Monthly Archives: September 2015

Some good historical fantasy for young adults

My daughter said I was welcome to read her books while she is away at college, and even pointed out some good ones. Here are reviews of a couple of her YA books that I particularly enjoyed.

Saving Juliet by Suzanne Selfors (2008)

This is a very clever historical fantasy about a 17 year-old actress who (in an attempt to escape from the pressures of generations of family acting talent) magically finds herself in the Italy of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, and has an opportunity to save Juliet and change the ending. The story comes complete with a Justin Beiber type teen male heart-throb who gets what’s coming to him but doesn’t turn out to be so bad in the end. I loved how the main character just introduced herself as “Mimi of Manhattan,” a distant cousin of the Capulets, and everyone accepted it.

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger (2013)

I believe this novel is part of the genre known as “steampunk” – science fiction set in an alternate 19th century world. In this alternative Victorian era werewolves and vampires are real. The main character, a 14 year-old girl who is a little too free spirited for the 19th century, is sent to a boarding school/finishing school that vaguely resembles Hogwarts (Harry’s Potter’s school). It is entirely housed in a huge air balloon that floats randomly across the moor. They don’t teach magic though – just spying, espionage, and assassination. It’s very funny, especially the way the author interprets finishing school skills like curtsies, fashionable dress, fans, handkerchiefs and so on, in light of their usefulness in intelligence work.


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Filed under Fantasy, Historical fiction


Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson (Hatchette, 2015)

This saga of the far future is similar in style to Robinson’s previous novel, 2312. In his descriptions of Earth he casually mentions the major changes that have occurred due to climate change, such as the coastlines that have been profoundly altered. Climate change is an important issue for Robinson, which he focuses on in the “Science in the Capital” trilogy as well as in 2312. But most of this book takes place aboard a starship en route to the planet Aurora in the constellation Tau Ceti. It is rightfully called a saga because the time span of the book is several centuries, and the ship itself dictates the story. The style of the ship (a modular creation with biomes housing nearly two thousand people) will be familiar to those who read his Mars trilogy. Despite the familiar elements, this is a unique story with some interesting insights. If you’re a fan of Robinson’s work, you’ll enjoy his latest.

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Filed under Science fiction