Colleen Cahill

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The city of Ansul was once known as a place of learning, with its schools, libraries and temples to many gods, but that was before the Ald came out of the desert and conquered the city, destroying anything and anyone connected to books. Seventeen-year-old Memer despises the Ald, but she must be careful because the last cache of books is stashed in her house, hidden in a secret room only a few can enter.

The situation seems calm but hopeless until Orrec and his wife Gry arrive, along with their pet lion, to stay with Memer's family. Orrec has been invited to recite poetry a much revered talent before the court of the Gand, leader of the Ald. The son and priests of the Gand quickly demonstrate their dislike of anything not centered around their religion and their goal of destroying anything not of Ald. In contrast, the rebel forces in Ansul want Orrec to be their voice, to arouse the people to overthrow their oppressors and take back their city. Memer longs to join the rebels, but realizes this would put Orrec and Gry in danger and also could compromise the hidden books. As tensions rise in the city, Memer learns that something more than books lies hidden in the secret room, and that through her family, she is tied to this mysterious power.

In Voices, acclaimed science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin returns to the universe she created in the award-winning Gifts (2004), allowing teen readers to see Orrec and Gry 20 years later and also to explore another part of their world. In a fascinating novel that focuses on a clash between two cultures, readers will be absorbed as one young woman learns that life is rarely black and white, and that your enemy can become your friend.

 

Colleen R. Cahill works at the Library of Congress where she is recommending officer of science fiction and fantasy.

The city of Ansul was once known as a place of learning, with its schools, libraries and temples to many gods, but that was before the Ald came out of the desert and conquered the city, destroying anything and anyone connected to books. Seventeen-year-old Memer despises the Ald, but she must be careful because the […]
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Corydon was born with a leg shaped like a goat’s, which was why the villagers drove him away as a scapegoat, blaming him for all the bad luck they had suffered. It is only after he is captured by pirates for their traveling sideshow of monsters that the young shepherd finds a real family.

Written by a mother and son team using the pen name Tobias Druitt, Corydon and the Island of Monsters renders the ancient myths of the Greek world with a modern touch. The Olympian gods, for example, are compared to a bossy multinational corporation, striving to wipe out all monsters, mostly because they just don’t like them.

With the aid of a powerful staff, Corydon escapes from the pirates and frees all the monsters, while befriending a pair of immortal Gorgons and a pregnant Medusa. One pirate sends word of the escape to Perseus, son of Zeus, who tries to hide his own cowardice by forming a band of heroes to destroy the monsters. Corydon must find a way to form his monster allies including the Minotaur, the Sphinx and the Harpy into an army of defense, one that can face the thousands of men Perseus lured to the island with claims of great treasure. To succeed, Corydon must also learn how to use the magic of the staff, even though that means entering the Land of the Dead.

Corydon eventually finds that he and his friends don’t have to stand alone against this power, as Pan, Artemis and other gods are on their side. As is often the case when the gods battle, it is the lesser beings who pay with their lives, but Corydon learns that this can be the price for freedom.

Corydon and the Island of Monsters is a great way to introduce classic legends to young readers. Two more books are planned to follow the adventures of this courageous boy, and I will be looking forward to both of them. Colleen R. Cahill is recommending officer of science fiction and fantasy at the Library of Congress.

Corydon was born with a leg shaped like a goat’s, which was why the villagers drove him away as a scapegoat, blaming him for all the bad luck they had suffered. It is only after he is captured by pirates for their traveling sideshow of monsters that the young shepherd finds a real family. Written […]
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Leaving home can be both exciting and scary, with new places, new people and maybe a bit of adventure. In Patricia Elliott’s teen novel, Murkmere, 15-year-old Aggie is understandably thrilled when she gets a chance to leave her dull life in the village to be a paid companion to the ward and heir of the local lord. Even warnings from her friend Jethro cannot put Aggie off and things seem to go well at Murkmere, at least at first. The steward of the manor, Silas Seed, is warmly welcoming and the Master of the manor, who is wheelchair-bound, has clearly chosen Aggie for this position, partly because of her age and partly because her late mother was once a maid at Murkmere. Leah, the Master’s ward, is not happy with her new companion and views Aggie with suspicion and anger. Leah is not Aggie’s only problem. A believer in the divine power of birds, Aggie is aghast to learn that Leah and the Master both disdain this official religion of the state. Silas asks Aggie to report back any odd behavior by Leah and while Aggie worries about her mistress being in moral danger, she is uncomfortable with spying. Even after Leah opens up a bit, Aggie still feels lonely and longs for home. All this changes after Leah finds a swan skin, one that has a strange pull over the young heiress.

Elliott’s fantasy echoes the fairy tales in which enchanted princesses becomes swans, but her story has a dark side, with deep secrets and evil schemes. The intriguing characters, twisting plot and atmospheric settings make this a fascinating page-turner that will beguile as well as thrill. It is a perfect book for those who like a gothic edge to their stories. Colleen R. Cahill is Recommending Officer of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the Library of Congress.

Leaving home can be both exciting and scary, with new places, new people and maybe a bit of adventure. In Patricia Elliott’s teen novel, Murkmere, 15-year-old Aggie is understandably thrilled when she gets a chance to leave her dull life in the village to be a paid companion to the ward and heir of the […]
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If your teen prefers short stories to novels, The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens, edited by Jane Yolen and Patrick Nielson Hayden, offers a range of excellent choices culled from stories published in 2004. In the first such collection especially for teens, the 11 entries cover the gamut from high fantasy to hard science fiction and everything in-between. From fairies living in handbags to augmented super dogs, flying islands, dark changelings and baby dragons, there is something for every reader’s taste. The contributors include many authors already popular with kids today, such as Garth Nix and David Gerrold, as well as some who might be new to teenage readers, including Theodora Goss and Kelly Link. A bonus story by Rudyard Kipling, first published 100 years ago, gives historic range to the collection. With suggestions for other books to read and a list of Honor Stories that came out in 2004, this anthology can lead the reader to even more wonderful tales. Colleen Cahill is Recommending Officer of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the Library of Congress.

If your teen prefers short stories to novels, The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Teens, edited by Jane Yolen and Patrick Nielson Hayden, offers a range of excellent choices culled from stories published in 2004. In the first such collection especially for teens, the 11 entries cover the gamut from high fantasy to […]
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In Stephen Baxter’s The Web: GulliverZone we are shown what teenagers might do for entertainment in the near future. Sarah is delighted to be spending World Peace Day by spinning into the Web and visiting the hot new theme park GulliverZone, which is based on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. She is not amused that her little brother and the most unpopular girl in school are tagging along, but sometimes older sisters have to pay a price and this one is not too high for the latest Web entertainment spot. Sarah and her companions had hoped for cool rides but instead stumble into a dark plot, one that could lead them to become slaves of an evil force that is trying to take over the entire Web. Only three kids stand between chaos and saving the whole computer network. This exciting book is especially good for those interested in computers and virtual reality.

Colleen Cahill is Recommending Officer of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the Library of Congress.

In Stephen Baxter’s The Web: GulliverZone we are shown what teenagers might do for entertainment in the near future. Sarah is delighted to be spending World Peace Day by spinning into the Web and visiting the hot new theme park GulliverZone, which is based on Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. She is not amused that her […]
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The word Siberia conjures up images of hardship and grueling labor in snowy wastelands. Rosita and her mother are banished to such a place in Ann Halam’s Siberia, her third science fiction novel for young adults. Once a scientist, Rosita’s mother now makes nails from scrap metal and tries to keep her daughter alive in a challenging environment. Both mother and daughter share a secret in their treasure box of seeds: these are seeds not of plants, but of animals, a cache of species that are endangered or extinct. In this repressive society, Rosita finds that even small mistakes can be dangerous; her mother disappears and she is sent away to a prison school. Toughened by life, Rosita sets out on a journey to reach sanctuary, not just for her own sake, but also to save her mother’s treasure. This compelling story is science fiction but has the atmosphere of a fairy tale, which makes it attractive to fans of either genre. Colleen Cahill is Recommending Officer of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the Library of Congress.

The word Siberia conjures up images of hardship and grueling labor in snowy wastelands. Rosita and her mother are banished to such a place in Ann Halam’s Siberia, her third science fiction novel for young adults. Once a scientist, Rosita’s mother now makes nails from scrap metal and tries to keep her daughter alive in […]
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Sorcery is usually seen as a great power, but in Justine Larbalestier’s Magic or Madness magic can be a dark curse. Reason Cansino has had an unusual childhood, as her mother Sarafina keeps the family traveling through Australia, trying to outrun Esmeralda, an evil witch and Reason’s grandmother. After Sarafina tries to kill herself, Reason finds she is now in the custody of her grandmother. If she had any doubts about Esmeralda working spells, one trip to the basement cures her uncertainty and sends the girl on a search for answers about her family background. Magic runs throughout her family tree, and Reason seems to have a choice of using the evil power or going mad. With the help of her neighbor Tom, Reason tries to escape her grandmother’s grasp and goes through a door that sends her to New York. Some hard lessons are learned as Reason searches for a way to make her life more than a choice between two unhappy paths.

Colleen Cahill is Recommending Officer of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the Library of Congress.

Sorcery is usually seen as a great power, but in Justine Larbalestier’s Magic or Madness magic can be a dark curse. Reason Cansino has had an unusual childhood, as her mother Sarafina keeps the family traveling through Australia, trying to outrun Esmeralda, an evil witch and Reason’s grandmother. After Sarafina tries to kill herself, Reason […]
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Carol Emshwiller is an award-winning writer whose new book for young adults, Mister Boots, is a fantasy, but don’t expect fairies, elves or magic wands. Ten-year-old Bobby is more familiar with California’s arid ranches and the poverty of the Great Depression than Oz or Narnia. While exploring one night Bobby discovers a naked man sleeping under a tree, a man who claims to be a horse. It is soon clear that Mister Boots is sometimes a man and sometimes a horse. He asks Bobby to keep his secret, something Bobby is good at because unbeknownst to all but her mother and sister, Bobby is actually Roberta. This disguise is not to fool the locals, but to protect her from an abusive, often absent father who obsessively desires a son. When her mother dies and Bobby’s father returns, it takes all of Mister Boots’ and Bobby’s magic to face the challenge.

Colleen Cahill is Recommending Officer of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the Library of Congress.

Carol Emshwiller is an award-winning writer whose new book for young adults, Mister Boots, is a fantasy, but don’t expect fairies, elves or magic wands. Ten-year-old Bobby is more familiar with California’s arid ranches and the poverty of the Great Depression than Oz or Narnia. While exploring one night Bobby discovers a naked man sleeping […]
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Moving to a new town and a new school can be a frightening thing. For Imogene, who has decided to leave her troubled ways behind, it is an opportunity to find a real friend. Looking for someone who is not part of a clique, she connects with Maxine, a loner who dresses in knee-length skirts and gets good grades. This could be a case of opposites attracting, since Imogene sports a few tattoos and doesn’t worry much about her grades. But both girls are smart, good-natured and have suffered from the hands of bullies, so as they learn from each other, their friendship blossoms.

Imogene does make a break with her past of gangs and other problems until she finds a new worry in the form of Adrian. It is not that he is a bully: he is a ghost. This would not be a big issue if he did not have a crush on her. His attention draws the notice of other supernatural beings, and Imogene begins to have strange dreams about her imaginary childhood friend, Pelly, and a band of weird creatures. These turn out to be fairies who are drawing an even darker force toward Imogene, one that threatens her very soul.

This urban fantasy, set in writer Charles de Lint’s fictional town of Newford, is full of ingenuity and wonder. De Lint, who describes his work as “mythic fiction,” is a master at creating believable characters and placing them in strange and fascinating situations. Whether or not you ever changed schools or were one of the “weird” kids, there is something for you in this absorbing novel. Colleen Cahill works at the Library of Congress, where one of her duties is Recommending Officer of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Moving to a new town and a new school can be a frightening thing. For Imogene, who has decided to leave her troubled ways behind, it is an opportunity to find a real friend. Looking for someone who is not part of a clique, she connects with Maxine, a loner who dresses in knee-length skirts […]
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We think of gifted people as those with special talents, such as math or painting. But what if you had the talent to twist human bodies, cut flesh with a glance or destroy living things with a flip of a finger? These gifts give the peoples of the Uplands power but also shape their society in a dark manner.

For generations, the Upland people have had strange, magical powers. The gifts travel down from father to son or mother to daughter, and those with the strongest abilities become leaders, making decisions, settling disputes and most importantly, protecting their people from others with gifts of their own. It is a hard land, with poverty common even among the clan leaders. This dark world is where Gry and Orrec grow up, and since their parents have strong abilities, they are expected to become the next leaders of their clans. But both are uncomfortable with their gifts: Gry refuses to call animals to her just to have them hunted down and Orrec, who showed his ability late, has no control over his talent. Since his family gift is to unmake things, he binds his eyes with a cloth after several accidents demonstrate that his power needs direction.

In Ursula Le Guin's new young adult novel, Gifts, we see a society based on the most gifted demonstrating the worst and the best of human nature. Gry and Orrec must not only decide how to use their talents wisely, but also how to deal with family pressures, clan diplomacy, and their usefulness as political pawns. After a brief visit from a man from the Lowlands who wanted to see the witches of the hills, both have a growing feeling that there could be another way to live.

As always, Le Guin has delivered a story that captivates and draws the reader in. Anyone who enjoyed her Earthsea trilogy will relish this new work and fans of dark fantasy, such as Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass, will want to check out this title as well. It is another of a long line of gifts from this talented author and well worth your time.

 

Colleen Cahill is Recommending Officer of Science Fiction and Fantasy at the Library of Congress.

We think of gifted people as those with special talents, such as math or painting. But what if you had the talent to twist human bodies, cut flesh with a glance or destroy living things with a flip of a finger? These gifts give the peoples of the Uplands power but also shape their society […]

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