels like a very real and relatable girl. And hoo-boy, there’s a shocker of a twist… The sequel, Crown of Embers, is equally compelling. The third book in the trilogy comes out later this year, so it’s an excellent time to catch up!
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Again, what makes this book good is the journey. Here’s the log line: The entire royal family has been killed. No one in the kingdom knows. To save the country, a noble man finds three boys who look like the youngest son of the family, who was in fact killed by pirates years ago. These boys compete to convince him that they can impersonate the second son and rule the kingdom before it spirals into chaos and civil war. The winner becomes prince. The losers die. The biggest problem with the book is SPOILER ALERT (I’m not actually going to tell you the spoiler, but telling you that I figured out the twist, tells you there is a twist, so now you know) is that the twist is something that anyone who has ever read a book, ever, has figured out by about page 2. Seriously, if it takes you to page 5, you’re skimming and not paying attention. Actually, if you haven’t already figured it out, you’re not paying attention. YET – I like this book. I like the way the reveal happens. I like the main character and how we see who is he is as a person and who he will become. And it sets us up nicely for the next book (The Runaway King)… oh, and I like that he’s a boy!
So somehow, I managed to give away the whole book, while telling you nothing pertinent. Useless! But here’s what’s useful – if you want a break from dystopic future leader/princess of the revolution books (and I say that with lots of love), these are fabulous books to put on your summer reading list, introduce to the young teen in your life, and then indulge in a fabulous and deep conversation about our very inner natures and secret selves. Enjoy.