American teenager Haley and her father visit Iceland in the hope of finding out what happened to her mother, who vanished there. Haley is quickly drawn into somewhat surreal adventures connected to Icelandic sagas, in the company of hot Icelandic teenager Ari.

One moment she’s learning some upsetting news about her father and Ari’s mother, and the next she’s been sucked into a very long-term plot by Hallgerd of Njal’s Saga fame. And then amnesiac! And then meeting talking foxes, Odin’s raven, and a rather unusual polar bear! And then burning with totally literal inner fire! And then invisible! And then time-traveling! Etc! I quite enjoy the “Did you forget the kitchen sink? Throw that in too!” approach to plotting, and if anything, would have liked the book to be longer, to spend more time with each new twist.

Though the pace sometimes felt rushed and I am not entirely certain how Hallgerd’s original plot interacted with what went down at the climax or who really caused the final fate of Haley's mother, there was a lot to like in the novel: the vivid depiction of Iceland all the way down to the food, the moments of poetic beauty (my favorite were the fragments of saga-memories preserved in tunnels), the various talking animals, the interplay with the sagas, and the way that Ari and Haley built a relationship that felt real by actually talking to each other about problems.

I really liked the resolution of the love triangle, which I have literally never come across before in a YA novel. I wonder if Janni had any trouble with her agent/editor/publisher over it.

Thief Eyes
The beautifully executed and bizarre premise for this YA fantasy is that after an apocalyptic war between our world and Faerie, the latter magically nuked Earth, making nature turn against humans. Now the shadows of trees can cut like whips, moths fly through flames and emerge with stolen light, and harvesting crops is a battle.

Teenage Liza was born after the apocalypse and has never known any other world. In her town, magic is forbidden. But when her father kills her baby sister for being magical and her mother runs away, Liza discovers that there’s a lot more to her world than she ever imagined.

I loved the gleefully horrific setting and gorgeously strange imagery to pieces, and the pace never lags. I don’t think it’s spoilery to say that Liza discovers that she has a magical talent, but it was particularly well-handled. (Not what her magic talent seems to be early on, which is more fantasy-standard, but what it develops into.) It's a deus ex machina ability given genuine emotional force and complexity. There are some nice surprises along the way, and the ending is lovely.

Though I appreciated the fast pace, there were some areas where I wish it had slowed down and taken the time to develop the characters and their relationships more. Liza’s mother is a key character and while I had an intellectual understanding of why she did what she did, we didn’t get enough of her and Liza interacting to make the emotions of that relationship come to life, or to grasp her choices on a gut level. Matthew, a boy who travels with Liza, also could have used more development. I liked him, but I would have enjoyed more exploration of his character and his relationship with Liza. That felt a little sketched-in, and at times made him seem more along for the ride than fully integrated into the plot.

I am not sure what age group to recommend this to. On the one hand, it’s a fast-paced, easy read. On the other hand, in the first two pages the heroine’s father leaves her baby sister on a hillside to be eaten by wild animals, and she's eaten by wild animals. It’s not described graphically, but still. Maybe thirteen and up.

Check it out on Amazon: Bones of Faerie

Massive spoilers are welcome in comments, so beware.
The beautifully executed and bizarre premise for this YA fantasy is that after an apocalyptic war between our world and Faerie, the latter magically nuked Earth, making nature turn against humans. Now the shadows of trees can cut like whips, moths fly through flames and emerge with stolen light, and harvesting crops is a battle.

Teenage Liza was born after the apocalypse and has never known any other world. In her town, magic is forbidden. But when her father kills her baby sister for being magical and her mother runs away, Liza discovers that there’s a lot more to her world than she ever imagined.

I loved the gleefully horrific setting and gorgeously strange imagery to pieces, and the pace never lags. I don’t think it’s spoilery to say that Liza discovers that she has a magical talent, but it was particularly well-handled. (Not what her magic talent seems to be early on, which is more fantasy-standard, but what it develops into.) It's a deus ex machina ability given genuine emotional force and complexity. There are some nice surprises along the way, and the ending is lovely.

Though I appreciated the fast pace, there were some areas where I wish it had slowed down and taken the time to develop the characters and their relationships more. Liza’s mother is a key character and while I had an intellectual understanding of why she did what she did, we didn’t get enough of her and Liza interacting to make the emotions of that relationship come to life, or to grasp her choices on a gut level. Matthew, a boy who travels with Liza, also could have used more development. I liked him, but I would have enjoyed more exploration of his character and his relationship with Liza. That felt a little sketched-in, and at times made him seem more along for the ride than fully integrated into the plot.

I am not sure what age group to recommend this to. On the one hand, it’s a fast-paced, easy read. On the other hand, in the first two pages the heroine’s father leaves her baby sister on a hillside to be eaten by wild animals, and she's eaten by wild animals. It’s not described graphically, but still. Maybe thirteen and up.

Check it out on Amazon: Bones of Faerie

Massive spoilers are welcome in comments, so beware.
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