Posts Tagged: YA

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Press - Pages: 416 - Buy: Book/eBook
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Set in Henrietta, Virginia, Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys exhibits characteristics of the “southern novel”, a form I associate strongly with Tom Wolfe or Harper Lee. Novels of the American South tend to focus on the gross inequalities that exist there, often couched in racial terms, but also the nature of inherited wealth juxtaposed with the lack of opportunity that exists in the more urban centers. In the case of The Raven Boys, Stiefvater creates that paradigm between Blue Sargent, daughter to a poor, but comfortable, and exceedingly proficient psychic, and four boys from Aglionby, a feeder high school for the Ivy League.

The Raven Boys is an examination of the power dynamics between people.

For all her life, Blue has been warned that Aglionby boys are trouble. They’re rich and live by a code that means the rules don’t apply to them. These Aglionby boys–Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah–would be no different, except they can’t accept the lives they’ve been given. They want something more, for themselves and for each other. Bound up in a brotherhood dedicated to uncovering a measure of magic in the world, the boys come to Blue and her family for help. While the story is a quest, the novel is hardly about it at all. Not just about the unequal nature of the American South, The Raven Boys is an examination of the power dynamics between people. The power we give to others over us, and the power we reserve for ourselves. In other words, it’s a novel of character and the connections that bind them together. Read More »


Joe Abercrombie confirmed Monday that the first draft of his next novel, Half a King is, for all intents and purposes, done. The “kind of YA kind of crossover whatever the hell it is” has completed its copyedits and is ready for its publication on “July 8th 2014 from Del Rey in the US, and a not totally specific though probably very similar July date from Harper Collins in the UK,” says Abercrombie. He also indicates that ARCs (and thus the first reviews) should start appearing over the next handful of months.

He further indicates that, though behind on his ‘ludicrously over-optimistic schedule,’ he’s still hopeful that the sequel, Half the World will be “comfortably finished by the time Half a King is unleashed, hopefully with the 3rd and final book, Half a War, well underway.”

After he’s done with the Half a King trilogy, Abercrombie is planning to begin earnest work on a new trilogy set in the world of The First Law, “set some years after the end of Red Country.” The first book in this trilogy won’t see store shelves until at least 2017, however. “This is at an embryonic stage right now,” Abercrombie says. “And I’m keen to get a solid plan, and hopefully a rough draft, of the entire trilogy before we publish the first book. That’ll mean putting off publication of book one, but hopefully a faster, more regular and better managed publication of the best books possible thereafter.”

Cover Art for Red Country by Joe Abercrombie (UK)

Map by Dave Senior and Daggers by Didier Graffetaption

Today, Joe Abercrombie, best known for his fantasy trilogy, The First Law, announced his next novel today. It’s called Half a King, it’s unrelated to The First Law and it is aimed ‘partly at younger readers (maybe the 12-16 range).’ Abercrombie explains his decision to leave the world of The First Law and adult fiction behind (albeit temporarily):

[Half a King is] much shorter – 80,000 words compared to 175,000 for my shortest, Red Country, and 230,000 for my longest, Last Argument of Kings (though still over twice the length of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, believe it or not). It’s set in a very different world with what you might call a viking or anglo-saxon feel. It’s much more focused, with a single point of view. It’s not so overtly ‘gritty’ although it’s a long way from smooth.


I’ve published six hefty adult fantasy books in seven years. Although I’ve tried to make them all different in some ways – different structures, different settings, different points of view – they’re all pretty beefy, they’re all set in the same world, they have a similar tone, they cover some of the same ground. Though I’m very happy with and proud of the result, Red Country was a difficult book to write. I felt at times somewhat uninspired. Somewhat burned out. I really didn’t want, as I had every time in the past, to go straight on to working on the next book in the First Law world right after finishing one. I felt the need to step back, recharge the batteries, try something at least a little bit different. But at the same time I didn’t want the acorn to fall too far from the tree – I wanted it to be something that my established readers would enjoy, or perhaps even love with a flaming passion. I wanted to set up two separate lines of work that would complement each other creatively and commercially.

More than any other contemporary author, Abercrombie is known for injecting life (and, perhaps it could be argued, popularizing entirely) the fantasy’s popular movement towards ‘grimdark’ storytelling (don’t know what that it? Let Elizabeth Bear tell you), so it’s unusual (but, if you ask this guy, refreshing) to see him step away from that completely for his next series.

As much as I enjoy Abercrombie, I can only take so much of his trademark droll dialogue, self-destructive characters (despite my love for them!) and frenetic violence before I feel like the world’s about to fall out from under my feet. Abercrombie describes Half a King as ‘punchy’ rather than ‘gritty,’ and he hopes ‘to deliver a slap in the face with every page.’ The biggest issue with some of his recent books is their tendency to feel like the author was trying to ‘out-Abercrombie’ himself, to up the ante beyond what he’d done previously. So, I’m looking forward to this change of pace. It sounds like just the thing to re-energize the (self-described) burned out author.

Abercrombie’s future plans? To finish this trilogy, and then begin working on a new adult trilogy set in The First Law universe:

My plan now is that the two sequels, cautiously titled Half the World and Half a War, will be my main focus for the next year or so. I’m already a few chapters into the first draft of the second book. I hope to have those two books finished not long after the publication of Half a King in July 2014. Then I’ll start work on the adult trilogy in the First Law world. So that’s me kept pretty busy ’til … at least winter 2017, I’d say. Which is both rather nice and rather horrifying.

Half a King will be published by HarperCollins in July, 2014. The sequels, Half the World and Half a War, will follow at six-month intervals. It’s interesting to note that Abercrombie has sold more than three million books to date. That’s a hell of a lot.

Broken by Susan James Bigelow

Publisher: Candlemark & Gleam - Pages: 338 - Buy: Book/eBook
Broken by Susan Jane Bigelow

Whenever I encounter the argument that reviewers ought not to speak negatively of any book they didn’t like, but should instead say simply that the story, while not to their taste, might well be to someone else’s, I experience the overwhelming urge to tear out my hair by the roots. If all reviews were necessarily positive, there’d be little point in reading them: the mere fact of their existence would tell us that the reviewer liked the book, and while there might be some residual interest as to why, after a while, I suspect that the lack of contrast would render the whole endeavour redundant. Individual taste is undeniably a subjective thing, but that doesn’t mean we’re wrong to feel strongly about it, and it certainly doesn’t moot the function of criticism – and subjectivity aside, there’s still such a thing as quality. For instance: if a restaurant served me overcooked steak, flavourless gravy and limp vegetables in a filthy environment, then my best and most useful response is not to swallow my objections on the basis that someone, somewhere might’ve enjoyed the meal, such that warning my friends to eat elsewhere would unfairly endanger the chef’s livelihood.

The point being, it’s incredibly disingenuous to pretend that individual taste is only composed of positives, or that what we enjoy matters more than what we don’t. To stick with the food metaphor, if someone wanted to gain a complete understanding of my palette, my strong dislike of bitter flavours, aniseed products and raw vegetables would be equally as important as my love of good cheese, wine and sashimi. It’s contrast that gives the full picture, and when it comes to book reviews – or reviews of any sort, for that matter – it’s the balance between negative and positive opinions that allows the reader to fully compare the critic’s taste with their own. Read More »

Tides from the New Worlds by Tobias S. BuckellTobias Buckell is best known for his adult Science Fiction, including the Xenowealth novels and, most recently, Arctic Rising, a near-future eco-political thriller. So, naturally, his next step is YA. Right?

From Publishers Weekly, via twitter,

Patrick Nielsen Hayden at Tor Starscape has acquired The Island in the Sky, a debut YA novel plus a sequel by SF author Tobias S. Buckell (Halo: The Cole Protocol). The book follows a Caribbean boy, Kadie, who gets the opportunity to travel to the stars when a starship arrives on Earth offering lottery slots to volunteers in exchange for leaving alien diplomats behind. Publication is tentatively set for winter 2014. Joe Monti at Barry Goldblatt Literary did the deal for North American rights.

Though it might feel like something of a departure for those who are familiar with Buckell’s adult novels, I think YA will be a wonderful fit for his tone, writing style and the adventurous nature of his novels and short fiction. I’m also glad to see him ‘returning’ to a Caribbean setting. Buckell was raised in Grenada, a small island nation in the Caribbean, and his first novel, Crystal Rain was set on an alien world settled by relocated Caribbean refugees, providing a tone and culture to the characters and setting not often found in Science Fiction. Sign me up when The Island in the Sky is released next winter.