Can I paraphrase that buses saying here – you know, good books are like buses, you wait for ages for one and then three come along at once. And even better, the first two were impulse buys in bookstores – something I find myself doing fairly infrequently nowadays, so bonus! Here are my thoughts on three YA books – one being a space opera adventure, the second a contemporary romance, and the third a futuristic romance.
The first serendipitous finding was Garth Nix‘s A CONFUSION OF PRINCES, which turned out to be an imaginative YA SF romp through space. I hadn’t heard of this book before, though having done a quick blog search since, there appears to have been a spate of reviews when it was released earlier this year, which I obviously completely ignored. The engaging (and totally self-centred) narrator, Prince Khemli, made this book for me, and although I normally hate the foreshadowing device, having Khemli announce at the start that this is the story of how he has died three times adds a certain something.
Khemli may be a prince, but in an empire that has ten million princes and all of them vying to be the next Emperor, the title has less meaning than you would expect. So Khemli needs to figure out just how he can put himself into contention for the Imperial throne – and solve various mysteries on the side, like just why has he, of all the millions of princes, has been assigned a Master of Assassins (head bodyguard, in other words) who is more than competent (not that he’s complaining)?
This is the kind of story where the protagonist manages to get himself slowly but surely entangled in what appears to be a no-win situation, and I had no idea how Khemli was going to pull it off until the very end. Perhaps as a trade-off for the strong and charismatic first-person narrative, the secondary characters felt less well-drawn, and the love interest was probably the weakest part of this book (I found it difficult to believe that it was the forever kind of love), but all in all, an unexpectedly fun and enjoyable SF story that I finished in one go. I’d love to read more set in this world, and also really need to get around to reading Garth Nix’s SABRIEL.
The next book won’t be a surprise for those who have seen my recent Goodreads updates as I’ve been busy adding the rest of Miranda Kenneally‘s books to my To Read shelf. CATCHING JORDAN was another impulse purchase, but this time what tipped me into buying the book was that I recalled seeing positive reviews around the blogosphere for this YA romance centred around American football.
Despite knowing next to nothing about American football*, CATCHING JORDAN really worked for me – I loved that Jordan was so passionate about her sport, I loved her positive relationships with her guy friends on the football team (and her eventual realisation that girl friends were equally as good), and I loved her close family ties (there may have been a few sniffles at the end as Jordan and her father figured each other out). And while there was potential for too much annoying obliviousness when it came to the “right” love interest, it didn’t drag on for too long, and the eventual romance was swoon-worthy. I want more, and I’m looking forward to reading the companion book STEALING PARKER.
*Or perhaps because of that – I’ve noted some reviews that feel the sports element wasn’t that realistic.
And the third – Diana Peterfreund‘s FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS. This wasn’t an impulse buy – I’d been planning to read it ever since it was released back in June. But I was never quite in the mood for post-apocalyptic YA fiction until now (and if I’m really honest, I don’t think I was really in that mood – I just wanted to get a book off my TBR pile). So I cracked open FDSTS and started reading Elliot and Kai’s correspondence to each other… and didn’t surface for air until the very last page, which was when I heaved a sigh of pure satisfaction.
I adored this re-interpretation of Jane Austen’s PERSUASION – FDSTS was a perfect translation of not just the romance, but also the unstoppable march of change, to this strange new world of Luddites and Posts. While the basic bones of the plot owed its inspiration to Austen, Elliot and Kai’s own story had quite a few twists – some which I suspected, and others that caught me by surprise (yet made complete sense in retrospect).
I understood Elliot’s strong sense of duty as part of her inherited obligations as a Luddite. I understood Kai’s frustration with the status quo for Posts and his need for something different. With an excess of stubbornness and pride on both sides, the scene was set for a memorable love story. But FDSTS was also so much more than just a romance. I loved the thought that had gone into creating a distant future that could be, providing a backdrop against which age-old money and power conflicts played out. And there were some scenes… picturing Kai and Donovan’s daredevil stunts when reading the cliff scene made me feel as though I had vertigo, and I think I was actually holding my breath as I read Kai’s final letter to Elliot.
So a good run of books – and getting even better as Lois McMaster Bujold‘s CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE has hit the e-shelves at Baen *happy dance*