Monday's Muse, 20th edition.

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Ruten by Twelve Girls Band.

This was originally an idea from Au Courant started in March, an idea she has graciously let me run with.

The idea is to introduce you to unknown, forgotten, or overlooked fiction that has been lost from regular radar. I am WriterGirl. I am in the business of saving lives, one book at a time.

What I do is go to amazon, narrow it down to a YA field and type in a random word, any word that comes to mind. I then take a sampling of some I have never heard of before, or only vaguely heard of (and hopefully you as well). No infringement is intended for any description I take for the books. It's purely for promotional reasons. I will try and cover as many genres as possible that are fitting for the random word. Simple but it really uncovers some incredible gems. I will be doing this every other Monday. If there are any words you want to prompt me with, go ahead and fire away.

Today's random word:

Shapeshifter by Holly Bennett.

Sive has received genetic gifts from each of her magical parents. From her mother she has inherited a soaring voice capable of (literally) enchanting those who listen. From her father she has the ability to shift into animal shape. That paternal gift may be the only thing to save her once she is noticed by the evil dark lord Far Doirche, who has plans to enthrall her and use her voice to build an empire. Bennett returns to familiar Celtic ground in this rich, slightly revisionist retelling of an ancient Irish legend. Basic human emotions—fear, love, greed—move the tale along, and short first-person narratives that personalize the action are interspersed throughout. Some will stumble over the Irish names, but Bennett thoughtfully includes a pronunciation guide as well as notes on the more traditional version of Sive's story. Offer this to fans of Bennett's earlier book, The Warrior's Daughter (2007), as well as those in search of shape-shifters or Celtic legends. --Booklist.

Mistwood by Leah Cypess.

For centuries, the kings of Samorna have depended upon the immortal Shifter for protection. When the Crown Prince Rokan ventures into the Mistwood to find the Shifter, she again allows herself to be caught, to be tamed, and to be tangled into the deception and danger of the human court. The Shifter is uneasy, though. First she woke with no distinct memory of the past and now she finds that she is unable to change shape. As she adapts to palace life and painstakingly hides her inability to embrace her past abilities fully, she seems to become more the Lady Isabel as she is known in court, unwittingly displaying human emotions and hesitating in her bound duties to the crown. As Rokan becomes king, he is thrust into danger, seemingly from all sides. Isabel learns much more than she bargained for as she hunts among courtiers for conspirators and finds her loyalties divided. This story unfolds gracefully, mirroring the slow path Isabel must travel to begin understanding herself and her place in the world. Her journey in self-acceptance takes place within a country in turmoil. Fans of Megan Whalen Turner's "Attolia" books (HarperCollins) will be drawn to similar hidden political currents within the court, and fans of Kristin Cashore's Graceling (Harcourt, 2008) will wholeheartedly embrace Isabel as a reluctant warrior heroine treading in unfamiliar waters of the heart. An excellent addition for all collections with a strong fantasy following.—Jessica Miller, New Britain Public Library, CT

Sorceress of the Himalayas by Ketaki Shriram.

I read SORCERESS OF THE HIMALAYAS, by Ketaki Shriram, and enjoyed it tremendously: both as fantasy adventure sure to appeal to younger readers, and as a truly astonishing achievement for a young author with a great career ahead of her. I was struck by the depth of the characterizations in the book: Tien Ming, the heroine, is a girl of a mixed-race background who must overcome prejudice, loss, danger, suffering, and her own inner demons to unlock the secret of the marvelous spellbook on which rests the fate of the alternate world the author has created. A richly imagined landscape -- both familiar and fantastic -- is peopled with intriguing characters -- both human and non-human -- who often reveal themselves as tempted, conflicted, heroic or corrupt. It is a tribute to the author's skill that these beings are never simply the one-dimensional figures that too often are found in fantasy novels. A plot filled with surprises will pull readers in from the start, and draw them along through the fast-paced narrative, to a conclusion that is bittersweet, yet deeply satisfying --Robert D. San Souci, author of BRAVE MARGARET: AN IRISH ADVENTURE and FA MULAN: THE STORY OF A WOMAN WARRIOR, the basis for the author's screen story for Disney's MULAN.

Little Sister by Kara Dalkey.

Searching for the wandering soul of her beloved sister, Mitsuko enlists the aid of a host of supernatural friends in this colorful fantasy, set in 12th-century Japan. As a member of an eminent clan, Mitsuko has spent her first 13 years in a courtly, constricted world. When part of her family is set upon, first by warrior monks who leave her new brother-in-law Yugiri dead and his wife (her sister Amaiko) dazed and numb, then by an ambitious local lord with marriageable sons, Mitsuko finds the courage to flee into the forest--and to accept the company of Goranu, a mischievous, immortal shape-changer. Sure that Amaiko's soul has followed Yugiri's into the land of the dead, she sets out to reclaim it, sped on her way by several Buddhist and Shinto spirits, some kind, some dangerous. Although elaborate courtesies, a round of poetry parties, and stylized conversation slow the beginning, Mitsuko will win readers over with her determination and the forthright way she faces the powers of heaven and hell. --Kirkus Reviews.

The Sleep of Stone by Louise Cooper.

Ghysla is the last of her race of winged shape-shifters who were common before human beings proliferated. She is content with her solitary existence until the day she sees and falls in love with Anyr, a prince. Understanding that her clawed, sharp-toothed appearance could shock or frighten him, Ghysla uses her abilities to become various animals--most successfully, a seal that Anyr looks forward to greeting--and accompanies him through field, forest, and coast. Ghysla is happy with this strange relationship until the day that she learns Anyr is to marry. Blinded by unrequited love, she casts the ``sleep of stone'' on his betrothed, Sivorne, and takes her place at the wedding, unaware of the tragedy she has set in motion...While Anyr and Sivorne could be any beautiful folkloric couple, their feelings and desires make them realistic and believable; Ghysla is a truly unique creation, almost human but not quite, with a combination of morals and desires that suit her origins. Mornan, the sorcerer that Anyr consults to save his true bride, is another fascinating character with secrets that change the course of events. Impossible to put down, this will captivate and surprise readers. --Susan L. Rogers, Chestnut Hill Academy, PA, School Library Journal.

Shapeshifter's Quest by Dena Landon.

In the spirit of Tamora Pierce's work, Landon constructs a fantasy world under siege. The world's savior is 18-year-old Syanthe, a shape-shifter who can change from human to animal at will and who learns that she alone can save her race from the destruction of an insidious illness that saps strength from living things. On her journey, Syanthe joins a caravan of disguised warriors who share her goal. Despite an action-packed and highly detailed plot, Landon creates a quiet, spiritual tone, emphasizing Syanthe's physical and emotional connection to nature through many conduits: she can touch the spirit or mind of water, plants, animals, and even insects. Fantasy fans will enjoy this plucky heroine and her richly imagined world where magic abounds.

Half Human by Bruce Coville (editor).

Mermaids, selkies, centaurs, all in contemporary settings, are part of this collection of 10 short stories by such well-known authors as Jane Yolen, Tamora Pierce, and Nancy Springer. The stories revolve around the fascinating premise of creatures that are half-human, people who are half-animal. A young girl wakes up to the ultimate bad hair day--a head of snakes. A princess must learn to resist the dragon inside her. A young man brings his 300-year-old grandmother the gift of death. With each story, an intriguing computer-manipulated photograph illustrates the individual struggle with the animal side of human nature. Younger teens will be drawn to the horror and fascination of the stories; older ones can be nudged to see the myths, fairy tales, and legends that inspired the writers. All readers, however, will be intrigued with this unusual collection of well-written fantasies that illustrate the adolescent challenge of discovering both our animal and human natures. --Frances Bradburn, Booklist.


Shannon O'Donnell said...

I love it when you do your random word book finds. Some of these look really good. Thanks, Heather! :-)