Find it at your library!

I was totally bought into Sweet Black Waves from the first page, and not only did I never want to put it down, I never knew what was going to happen next! That’s partly because I was unfamiliar with the story of Tristan and Isolde (on which the book is based), but also because the story is SO CRAZY. It has the twists and turns of a soap opera with the weighty feel of an epic. So basically, everything I want.

Branwen is actually the main character here, cousin and handmaiden to Princess Eseult (called Essy because she shares the name with her mother, the queen). Branwen is training as a healer and saves a guy’s life, but it turns out he’s from the enemy nation across the sea. Thus it’s too bad they fall completely in love with each other as she’s nursing him back to health in a secret cave (no, that’s not a euphemism). There’s no way they can be together, right? Well, we’ll see…!

Added bonus, this book has the nerdiest end matter I’ve ever seen in a YA novel. Kristina Pérez is a scholar of medieval literature, and if you want to test her qualifications, just check out her explanation of how she cobbled together elements of various ancient languages to create the different languages spoken by her characters. Because if you’re going to the trouble of writing a novel, you might as well go ahead and dream up some new vocabularies to go along with it, right? Pérez is decidedly not the kind of author to half-ass things like worldbuilding.

I loved this story so much I looked up the film version, thinking it would be fun to see another interpretation, but sadly it stars James Franco, sooooo I think I’ll call it good with just the book.

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AuthorTaryn Pierson
CategoriesRecommendations

Find it at your library!

This has been a great year so far for YA fantasy! First The Belles, then Children of Blood and Bone, and now Dread Nation—I’m so excited that these books exist AND that they’re getting all the buzz. I love them even more because they have higher ambitions than creating an immersive world of beauty, magic, or zombies (although they do that too!); they’re telling fantasy stories that illuminate realities about our world as it is right now. People using art to magnify issues that matter—it makes me want to hire a marching band and parade through the streets in excitement and solidarity.

Dread Nation has a premise that begs to be adapted to the screen: it’s an alternate history in which the Civil War ends because of a zombie plague. Slavery is technically over, but black girls are instead conscripted into boarding schools where they are groomed to become Attendants—that is, personal bodyguards for wealthy white women. Salty-tongued main character Jane is a good fighter but struggles with the more refined parts of her training. However, the new society is so rife with corruption, her schooling may become moot in the face of the advancing horde. There are bigger zombies to fry.

There’s a scene change roughly halfway through that basically turns the book into a Western. No spoilers, so I won’t go into detail, but for me that’s when the magic happened. I can’t resist a good Western, and this is an example of a YA author executing the form really well. It reminded me of Vengeance Road, which I also recommend. And I have to say, as someone who is more squeamish the older she gets, I really appreciate how light a touch Ireland uses in writing the fight scenes. Yes, some zombies get decapitated and some people’s faces get eaten, but she doesn’t go into the gleeful detail that some horror writers like to employ.

Posted
AuthorTaryn Pierson
CategoriesRecommendations