Category Archives: Science Fiction/Fantasy

Antony John. Firebrand. New York, NY: Dial Books, 2013.

firebrand In a future post-apocalyptic world, Thomas and his friends have succeeded in saving their parents, the Guardians, from invading pirates. However, the pirates still have hold of Roanoke Island. Thomas’s group has commandeered the pirates’ ship and must now decide whether to move on and risk the loss of their powers over the elements, or stay within reach of the pirates and risk losing their lives.

Having been told all of his life that he did not have a power, Thomas is still learning what his power does and how to use it. When the use of his power allows him to hear a radio message calling for refugees to come to Fort Sumter, Thomas is convinced that they should take the risk of losing their powers and head to a safer place. It isn’t until a pirate’s arrow kills their leader, Kyte, that the Guardians decide to go along with this plan.

Fort Sumter will reveal answers to the questions that have plagued Thomas and his friends. What power do the pirates think Griffin possesses that would be worth enough to kill for? Are there other secrets that the Guardians kept from their young? And how has this colony on Fort Sumter survived so long without encountering the plague?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, John, Antony, Novels in Series, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Denise Grover Swank. The Curse Keepers. Las Vegas: 47North, 2013.

cursekeepersEllie Lancaster has lived her whole life in the small town of Manteo on Roanoke Island, North Carolina and has mostly resigned herself to a lifetime of feeling out of place, of not knowing where she fits in this world. That is, until she meets Collin Dailey. When she was growing up, Ellie’s father regaled her with tales of the Lost Colony. That colony, on Roanoke Island, vanished over four centuries ago. During the colony’s short existence, two men sought to save it by driving the spirits of a dangerous enemy tribe away. According to Ellie’s father, only the descendants of these two men know the truth about what happened to the Lost Colony. Ellie is one of those descendants–she is a Curse Keeper.

Despite her father’s efforts to teach her what he knows, Ellie has dismissed the legend, and her family’s role in it, as just a yarn spun through the years. The warning that when the two Curse Keepers meet, a supernatural gate will be opened and those banished spirits will come seeking revenge–pure nonsense! Or so Ellie thinks until the day she meets Collin Dailey. That day Ellie is literally struck breathless with the realization that the legacy and the legend passed down by her father are completely true.

Confronted with the authenticity of the prophecy, Ellie and Collin must now team up to combat supernatural beings, while struggling with their mutual dislike for one another versus the irresistible pull brought on by their shared legacy.

The Curse Keepers is the first book in a new series of the same title.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog


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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Novels in Series, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Swank, Denise Grover

Gwenda Bond. Blackwood. Long Island City, NY: Strange Chemistry, 2012.

BlackwoodBearing the brunt of a centuries-long family curse in a small town isn’t easy, especially if you’re a seventeen year-old girl. Miranda Blackwood has gotten used to being called a freak and being treated like something of a leper, but that doesn’t mean she likes it. The Blackwood family has lived on Roanoke Island since the times of the original Lost Colony. Locals consider Blackwoods bad luck. Miranda mostly keeps to herself. She doesn’t want to draw attention or give credit to the family folklore. She interns as a set and costume lackey at the Waterside Theater, which puts on productions of The Lost Colony for tourists visiting the island.

One ordinary night, on what seems like a routine performance, Miranda notices something strange while she watches the end of the show with the stage manager, Polly. She sees a life-sized, black ship that is careening toward the performers. Nobody, not the performers nor the audience members, notices the ship, except Miranda. She watches as the ship approaches the stage. At the last second, on impulse, Miranda leaps onto the stage to throw herself at the seven-year-old actress playing Virginia Dare. Too bad no one else present understands Miranda’s actions. What was meant as a virtuous, self-sacrifice on Miranda’s part is chalked up by the cast and crew as the typical Blackwood weirdness. After the show, the director chews out Miranda’s unprofessional actions, questioning whether or not Miranda should participate in future performances.

Miranda heads home, haunted by the embarrassment and the phantom ship. She lives outside of the picturesque part of Manteo with her father, her golden retriever named Sidekick, and her old yellow car (complete with a dashboard hula girl) that she affectionately calls Pineapple. Since her mother’s death several years prior, Miranda has taken care of her father. Over time, her father’s alcoholism has grown worse. His skin is so ruddy from drinking that his odd, snake-shaped birthmark is almost obscured. Miranda crashes on the couch so she can greet her father when he returns home intoxicated and help him into bed.

Morning comes and Miranda’s father never comes back home. Confused, and slightly concerned, Miranda goes looking for him. She finds the town huddled around the police station.  Police Chief Rawling reports that around 100 people on the island went missing overnight. People have inexplicably vanished; leaving without any sign of intentional abandonment. The official number is later finalized at 114, coincidentally the same number of people missing several hundred years ago in the Lost Colony. Shaken by the sudden mass disappearances, Rawling calls his seventeen-year old son, Phillips, home.

Phillips Rawling thought he had escaped the island for good. Once he started hearing the voices, he made trouble to force his parents to send him away. Off the island, Phillips is normal, like any other teen, but on the island, he can’t shut out the voices of spirits. The clamor of the voices is enough to make him go crazy. He isn’t interested in returning home, but his father has already made arrangements. Police Chief Rawling doesn’t believe in supernatural occurrences and other fantastical nonsense, but something in his gut tells him that Phillips might be able to help. However, Phillips has his own agenda. If he’s forced to go back to Roanoke Island, then he’s bent on finding one person first: Miranda Blackwood. She’s a primary focus of the voices’ chatter, and none of it is any good.

Blackwood is novelist Gwenda Bond’s first young adult novel, published in 2012. In the interim, Bond has published another work, The Woken Gods, and her third novel, Girl on a Wire, is set to be released in October 2014. In Blackwood, Bond weaves together historical events (portrayed with fictionalized liberties), supernatural elements, and teen romance, all doused with a healthy dash of humor. The novel includes a concise summary of the Lost Colony to prime readers with background information before Bond’s story begins.  Bond infuses the original legend of the Lost Colony with quite a bit of imagination. Blackwood is perfect for readers on the look-out for an intelligent young adult novel.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Bond, Gwenda, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Dare, Historical, Romance/Relationship, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Lights, Camera, Novel: Alexander Key’s Escape to Witch Mountain.

If you’re in the right age bracket, you might remember Escape to Witch Mountain from your childhood. Which format and version you recall depends on your generation. Novelist Alexander Key first wrote the book in 1967. Key began his career as a well-known illustrator who eventually transitioned into writing. His writing can be described as science fiction for kids. Key was born in Maryland and spent many years in Florida before moving to the mountains of North Carolina with his wife and son. A fan page on Key says that he and his family made the move after they “decided Florida was growing too fast.” Much of Key’s work is currently out-of-print. Escape to Witch Mountain is one of Key’s best known titles. The book tells the story of orphans Tony and Tia who possess supernatural gifts and are on the hunt to figure out their origins before the evil Lucas Deranian reaches them first.

In 1975, Disney released a film adaptation of the novel directed by John Hough, which, at the time, became one of their most popular live-action movies. The movie follows the basic plot from beginning to end with some noticeable modifications. First, the setting was relocated from the East coast to the West coast, where the movie was filmed. In the novel, Father O’Day helps the children on their quest and protects them from Deranian. In the movie, O’Day plays the same role, but his character is a widower named Jason O’Day. Deranian is the central villain in the novel, whereas in the movie he becomes ancillary to his mastermind boss, Aristotle Bolt. The child actors who play Tony and Tia aren’t perfect physical matches for their book counterparts who are supposed to look unearthly with their olive-skin and light hair. Instead, they look like wholesome child actors.

 

This clip, from TCM, shows Tony and Tia’s arrival to the orphanage. The movie’s portrayal is much lighter and more innocent: Miss. Grindley is kinder and Truck, a bully at the orphanage, is much less threatening. Yet the most surprising change is Tia speaking. Muteness is a major feature of her character. In the novel, Tia is seen as an oddity because she does not speak out loud. Instead, she carries a pad and pen around to communicate with other people. She is able to converse with her brother telepathically. Another clip from TCM shows that the movie still includes her telepathic communication with Tony.

Disney created a sequel called Return from Witch Mountain in 1978, also directed by John Hough. The same child actors, Ike (now known as Iake) Eisenmann and Kim Richards, reprized their roles as slightly older Tony and Tia. Bette Davis and Christopher Lee starred as the movie’s villains who hoped to manipulate the siblings’ powers. Four years later, Disney released yet another sequel, Beyond Witch Mountain with a new director. By this time, the original Tony and Tia has grown out of the roles and were recast. The plot appears to pick up from after the original 1975 Escape from Witch Mountain adaptation and it ignores the story-line from the 1978 Return from Witch Mountain. This second sequel was created as a pilot for a possible TV series. But since no networks expressed interest, no other episodes were filmed.

Over a decade later, in 1995, Disney remade Escape to Witch Mountain as a made-for-TV movie. The movie shared some elements with Key’s story, like orphaned siblings with powers (renamed Danny and Anna). Most of the TV movie departed from the original plot though, for instance Danny and Anna are initially separated. Finally, in 2009 Disney produced its latest rendition, called Race to Witch Mountain with Dwayne Johnson, AnnaSophia Robb and Carla Gugino. Like the 1995 adaptation, Race only shares some passing similarities to Key’s novel and the 1975 film. Adolescent Tony and Tia were remodeled as teenaged Seth and Sara. As the years passed, it seems that each revision departed further from the original, maybe as a means to refresh and modernize the story, while still maintaining essential characters and motivations.

Escape to Witch Mountain and its many adaptations are nostalgic classics. Alexander Key’s novel is available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog and has been previously blogged on here. The film and TV adaptations are not available through the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog. If you’re local to the area, Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Race to Witch Mountain (2009) are available at the Chapel Hill and the Durham Public Libraries and could make an interesting back-to-back screening of two adaptations thirty-four years apart.

Sources consulted here: The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s BooksJenny’s Wonderland of Books blogLos Angeles Times (on the child actors from the 1975 & 1978 films), New York Times, Roger Ebert, TCMTCMDb, Thru the Forgotten Door: Into Alexander Key’s Magical Worlds (Alexander Key Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2004), Wikipedia (Alexander KeyEscape to Witch Mountain — Novel, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1975 Film, Return from Witch Mountain, Beyond Witch Mountain, Escape to Witch Mountain — 1995 Film, Race to Witch Mountain), The Witch Mountain Experience (Fan Site, hasn’t been updated since about 2007)

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Filed under 1970-1979, 1975, 1978, 1980-1989, 1982, 1990-1999, 1995, 2000-2009, 2009, Children & Young Adults, Key, Alexander, Mountains, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Jennifer Estep. Midnight Frost. New York: Kensington Publishing, 2013.

Midnight FrostGwen Frost can’t stop having nightmares. They’re eerily realistic and they all end the same way, with dreamy Logan Quinn, Gwen’s (almost) boyfriend, stabbing her in the chest. Since Jennifer Estep’s last Mythos Academy installment, Logan and Gwen’s developing relationship has been brought to a screeching halt following Gwen’s arrest and trial for the crime of releasing Loki from his imprisonment. Now Gwen has no idea about Logan’s whereabouts. And his absence is weighing heavily on her, along with the increased attention from the rest of the student body. Students don’t just point and stare – they’ve created a phone app to track Gwen’s every move.

She might be Nike’s Champion, selected by the Goddess herself, yet Gwen has her doubts. She isn’t strong or fast like the other students of Mythos Academy who have warrior lineages. Students descend from Vikings or Amazons, or even Spartans. Gwen  is just a Gypsy, albeit a Gypsy with the mysterious skill of psychometry, a magical trait that allows her to learn about people or objects simply through touching them.

And the Reapers want her dead.

During a botched attempt to poison Gwen in the Library of Antiquities, librarian Nickamedes is poisoned instead. Professor Metis works what magic she can to keep Nickamedes alive, but it’s up to Gwen and her friends to seek the antidote to the deadly Serket sap. Their trek leads them to the Denver branch of the Mythos Academy. A rare flower, Chloris ambrosia, grows in the Eir Ruins near the school and contains the antidote to cure Nickamedes’ poisoning. Despite an early threat en route to Denver, the journey feels easy, a little too easy. Sure the Reapers want to kill Gwen. But why are they luring her all the way to Denver?

Midnight Frost is the fifth book in novelist Jennifer Estep’s Mythos Academy series. In this volume, readers will discover a few more details about Gwen’s father, Tyr Forseti, plus some unsavory information about her paternal relatives. There is a map of the school’s Library of Antiquities in the front of the book and a few brief indices at the back of the book on the Warriors and the Magic, the Mythos Academy, the Students, the Adults, and the Gods and the Monsters to get readers entrenched in Gwen’s world. Estep keeps her characters relatable. She merges the supernatural with the everyday; characters possess extraordinary powers yet exhibit normal teenaged impulses too. Estep also blends many strands of mythology. What other book could readers pick up that combines elements of Norse, Egyptian and Greek mythology, and feature a cheeky talking sword?

Young adult readers ages 13 and up will enjoy this mythological urban fantasy series.

If you’re new to this series, start by reading our first entry on Estep’s Mythos Academy. Or, check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Estep, Jennifer, Mountains, Novels in Series, Science Fiction/Fantasy

Robin Ford Wallace. The Woman Who Loved the Sea. United States: CreateSpace, 2013.

Piney Point Island is home for Claire.  Claire’s mother, a volatile, unstable person had trouble putting down roots.  She didn’t plan to stay on the island, and every few years threatened to leave, but then her mood would blow over and stay they did.  Their neighbors, the Flannerys, became a second family to Claire.  Mr. Flannery, a high school teacher, charmed Claire and his own daughters, Juliet and Cordelia, by quoting Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and the other masters of English poetry.  But Mr. Flannery wasn’t just a romantic dreamer, he was good about money too.  Over time, he bought up property at one end of the island and built houses for his daughters.  When he built a new house for himself, he sold his original house, just a cottage, to Claire.

Claire, barely twenty and a waitress, was proud to have the money for a down-payment, and she was determined to make the little cottage her home for life.  But then into her life walked Richard Danthe, a rich boy doing penance for bad behavior by working as a pizza delivery man.  Claire fell for Richard and after they married, she helped him develop his career.  But once Richard’s business grew, they moved to Charlotte, far from the island and the sea that Claire loves so much.

Claire’s marriage to Richard, which had been stale for years, is finally undone by Richard’s dalliances with two high school girls.  As The Woman Who Loved the Sea opens, Claire is back on Piney Point Island.  Claire has no plans, except to watch the sea, paint, and renew her friendship with the Flannerys.  Cordelia and Juliet are the same as ever, but they are worried about their father who is drinking too much and appears to be under the spell of Leslie Orange, an ambitious realtor.  Ms. Orange want to develop Piney Point, and she has allies, including a boorish artist whom she is playing off against Mr. Flannery.  Claire aligns herself with Cordelia and Juliet, but what help can she be when her vengeful husband Richard is intent on compelling her to come back to Charlotte?  And then, there is that new mystery man in her life–a beachcomber who admires her paintings and excites her passion–and who comes and goes like the tide.

In The Woman Who Loved the Sea, Robin Ford Wallace mixes the familiar elements coastal development and a vengeful spouse with fantasy and a bit of Shakespeare.  It makes for an interesting read.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Wallace, Robin Ford

Edward Lazellari. The Lost Prince. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2013.

The Lost PrinceWhat if your entire life was an illusion? What if you were living a double life — and you didn’t even know it?

In Awakenings, the first book in Edward Lazellari’s Guardians of Aandor series, readers meet Cal MacDonnell, a police officer, and Seth Raincrest, a struggling photographer. At first glance, the two men seem to have little in common – except for one distinguishing characteristic. Both men suffer from retrograde amnesia. They have no memory of their prior lives. Unexpectedly and inexplicably, fantastical creatures begin to hunt down MacDonnell and Raincrest. Over the course of the novel, Lazellari develops, through multiple plot lines and perspectives, that Cal and Set originate from an alternate, medieval land, called Aandor. They traveled to Earth to protect the infant prince of Aandor from a group of assassins. But the prince was lost and their memories were wiped clean after an accident.

With the sequel, The Lost Prince, Cal and Set gradually remember more details about their former lives. During the prologue, more characters experience sudden seizures that return their memories of Aandor. Malcolm Robbe is an industrial titan and the top weapons producer in America. Allyn Grey is the reverend at the First Community Baptist Church of Raleigh. Or so their earthly memories would lead them to believe. Recollections of Aandor and their botched mission complicate their relationships on Earth. Reverend Grey, for example, shocks his family by integrating his pagan beliefs from Aandor with his Christian ministry. And Cal’s wife, Cat, is set on edge when Cal remembers his betrothed, a wealthy and beautiful lady.

However, the search for the prince is the driving action in the second chapter of this series. The guardians, with their refreshed memories, are desperate to get their hands on the prince before the vicious sorcerer Dorn finds him. Dorn is bent on purifying Aandor from supposedly lesser races. He lives in the neighboring land of Farrenheil and wishes to control Aandor.

Daniel, the thirteen year-old prince, stumbles between regular danger and momentary safety. Dorn and the guardians aren’t the only ones searching for Daniel. Law enforcement and the press have branded Daniel as the “teen killer” after murdering his abusive stepfather. For the time being, Daniel is safe, but only marginally so.  Seedy private investigator Colby Dretch has sheltered Daniel with his sister Beverly and her lascivious sixteen year-old daughter, Luanne in a trailer parker situated in the “boonies” of North Carolina. However, Colby doesn’t hold Daniel’s best interests at heart. He has a secret agenda. Dorn employed Colby to locate and deliver Daniel to him. Now that Daniel is willingly in his care, will Colby surrender him over Dorn? Or will Cal and Seth or another one of the newly awakened guardians rescue Daniel first?

Although Lazellari has included enough detail for new readers to catch on to the story, readers might want to start with the first book in the series for a fuller experience given the length and intricacy of the novels and the quantity of characters. Lazellari handles the complexity of the characters’ double lives well. The characters express a range of reactions to their reinstated memories. Some are not troubled by the duality, while others are conflicted by the duality and where they truly belong.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Lazellari, Edward, Nash, Novels in Series, Piedmont, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Wake

C.K. Volnek. Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island. United States: Spark Books, 2011.

ghostdogofroanokeIt feels like fate when Jack Dahlgren’s family inherits his great-aunt Ruth’s home on Roanoke Island in North Carolina. His dad has lost his job, and all the family’s savings are gone. But twelve-year-old Jack doesn’t want to live on Roanoke Island, especially in a house that the kids at school say is haunted. He also feels responsible for his little sister’s accidental fall off of a nearby sea cliff, which put her in a hospital in Raleigh. On top of everything, a hurricane is bearing down on the Outer Banks, howling like a monster.

…Or is it a hurricane? There’s definitely some stormy weather, but there’s also something dark and scary living in the woods near the Dahlgrens’ new house. When Jack investigates, he finds a mysterious, vanishing mastiff, and something much wilder. Later, Jack meets and befriends their Algonquin neighbor, Manny Braboy, who explains it all– the evil living in Jack’s woods is a Witiku: a demon summoned by the natives of Roanoke Island in the sixteenth century to rid the island of all invaders. Incredibly, Manny tells Jack that he, Jack, must be the one to defeat the Witiku. The twelve-year old is skeptical, but when Manny takes him back to the sixteenth century to observe the events of the Lost Colony unfold, he begins to believe. Will Jack defeat the Wikitu? Will Roanoke Island finally be at peace? Will Jack ever be happy in his new home?

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2011, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Dare, Historical, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Volnek, C. K.

Brenda Tetreault. Prophecies and Destinies. Baltimore: PublishAmerica, 2012.

propheciesanddestiniesIn this, the concluding installment in the Bounty Cove Chronicles, all the couples we have come to know in the previous five novels must work together to defeat the evil that has been feeding on their kind for aeons.

At fifteen years old, Lily Sullivan is nothing but trouble. The feisty red-headed teenager’s obsession with her good-for-nothing boyfriend Trevor finally causes her father to take action–he sends her to live with her Aunt Tess in the small town of Bounty Cove, North Carolina. Within a year, Lily has forgotten Trevor and fallen in love with Colby, a quiet local boy who doesn’t push or pressure her. But then Colby moves away. He promises he’ll be back for her, and Lily believes him, but it still breaks her heart. Twenty years later, a man collapses on her doorstep– it’s Colby, finally able to return to the one woman he never stopped thinking about. Now that they’re back together, nothing can stand in the way of their love.

Or so they think. A dangerous evil that has been haunting Bounty Cove for ages is rising, and Colby is its target. Bounty Cove has always been a strange crossroads between what regular humans believe in and what actually exists. Until now, no one has been able to explain why; those affected have simply had to accept the strangeness of their abilities, or those of their significant other, and move on. Now, everything is going to become horrifyingly clear and it’s not only Colby and Lily who are in danger, but all of Bounty Cove. Will Colby, Lily, Devil, Angeline, Natali, Britt, and the others be able to stop the malevolent force seeking to destroy their lives after they have worked so hard for peace?

Check out the final reckoning in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Coast, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Tetreault, Brenda

Jennifer Estep. Crimson Frost. New York: Kensington Publishing, 2013.

With the Norse chaos god Loki freed from his prison, Gwen Frost should be extra careful. Besides an evil god, she also has to look out for his Champion, a murderous girl called Vivian, and her army of Reapers. Life at the Mythos Academy, high in the supposedly peaceful mountains just outside of Asheville, has never been more dangerous. And yet, Gwen has never been so happy. Logan Quinn, the boy she’s had a crush on forever, has finally asked her out. He’s even given her a winter present– a beautiful snowflake necklace. They’re sitting together in a local coffee shop when Gwen’s reality finally comes crashing down around her. She’s arrested by the Protectorate, her world’s governing body, for the crime of…freeing Loki from imprisonment.

It all seems like some ridiculous joke. Gwen almost died in the attempt to keep Loki from being unleashed on the world, and now she’s being accused of helping him to escape? The Protectorate is very serious, however, in its accusation. Soon the entirety of Mythos Academy knows that Gwen is an evil Reaper, and they all want revenge. This would be uncomfortable in a normal high school, but at Mythos Academy, a training school for the descendants of ancient warriors, it’s definitely deadly. Will Gwen be able to survive not only Loki and his Champion, but the anger of her fellow students? Will she ever clear her name? And will Logan stand by her during her trial, even when his father is the head of the Protectorate?

Young adult readers ages 13 and up will enjoy the continuing adventures of Gwen and her friends in this fourth installment in the Mythos Academy Novels.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Buncombe, Children & Young Adults, Estep, Jennifer, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Science Fiction/Fantasy