A Wizard of Earthsea

Cover of A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. Cover of a falcon stooping at the viewer by Dominic Harman.
Art by Dominic Harman. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: A Wizard of Earthsea

Author: Ursula K. LeGuin

Nutshell: Even as a lad, Duny, who would become the great wizard Ged, was powerful. His wizardry protected his village of farmers from the raiding army of the Kargs, though he was nearly dead by the end of it. Ogion, the silent mage, came then and took him as apprentice, but Duny’s heart yearned for quick power, for admiration and fame. In Ogion’s quiet abode, alone in the mountains, was none of that. So Ogion sent him to Roke, to the great school of wizards, and there Duny began indeed to win fame and power. Yet the desire for power, untempered by wisdom, can be a danger, and so it was with Duny. He allowed his power to be governed by his black temper, and woke something which had no name, something over which there could be no mastery.

Readalikes: Patricia McKillip’s books, especially Od Magic and The Riddle-Master of Hed. Diana Wynne Jone’s The Islands of Chaldea, The Name of the Wind, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader are also very similar, rooted in the same traditions.Read More »

Airborn

Cover of Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. Art of a young man peering through a spyglass from the top of a dirigible by Peter Riddihoff.
Art by Peter Riddihoff. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: Airborn

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Nutshell: Matt Cruise was meant to fly. Being a cabin boy on the Aurora is as natural as breathing for him, even climbing on the outside of the envelope. And it’s there, outside, as the lookout, that he spots a damaged balloon drifting through the skies. When the crew brings in on board, they find Benjamin Malloy, an explorer who claims he’s seen “beautiful creatures” in the clouds. Unfortunately, Benjamin is feverish and dies shortly, and the rest of the crew write his words off as the ravings of a dying man.

Then Kate deVries, Malloy’s granddaughter, books passage on the Aurora. She believes her grandfather’s dying claims, and is determined to prove them. Matt becomes her willing companion, but they encounter obstacles as ordinary as an overzealous chaperone and as dangerous as pirates.

Read-Alikes: Agatha H. and the Airship City, by Phil and Kaja Folio is… tangentially similar.

Read More »

Spirit’s End

Cover of Spirit's End. Art of a man fighting a man made of cloud by Sam Weber.
Art by Sam Weber. Click to read an excerpt!


Title:
Spirit’s End

Author: Rachel Aaron

Series: The Spirit’s World **This is book five. Spoilers for the previous books abound.**

Nutshell: Eli Monpress gave up his freedom to save the people he loved, but Benehime isn’t about to be satisfied with that sacrifice. She requires everything from him, and she shows him the plan she has designed for the two of them. Pushed to the breaking point, Eli finally pushes back, and Benehime flings him onto the mercies of the Council of Thrones. Eli is locked summarily into Sara’s very best wizard-proof cell. With his father. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Alber Whitefall is using him as leverage against Josef.

But that’s trivial compared to what Miranda is facing. Something is causing massive panic among the spirits across the world, and with Banage in prison, it falls to her to fix things. She knows where to find answers, but she might not get them quickly enough to do anything but watch the world end.

Eli Monpress isn’t trying to be a hero. So why do people keep expecting him to save the world?Read More »

The Spirit War

Cover of the Spirit War by Rachel Aaron. Picture of a man standing on the side of a mountain by Sam Weber.
Art by Sam Weber. Click through to read a preview on Amazon!

Title: The Spirit War

Series: The… Chronicles of Eli Monpress? 1

Author: Rachel Aaron

Nutshell: Eli Monpress is looking for his next big score, and checking on his slowly burgeoning bounty, when he gets a shock. The most ordinary member of his crew is now the most wanted. The island nation, Osera, is offering the entire worth of their country for Josef. What’s more, Josef is turning himself in.

Meanwhile, Miranda Lyonette is finally getting some answers from the shapers. Answers that point to a dark conspiracy surrounding the very nature of reality. If only people would stop having their regular old wars, she could get some serious progress made on saving the world.

Readalikes: I’ve still only got Stormlight and the Codex Alera for you.Read More »

The Dark Talent

Cover of The Dark Talent by Brandon Sanderson. Art of a team of quirky heroes by Scott Brundage.
Cover art by Scott Brundage. Click through to read an excerpt of book one on Amazon!

Title: The Dark Talent

Series: Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians 1

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Nutshell: The world is not what you think it is. You live in the Hushlands, the territory controlled by the Evil Librarians, who supress your knowledge and technology. But somewhere out there are the Free Kingdoms, a place of unbridled knowledge and wondrous technology. Start your search-

What? Yes, I said librarians. Yes, I meant those nice, little, old ladies with horn-rimmed glasses. They’re sneaky.

Alcatraz can tell you. Alcatraz Smedry was a foster child in despair because he broke almost everything he touched, but when he received a box of sand for his birthday, he learned the truth.

What? Yes, sand. It was a very momentous occasion. Stop interrupting.

His grandfather, Leavenworth Smedry, rescues him and explains that he is the last in a long line of powerfully gifted people. His cousin, Kaz, can speak in gibberish. Leavenworth himself is always late. And Alcatraz? He breaks stuff! So incredible!

What? Of course I’m serious. If I have to tell you one more time…

So Alcatraz embarks on an epic, zany, sarcastic quest to save the world, find his parents, and discover the truth. Like how penguins are rocket-propelled, how France is a deception, and how to use found objects to do almost anything.

Read this book. Read all these books. Read. Every. Page.

That is all the guidance I can give you. Good luck.

 

1 This is the fifth book in a series. The Nutshell will be for the series. The Ramblings will be for the book, with spoilers for previous books.

Read-alikes: Lemony Snicket’s Unfortunate Events is very like this in tone. Randoms is like it more overall.Read More »

The Cloak Society

Cover of The Cloak Society by Jaramey Kraatz. Art by Michael Komarck.
Art by Michael Komarck. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: The Cloak Society

Author: Jeramey Kraatz

Nutshell: Alex Knight is just your average, ordinary supervillain-in-training. He knows, of course, that there are heroes to oppose him, but he has grown up believing that his parents are owed their due, that they will be better for the world if only they’re given a chance. He has also been raised in a top-secret, underground bunker, allowed topside only with permission and two adults. Talk about your controlled socialization. I’m all for homeschooling, but this is extreme.

Alex and his friends are finally given a chance to prove to the world (or at least Sterling City) that they deserve to be rulers when their parents assign them the job of stealing a valuable diamond from the bank. It seems like an easy job until the Junior Justice Rangers arrive. During the fight, Alex acts on instinct to keep one of the Rangers from being killed. That instinct causes everyone to question him, and so he begins to question himself.

Read-alikes: The Artemis Fowl books, by Eoin Colfer, or for the grown-up audience, the Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson.Read More »

The Legend of Eli Monpress

Cover of The Legend of Eli Monpress by Rachel Aaron. Art by Sam Weber.
Art by Sam Weber. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: The Legend of Eli Monpress

Author: Rachel Aaron

Nutshell: Eli Monpress is the world’s greatest thief, and today he has stolen a king. It might be the king of the smallest country in the Council of Thrones, but it’s still the most important person in the country. He and his companions — a swordsman with the greatest magical sword ever and a scrawny shadow child — have big plans for the king. Big plans.

Miranda Lyonette is a wizard from the Spirit Court. Her job is to rein in rogue wizards, such as Eli Monpress. She seems to have arrived in the middle of a bit of a crisis, however.

Add to the mix the King’s long-since-banished brother, and a wizard of the most despicable kind. He wasn’t expecting his brother to be stolen, but you can bet he’ll make the most of it.

Rachel Aaron sets up her characters like a chemist, and then ever so carefully and precisely spills them all together and lets them blow each other up.

Readalikes: I think of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera when I read this, and Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. The coverquotes on the book itself suggest Scott Lynch, but Lynch’s books are a lot darker than Monpress.Read More »