Welcome to Smugglivus 2016! Throughout this month, we will have guests – authors and bloggers alike – looking back at their favorite reads of 2016, looking forward to events and upcoming books in 2017, and more.
Please give a warm welcome to Jim, everyone!
I was really excited to be asked by the Book Smugglers to take part in Smugglivus again. I’ve not had the greatest reading year, sadly, so I’m more interested in looking forward to 2017 than back at 2016, but there are 12 speculative fiction MG and YA novels coming out next year that I’m hugely excited for, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share them with you.
The Gilded Cage by Vic James (Macmillan)
My friend Julianne, who has exceptionally good taste in fantasy novels, read this recently and has been singing its praises. The setting of an England in which all commoners must serve the Equals – magically-gifted aristocrats – sounds like a fascinating one, and the main characters of Abi and her brother Luke – described in the blurb as a girl who “thirsts for love and knowlege” and a boy who “dreams of revolution” sound intriguing. In addition, the book – first in the Dark Gifts trilogy – is being described as a “contemporary Dickens” set in factory towns reminiscent of Lowry’s art, an amazing combination!
Ink by Alice Broadway (Scholastic)
The first in Alice Broadway’s The Skin Books series has one of the most gorgeous proofs I’ve seen in years, while reactions from early readers suggest the contents are just as fabulous! Set in a world where every significant moment is tattooed on your skin forever, main character Leora gets a shock when she finds that her father’s ink has been edited – and the Skin Book which she’d planned to have made of his tattoos as a record of his life is incomplete. I’m desperate to find out what is missing from Alice’s father’s life! Named as one to watch in The Bookseller, the review there describes it as comparable to Lauren Oliver’s Delirium – still one of my favourite dystopians – and praises the “utterly original” hook and “addictive storytelling.”
Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans (Chicken House)
I am a huge fan of books inspired by Greek myths or those which feature the ancient gods and this MG novel – about a human boy and a young Zodiac goddess who accidentally release a death daemon, leaving them needing to turn to the out-of-practice ancient Olympians for help, sounds like a hilarious read. I’ve read chapter 1 – available as a tantalising sneak preview on Chicken House’s website and the dry third person narration of the story has a great voice (I already feel sorry for hero Elliot’s headteacher, Call Me Graham!)
The Forever Court by Dave Rudden (Puffin)
Dave Rudden’s Knights Of The Borrowed Dark was one of my favourite MG books of the year, a colossally entertaining action-adventure with a gripping plot and a fantastic setting of a world full of monsters. It has the same blend of excitement and humour which have made books like Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant into smashing successes and it’s a quick read thanks to the brilliant voice and pace of the plot. That first book ended on an intriguing note, so I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here in The Forever Court – especially as I’m a huge fan of all of the main characters.
Traitor To The Throne by Alwyn Hamilton (Faber)
Again, Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands was a favourite of mine this year – with one of the most explosive starts for a long, long time, setting a pace which barely let up for the entire book. It’s one which has really struck a chord with readers – as shown by the recent Goodreads Choice Awards win for best debut! This is one of the very next on my to be read pile and after a stunning revelation at the end of Rebel, I can’t wait to find out what twists and turns Alwyn has waiting for us in the second book. Also Amani and Jin are an awesome couple.
The Night Spinner by Abi Elphinstone (Simon & Schuster)
Abi Elphinstone’s wonderful Moll is one of my favourite main characters for years and I’ll be sad to see the end of this brilliant trilogy after loving the character development and action in Abi’s debut The Dreamsnatcher and its sequel The Shadow Keeper. However I’m also thrilled to get the chance to catch up with Moll and her fantastic friends one last time and to see what the talented author has planned for us in what’s sure to be a stunning conclusion to the story. Her villains are particularly dastardly and it’s easy to see why her books are favourites of younger readers.
The Smoking Hourglass by Jennifer Bell (Random House)
Jennifer Bell’s hugely imaginative debut The Crooked Sixpence, first in The Uncommoners series, took us into the wonderful world of Lundinor, a strange market beneath London where you can buy ‘uncommon’ goods like healing buttons and toilet brushes used as weapons. I was charmed by this first book from the first time I saw Karl James Mountford’s gorgeous cover (I really need to get hold of the new edition with added interior illustrations!) This series feels like a perfect read for younger MG fans, with its strong focus on family and its imaginative worldbuilding. The sequel apparently sees Ivy and Seb, our main characters, return to Lundinor to find that spring flowers have bloomed between the enchanted shops, but something dark is stirring just below the surface – I can’t wait to see what!
Masquerade by Laura Lam (Tor)
It feels like I have been waiting FOREVER for the conclusion of Micah’s story, with Laura Lam’s superb Pantomime and Shadowplay being favourites of mine from several years ago. I was incredibly sad when the Strange Chemistry imprint who published the books closed, but am delighted that Tor have picked them up and are doing a superb job of republishing them both – with stunning new covers – prior to bringing us the end of the trilogy in a few months’ time. Micah and his love interest (deliberately being vague to avoid spoiling books one and two for people yet to read!) are one of my favourite couples in YA and Laura’s books are always full of excitement, action and wonderful characters.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (Walker)
Lauren James’s debut duology, The Next Together and The Last Beginning, are an incredibly imaginative pair of science-fiction novels about time travel, romance, and family. They’re particularly original in the way they tell their stories via a mixture of prose, diary entries, letters, documents, textbook extracts, e-mails and Tumblr conversations. This makes her upcoming book – in which the two protagonists are on separate spaceships and meet and communicate via e-mail – an especially interesting proposition. A romance between a couple of people trying to find a new home for the population of Earth, each alone on their own ship and light years away, sounds like a hard prospect to write, but I have complete confidence in Lauren and can’t wait to read it.
Pages & Co by Anna James (Harper Collins)
There are some people who are clearly hugely knowledgeable about YA and MG books, and it shines through in their writing. Two who immediately spring to mind are former Catnip commmissioning editor Non Pratt, whose books Trouble, Remix and Unboxed are three favourites of mine, and Booktrust’s Katherine Webber, whose upcoming Wing Jones is absolutely beautiful. Another one is Anna James – literary editor of Elle Magazine, freelance journalist, and one of the best events chairs going! Set in a bookshop this tells the story of Tilly – who lives above the shop, which is owned by her grandparents. Featuring lots of classic book characters who cross from the pages of their books to real life (including Anne of Green Gables, a favourite of both Anna’s and mine!) this children’s book sounds like a magical experience and I’m intrigued to see how Tilly deals with the collectors aiming to stop the idea of ‘book walking’ (the name for these crossings) completely.
Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell
Speaking of knowledgeable people when it comes to YA, while Sebastien de Castell is rightly admired for his wonderful Greatcoats adult fantasy series, he surprised me at the fabulous NineWorlds convention earlier this year with the sheer range and depth of his knowledge of YA. I was absolutely thrilled when he mentioned that he had a novel coming from Hot Key next year and learning more about it has only increased my need to read it. Kellen loses his magical abilities after being defeated in a duel and, accused of cursing other mages, he’s left trying to survive without powers, beat a conspiracy, and rescue his family. It sounds amazing!
The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis (Bloomsbury)
Finally the only one of the twelve here that I’ve been lucky enough to read already, Stephanie Burgis’s new novel is just as gorgeous as you’d expect from the author who created the Kat Stephenson series, perhaps my favourite middle grade trilogy ever. This new book sees young dragon Aventurine decide to go and capture a human for food, only to be tempted to drink his hot chocolate as an appetiser – and not only fall in love with the smell and taste of the unfamiliar food, but be left with a rather unexpected problem as an enchantment turns her into a young girl. Deprived of her claws and fire, Aventurine is still convinced she can prove herself in the human city but it’s a tougher task than she expects. This is an absolutely fantastic story of friendship, family, and finding your passion in life. Incredibly heart-warming; I’ll be pleasantly surprised if I read a better 2017 release!