Brandon Tusk is a librarian and single father, but a mysterious medallion changes his life by giving him the power to manipulate gravity. This allows him to fly, stop bullets, and fight crime as a new superhero. Airfoil: Origins by Steve Rzasa follows this exciting adventure of a man discovering his new identity and learning whether he’s suited for the task of crimefighting. Evil villains, family struggles, and a dynamic arch-nemesis make this superhero story a fast-paced and engaging read. A few technical issues slightly buffet the flight, such as typos and possible timeline glitches, but overall Airfoil: Origins soars high above such concerns.
Best for: Fans of comics, superheroes, and the ongoing fight of good against evil.
Discern: Some non-graphic sexual content, language, and lots of violence.
Cora and the Nurse Dragon
Twelve-year-old Cora lives in a world filled with dragons, who are all slaves or pets. But when Cora’s unusual nurse dragon allows her to open a business selling baby dragons, this hatches a conflict with the authorities. H. L. Burke’s Cora and the Nurse Dragon poses hard questions to its young subject. Should Cora release the illegal queen dragon, created by her nurse dragon, to a life of drugged egg production? Or will she set it free to an uncertain future? Her father, once an advocate of dragon freedom, now supports the law of the land. Her peers have notions of their own. Can she see through what’s expected in order to discern what’s right? Despite this potentially suspenseful setup, Cora and the Nurse Dragon keeps a light touch, preferring to serve the pleasant read of an immersive fable.
Best for: Older children and fans of middle-grade stories.
Discern: Light elements of a Christian worldview.
Desperate times call for desperate allies, and Jamie Foley’s Emberhawk calls forth brilliant fantasy with a unique and complex world of elemental entities, political machinations, and unlikely love. Kiralau finds herself lost and injured in the woods with Ryon, a spy and enemy of her people. She has no choice but to follow him to safety. When they reach his city, they find themselves caught in a plot to incite a war that will destroy both their nations. Foley’s worldbuilding is astounding, from the interactions between various tribes and ruling nations to the way elementals relate to humans and how humans receive and use their elemental powers. At first the romance seems a little cliché, but ultimately this too satisfies. Layers of plot and various twists make this a book readers won’t want to put down.
Best for: Young adults and any fan of fantasy, romance, and unique worlds in which characters have powers.
Discern: Romance as the story’s central focus, some violence, and oblique references to sex.
In a land where the human heart is considered gray, useless, and valuable only to be traded away, one girl refuses to become heartless. V. Romas Burton’s Heartmender pumps new blood into the classic good-versus-evil paradigm by way of the classic Seven Deadly Sins. To rescue her brother from a lord of darkness, young Addie Tye must triumph in a quest that feels both symbolically familiar and terrifyingly strange. Though this fairy tale opens slowly, it soon begins to race into nightmarish territory with uncomplicated prose tailored for young adult fans. Our agoraphobic heroine must overcome monsters that surpass all her fears. Puzzling ambiguity and a fumbled surprise cause the ending to skip a beat, but otherwise don’t detract from this explicitly Christian allegory’s heartfelt rush of emotion.
Best for: Young adults seeking a dark fairy tale.
Discern: Bloody violence, squicky surgical imagery, menacing evil, frightening creatures.
It’s always good to know that, no matter your problem, dragons will go a long way toward fixing it. Jordan’s Arrow, book 2 of Allen Steadham’s Jordan of Algoran series, finds the titular heroine making a good life for herself on a distant planet. But trouble is brewing as she and her people must face down the threat of a brutally expansionistic tribe. Thus, there be dragons, or in this case, deathwings. This story deals with interesting moral and ethical questions, but with large time jumps and seemingly important characters playing little part in the final conflicts, it often feels hurried. Anachronistic discrepancies in technology levels prove as much a part of this sequel as in book 1, especially at the end. Overall, this is a good follow-up to the earlier story, showing Jordan’s growth and struggles in her new world.
Best for: Young adults and older fantasy fans.
Discern: Battles and even slaughters, though they are not too graphic.
Let the Ghosts Speak
Perhaps you have, at some time or another, let yourself be talked into going to a party, and then regretted it. Justin Trotter did too—only he then met ghosts and was falsely accused of murder. In Let the Ghosts Speak, Bryan Davis has created a work of straight horror. Its setting in nineteenth-century France puts catacombs within the story’s reach, but the story’s potential historical aspect is little used. In this world, ghosts walk in pairs bound by guilt and hope, and the living commit crimes on the lurid edge of insanity. A strong spiritual note underscores the novel: ghosts are rationalized in the context of Christian belief, and the hope of heaven shines in the darkness. Although often grim, Let the Ghosts Speak gives a captivating read of murder, mystery, and spirituality.
Best for: Fans of horror and ghost stories.
Discern: Multiple and brutal character deaths, one man is accused of incest and necrophilia, references to suicide and prostitution, one person takes a brooch from a corpse in a mausoleum, someone performs what appears to be a magical ritual, and several artifacts are suggested to have supernatural power.
Light of Mine
Farm life can be idyllic when everyone pitches in. But for a fragmenting household, farming is a struggle that requires strong faith. Allen Brokken’s Light of Mine tells the allegorical tale of three children, Ethan, Aiden, and Lauren. Their lives in nineteenth-century rural America get upended when their dad leaves to fight approaching Darkness. Then, when their mother leaves to rescue Dad, the kids must decide whom they can trust, and how they must work together to use the weapons of faith their father left for them. How-to descriptions of building and cooking are interspersed with moral instruction: other characters see and remedy the children’s mistakes, and the story conveys a sound faith lesson.
Best for: Homeschooling families and other young readers.
Discern: Low-intensity fight scenes as well as the people of Darkness using a ritual involving pentagrams to call up spirits.
For several years, Cera has received a most unusual and disturbing birthday gift: a bizarre vision depicting how someone close to her will die. In Sandra Fernandez Rhoads’s urban fantasy novel Mortal Sight, first in her Colliding Line series, a young woman who has lived in fear of her unwelcomed gift discovers others with similar gifts, though it turns out she may have found more trouble than actual help. Frequent references to Milton’s Paradise Lost suggest a Christian worldview, as realistically imperfect people argue and bicker, undergo misunderstandings, and stumble. Overall, Mortal Sight is a promising beginning to an intriguing series.
Best for: Young adults.
Discern: Emphases on gifted creative people, such as musicians, poets, and others.
While time may well be wibbly and wobbly, what happens when time ends up looking like an M. C. Escher artwork? In Laura Hanks Kline’s Outsmarting Time, a woman must wend her way through a few different timelines to try to prevent bad events, including her own death. This intelligently crafted story offers clever twists and turns. Some time-travel logic could be debated, but the story stays consistent. Despite a few slow spots, Outsmarting Time is a good read with nice character development.
Best for: Adults.
Discern: Some strong language yet only chaste romantic elements; the story includes no overt references to faith or Christianity.
Of all Sara’s problems, her strange, vivid dreams are probably the least—even when she wakes up with minor injuries. Meanwhile, of all Dane’s blessings, the misty fae shimmering around him are far from the greatest. But worlds that cross can join. In Sorrowfish, Anne C. Miles gives a twist to the familiar notion of secret passages between our humdrum world and a magical world whose most important element is its religion, as established with doctrine, rites, and ministers. This may evoke our world’s Catholic Church; yet here, it reflects a perverted Christianity. Memorable creations such as the caprices and the Watchers complete the world. The story finds sympathy for likely and unlikely characters. Although the story’s end hastily resolves daunting issues, Sorrowfish is a creative, empathetic fantasy.
Best for: Fans of fantasy and Anne Elisabeth Stengl.
Discern: Several children are murdered in a magical ritual, a religious authority physically abuses people, small-scale fights, hints that a man uses alcohol and marijuana to seduce women, two instances of drunkenness, and mild language.
The Story Hunter
No tapestry is complete while loose ends remain. The Story Hunter is the final book in Lindsay A. Franklin’s Weaver Trilogy series, sequel to The Story Peddler and The Story Raider. The country of Tir is in turmoil. Queen Braith has been kidnapped and supplanted by a figurehead in thrall to an evil force. Famine and riots leave the people in unrest. Tanwen and the Corsyth Weavers set out on a quest to rescue the queen in order to restore peace to Tir, guided by the one person they know they cannot trust. Worse, not everyone is as they seem, and some people in their own party may betray them at any turn. Danger, intrigue, and unforeseen twists make The Story Hunter an entirely satisfying conclusion to the Weaver Trilogy series.
Best for: Young adults and any fans of unique quests and epic fantasy adventures.
Discern: Violence and some references to sexual assault.
The Vault Between Spaces
You can secure a door by locking it and then locking away the key. But what if the key is a person, and that person grows lonely and escapes? In The Vault Between Spaces, Chawna Schroeder sets fantasy in a bleak world that dimly mirrors a twentieth-century police state. Faerie-like races creatively echo the six days of creation, and other creative religious symbols infuse the story. The blend of Faerie and grim modernity holds merit, yet may confuse readers’ expectations, fixing attention on the misery of totalitarian oppression only to push it aside for Faerie dangers. Still, The Vault Between Spaces is an inventive fantasy with heart for its religion and its characters.
Best for: Fantasy fans.
Discern: Several characters are murdered in cold blood, a helpless captive is abused, one battle, and a character drinks a concoction made partially of blood.