Gun-slingin’, Fire-startin’, Freedom-savin’ YA Heroines

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Image By Rebecca Angel

Here are three books I recommend for junior high and up to anyone who enjoys action and heart in their stories: The final installment of the manga series Library Wars: Love and War by Kiiro Yumi, Fate of Flames, book one in the Effigies series by Sarah Raughley, and Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton.

Library Wars has been a favorite series for both my son and me throughout the last few years. We’re sad it has come to an end, but loved every installment. Set in the “near future,” the Japanese government has started getting rid of books it decides are unsuitable. Librarians decide to fight for freedom of information and form a military group called the Library Forces. There are many battles between the librarians and the Japanese military, but also political power shifts are waged throughout. We are following Iku Kasahara who has moved up the ranks of the Library Forces to become a high-profile militia member.

In this episode, Iku is undercover protecting a famously-censored author as he makes his way to an embassy. Only half the series is about the main plot, as the romance between Iku and her superior officer, Dojo, fill the pages as well. What started out as hero-worship on her part became some amusingly awkward overtures of a possible relationship, but the last three books show that he truly returns her feelings and they need to get together already! This is one of those rare manga that showcase a heroine that is both feminine but not helpless (or dressed in ridiculous clothing). She earns respect from her colleagues on the force with her fighting skills and determination, while still being a hopeless romantic about Dojo. Besides, who doesn’t love the idea of fighting librarians? Check it out.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton is up for best YA Fantasy on Goodreads, and I can see why: the author manages to blend the independent, brawling spirit of the American Wild West set in the beguiling and colorful atmosphere of ancient Persia. The desert nation of Maraji is ruled by the Sultan, who has many sons, one of which is currently starting a rebellion, plus foreigner troops are terrorizing citizens. But although mortal problems fill the land, there is magic here. Djinn in different forms muddle with human affairs. Amani Al’Hiza, the heroine, is a poor, young girl. In this land, that puts you at less than zero in society. Her mother was executed for killing her abusive husband, and Amani now lives in her uncle’s house with his two daughters and a wife that resents another mouth to feed. Amani wants out of her little desert town and her chance comes by way of a foreigner named Jin. They form an unlikely alliance in a sharp-shooting contest that gets them almost killed. In fact, most of the book’s chapters get them almost killed. It’s a breath-taking ride in a unique world. I highly recommend it. This is also the selection for my fantasy book club; can’t wait for our discussion next week!

Fate of Flames by Sarah Raughley is the first of what will become a popular series. The book takes place in an alternate modern world where Phantoms, huge nightmare creatures, have put the Earth in a constant state of survival. Most people live in highly populated cities that have developed technology to keep away the beasts, but there is another weapon: Effigies. When the Phantoms first appeared, so did four girls who could control the elements of fire, water, earth, and air. Effigies are there to protect, and when one dies, another takes her place from anywhere around the world. A society developed to train and keep track of the Effigies as well.

In this first book, we meet Maia. She is an American teenager living with her uncle in New York City after the death of her parents and sister. She’s an introvert and spends her many alone hours on the internet fan pages of the Effigies. They are like rock stars; in fact, one of them has a singing career. The press follows them everywhere, and each Effigy has a devoted fan following. Maia’s favorite is Belle, the Water element, who is beautiful, stylish, poised, and is an amazing fighter of the Phantoms. The Effigies do not travel as a group; in fact, they often never meet each other. But Belle and the Fire Effigy, Natalya, were close friends. Natalya just died. Maia went to bed a regular teenager, and woke up as the new Fire Effigy. Fate of Flames is an action adventure with a likable inept heroine thrown into dizzying circumstances, trying her best to keep up and not get killed. Disillusionment, burgeoning romance, humor, and a plot with a diverse cast make this a good read.

(GeekMom received a copy of Fate of Flames for review purposes.)