Books: Silence by Michelle Sagara, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel

A few YA books I’ve been meaning and meaning to talk about, some of which I need to talk about today if I want to actually do so before their release dates. đŸ™‚


[Silence cover]Silence, by Michelle Sagara

I’ve been following Michelle Sagara’s (aka Michelle West) Sun Sword series for years–it’s one of the few ongoing otherworld adult fantasy series I do follow–so when I heard she was writing YA, I was pretty excited, and pounced on the chance to read this one early. (Disclosure: Michelle is a friend and I had also already read an early draft of this book as well.) Silence takes prose and themes I already enjoy and focuses it into a more self-contained (though not completely self-contained; I believe there will be sequels) YA-shaped story. The results made reader-me pretty happy.

Along the way, this story about a girl who finds she can see the dead has things to say about magic, how it does and doesn’t shape who we are, about dealing with loss and how that shapes us as well, about community, and about the ways we can and can’t look out for each other.

It also features one of the least threatening dogs in YA fantasy, in spite of the fierce depiction of same on the cover. đŸ™‚

This one’s due out tomorrow, May 1. The publisher’s summary:

It began in the graveyard. Ever since her boyfriend Nathan died in a tragic accident Emma had been coming to the graveyard at night. During the day she went through the motions at her prep school, in class, with her friends, but that’s all it was. But tonight was different. Tonight Emma and her dog were not alone in the cemetery. There were two others there—Eric, who had just started at her school, and an ancient woman who looked as though she were made of rags. And when they saw Emma there, the old woman reached out to her with a grip as chilling as death…


[A Confusion of Princes cover]A Confusion of Princes, by Garth Nix

I’ve been trying to figure out just how to say, “this book wasn’t quite right for me,” and also “it’s a terrific book and you should read it,” without the first statement undermining the second. Because it is a terrific book, and for the many readers for whom it’s the right book, I think it’s going to be very much the right book.

A Confusion of Princes takes the inventiveness of Garth Nix’s Sabriel books (which have some of my favorite worldbuilding ever), and applies it to a hard science fiction world instead: an empire controlled by a group of ruling princes (both male and female) who are trained to the role from birth. It has the sort of worldbuilding that makes me believe not only in the bits of the Empire that I see, but also in the bits of the Empire I don’t see; that convinces me the world of the story is deeper and broader than the pieces of that world we actually see. That world is deeply tech-infused (bitek, psitek, mektek) in ways that are deeply woven into the story, and that also give the world a hard science fiction texture that’s grown less common than it once was.

It’s the sort of texture and the sort of world and I think the sort of story I hear many readers craving at science fiction cons, when looking for new YA reads for themselves or for teens in their lives. I’ve been wishing I had more books like this to point them to: something that harkens back to the sort of heavy-on-the-rivets, exploring-the-universe space opera they loved as kids, but that also has a more contemporary and less dated feel, and that both embraces the trope of the competent young man ready to set out and make his fortune and questions it.

If this book wasn’t for me, it’s only because this sort of story often isn’t (I’ve always favored Star Wars over Star Trek, too). But it’s well-written and inventive and the sort of thing so many readers I know do love, and that many of them haven’t been finding lately, and I’m looking forward to recommending it.

A Confusion of Princes is out in Australia and due out May 15 in the U.S. The publisher’s summary:

“I have died three times, and three times been reborn, though I am not yet twenty in the old earth years by which it is still the fashion to measure time. This is the story of my three deaths, and my life between. My name is Khemri.”

Taken from his parents as a child and equipped with biological and technological improvements, Khemri is now an enhanced human being, trained and prepared for the glory of becoming a Prince of the Empire. Not to mention the ultimate glory: should he die, and be deemed worthy, he will be reborn…Which is just as well, because no sooner has Prince Khemri graduated to full Princehood than he learns the terrible truth behind the Empire: there are ten million princes, and all of them want each other dead


[Dust Girl cover]Dust Girl, by Sarah Zettel

I have been wanting to burble about this book for ages (more than a year, actually, since I was asked to read it for a blurb), but didn’t want to burble too soon, lest all the burbling be forgotten before the book was anywhere close to coming out.

It’s a dust-bowl era fairy book, which might initially sound strange, but it works. The magic fits the era and the world so well that I believe in both, in part because while fairies are the focus, it’s made clear it’s not the only magic at play in the 1930s America, in part simply because it’s all rendered so well.

This book made me feel the way I felt back when I first discovered urban fantasy, back when I was devouring books by Emma Bull and Charles de Lint (even though it’s like neither a Bull nor a de Lint novel)–like magic is waiting in the world all around us, if only we can manage to see it.

I also love the way the protagonist, Callie, is smart and thinks things through; and the way this book deals with race and makes it part of the larger story instead of ignoring it, because race was huge in the time and the places of this story. (And fairy dance marathons! And the train station! And the way I could just taste the dust …)

A gorgeous book, one of my favorites of the past couple years, full of texture and voice and shivery magic and so many of the things I go to fantasy for.

This one’s due out June 26, so I may burble some more between now and then. In the meantime, the publisher’s summary:

Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run, Kansas, helping her mother run their small hotel and trying not to think about the father she’s never met. Lately all of her energy is spent battling the constant storms plaguing the Dust Bowl and their effects on her health. Callie is left alone, when her mother goes missing in a dust storm. Her only hope comes from a mysterious man offering a few clues about her destiny and the path she must take to find her parents in “the golden hills of the west” (California).

Along the way she meets Jack a young hobo boy who is happy to keep her company—there are dangerous, desperate people at every turn. And there’s also an otherworldly threat to Callie. Warring fae factions, attached to the creative communities of American society, are very aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *