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 »

The Mermaid and the Unicorn

Cover of the Mermaid and the Unicorn by Elizabeth Amy Hajek.
Click through to read a preview on Amazon!

Title: The Mermaid and the Unicorn

Author: Elizabeth Amy Hajek

Nutshell: Daphne is an American in Paris! Specifically a timid, sheltered, American collegiate on a study abroad semester in Paris. Overwhelmed her first night, she takes a walk in the evening and meets a sophisticated woman who invites her to her nightclub and then mysteriously disappears. Days later, accompanied by her bubbly roommate Maddie, she does visit, and meets some very interesting characters. She has a fine time, not aware of the threads of conspiracy woven through the place. She is too busy enjoying Paris, soaking in the art and the atmosphere, and of course struggling with the language. She even begins dating one of her classmates. But she will not be allowed to remain ignorant forever. In the first place, she saw something astonishing in a courtyard garden. In the second place, a stranger with a covered face attempted to kidnap her. Twice. And in the third place, someone needs her help.

Read-alikes: Lots of “intro to how the fantasy world is still with us” books are like this one, although this is a milder-mannered book: City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare and The Iron King, by Julie Kagawa. This also reminds me very much of A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L’Engle. Also, of books I have read recently, Her Royal Spyness is similar in feel, because of how the main character is a sheltered young woman finding her way in a city, although the content is vastly different.Read More »

Randoms

Cover of Randoms by David Liss. Art by Derek Stenning.
Art by Derek Stenning. Click through to read a preview on Amazon!


Title:
Randoms

Author: David Liss

Nutshell: Zeke Reynolds was standing between the Neko and the advancing army of robots, his Browncoat duster billowing. He only had seconds before the robots attacked, and he couldn’t think of a single pithy quote to shout. Raising his fist, he shouted the only thing that came to mind: “I’m Batman!”

Alright, so that’s not how it happened. But its way closer to the way Earth’s first contact went than anyone would expect. Turns out, being a geek when aliens arrive on earth is a huge bonus, and Zeke is as geeky as they come. Good thing, too, because the aliens take him up to their stellar academy to represent Earth. If he does well, Earth could join the unified sentient races and be granted an end to all disease. If he does badly… his mother could die.

Read-alikes: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson.

Read More »

Top Ten: A Wrinkle in Time

Cover of a Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Art by Taeeun Yoo.
Art by Taeeun Yoo. Click to read a preview!

Title: A Wrinkle In Time

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Nutshell: Meg Murray has woes. Her father disappeared during a science experiment. Her younger brother is bullied. Her teachers think she cheats. And she is at the age where she is growing into everything, gawky, flyaway, peering at the world through glasses. She wants her father to come home and solve all her problems. She’s about to find out that sometimes instead of being rescued, you have to be the rescuer.

A strange woman comes to visit Meg. The visitor, Mrs. Whatsit, seems to have an uncanny connection to her little brother, and a profound knowledge of Meg’s father. Intrigued, Meg and Charles Wallace meet Mrs. Whatsit and two of her friends at their home to talk about their father.

It turns out, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which aren’t people, and they aren’t from earth. They’re from distant planets, and Meg’s father is trapped out there. The children must travel across the galaxy to save him.

Readalikes: The Space Trilogy, by C. S. Lewis, is like this. Very like. The Giver, by Lois Lowry and the Matched Trilogy by Allie Condie are the closest of the dystopias to the dystopia section. Read More »

Top Ten: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

A sailing ship with red sail cresting a wave.
Click through to read an excerpt!

Title: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Author: C. S. Lewis

Series: The Chronicles of Narnia

Nutshell: Edmund and Lucy are English schoolchildren sent to visit their rather horrid cousin Eustace for the summer. Eustace’s main hobbies are pinning bugs to cards for his collection, being a know-it-all, and loudly looking down on everyone. His parents are an early version of the sorts of people that get their knickers in a bunch when other people play “spot the vegan.” Edmund and Lucy are not excited, espcially since Eustace is most likely to tease them about something very dear: a secret, magical world where they once were rulers. Sure enough, Eustace starts in with the mockery right away. When, a minute later, they fall through a painting into the ocean of Narnia, he at first attempts to believe that his cousins have somehow drugged him or tricked him. But, on a sailing ship surrounded by strangely dressed men, under unfamiliar stars, he is convinced: Narnia is real, and he is in it.

As with all good adventures, poor Eustace cannot simply hop back through the painting and go about his life. He must stay, discovering enchanted islands and mystical creatures, being kidnapped by slave traders, and having dinner with stars, until he has learned something about himself, and been changed.

Read-alikes: The Secret Country By Pamela Dean is a slightly more complex secret world series. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews Edwards is somewhat less, but just as delightful. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is odd, but similar. And The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson.

Read More »