Gather Her Round: A Novel of the Tufa by Alex BledsoeContemporary Fantasy. Not long after Cloud County resident Kera Rogers disappears, her half-eaten body is found in the woods near Needsville, Tennessee. Was she attacked by feral hogs? Murdered by a spurned lover? Or is there a less mundane explanation? After all, Needsville is the home of the Tufa, an insular group rumored to be descended from the fair folk. The discovery of a second victim, one of Kera's boyfriends, prompts an investigation by game warden Jack Cates and Tufa military veteran Bronwyn Chess. Imagine Charles de Lint's Newford series but with the plotting of an Appalachian murder ballad and you've got Alex Bledsoe's Tufa novels, beginning with The Hum and the Shiver.
Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas EamesSword and Sorcery. Once a legendary mercenary, Clay Cooper is now a castle watchman in the quaint village of Coverdale, where spends his day looking north and his evenings entertaining everyone at the pub with tales of his glory days. A sudden blast from the past arrives in the form of Gabriel, one of Clay's former comrades-in-arms; Gabriel's daughter Rose has been kidnapped and he needs Clay's help to rescue her. In fact, he needs the entire band. Although they've been out of commission for years and such a mission would be suicidal... you guessed it. Off they go. If you're looking for a fast-packed, action-packed standalone fantasy adventure, pick up this engaging debut.
Game of Shadows by Erika LewisCeltic Fantasy. On his 15th birthday, Ethan Makkai learns that his entire life is a lie. Living in Los Angeles with his overprotective mother, he has always believed that she's an undocumented Irish immigrant and that their biggest worry is deportation. The truth, of course, is much stranger: they're fugitives from Tara, the hidden continent to which the Celtic gods and goddesses fled after losing an ancient war. When Ethan's mother is kidnapped, Ethan must travel to Tara to rescue her. This debut novel reimagines Celtic myth and legend to tell a compelling coming-of-age story that may appeal to fans of James Treadwell's Advent trilogy.
Sins of Empire by Brian McClellanEpic Fantasy. Set in the world of author Brian McClellan's Powder Mage trilogy, this intricately plotted novel kicks off the Gods of Blood and Powder series. Amid rising unrest in the colony of Fatrasta, Lady Chancellor Lindet summons powder mage Lady Vlora Flint and her Riflejack mercenaries to Landfall, the capital, to keep the peace. As Vlora and her crew defend the city against indigenous Palo resistance fighters, her local contact, a member of the "Blackhats" secret police, attempts to track down the authors of a spate of seditious pamphlets. But the recovery of powerful artifacts from beneath Fatrasta, which sits atop the ruins of the ancient Dynize empire, poses a far greater threat than insurgency.
Bane and Shadow by Jon SkovronSword and Sorcery. First they destroyed her village, then they took her partner. Now, Bleak Hope must temporarily set aside her vendetta to embark on a rescue mission. Picking up where Hope and Red left off, this 2nd book in the Empire of Storms series finds Hope terrorizing the high seas as the pirate Dire Bane as she searches for Red, who's been taken by ruthless biomancers. Red, forced to infiltrate the Imperial court, struggles to survive the deadly politics of the realm while seeking to undo the physical and mental bonds his captors have placed on him. Series fans will enjoy reuniting with favorite characters and revisiting the empire, but newcomers should definitely start at the beginning, given the complexity of the books' multiple storylines.
Magical Coming-of-Age Stories
The Life of Elves by Muriel Barbery; translated by Alison AndersonContemporary Fantasy. Although they don't yet know it, two orphaned girls must join forces to save the world. Maria grows up in a village in Burgundy, France, where she demonstrates a strong affinity for the natural world -- including an ability to see beyond the veil that separates this realm from the next. Carla, raised by a priest and his housekeeper in Abruzzo, Italy, is a musical prodigy whose talent is accompanied by powerful visions. Saying more might spoil the many surprises of this enchanting novel, but if you enjoy atmospheric and leisurely paced coming-of-age tales that unfold in lyrical language, this is a book you'll savor.
Thorn Jack: A Night and Nothing Novel by Katherine HarbourContemporary Fantasy. Haunted by her older sister's suicide, Serafina “Finn” Sullivan moves with her father to Fair Hollow, a tiny town in upstate New York. Attending a local college, Finn meets the enigmatic Jack Fata (with whom she falls in love) and his strange, insular family, who unsettle her for reasons she cannot quite articulate. Based on the Scottish ballad Tam Lin, this opening installment of the Night and Nothing trilogy may appeal to fans of Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, another version of the tale set at a small liberal arts college.
Roses and Rot by Kat HowardContemporary Fantasy. Having grown up with a parent who rivals any wicked stepmother, sisters Imogen and Marin are understandably obsessed with fairy tales, which inform their present-day careers as a writer and a dancer, respectively. Having lived apart since adolescence, the once-close siblings are reunited when both women are accepted to Melete, a prestigious artist's colony that seems too good to be true. And it is, of course, though neither woman could have ever imagined the darkness concealed beneath the colony's idyllic facade. For another fantasy novel that uses folklore to explore sisterly bonds, try Krassi Zourkova's Wildalone.
Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-GarciaContemporary Fantasy. Growing up in Mexico City in the 1980s, misfit Meche and her equally unpopular friends, Sebastian and Daniela, discovered that they could cast spells using music from Meche's collection of vinyl records. But the magic couldn't last and neither, it seems, could the trio's friendship. Now an adult, Meche returns from abroad to attend her once-beloved, now estranged father's funeral and is reunited with the friends she hasn't seen or spoken to in 20 years. Complex characters, subtle magic, and a bittersweet story of growth and transformation make Signal to Noise a must-read for anyone who's survived an awkward adolescence by seeking refuge in art.
Among Others by Jo WaltonFantasy. After the death of her twin sister, 14-year-old Morwenna, or "Mori," flees her unstable mother and her Welsh hometown to live with the father she barely knows -- and never will, since he immediately packs her off to a boarding school in the English countryside. Grief-stricken and friendless, Mori takes refuge in books, eventually meeting others who share her interests in fantasy and science fiction. But Mori can't avoid her past forever. Unfolding in the form of a diary, Among Others is both a coming-of-age story full of magic and a love letter to literature that fans of Diana Wynne Jones' Fire and Hemlock may enjoy.
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