Monday, February 11, 2013

YA fantasy epics and novellas

Sometimes I just want a good long read. And sometimes I need something short. What's surprising is that both can leave me with the same sense of satisfaction, the same wealth of engaging questions in mind, and the same feeling that I've met characters I'd love to meet again.

Of course, a lot of great books are neither long nor short. But have you noticed how many really long YA books are out there (Lord of the Rings for example) and how many really short ones (the Hobbit perhaps)? Maybe it's just me, but I know I often look forward to writing a YA review because I think the book will be shorter. Then I have to remind myself not to be disappointed if I find it's part one of an epic. Coffee helps... and stories that are engaging enough, with sufficiently well-defined characters and plot, that the book can be put down and picked up again without my getting lost.

I read books from two YA series this weekend. Jason D. Morrow's Marenon Chronicles are told in three large volumes--the Deliverer, the Gatekeeper and the Reckoning. If you have all three, be prepared to be glued to the page till the final book's done. They're not quick reads--sometimes I felt they were a little over-slow, with repeated descriptions and long internal dialogs--but they're definitely good. The plot's exciting, the characters are engaging, and the premise is pleasantly intriguing. Plus there are dragons. The author does a great job of keeping his huge cast of characters separate so readers can easily pick up and put down the books at chapter endings. And the character arcs are pleasing--foolish mistakes leading to lessons learned, rash decisions to danger, and so on. Sometimes the resolution's a little too easy--sometimes not--and that keeps the story flowing. Drink lots of 5-star bold dark coffees with this epic series.

The three novellas in Mindjack Origins by Susan Kaye Quinn are definitely short rather than long. But they leave the reader with an equal sense of having visited a different place and met characters well worth following. While Jason Morrow tells different parts of the story from different points of view, Susan Quinn uses the same technique for each novella. When characters reappear in another person's story, there's a sense of rightness and welcome for the reader. The world she describes is our own, set in a future where mindreading is easy and other curious powers might be coming into play. The interplay of mind and matter is beautifully portrayed. And the characters, for all their difference, are palpably human. I'd love to read more novels or novellas from this series. And I'd drink some 4-star elegantly complex coffee while I read.

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