A tour across the world with the help of YA novels

Just like many of you, I really miss exploring the world. I miss going new places so much, but for now I have to do all my traveling with the help of novels for now. So I’m very happy that I’ve got to read some books with wonderful worlds recently – and here are mini reviews for a few of them!

These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy takes you to a Slavic inspired world, in a queer retelling of the story of the Firebird. Izaveta and Asya are sisters, one raised at court as the future ruler and the other with her aunt, the Firebird. The Firebird is a creature of magic, making deals with the people for favours in exchange for a steep price. This is a beautifully written tale of magic, sisterhood and growing up. It has all the elements of a great story, the kind of YA fantasy escapism that the world needs right now. It evokes some similar vibes to Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series or Lana Popivic’s Wicked Like Wilfire duology. I love it – I preordered my copy ages ago, and I can’t wait to reread this in its finished form. It came out on the 20th of April, and you can get your own copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).

Our next stop on this tour is the Spanish inspired Puerto Leones of Zoraida Cordova’s Illusionary. This is the second in a duology. Incendiary, the first one was one of the most compelling YA fantasy novels I read in 2020, and this follow-up takes everything I loved about it and made it even better. Renata Convida is a great leading lady, and the reader can’t help but be charmed by the rebel prince of Puerto Leones, Castian (and his brother Dez, raised by actual rebels). All of the characters undergo massive growth arcs over the course of the story, and I loved the way the book ended. It felt very apt, without being overly cliché. And we get to spend time with Leo again who is just an amazing cinnamon roll of a person. If you haven’t checked this series out yet, please do. Illusionary will be released on the 11th of May, and you can order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood takes you to Ethiopia. This reimagining of the classic Jane Eyre story interprets the heroine as a debtera, a religious sort of exorcist. Andromeda, orphan, thrown out by her mentor, takes a job in a fancy manor house, owned by a mysterious and rich man. While it largely follows the known storyline of the classic, Lauren Blackwood manages to twist it into something new and unexpected. Yes, obviously Andromeda and her dark and brooding employer end up together as they do in Charlotte Brontë’s version, but the journey there is what makes this interesting. It is deeply rooted in its Ethiopian background, and also explores the role of foreign, colonial, influences. This won’t be out until the 9th of November, but preorders are open, and you can get a copy via Blackwells here.

Last, but not least, our trip around the globe takes us to the US, to Oregon. You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao is a contemporary YA, though with a supernatural twist. Julie is shortly before high school graduation when Sam, her boyfriend, dies in a car accident. The story follows her as she navigates her grief, and rebuilds her life after this massive upheaval. But this isn’t made easier by her being able to call Sam on her phone. Somehow, they are able to have conversations across the boundaries between life and death, and Julie gets a chance to say goodbye all over again. This is heart-wrenching – though not as emotional as I was expecting it to be. But it’s still a very solid read, even if I personally didn’t fall in love with it. This is also not out until November, but you can pre-order a copy from Blackwell’s here.

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