The Books of Great Alta

These books are fascinatingly written. The frame story is that there are legends, songs, and tales about the women of Great Alta, and that historians fight constantly about the meanings of these legends.  Each chapter includes some “history”, some “legend” and then the “true story” of what really happened.  The women of Great Alta (and their shadow sisters) have a complex and magical way of life, which is brought to life all the more fully through the layered way Yolen constructs the books. The books are a great commentary on what we do or do not know about past cultures.

Author: Jane Yolen

Order: Sister Light, Sister Dark; White Jenna; The One-Armed Queen


Far-Flung Adventures

In a world just a little unlike our own, truly exceptional children go on truly strange adventures.  While each of these books could be read separately, they are definitely a series, as the kids all end up at the same crazy school in the end.  As always, Stewart and Riddell have created a world full of odd inventions, odder people, and strange beasties of different shapes and sizes.  The kids are spunky and resourceful.  The characters would make great fun for make-believe play.  The illustrations are amazing.  Riddell has a style I would recognize anywhere, which complements Stewart’s odd brain.

Authors/Illustrator: Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell

Order: Fergus Crane, Corby Flood, Hugo Pepper

Not sure whether the series is still being written.


Beka Cooper Trilogy

Pierce excels at strong girl characters, and Beka is no exception.  Placed two centuries before the Alanna books, the Beka series explores Tortall in a somewhat darker, grittier time.  Beka wants nothing more than to be a Dog, a policewoman in the toughest neighborhood in the city.  She is smart, tough, and can listen to ghosts.  Useful.  The first two books follow her rise from the rank of Puppy to Dog, and the final book should cover her life as an adult policewoman.  N.B., she shares a last name with George Cooper, the King of Thieves from the Alanna books.

Author: Tamora Pierce

Order: Terrier, Bloodhound, Mastiff (due October 2011)

Tortall Series: Song of the LionessImmortals; Protector of the Small; TricksterBeka Cooper


Retold fairy tales are some of my favorite books.  This one retells Cinderella, complete with awful stepsisters and stepmother.  However, her fairy godmother is now a fairy wannabe-lover (maybe), and she really wants the attention of the Huntress, not the Prince.  While I generally liked this book, I think it thought it was more complex than I think it really was.  There were a few plot-lines that didn’t totally gel, and some stuff felt left out and somewhat random.  It came up on my list as a GLBT book, but the gay didn’t turn up until the last few pages.

Author: Malinda Lo

Series: There seems to be a prequel, called Huntress

The Edge Chronicles

Authors: Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

I blasted through all of these the first time I read them.  Stewart and Riddell created an amazing world, where rocks float and there are a bunch of different humanoid beings running around, each with their own outlook on life and way of living.  You can read them in published order or reorganize them into internal chronological order, as some of the characters turn out to be the grandparents of other characters.   Either way, a good rollicking read with characters you might actually care about.  The pen-and-ink illustrations top it off – interesting, complex, and perfect for the story.

Order: Beyond the Deepwoods, Stormchaser, Midnight Over Sanctaphrax, The Curse of the Gloamglozer, The Last of the Sky Pirates, Vox, Freeglader, The Winter Knights, Clash of the Sky Galleons

The Underland Chronicles

When Gregor falls through the hole in his laundry room, he ends up in a world under New York, populated by giant cockroaches, rats, bats, and very pale humans.  Collins says she set out to write an urban Alice in Wonderland, and she generally succeeded.  The series is fairly formulaic – Gregor gets a prophecy at the end of each book that gives us a hint for the next book.  Not to be a spoiler, but the ending is fairly predictable and a little disappointing.  But the characters are great (even the roaches!), and the adventures are real and engaging.

Author: Suzanne Collins

Order: Gregor the Overlander; Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane; Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods; Gregor and the Marks of Secret; Gregor and the Code of Claw

The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy

In one kingdom, Gracelings are people born with two different eye colors and mystical powers.  Some Gracelings have useful Graces, others are mistrusted.  In another kingdom, separated by almost-impassible mountains, Monsters are found everywhere – magical and vicious versions of common animals.  There is only one human Monster, and her name is Fire. Cashore has created an interesting world, and I imagine future books will explore all the various ramifications of Gracelings, Monsters, and other magical beings.  These books are also a study of human nature – what makes us who we are?  What do we do because of it?

Author: Kristin Cashore

Order: Graceling; Fire; Bitterblue (tentative title)

Series still being written.