Young readers relish true danger
CITY OF HEAVENLY FIRE
Book six in The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare ( Walker Books, softcover, $ 22.95)
SO here we are, at the final instalment of the rollicking Young Adult series about demon- slaying Shadowhunters, warlocks, werewolves, vampires and faeries.
Along the way, Clare has also produced the three- part Victorian steampunk prequel series, The Infernal Devices. Her fans have been waiting for the answers to everything, but also dreading having to farewell the characters they have come to know and love.
Clare handles both with aplomb but also spends a lot of time setting up a new series of sequels. Called The Dark Artifices, it features new characters and is set in Los Angeles five years after the events of the current series.
Here, Clary’s demonic brother Sebastian is coming closer, using the Infernal Cup to transform Nephilim into frightening creatures who form his new army.
Tearing families and friends apart, he turns Shadowhunter against Shadowhunter, and with this war on each other, the Nephilim cannot protect the world from demons.
Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon and Alec take matters into their own hands and enter the demon realms, where no Shadowhunter has gone before, to try to save their own people and the human race from complete obliteration.
Clare keeps this bleak, intricate story going at a cracking pace, with the wheels liberally greased by her rich and vivid imagination and full- throttle descriptive prose. The darkness is alleviated by wisecracking humour and plenty of time for the characters to deal with their romantic issues.
One could argue that the latter is given a little too much oxygen but the story is written for Young Adult fans who have been demanding action and resolution, not their parents, and, as invested in the characters as they are, they are bound to love it.
They are likely to be less enamoured with the deaths of several characters but this is a dark series, and to give everyone a happy ending would be to diminish the intelligence of the writing and the sense of danger.
THE GEOGRAPHY OF YOU AND ME
By Jennifer E. Smith ( Headline, softcover, $ 19.99)
OWEN lives with his widowed dad in the basement of a posh building in New York while Lucy lives with her affluent parents on the 24th floor.
At first glance, their worlds are separate, but when a power outage sees them stuck together in a lift between the 10th and 11th floors one hot September night, they begin to talk.
Even such a brief time together leaves an indelible mark, and even when they are pulled further apart by circumstance and geography, Owen and Lucy cannot quite let each other go.
Through postcards sent across the world, they keep a thread of contact alive, even when everything else seems to fall apart.
Smith has a wonderful economy with words – some of her chapters are only one sentence long – but it has huge capacity to convey emotion and vulnerability. Owen and Lucy have their pain and fragility, as well as their own joy and strength.
Both characters are searching for a place to call home, when home turns out to not be what they thought it was.
A beautifully written book about loss, loneliness, love, connection and hope.
SEA OF SHADOWS Book one in the Age of Legends trilogy by Kelley Armstrong ( Atom, softcover, $ 16.99)
THIS book has strongly divided its Young Adult readership, with reviewers slamming it for being slow and boring, while others have praised it for great characters and intrigue. I’m on the side of those who enjoyed this first instalment.
Drawing on Japanese and other mythology and culture, Armstrong tells the story of twin sisters, Moria and Ashyn, who as Keeper and Seeker of their village are charged with protecting their people from the restless spirits that inhabit the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s criminals are exiled to die.
But when evil strikes their village, it strikes harder than anyone could ever have envisaged. Moria and Ashyn race across a terrifying wasteland that is filled with reawakened monsters of legend to warn the emperor, but there is even more evil awaiting them at court.
The book does require patience but when the terror comes, it is truly dark. Depending on your take on things, Moria is either an infuriating loudmouth or a feisty warrior, and Ashyn is either insipid and dull, or filled with quiet restraint and strength. Their respective prospective romances also differ widely in personality.
The action, when it occurs, is exciting and the background story of how this society works and how legend, spirits, sorcery and everyday life mix together sets everything in place for a really promising follow- up.
THE SEQUIN STAR By Belinda Murrell ( Random House, softcover, $ 16.99)
AFTER her grandmother suffers a terrible fall, Claire finds a cheap- looking sequinned star pin among her belongings. Why would her stylish grandmother own such a thing?
Claire finds the answer when she is hit by a cyclist and wakes up in 1932 in the camp of the Sterling Brothers Circus.
She is befriended by circus performers Rosina and Jem, who arrange for her to stay with them and help out with the work until she can get back to her parents, though they have no idea that she is from the year 2014.
The little group befriends Kit, a wealthy young man, who visits the circus – and Rosina – often. When he is kidnapped, the three teenagers decide to find and rescue him.
This is a most enjoyable story from Murrell, who has written three other time- slip stories that give upper primary/ young teen readers a glimpse into Australia’s history.
Here the setting is the Great Depression, and Claire learns much more about her grandmother’s past life and how she met her grandfather.