Baba Yaga is a witch of Russian folklore, and Toby Barlow bewitches with his new novel — our starred reviewof the day. His first, Sharp Teeth, was a 2009 Alex Award winner, a story of werewolves in L.A. told entirely in verse. Babayaga is (mostly) straight prose, and offers quite a combination of genres–spy thriller, murder mystery, love story, folklore & the supernatural… For teens up for something completely different, point them in this direction. Excerpts are available from Macmillan and Tor.
Richelle Mead, author of two popular YA series (“Vampire Academy” and “Bloodlines”), is no stranger to adult fiction. And this summer she launched the “Age of X” series with Gameboard of the Gods. Now, this is science fiction, quite different from what her teen readers have come to expect. But many of them will follow her anywhere. As Mead describes it on her blog, “Mix mythology into a futuristic setting, and here’s what you get! Gameboard was inspired by all the fantasy and sci-fi books I grew up with: detailed, complex worlds with tons of subplots and lots of terms and history you had to figure out along the way.”
EW did a great interview with the author about the new series, encompassing information about “Bloodlines” and the Vampire Academy movie as well.
Adult/High School–Innocuous Will Van Wyck was working at an advertising agency in Paris in 1959 when his life lost its sanity. Will always knew, vaguely, that his ad agency was actually a front for the Agency, which has infiltrated all of Europe as part of its Cold War strategy. Then he meets Oliver Ames, archetype of the carefree American, who drops CIA connections, hidden guns, and other seeming non sequiturs into casual conversation. Poor Will is confused even before he meets Zoya, the gorgeous witch who steals his heart. Zoya has just left her married lover–left him impaled on an iron fence, in fact–a crime that has captured the attention of French Police Inspector Vidot. A tightly orchestrated chaos follows, while Barlow spins readers through both horrific, dark places and raw, magical love scenes. With the comic effect used so well by Terry Pratchett and Christopher Moore, Barlow laces fantasy and mystery into an unpredictable, highly imaginative story that treats a chicken with the same serious attention as a dangerous crone. The babayagas, witches of Old Russian folklore, have their say in free verse segments that punctuate the narrative. Those familiar with Barlow’s debut, Sharp Teeth (HarperCollins, 2008), will recognize the deep gravity the author infuses into his crazed plots. No one, even the smallest of fleas, remains unchanged in the end. Teen readers will find this a page-turner, as Barlow never allows the suspense to lag in any of the multiple story lines. Smart, sophisticated teens who gobble up Joe Hill or Neil Gaiman novels will enjoy Toby Barlow’s writing just as much.–Diane Colson, formerly at Palm Harbor Library, FL
Adult/High School–Mead’s futuristic science fiction novel takes place in the Republic of United North America (RUNA), where it has been determined that the three things deemed responsible for the earlier Decline–genetic manipulation, religion, and cultural separatism–should be outlawed or severely limited. Justin March is a former government employee, an investigator and licensor of religious groups who has been living in exile in the provinces. He is called back to RUNA to investigate a series of “closed-room” murders, and he soon discovers that all of the victims are 27 or 28 years old, genetically perfect, and from the pure-blood castes that were allowed to be “grandfathered” into society. Falling squarely into this profile is Mae, the praetorian who has been assigned to protect Justin, and the two of them must find out who is behind the murders before the next full moon. The action is fast and the characters are smart and funny, although information about what is really going on in the minds and lives of both Justin and Mae is revealed slowly throughout the book. Because it is closer to straight-up science fiction than Mead’s teen series, “Vampire Academy” and “Bloodlines” (both Penguin), it may not appeal to the same audience, but if you know teens who like science fiction with great characters, solid world-building, and just a hint of the supernatural, offer them this book; they’ll be waiting for the sequels.–Sarah Flowers, formerly at Santa Clara County Library, CA