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Season 2, Episode 3

Escape to Other Worlds

April 22, 2021

Charity is joined by high school librarian, Kristan, to discuss the sometimes dark and mysterious but always adventurous world of teen fantasy.  Book Recommendations for YA Readers.

Titles Mentioned in This Episode

h Find title on Hoopla


Charity 0:01 Welcome to the Planet Book podcast. I'm your host, Charity a youth services associate with the Springfield-Greene County Library District. On each episode, you'll hear guests talking about their favorite tween and teen books. Thanks for joining me today. On this episode, I'm joined by Kristan, a library media specialist with the Blue Valley Southwest High School in Oberlin, Kansas. Kristan, thanks for being with me this morning.

Kristan 0:28 Hi, thank you.

Charity 0:30 I am so excited to chat with you about books. And today we're talking all about teen fantasy titles, which I think is great. I will admit right off the top that that is not my wheelhouse when I'm reading YA. I typically read a lot of realistic fiction and sci fi dystopia, some mystery. So not a ton of fantasy. Although I did just put one on hold. It's a new one called Into the Heartless Wood by Joanna Ruth Meyer that just came out January of this year. And I put the audio book on hold which Springfield Greene-County Library District has on Hoopla. And it's about a boy who lives on the edge of a wood and he falls in love with a tree siren, which I thought sounded really interesting.

Kristan 1:20 Yes, I think I know what book you're talking about now.

Charity 1:23 It's been showing up on some lists. So I'm excited to read it. But I'm excited to have someone here who actually knows a lot about teen fantasy. So let's get right into it. Kristan, what did you bring for us today?

Kristan 1:35 So the first book I want to talk to you about is the first book in Ember in the Ashes series. This has been one of my favorite YA series to read in the fantasy world. It's by Sabaa Tahir and the first book is called An Ember in the Ashes. And it takes place in the Martial Empire, which is a pretty brutal world to live in. And one of our main characters, Laia, she's part of the lowest caste system, she's a scholar. And her parents and older sister died when she was young, so she's being raised by her grandparents along with her older brother. And one evening, Laia discovers that her older brother Darin has been keeping a really dangerous secret. And as she goes to confront him, a raid happens on their house. And a mask comes in, and a mask is the most brutal soldier of this world. And he arrests Darin on the grounds of treason. Now Laia is able to escape, but she knows she has to save her brother before the Empire kills him. And so she goes to the resistance, which is a rebel group fighting the Empire. And in order for them to agree to help her, she has to agree to turn spy for them. So she agrees. And she has to spy for the commandant of Blackcliff Military School, which is where they train all of their soldiers. And it is here that she meets Elias, who is our second character of the book. And he is the most promising soldier of the school, but he actually doesn't even want to be a mask. All he wants to do is run away; he wants to escape the Empire, but because of some things that happen, he can't and his and Laia's path become very intertwined. So this series, it's the four book series. It's full of world building, magic, magical creatures, and so many characters that you love or you love to hate. It's, it's such a great series really, really well done.

Charity 3:36 It sounds like it's got a little something for everybody in it.

Kristan 3:40 Yes.

Charity 3:41 It sounds kind of dark, maybe a touch of dystopia, which I like.

Kristan 3:44 Yes, yeah, I do tell my students that it is pretty dark and violent. And there are some mature themes in there. So that's probably something to be aware of going into it. But it's got some great love stories, and I'm a sucker for a good love story. And just a lot of characters that you become very invested in.

Charity 4:05 What type of reader would you recommend this book to? Who's this book for?

Kristan 4:10 You definitely have to like fantasy. If you don't like reading about magic, you won't enjoy it. But I think if you've read the Children of Blood and Bone books, you would like this, because it's got some of that great world building. Also, we have the Flame series, which I think the second book that one's getting ready to come out, also has some really good world building. Those both kind of go with the magic that is involved in Ember in the Ashes. So I think those are some great read alikes or if you've read those, I think you would like Ember in the Ashes.

Charity 4:41 Well, I'm going to have to add that one to my to read list because it does sound really intriguing and all the different elements. I really enjoy those kinds of stories. So I will have to try that one out. What's the next book that you brought for us today?

Kristan 4:57 It's also the first of a trilogy by Bridget Kimmerer, I think is how you pronounce her name. And it's called a Curse So Dark and Lonely. And this again follows two characters, Prince Rhen is the Crown Prince of Emberfall. And he's been cursed by a very, very wicked enchantress. And he has to live out this same fall season of his 18th year unless he gets a girl to fall in love with him. And at the end of each season, if no one has fallen in love, he turns into this really horrible and violent creature. Now he is very arrogant when the spell is cast. He thinks he's going to have no problem getting a girl to fall in love with him. And the spell is going to be broken, no big deal. But that doesn't happen. And numerous seasons start over and his creature ends up killing a lot of people. And so he basically when we meet him is at the end of his rope and doesn't think this curse is ever going to end. So our second character is Harper, and she lives in Washington, DC and her father's debts have landed the family in some pretty precarious situations. And her older brother is forced to work for some pretty violent men doing some not so great things for them. She's also really underestimated because she has cerebral palsy. And so her left side is weaker than her right, which makes people underestimate her. And one night when she's on the lookout for her brother, she sees this girl getting kidnapped. And as she goes to save the girl, she finds herself just all of a sudden whisked away to another world where she meets Prince Rhen. And so that's how their stories converge. If it sounds a little like Beauty and the Beast, it's because it's a very loose retelling. But I'm here to say it doesn't read like you're watching the Disney movie, great love story. You have your magic, your world building, your characters who you root for. And I like that it features somewhat a strong girl with a disability that you don't normally read about.

Charity 7:06 You know that one, I hadn't heard of that one. But I do also love that representation of a character with a disability playing the starring role and a strong character in this story. And both of these titles that you are sharing today seem like they are just so fascinating, good page turners.

Kristan 7:25 Yes.

Charity 7:26 What would you say to those readers who maybe aren't yet really into fantasy, and maybe are struggling to kind of get into it, like what draws you to fantasy?

Kristan 7:40 So for me, it started when I read Harry Potter, I think back in the sixth grade, and I just discovered that other worlds can be fun. And that you can still have a lot of action adventure, a lot of great character development. And yes, there is kind of that magical element. But I like that, you know, it's just this world you can escape to and I think right now with everything that we're going through, I find myself wanting to escape to other worlds and just see that there's hope, and that, yes, there are these big problems, but you can solve them. And so I would say if you find yourself wanting to escape, to give one of these fantasy series a try. I will say the Curse Breakers trilogy isn't as dark as Ember in the Ashes. You know, you still have some violence in there because of this creature. But it's not as dark as that first series I talked about. So maybe go with that one if you're kind of wanting to just, you know, get your feet wet in the fantasy genre.

Charity 8:46 Oh, that's a really good point. And I love that you talk about fantasy being an escape. I know so many readers, who are reading a lot of books along that vein. And so we all need that sometimes. And so fantasy is a good genre to visit another world, another realm.

Kristan 9:06 And there's still a lot of action and adventure. And so when I have my boys come in, my male students who, you know, love those action adventure books, I'm like, well try this one, because you still get all of that action that you might get in like an Alex Rider book, but you know, it's a new genre for you to try. So that's what I like about the fantasy world too, lots of action.

Charity 9:32 Well, those are great points. Kristan, you brought two great titles today, for our listeners. Hopefully, they will check them out. Thank you so much for being with me today.

Kristan 9:42 Thank you so much for having me. It was fun.

Charity 9:45 Yes, it so was.

Charity 9:47 Thanks for joining us for another episode of the Planet Book podcast. Check out the library's website at for these and other great recommendations. And follow us on Facebook for the latest news and events. This has been a production of the Springfield-Greene County Library District. Thanks for listening.

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