Lyonesse: The Well Between the Worlds (Book 1) and Darksolstice (Book 2)
by Sam Llewellyn
Orchard Books, 2009 and 2010
$17.99, ages 9-12.
Idris Limpit never imagined he was anything but an ordinary school boy until the fateful day he's accused of being a Cross, a reviled being that's half-monster, half-human, and barely escapes execution.
His rescuer, a powerful magician, whisks him away from his fishing village to a place called the Valley of the Apples, where he goes through the rigors of training to be a monster tamer, only to discover his true destiny to be King of Lyonesse.
But Lyonesse is being pulled underwater and poisoned, and unless he can topple the evil Regent Fisheagle and her cruel son Prince Murther, all could be lost.
Though a complex read at times, the series transports you so completely into Idris's Arthurian world that it lingers in your thoughts long after the book ends.
Tunnels (Book 1), Deeper (Book 2) and Freefall (Book 3)
by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams
Chicken House, 2007-2010
$18.99. 496-672 pages.
Now in its third book and fast approaching its fourth, this riveting series follows Will Burrows and his best friend Chester as they search a massive subterranean world for Will's archaeologist father while trying to evade a ruthless band of Styx and stop its sinister plan to wipe out topsoilers with a deadly virus.
In the latest installment, the friends find themselves at the bottom of a subterranean pore, fleeing from evil twins and carnivorous creatures as they try to recover viles of the virus in time to thwart the Styx's plans.
I read this one in the dark of night with my headlamp on and felt like I too was underground stealing around dark corners with them. This is a great series for anywhere, but especially overnights in the tent or on a red-eye to vacation.
The Keepers' Tattoo
by Gill Arbuthnott
Chicken House, 2010
$17.99, ages 12 and up, 432 pages.
Adopted in infancy by an innkeeper and his wife, 12-year-old Nyssa has often dreamt of another life. But it isn't until a long-lost uncle pulls her aside in the night that Nyssa learns she was born a Keeper, a teacher who holds vast knowledge, and that an evil tyrant has sent Shadowmen to hunt her down.
The tyrant believes a secret tattooed on Nyssa's head and that of her twin brother could give him power over the Archipelago, and it's up to Nyssa to find her brother and unlock their powers before the tyrant Alaric and his Shadowmen get to them first.
This is one of those books that sneaks up from behind and pulls you in.
The Suburb Beyond the Stars
by M.T. Anderson
Scholastic Press, 2010
$17.99, ages 9-12, 240 pages.
In this followup to the wonderfully entertaining, The Game of Sunken Places, Brian and Gregory go looking for Gregory's missing cousin Prudence in the Vermont woods only to find that her neighbors are not where they are supposed to be, time is off-kilter, and something in the night is snatching up people.
Fast-paced and at times chilling, this second book in the series will be hard to put a bookmark in. You'll want to read straight through to the end.
Though this second book can be read by itself, it's even better paired with the first.
by Chris Bradford
Disney Hyperion Books, 2009 and 2010
$16.99, Ages 9-12, 368 pages.
After Japanese ninja murder his father and the rest of the crew of a British merchant ship, 12-year-old Jack Fletcher is adopted by a revered samurai and trained in the ways of the Japanese warrior class, only to find his troubles growing.
Unless Jack can survive an ancient ritual that tests a samurai's courage, skill and spirit, and learn a challenging sword technique, he won't be able to protect his late father's rutter, an indispensable navigation guide of the world's uncharted oceans.
The first two books in the trilogy, The Way of the Warrior and the just-released The Way of the Sword, will keep martial arts fans at the edge of their seats.