Interview with a Middle-Schooler: Fantastic Fantasy

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My oldest is a huge reader. He likes most kinds of books, although he tends to gravitate toward sci-fi and fantasy. I like to interview him every few months and get his take on books that he’s read and enjoyed. Today, I’m asking him about his favorite fantasy books. If you’re looking for middle-grade fantasy books to read, here are some he recommends.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl (new cover) (Artemis Fowl (1)): Colfer, Eoin ...

Twelve-year-old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius—and, above all, a criminal mastermind. But even Artemis doesn’t know what he’s taken on when he kidnaps a fairy, Captain Holly Short of the LEPrecon Unit.  These aren’t the fairies of bedtime stories; these fairies are armed and dangerous. 

            Artemis thinks he has them right where he wants them…but then they stop playing by the rules. (taken from Amazon)

My oldest says: “I really liked it because it’s written in a smart way. Artemis Fowl was around my age and he used words that I like, like he had good dialogue. There’s one character that I don’t like because all his jokes are about flatulence. The story was fantastic and I also like that it’s a long series because I got hooked on it. The action is pretty good, even though the main character isn’t athletic at all. That’s one thing I liked about it; he’s really smart. Like Tony Stark, instead of Captain America.”

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan

The Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel: Rick ...

Since his mother’s death six years ago, Carter Kane has been living out of a suitcase, traveling the globe with his father, the brilliant Egyptologist Dr. Julius Kane. But while Carter’s been homeschooled, his younger sister, Sadie, has been living with their grandparents in London. Sadie has just what Carter wants — school friends and a chance at a “normal” life. But Carter has just what Sadie longs for — time with their father. After six years of living apart, the siblings have almost nothing in common. Until now.

On Christmas Eve, Sadie and Carter are reunited when their father brings them to the British Museum, with a promise that he’s going to “make things right.” But all does not go according to plan: Carter and Sadie watch as Julius summons a mysterious figure, who quickly banishes their father and causes a fiery explosion.

Soon Carter and Sadie discover that the gods of Ancient Egypt are waking, and the worst of them — Set — has a frightening scheme. To save their father, they must embark on a dangerous journey — a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family and its links to the House of Life, a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs. (taken from Amazon)

My oldest: “I like that it has ancient Egyptian mythology. There’s a ton of action, and the magic is really cool. They use actual Egyptian words for it, I think, which is really neat. The magic has a lot of interesting results, like it can blow stuff up and put it back together. It’s a three part series. My favorite Egyptian mythological character is Anubis and he’s featured a lot, which is cool. The characters are around my age, which I like. It’s also written like it’s a tape recording and the characters don’t get along very well, so there’ll be arguments between chapters.”

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom: Healy, Christopher ...

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You’ve never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change.

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, the princes stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it’s up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Christopher Healy’s Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a completely original take on the world of fairy tales, the truth about what happens after “happily ever after.” It’s a must-have for middle grade readers who enjoy their fantasy adventures mixed with the humor of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Witty black-and-white drawings by Todd Harris add to the fun. (taken from Amazon)

My oldest: “It’s absolutely hilarious. It’s chock-full of funny, sometimes fourth-wall breaking jokes. It’s got good action and the characters are written in humorous ways. If it wasn’t for the fact that it’s actual fantasy, you could say that it’s like a bad D&D campaign. It’s a lot of fun.”

The Once and Future Geek (the Camelot Code #1) by Mari Mancui

Amazon.com: The Once and Future Geek (The Camelot Code (1 ...

When young Arthur of Camelot accidentally time-travels to the 21st century and Googles himself, he discovers the not-so-happily ever after in store for him once he pulls the sword from the stone. Yes, he’ll go from squire to sovereign basically overnight, but he’ll also lose the love of his life to his best friend and eventually die in battle. What’s a once-and-future king to do? Easy: stay in the future, where he’ll actually have a future-and join the football team instead.
Now, with the help of the great wizard Merlin, modern-day gamer-geeks Sophie and Stu find themselves in a race against time to get that sword pulled from the stone and the stubborn soon-to-be-king Arthur back to the past where he belongs. Complicating the plan? Lady Morgana-Arthur’s sister and greatest enemy-has traveled to the future as well, determined to take Arthur out and seize the throne. Can Sophie and Stu use their gaming abilities to defeat the evil Morgana and set the timeline right? With the very existence of their friendship, their families, and the world as they know it (including pepperoni pizza!) at stake, they’ll use every skill, power-up, and cheat code they know in their quest to save the day. (taken from Amazon)

My oldest: “It’s a different version of the King Arthur and the Sword and Stone legends. It was like if you took King Arthur and made it really nerdy. I liked the first one better than the second one, even though the second one is still good. Stu was my favorite. He’s not very athletic, although he does come through at the end when he’s given a weapon. Mostly, he prefers video games.”

Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan

The Ruins of Gorlan (The Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1): Flanagan ...

They have always scared him in the past – the Rangers, with their dark cloaks and shadowy ways. The villagers believe the Rangers practice magic that makes them invisible to ordinary people. And now 15-year-old Will, always small for his age, has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice. What he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom. Highly trained in the skills of battle and surveillance, they fight the battles before the battles reach the people. And as Will is about to learn, there is a large battle brewing. The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom. This time, he will not be denied….(taken from Amazon)

My oldest: “It’s just an overall really good fantasy. The main character, Will, was my favorite. He’s around my age, and he was really good with a bow and arrows. He was a good fighter.”

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite…

Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most. (taken from Amazon)

My oldest: “I reread it and returning to it was really fun. There’s a lot of fantastical creatures in it and one of the characters is a big trouble maker. The other is a big rule-follower so it’s a fun contrast. There are goblins, fairies, and a witch. I’m not sure if it’s a classical witch, but it’s a female magic-user. It’s actually a series. The trouble-maker, Seth, is my favorite character. He is kind of goofy. Plus, yet again, he’s close to my age from what I can tell.”

 

 

 

 

 

Women in Fantasy: the good, the bad, and the hardcore

Wyrd and Wonder - celebrate the fantastic

image credit: Sujono Sujono

I’m so excited to be participating in #WyrdandWonder this year! It’s a month-long celebration of fantasy, which of course I’m down for. While I appreciate and enjoy many different genres, fantasy will always be my favorite.

When people think of fantasy, they sometimes think of the “damsel in distress.” Luckily, there are many other women in fantasy: smart, capable, and epic. Here are some fabulous females in fantasy (how’s that for alliteration?):

The Good:
Echo from Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer-

This book is loosely based on the fairy tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Echo is an interesting character. She’s very brave, not only sacrificing her freedom for a wolf, but undertaking a harrowing journey to fix a (rather horrendous) mistake. She’s definitely flawed, but that makes her character utterly believable.

Echo Alkaev’s safe and carefully structured world falls apart when her father leaves for the city and mysteriously disappears. Believing he is lost forever, Echo is shocked to find him half-frozen in the winter forest six months later, guarded by a strange talking wolf―the same creature who attacked her as a child. The wolf presents Echo with an ultimatum: if she lives with him for one year, he will ensure her father makes it home safely. But there is more to the wolf than Echo realizes.

In his enchanted house beneath a mountain, each room must be sewn together to keep the home from unraveling, and something new and dark and strange lies behind every door. When centuries-old secrets unfold, Echo discovers a magical library full of books- turned-mirrors, and a young man named Hal who is trapped inside of them. As the year ticks by, the rooms begin to disappear and Echo must solve the mystery of the wolf’s enchantment before her time is up otherwise Echo, the wolf, and Hal will be lost forever. (taken from Amazon)
Cimorene from Dealing with Dragons (The Enchanted Forest #1) by Patricia C. Wrede

The Enchanted Forest Chronicles is the perfect series for younger readers who are just dipping their toes into fantasy. Cimorene is a no-nonsense princess who actually volunteers to be a dragon’s princess. She’s intelligent and resourceful. She also appreciates the many uses for soapy water. Who needs a sword to defeat the big bad?

Take one bored princess. Make her the seventh daughter in a very proper royal family. Have her run away.

Add one powerful, fascinating, dangerous dragon.

Princess Cimerone has never met anyone (or anything) like the dragon Kazul. But then, she’s never met a witch, a jinn, a death-dealing talking bird or a stone prince either.

Princess Cimerone ran away to find some excitement.

She’s found plenty. (taken from Amazon)
Marea from Feathertide by Beth Cartwright (book available in July)

This book doesn’t have magical battles or daring swordfights. It’s entirely character-driven and each person in the book is amazing! Marea is the most three-dimensional character I’ve read in a very long time. I felt everything she did, and watching her change and come into her own was a joy.

Born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets, Marea has always known she was different, but never known why. And so to find answers, she goes in search of the father she has never met.

The hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted.

And Mara will never forget what she learns there. (taken from penguin.co)

The Bad (because everyone loves a good villain):
Kitiara from The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’re probably not even remotely surprised that I’ve included Dragonlance in my post. When I think of good (bad?) villains, Kitiara is one of the first to come to mind. She is strong, cunning, and ambitious. Commander of armies, rider of dragons, ally of death knights, Kitiara is the perfect adversary.

Lifelong friends, they went their separate ways. Now they are together again, though each holds secrets from the others in his heart. They speak of a world shadowed with rumors of war. They speak of tales of strange monsters, creatures of myth, creatures of legend. They do not speak of their secrets. Not then. Not until a chance encounter with a beautiful, sorrowful woman, who bears a magical crystal staff, draws the companions deeper into the shadows, forever changing their lives and shaping the fate of the world.

No one expected them to be heroes.

Least of all, them. (taken from Amazon)
Dolores Umbridge and Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling

Bellatrix Lestrange is a demented zealot, who is perfectly happy using violence to serve Lord Voldemort. There’s not a ton to her character (don’t hate me, Potter fans!), but she’s fun to read.
Dolores Umbridge is absolutely horrible. She’s worse than Voldemort, in my opinion. What makes her character so chilling to read is that most of us know (or know of) someone like her. Someone who is so convinced they’re right that they feel justified doing whatever they deem “necessary” to accomplish a goal.

Dark times have come to Hogwarts. After the Dementors’ attack on his cousin Dudley, Harry Potter knows that Voldemort will stop at nothing to find him. There are many who deny the Dark Lord’s return, but Harry is not alone: a secret order gathers at Grimmauld Place to fight against the dark forces. Harry must allow Professor Snape to teach him how to protect himself from Voldemort’s savage assaults on his mind. But they are growing stronger by the day and Harry is running out of time….(taken from Amazon)
The White Witch from The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis

By now it’s pretty much universally accepted that the White Witch is a representation of Satan. She’s utterly ruthless, even willing to kill children (spoiler alert: she fails at that). She’s C.S. Lewis’ version of the epitome of evil.

The Hardcore:
Cura from Bloody Rose by Nicholas Eames

Cura is an inkwitch, meaning the monsters tattooed on her body come to life. She wields them as weapons, which is majorly hardcore. Many of her battles, however, are fought with her own past.

Live fast, die young.

Tam Hashford is tired of working at her local pub, slinging drinks for world-famous mercenaries and listening to the bards sing of adventure and glory in the world beyond her sleepy hometown.

When the biggest mercenary band of all rolls into town, led by the infamous Bloody Rose, Tam jumps at the chance to sign on as their bard. It’s adventure she wants – and adventure she gets as the crew embark on a quest that will end in one of two ways: glory or death.

It’s time to take a walk on the wyld side. (taken from Amazon)
Katharine from the Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake:

Technically, any female from that series would easily fit in this category. They’re all strong in their own unique ways. Katharine, however, is majorly hardcore. She has no immunity to the poisons she’s supposed to be able to control, yet she uses them against herself over and over in an attempt to master them. She is betrayed by one she trusts, but she doesn’t let that break her. She’s been brought up knowing that she’ll probably be killed by one of her own sisters, but she’s not going down without a fight. Love her or hate her, no one can deny her inner strength.
In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn 16, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown. (taken from Amazon)
Inej from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one of the kick butt females in Six of Crows. Inej happens to be my favorite. She’s indomitable; she gets knocked around (Leigh Bardugo isn’t nice to her characters), but she never gives up. Plus, her acrobatic and spy skills allow her character to do some incredibly cool things.

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price – and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone.

A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction – if they don’t kill each other first. (taken from Amazon)

What say you, fantasy readers? What are some of your favorite females?