Hi all. Just a quick note to let you know that my friend Shauna Granger’s book Age of Blood, the final book in the Ash and Ruin trilogy, is out today. You may remember from the cover reveal that I was a beta reader for this book, and in fact each book in the trilogy.
Needless to say, I loved it, or I wouldn’t be strongly recommending that you go buy it. It’s YA dystopian, but not like you’ve seen before (believe me, I’ve read my share). The trilogy has something for everyone: world ending disease, government conspiracies, a bit of the supernatural, a kick-ass female lead, and yes, a love story.
If you missed the first two books in the series, you can get them here: World of Ash (book 1) and Time of Ruin (book 2). If you stay up past your bedtime reading or have nightmares about poisonous tea like I did, blame Shauna, not me!
I am so thrilled to be helping out my friend, author Shauna Granger with the cover reveal for the final book in her Ash & Ruin trilogy, Age of Blood. I’ve been lucky enough to be one of her beta readers for each book in the series and let me tell you, this some great YA dystopian fiction! It’s post-apocalyptic, but not like you’ve ever seen. The monsters are real, ones that could very well exist in our world today, and do pop up from time to time in the form of epidemics around the world. The government may have made the problem worse, but it isn’t about them; it’s about survival, hope and love.
But before we get to the cover, here’s a little about Age of Blood:
Hope is a dangerous thing, but powerful. Hope keeps you going. Hope can keep you alive.
But hope can shatter your world.
Kat and Dylan have found a home, but the monsters are still out there. The pox and plague still ravage the world. They have hope of finding a vaccine, but their encampment isn’t equipped to develop it.
Dylan is still too weak from the pox to leave the encampment, so Kat must decide between staying by his side and protecting her last remaining family member as he leaves to find supplies. Separated for the first time since they came together, Kat and Dylan will have to fight their own battles to save what is left of their bloody world.
Kat will have to hold on to hope that she has anything left to save and someone to come home to.
If she can survive.
And here’s the cover:
Isn’t it awesome?! If you’ve been reading the series, you’ll understand the symbolism of each element on the cover.
Like so many other writers, Shauna grew up as an avid reader, but it was in high school that she realized she wanted to be a writer. She released the first installment of her Paranormal YA Series, The Elemental Series, Earth, on May 1, 2011 and has since released four sequels, with the series coming to an end with Spirit. In December of 2013 she released the first in her Paranormal Post-Apocalyptic trilogy (Ash And Ruin Trilogy), World of Ash. Be sure to also check out her newest series: The Matilda Kavanagh Novels about a spunky witch just trying to pay her rent in West Hollywood. Shauna is currently hard at work on one too many projects, trying to organize the many voices in her head. It’s a writer thing.
There aren’t enough stars in the sky to show much I loved this book (no way is five enough)! I haven’t had a book touch me so personally since reading The Mists of Avalon back in 1998.
But before I get into why this book affected me the way it did, a little explanation of the story. Mortal Heart is the third and final book in the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin Lafevers. The trilogy centers on a convent of nuns in medieval France who are devoted to one of the nine old gods of Brittany, Mortain, the god of death. As Death’s handmaidens they are trained to be assassins to carry out His will. This fictional setup is blended seamlessly with actual historical events of the time, namely a 13-year-old duchess’ fight to keep Brittany independent from the French.
Each book is told from a different character’s point of view, but is part of a continuing story. The first book, Grave Mercy, is told from Ismae’s point of view and is very much about politics and court intrigue. The second, Dark Triumph, is Sybella’s story, one of adventure and heart-pounding action. In Mortal Heart, Annith finally gets to tell her story, one of romance, love and faith. (If you haven’t read the rest of the series, start with Grave Mercy. You’ll be lost if you pick up with Mortal Heart.)
Throughout all of the other books, Annith has patiently waited in the convent where she was raised for her turn to be sent out to do Mortain’s work, which is her life-long dream. She’s watched Ismae and Sybella be sent out before her, even though she is the most skilled. When she finds out that the abbess has other plans for her, ones that involve her never leaving the convent, she must make a decision whether to obey the rules as she has always done, or seek Mortain’s will on her own. Her choice leads her on a journey not even the convent seeresss could have predicted, revealing long-held secrets that threaten to unravel everything she’s ever believed about herself and the convent and send her straight into the arms of Death himself.
Being a fan of love stories and fantasy, as well as someone who is fascinated by religion, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that this my favorite book of the series. It delves much more deeply into the religion and mythology of the series, placing a truly devoted nun, Annith, at the fore. As someone who used to want to be a nun (although, not the assassin kind), I deeply related to Annith. I understand what it’s like to “be in love with” your God, to want to do his will more than anything else in the world, as well as the frustration of not understanding how you’re supposed to bring this cherished dream to fruition. Add to this that the old gods are based on the Celtic pantheon (which is near and dear to my heart), and that this book deals with the intersection of the old religion and Christianity, and how the gods and mortals interact, and you have what is personally for me, a life-changing book.
But I also realize that most people won’t have this personal connection to the book. Even if you don’t relate to it on the level I do, I believe you will be moved by the themes of love, trust, faith and hope – things we all struggle with, no matter what our personal beliefs are. Mortal Heart is also very much about the lengths to which we are willing to go for those we love, and the impact of the secrets that each and every one of us carry around with us. There is something for everyone in this richly layered tale of devotion, love and adventure.
Maybe it’s because this is the final book in the trilogy, but I felt like I was much more a part of the world of this book than in the previous books. It was a joy to see Ismae, Sybella and Annith together again and learn the final resolution of the political situation I’ve been invested in since the first book. I also loved getting to see the inner workings of some of the other orders devoted to the old gods.
There is so much more I want to say about this book, but I can’t because it involves spoilers for key plot points. Please trust me on how wonderful this book is and give it, and the series, a chance. Even though it’s marketed as YA, it certainly doesn’t read like a YA book. To me it’s a wonderful historical fantasy perfect for those who love their fantasy with strong female characters, unlikely love, a bit of mystery, and a dash of danger.
Have you read any of the books in this series? Did you like them? Why or why not? Are you planning to read Mortal Heart? Does anything I’ve said about this series intrigue you? Why?
This week I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for my friend and fellow author, Cassandra Page. Her debut novel, a young adult urban fantasy called Isla’s Inheritance, was released on October 9. I met Cassandra on Twitter a few years ago when we were both participating in the same pitch contest and it’s been a joy to watch her grow in confidence and mature as a writer. So please, take a moment to check out her first novel and if it sounds like something you’d like, give it a read. Plus, if you read to the end, there’s a giveaway for a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble card!
About Isla’s Inheritance
Isla was content to let her father keep his secrets, but now she can’t stand the touch of iron and her dreams are developing a life of their own. She must discover the truth — before it’s too late.
Seventeen-year-old Isla Blackman only agrees to participate in a Halloween party séance because Dominic, an old crush, wants to. She is sure nothing will happen when they try to contact the spirit of her mother. But the séance receives a chilling reply.
SHE IS NOT DEAD.
Isla doesn’t want to upset her father by prying into the family history he never discusses. When the mysterious and unearthly Jack offers to help her discover the truth, Isla must master her new abilities to protect her loved ones from enemies she never knew existed.
Interview with Cassandra Page, author of ‘Isla’s Inheritance’
Can you tell us a little about ISLA’S INHERITANCE?
It’s a young adult urban fantasy set in Australia, and is about a girl named Isla (surprise!). Isla’s seventeen and a bit of a sceptic, in that she always looks for the sensible, mundane explanation for things—something her single-parent father has always encouraged. At a Halloween party, she agrees to take part in a séance because a hot guy she used to have a crush on wants to go; it’s a shock to her when the “spirit” they contact claims her mother isn’t actually dead, as she’s always been told. Of course, she doesn’t believe it at first, and is quickly distracted by said hot guy, whose name is Dominic.
Of course, that’s when things start to get interesting. 😉
Isla’s Inheritance is the first book in a trilogy. The other two books are coming out in the first third of 2015, which is both exciting and utterly terrifying! Getting everything ready is going to be a bit of a mad rush, but the flipside is that readers won’t have to wait years between instalments. GRRM, I’m looking at you!
I notice you write using Australian English spellings. Is the book written that way too?
Yes, it is. Even though Turquoise Morning Press is based out of the USA, the team decided that since the story is set in Australia, it would be more authentic to use Australian spelling and terms where possible. However, I did try and choose words that had common meanings, to minimise the chaos and confusion for readers. As an example, a thong in Australia is a type of shoe that I’m told is called a flip flop in the US. We’d never say flip flop here but, on the other hand, given what a thong is in other parts of the world, I didn’t really want people to get mixed up! There have been a few different decisions like that.
What is your favourite part of the writing process?
Writing the last few chapters of a book, definitely. I’ve drafted four now, and that’s always been the best part of the experience. It’s such a heady rush, seeing all the plot threads come together and the plot accelerate. Also, usually by that point I’m doing mean things to my characters, which is always fun!
The other thing is that it takes me a long time to write a first draft—somewhere between six and nine months—so it’s always satisfying to reach the end of that process. I’m a single mother and work full time, so I have to squeeze in my writing where I can: after my son’s in bed, on lunch breaks, that sort of thing. I also do a lot of plotting (and scheming) in the car.
Given the reference to iron in the blurb, it’s not a surprise to learn the “fantasy” part of your urban fantasy relates to the fae, which are part of European mythology. How did your fae come to be in Australia?
I decided very early on in the drafting process that I didn’t want cute Disney elves. Not that I have a problem with Disney—I’m a mum and therefore know the Frozen soundtrack verbatim—but I felt something darker than Tinker Bell suited young adult readers better. My ruling class of fae are renowned for their vanity, and their cruelty to those in their service. As a result, the fae in Australia are almost all refugees of one kind or another: “lesser” fae who want to live free of oppression.
Where in Australia are the books set?
They set in Canberra, Australia’s capital, which is, in some ways, an overgrown country town. What that means is we have a lot more green spaces than either Sydney or Melbourne do: reserves running through suburbs; low mountains covered in walking trails and with lookouts perched on top; parks for the kids to play.
It’s a great place to set a story when your supernatural population likes green spaces. Werewolves and fairies in particular would love it here—there are places with hardly any iron or steel, and green corridors a wolf could sneak through. I wondered at first whether setting a supernatural tale here would somehow lack credibility. But then I thought, if Sookie Stackhouse can run into vampires in a tiny town like Bon Temps, why can’t Canberra have its own supernatural stories, that element of magic?
When I see the sunlight sparkling off the surface of Lake Burley Griffin on a crisp autumn afternoon, or the glittering lights of the city from Mount Ainslie at dusk, I think that magic is already there. All I’m doing is telling people about it.
Cassandra Page is a mother, author, editor and geek. She lives in Canberra, Australia’s bush capital, with her son and two Cairn Terriers. She has a serious coffee addiction and a tattoo of a cat — which is ironic, as she’s allergic to cats. When she’s not reading or writing, she engages in geekery, from Doctor Who to AD&D. Because who said you need to grow up?
A small portion of one of my bookshelves. This one contains the most YA.
Thanks in large part to the Harry Potter series and in smaller part to Twilight, a new generation of avid readers was born and a little known genre came to dominate the publishing world. Young adult fiction (or as it’s called in the industry, YA) is a juggernaut in the writing world right now. Massive YA sections are popping up in bookstores the world over, NPR just compiled a list of the best YA fiction and Hollywood is anxious to get its hands on the rights to just about every YA book out there.
YA is loosely defined as stories with a teenage protagonist that deals with teenage or coming of age themes. A YA protagonist cannot leave his/her teen years during the series or it ceases to be considered YA. Books with a main character younger than teen years are usually considered middle grade or children’s books.
But despite its name, young adult fiction isn’t just for teens. From Twilight Moms to readers like me, people of all ages are enjoying this resurgent breed of fiction. It’s phenomenon I’ve heard called “cross-over fiction,” when a book meant for teens is accepted by adults. (Seriously, can we add anymore obscure terms to this industry?) Witness the popularity of The Hunger Games and you know what I’m talking about.
What accounts for this occurence? Well, for one, I think many adults either don’t want to grow up, didn’t grow up, or are nostalgic for the simpler cares of youth. Maybe all three. YA books take you back to a time when life had a different set of problems and anything was possible. Magic was real and the world was a place ripe for exploration. They allow you a kind of “do-over” where you can relive your youth and maybe have a different outcome. And if you read paranormal YA, you might even get to have special powers while you do it. Plus, YA books tend to have a different tone than their adult counterparts. They still deal with important themes and there’s still violence and sex, but they’re done in a subtler way. In my experience, sometimes it seems like some adult writers get in your face with graphic detail just to prove how adult they are, so YA can be a nice change of pace.
I also think the rise in popularity is due to a much higher quality of writing and better plots. Twenty-something years ago when I was a teenager, all we had was a small corner of the bookstore that housed Sweet Valley High, The Babysitters Club, Christopher Pike horror novels, and the occasional gymnastics or figure skating-inspired series right next to kid classics like Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables. There’s nothing wrong with those (I still have some of mine), but they’re a far cry from the variety and imagination of the dystopian, urban fantasy, historical and other highly evocative worlds out there. (There are even Arthurian YA books, such as the Chrysalis Queen Quartet by Nancy McKenzie, who also wrote about Guinevere for adults.) Most importantly, the plots of today’s YA novels are smart and they treat their readers as intelligent, weaving complex stories that put some adult bestsellers to shame.
Here are a few of my personal favorites in the YA genre, many of whom I’ve written about on this blog:
Alyson Noel – Alyson has a ton of books, but I came to her writing through her amazing Immortals series. She just recently released the first book her Soul Seekers series. Both of these deal with the mystical/shamanistic side of the paranormal, which I absolutely love. I also got to meet her last year and can attest that she’s super nice.
Cassandra Clare – Cassandra is the queen of urban fantasy as far as I’m concerned. I loved the first three books in her Mortal Instruments series (less so with the most recent two, but I’m finishing the series.) Her characters are people you want to get to know, her use of metaphors is brilliant and she has an easy, humorous writing style.
Maggie Stiefvater – The only books of Maggie’s that I’ve read are her Shiver trilogy. She also has a series on faeries, an acclaimed book called The Scorpio Races and her newest is The Raven Boys. In my opinion, her biggest talent is her ability to create mood and tension, which she does like no one else, YA or adult.
Laini Taylor – While Laini has written previous books, she took the YA world by storm with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I recently reviewed. Laini’s books can be classified as urban fantasy, but I think of them as plain old fantasy. She’s got some of the best characters and richest worlds out there. And she’s funny, to boot. The sequel to Daughter, Days of Blood and Starlight, comes out in November.
Veronica Roth – Veronica is a bit of a phenom, being only 23. I loved her first book, the dystopian Divergent, but wasn’t as impressed with its follow-up, Insurgent. But I plan to finish the trilogy and certainly think she’s worth a read. I’m really curious to see what she does in the future as she grows as a writer and as a person.
What about you? Do you read YA fiction? Why or why not? What are some of your favorite books? What do you hope the future holds for this genre?