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  • Myracles in the Void

    by Wes Dyson

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: The twin stories of Lynd and Gai are touching, effective, and compelling. Dyson slowly reveals a time discrepancy between their arcs that further draws readers into their stories as they hunt for clues concerning who is where and when.

    Prose: Though Dyson's descriptions can be clunky, especially their use of metaphors, the overall dialect is superb in this story. The heroes sound true to their impoverished background and markedly different from the nobility in their world—a somewhat unusual feature from similar novels.

    Originality: Although the idea of a "light" power (Elix) contrasted against a "dark" power (Ruin) is not new, Dyson injects so many additional details and points of interest into this classic set-up that one hardly notices the familiar elements.

    Character Development/Execution: From Commandress Ada to Mac, the cast is thoroughly engrossing, with few outright villains, and readers will find those characters who do possess villainous qualities easy to empathize with.  The cities of Hop, Carpé, and Electri feel like characters unto themselves, each with a distinct personality.

    Blurb: The tale of two siblings with extraordinary powers, Myracles in the Void is guaranteed to keep readers entertained from the characters' humble beginnings straight to their fantastic conclusions.

  • The Lucky Diamond

    by Valinora Troy

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: Troy crafts a rich, multilayered story reminiscent of classic fairytales with a darker twist. The plot centers on five orphans, each possessing magical gifts, who must embark on a dangerous enchanted journey – and in the process, Troy reveals separate but intertwined journeys of self-discovery.

    Prose: Troy’s prose is nearly flawless, featuring astounding mythical world-building alongside writing that skillfully builds tension in all the right moments. Though some of the text struggles to keep up with the multidimensional plot, in the end the narrative is delivered with brilliant flair.

    Originality: The Lucky Diamond borrows from iconic fairytale stories and melds them into one harrowing, entrancing adventure. Troy balances the dreamy settings with plenty of action, giving the novel a well-rounded feel.

    Character Development/Execution: Troy’s central characters are appealing, and readers will eventually root for their victory – despite a lack of in-depth development. The five main children undergo satisfying transformations, and their antagonist is equal parts chilling and mesmerizing

  • Caring for Your Clown Book One: Aliens are Real

    by Oleander Blume

    Rating: 8.50

    Plot/Idea: This is an intriguing novel that crafts a haunting portrait of a teenage transgender boy trying to cope with the death of his mother. What begins as the story of a bizarre alien sent to help Oliver manage his grief turns, by the end, into a journey of self-discovery and emotional endurance. The storyline moves slowly initially, but once it picks up readers will be firmly engaged until the end.

    Prose: Blume’s prose blossoms alongside the novel, transforming into profound and poignant writing that mirrors Oliver’s immense metamorphosis. The protagonist’s self-analysis is exceptionally wrought and a high point of the novel. 

    Originality: Blume has crafted a completely original take on a story that is relevant to many audiences, and this stark twist on a coming-of-age tale boasts several exceptionally creative elements. 

    Character Development/Execution: Oliver shines as a protagonist tormented by his past and trying to find his place in a dangerous world. Blume delivers an astoundingly relatable inner life that will resonate with readers and bring them to the brink of heartbreak again and again.

  • The Firstborn (House of Heaventree #1)

    by Nicole Seitz

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot/Idea: Concise and intense with religious scripture woven into the story, this novel is both suspenseful and engaging. Seitz creates a realistic and frightening story full of finely articulated ideas.

    Prose: The author conveys the plot through the dialogue and actions of the characters. This young adult Christian novel uses scripture throughout the novel in a manner that feels integral to the development of the story.

    Originality: The author presents a rich and original work that is prophetic in nature.

    Character Development/Execution: The interactions between the characters reveal the broader societal structure. The adults are intense and it is unclear whether they should be trusted, which adds to the suspense. The young adults are clever and questioning, but their reactions to some situations feel somewhat rushed.

  • Never Say Never

    by Justine Manzano

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: This creative story blends Greek mythology with teenage romance and friendship. Manzano successfully integrates genuine coming-of-age elements with the more fantastical details of the mythological premise.

    Prose: Manzano achieves a fine balance between the banter of the dialogue, exposition, action, and description. 

    Originality: While the use of Greek mythology as a basis for the story is a familiar tactic, the author offers a fresh twist in the form of a love-disillusioned character who becomes entwined with Aphrodite.

    Character/Execution: Throughout the story, characters show individual and collective growth. Emotional circumstances--catching a parent having an affair, developing romantic feelings for a friend’s boyfriend, and learning that someone you like just doesn’t share the same feelings--prove relatable and engaging. 

  • Forest

    by Frederic Martin

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot/Idea: Frederic Martin seals the Vox Oculis trilogy with an explosive final installment that leaves readers hanging by a thread until the very end. In a clever twist, Martin shows how hidden secrets always find a way into the light.

    Prose: As a writer of two previous books, Martin displays great perception and skill in building suspense and tension. His prose captures the internal monologue of the characters while painting a vivid picture of each scene.

    Originality: Martin's novel as a standalone provides a unique end to a thriller trilogy that has super-human elements without veering off into the realm of fantasy fiction. It combines familiar current events with its own spin.

    Character Development/Execution: Martin does an excellent job in drawing out the backstory of the protagonist and the villains she encounters. He creates multi-dimensional characters through rich details of their inner thoughts and emotional framework.

  • The Rise of the Raidin (Standard)

    by Susan L Markloff

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot/Idea: The Rise of the Raidin is an exceptional science fiction/high fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of those genres, as well as readers who enjoy high school drama. It may verge on gruesome for some readers, especially the battle scenes which often include a lot of viscera and blood. 

    Prose: For those who love fantasy books, this work will greatly appeal. The prose is highly specific regarding battle maneuvers, injuries, and attacks that include magical beasts. Overall, the work is well written, clear, and enjoyable, and Markloff's references to pop culture and slang will make readers laugh.

    Originality: Markloff has put together a mixture of high school slice-of-life storytelling and intense dragon battles with fantasy armies. This unusual combination harkens to animes and mangas, as well as other beloved fantasy series, such as Lord of the Rings. Markloff has managed to make her book completely her own while incorporating well-worn tropes. 

    Character Development/Execution: Although the characters are clearly developed, it can be difficult sometimes to tell them apart, as there are many players here and they are introduced rapidly. That said, Markloff does a good job of representing and developing their distinct personalities.


  • The Wolf's Den

    by Elizabeth R. Jensen

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot/Idea: The Wolf's Den is an exciting, finely developed fantasy tale that will appeal to those with an interest in medieval lore.

    Prose: The author’s imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, and the details of Etria really jump off the page.

    Originality: While not all contemporary readers might find this story relatable, it is an entertaining foray into escapism with a vividly realized setting.

    Character Development/Execution: Borus, Kass, and Jules aim to become knights to serve the king, and each of them follows a different road. The characters are believable and their differences are interesting. Readers may wish for an additional layer of diversity among the cast.

  • Return to the Secret Lake

    by Karen Inglis

    Rating: 8.25

    Plot: Book two of the Secret Lake Mystery series returns to 1900s London for an enticing time travel adventure. The worldbuilding effectively establishes the magical dimensions of the story, allowing readers to become fully immersed in the narrative.

    Prose: Inglis's prose seamlessly captures the London setting, while dialogue and descriptions come across as authentic to both the modern and historical eras.

    Originality: Return to Secret Lake integrates a unique set of circumstances for its characters, who forge a powerful connection that transcends time.

    Character/Execution: Inglis establishes a sense of urgency for her characters, making their motivations and behaviors believable and authentic. Readers will eagerly follow Stella, Tom, Emma, Lucy, and Jack as they deepen their friendships and travel between eras.

  • Chasing the Stars

    by Melanie Hooyenga

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot/Idea: The story of Naomi and Hunter begins with a simple question that will quickly emotionally engage readers. The idea of the popular "Three Good Things" podcast is relatable to a contemporary audience; the conversations are believable, and the challenges are realistic.

    Prose: This charming coming-of-age tale is beautifully written with alluring prose and style. 

    Originality: Hooyenga crafts a touching and relatable romance between two equally rich and nuanced characters.

    Character Development/Execution: The characters are three-dimensional, realistic, and very focused individuals doing their best to deal with their lives. Readers are likely to identify with the characters’ concerns, doubts, and struggles. 

  • Brilliant White Peaks

    by Teng Rong

    Rating: 8.00

    Plot: In this immersive and adventure-filled animal survival story, a wolf cub and his sister seek to be reunited with their pack.

    Prose: Rong's prose is clear, descriptive, and captures the perilous circumstances facing the young wolves in the wilderness.

    Originality: Brilliant White Peaks follows in the tradition of classic animal stories. While not wholly original in concept, young readers will find much to love in the tale of brave young wolves on a dangerous journey.

    Character/Execution: Rong strikes a fine balance between anthropomorphizing the characters and allowing their animal natures to shine through.

  • Rules of Falling

    by Leslie Tall Manning

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot/Idea: This young adult mystery portrays an engaging and lifelike depiction of a high school senior's struggles with an unusual condition and her navigation of friendship, romance, and right and wrong.

    Prose: The narrative is clear, authentic, and effectively establishes a sense of time and place, while building tension throughout.

    Originality: The protagonist's medical condition brings a unique element to the story, setting her circumstances apart from individuals in other coming-of-age stories. The intrigue and danger surrounding Lindsay Bennett add welcome depth to the story, as does the well-developed mystery.

    Character Development/Execution: While the story's protagonist is successfully established and sympathetic, the work may benefit from additional details relating to other characters, their backstories, and relationships. Nevertheless, Manning delivers a thoughtful, twisty novel that will have readers hooked from the first page.

  • Potion: A Witchy Fairy Tale

    by Dorlana Vann

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot/Idea: Potion is a straightforward story that, for all its magical content, conveys a heartfelt message about belonging and the power of personal strength to do what’s right. Vann integrates romance into the fantasy storyline, lending it a sweet angle that deepens the plot.

    Prose: Vann writes in a charismatic and familiar style that immediately endears readers to the story. There are minor bumps when chapters alternate between different viewpoints, but the relatable prose helps gloss over any rough transitions.

    Originality: Potion draws from common young adult conflicts and gives them a fantasy spin to create a pleasant balance of tension and entertainment. 

    Character Development/Execution: Lucas is well-defined and authentic, while Melrose fades into the background against the energy of the story’s villains. Star’s transformation is slow in coming, but touching to watch when it finally arrives.

  • Semper

    by Peter Dudley

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot/Idea: With a fast-paced, exciting opening, Semper starts on the right foot with multiple kidnappings and tense character interactions from the word go. Events become a tad less exciting when the Hamlet-inspired parts of the plot take over and story beats become predictable.

    Prose: Dane's narration is instantly compelling, bringing us in close to his perspective as the future leader of his people. Expertly balancing internal monologue and action, Dudley's writing is enthralling. Characters sometimes have more knowledge than feels accurate for three hundred years post-apocalypse.

    Originality: Both the Hamlet theme and the post-'Bomb' setting are quite common. Neither of the standard tropes of either are subverted much, though they are still written in an entertaining fashion.

    Character Development/Execution: Dane, Lupay, Freda, Tom, and others all come across as richly detailed characters with their own unique motivations and personalities. Many traits, especially for the villains, are cribbed from Shakespeare, but it's all put across so well that it's hard to mind much.

  • Lost in The Ark

    by Val Agnew

    Rating: 7.75

    Plot/Idea: Lost in the Ark offers a compelling exploration of belief, belonging, and the cult mentality. 

    Prose:  The author has a clear handle on story development, although the prose has a tendency to rely on exposition over truly vivid storytelling.

    Originality: Agnew provides a unique set-up, and effectively establishes a sense of uncertainty as the primary character searches for identity and a sense of personal allegiance. The work may benefit from a greater focus on the transitions between major life events in protagonist Kate's life.

    Character Development/Execution: Readers will easily root for Kate, a curious young woman who enjoys exploring new ways of learning about freedom, truth, and happiness, but finds herself in unanticipated and potentially threatening circumstances.  Overall, side characters are deserving of more development.

  • Plot/Idea: Sridhar has created a compelling portrait of ancient civilizations here. Through comprehensive research, the author skillfully portrays the complex historical society of Egypt, with a focus on a war between the Egyptian Empire and the Hittite Kingdom.

    Prose: The opening is powerful and creates an immediate narrative hook. The narration style remains consistently alluring for the book's entirety.

    Originality: Sridhar's novel places a unique focus on a rich period in ancient history. Descriptions of the public and private places in this world come across as accurate and vivid, while the glossary of terms helps the reader in understanding the unfamiliar names and concepts.

    Character Development/Execution: The author offers an intriguing portrayal of Nefertari, wife of Pharaoh Ramses II. While Sridhar explores the character's humanitarian and feminist values, the source of Nefertari’s power ultimately feels unclear to the reader.