Merrow by Ananda Braxton-SmithHistorical Fiction. Just like the water swirls around her home on Carrick Island, rumors swirl around Neen Marrey and her family. Some say that after Neen's father drowned, her mother wasted away with a broken heart. Others claim that she was a merrow -- a mermaid -- who followed her husband into the sea. Neen's harsh Auntie Ushag might know what really happened, but she's not telling, leaving Neen to search for the truth within the stories. Though the Irish folklore and snippets of Manx language in Merrow hint at a Middle Ages setting, this atmospheric, absorbing tale about the need to belong will still resonate with modern readers.
Of Fire and Stars by Audrey CoulthurstFantasy. After arriving in Mynaria to prepare for her arranged marriage to the prince, Princess Dennaleia soon finds herself falling in love…only not with her fiancé. Already hiding her illegal magical abilities, Denna is keenly aware that she's responsible for clinching her country's alliance with Mynaria -- yet the deepening feelings between her and Mare, the prince's sister, are undeniable. As an assassination rocks the kingdom, both girls begin to question the future that's been chosen for them. If you're intrigued by the clash of romance and politics in this debut fantasy, you may also want to try Malinda Lo's Ash or Rachel Hartman's Seraphina series.
Spindle by E.K. JohnstonFantasy. After years of imprisonment, a powerful demon escapes to claim her revenge by cursing the youngest member of the royal family who banished her. Princess Zahrah, known as the Little Rose, is only five when she's cursed to become the demon's pawn. There's time before the curse takes effect, however, and with some unexpected help from exiled spinner Yashaa and his friends, Zahrah sets out to break the curse and take back her life. Set in the same Arabian Nights-inspired fantasy world as author E.K. Johnston's earlier book, A Thousand Nights, this feminist retelling of "Sleeping Beauty" is sure to enchant fairy tale fans.
Fate of Flames by Sarah RaughleyFantasy. In an uncertain future where the world is plagued by monstrous Phantoms, the Effigies are humanity's last line of defense. Four girls with elemental powers, the Effigies are heroes and celebrities, and when one dies, another is chosen. After Effigy fangirl Maia inherits the powers of the Fire Effigy, she's shocked to discover that her idols are just as messed-up as any human. Then a new villain with game-changing powers appears, and the Effigies are forced to step up like never before -- if only they can learn to work together. Pairing high-stakes action with plenty of personal drama, Fate of Flames kicks off a new and unusual superhero series.
Scythe by Neal ShustermanScience Fiction. Most job training isn't life-threatening, but being a Scythe isn't a typical job. It's 2042, and Earth is enjoying a post-mortal period, free of natural or accidental death. To keep the population in check, the Scythes -- an organization of professional killers -- are tasked with randomly "gleaning" lives. Sixteen-year-olds Citra and Rowan are horrified at the idea of murder, yet both are chosen as apprentice Scythes and forced into a winner-gleans-loser competition. As their violent training progresses, the apprentices take turns describing their moral misgivings and increasingly complicated relationship. If you're into provocative, philosophical science fiction, don't miss this series opener from award-winning author Neal Shusterman.
Focus on: Artificial Intelligence
The Scorpion Rules by Erin BowScience Fiction. In the far future, an artificial intelligence called Talis has achieved world peace...by holding hostage the children of world leaders. Princess Greta has grown up as one of these "Children of Peace," but now her country is on the brink of war and her life could be forfeit. Enter Elián, a new, rebellious hostage who inspires Greta to question who she loves and where her duty truly lies. With an international cast of characters, Canadian author Erin Bow crafts an intricate world filled with impossible decisions and shocking twists. If you can't get enough dystopian fiction but are tired of the same old, same old, don't miss The Scorpion Rules, the 1st in the Prisoners of Peace series.
Incarceron by Catherine FisherScience Fantasy. Finn is trapped in Incarceron, a brutal, futuristic prison imbued with artificial intelligence and so vast that it's like a city. Claudia, the daughter of Incarceron's ruthless warden, is being forced into an arranged marriage for political reasons. The two of them live in completely separate worlds, but each is desperate to escape -- and they may be each other's only hope. Readers of either science fiction or epic fantasy who love twisting plots, intricate world-building, romance, and plenty of political intrigue are sure to be hooked by this riveting read and its sequel, Sapphique.
Willful Machines by Tim FloreenScience Fiction. You'd think that being the President's son would offer a life of ease, but things are far from easy for Lee Fisher. For one thing, he's been targeted by a rogue "artificially conscious" terrorist (ironic, since Lee is a robotics geek). Then there are his dad's ultra-conservative politics, which force Lee to hide the fact that he's gay and falling fast for his eccentric new classmate, Nico. And those are just the first of many thorny situations Lee has to face in this near-future techno-thriller filled with star-crossed romance and thought-provoking questions about artificial intelligence.
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffScience Fiction. Ugh, you know that feeling when your break-up is overshadowed by the destruction of your planet? No? Well, it isn't what Kady and Ezra are expecting either, but when their home on the mining colony Kerenza IV is annihilated by corporate rival BeiTech, their personal issues take a back seat to survival. Yet even after they escape on separate spaceships, survival is a tall order: the ships are afflicted with unrest, conspiracies, a crazed artificial intelligence, and a virus that turns people into rage-filled zombies. First in a trilogy and told through message transcripts, surveillance logs, and other "found documents," Illuminae is a gripping, unconventional science fiction thriller.
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