Category: Urban Fantasy


The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordanby Rick Riordan
ISBN-13: 978-0786838653
Hyperion Books, New York, 2010
400 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Mythology

TEASER: Percy Jackson’s biggest concern used to be trying to not get kicked out of school. Now he had ten days to safe his mother and stop war between the gods that would devastate the earth.

SUMMARY: Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson can’t seem to stay out of trouble. To make matters worse, he keeps getting attacked by mythical creatures. WHile on the run from various Greek monsters, Percy’s mother is captured by a Minotaur and taken to become a prisoner of Hades. Soon Percy is revealed to be the son of Poseidon. But someone is accusing Percy of stealing Zeus’ lightning bolt. Percy and his friends only have ten days to find and return Zeus’ lightning bolt and save Percy’s mother from being a permanent resident of the Underworld.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first-person perspective through the eyes of Percy Jackson. The characters are very lovable, even Ares bully daughter, Clarisse. The characters are very relatable and thoughtful. Percy deals with a lot of emotions in this first book, from the loss of his mother, the only parent he’s ever known, to the realization that his father is the infamous Greek sea-god. He goes through the expected feelings of anger and resentment towards his father and the other gods. This is something that a lot of the demigods go through. This resentment is part of the overall conflict of the series.

Riordan adds a modern twist to the drama of the Greek pantheon. He brings mythic creature like the satyr to life in characters like Percy’s best friend Grover. Grover is a young satyr with bad skin, and affinity for eating coke cans, and is determined to get permission to go in search of the great Pan. These books are fun to read for adults and kids alike. They are filled with humor and fun bits of Greek mythology.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: He is also author of the adult Tres Navarre series. He has also written The Heroes of Olympus, another series in the percy Jackson Universe, series and the Kane Chronicles. The Kane Chronicles focuses on Egyptian mythology. He also has helped develop many books in The 39 Clue series. His book The Lightning Thief was made into a motion picture in 2007. He lives with his wife and two sons in San Antonio, Texas.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.rickriordan.com/home.aspx

READING LEVEL 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: N/A

DEFENSE: N/A

CURRICULUM TIES: This would be a fun series to read while learning about Greek mythology.

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss the use of Greek mythology in this book. How do you feel Riordan did at modernizing the Greek pantheon?

WHY INCLUDED: Even though the reading level for this book is rather young, I would recommend this series to older teens and adults. The Percy Jackson series is fun and unique. I think anyone who is a fan of Greek mythology would appreciate this book.

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
ISBN-10: 0061450545
HarperCollins, New York, 2008
416 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Werewolves, Witches, Necromancy

TEASER: Chloe’s seeing dead people, so her family has her sent to Lyle House, a group home for troubled teens. But something sinister is going on at Lyle House.

SUMMARY: Chloe Saunders is a pretty typical high school student. That is until she states seeing ghosts. Her family sends her away to Lyle House, a group home for troubled teenagers. Here she meets and interesting group of teenagers who are all there for different reasons. When Chloe’s roommate mysteriously disappears the staff tell her that she went home. But Chloe know this is a lie because she sees ghosts, and her roommate is now one of them.

CRITIQUE: The story is written through the eyes of Chloe Saunders in first-person perspective. This is book one in the Darkest Powers Trilogy. It does end on a cliff-hanger. I actually ran out and bout the next book the minute I finished this one. I would have bought the third installment had it been available at the time. It is a highly addictive series that will keep you reading well into the night. It is a fast-paced story with lots of plot twists.

The characters are nicely developed. Armstrong gives dimention to all of her characters, even the bully Tori. Chloe’s character is slowly gaining confidence and courage throughout the series. She is very shy and stammers when she’s nervous. She is very uncomfortable with her gift and would give anything to have her life back. At the end of this book she is slowly starting to understand her powers and trying to not be afraid of them. She is also betrayed by someone she trusts and is left very confused at the end of this book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelley Armstrong is a New York Times bestselling Canadian author. She says she grew up in a typical middle-class family in Ontario and is the oldest of four siblings. She is the author of the popular adult Otherworld Series. She has been writing horror and fantasy stories since she was a child. Although she primarily writes fantasy books, she has written two crime novels.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/

READING LEVEL: 13+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: People main want to challenge this book because it contains witchcraft, wizardry, and necromancy.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: Discuss how Kelley Armstrong’s world is different from other books in the genre.

WHY INCLUDED: This is one of my favorite young adult fantasy series. I originally picked up the first novel because I was intrigued by the fact that the main character is a necromancer. I haven’t seen many characters of this sort in the young adult genre.

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
ISBN-13: 978-054722399-5
Clarion Books, New York, 2009
312 p.

GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Witches, Time Travel

TEASER: Every member of Tamsin’s family is a powerful witch…except her.

SUMMARY: Tamsin comes from a long line of witches. When she was born, there was a prophecy that she would be the most powerful among her family. But her powers never appear. She grows up feeling like an outcast. She tries to distance herself from her talented family members as much as possible by attending boarding school in Manhattan. When she’s home she must work in the family bookstore/magic shop. One day when working in the shop she accepts a job from a handsome stranger, pretending to be her talented sister. But Tamsin’s in way over her head. With the help of Gabriel, a childhood friend, Tamsin must go on a quest through time that will unlock secrets of her family and even herself.

CRITIQUE: The story is told in first person point of view through the protagonist, Tamsin. The characters are well written. Tamsin feel like an outcast from her family. She distance herself physically and emotionally from her talented sister and parents. Tamsin assumes that her family is ashamed of her but she realizes throughout the novel that her own self hatred blinded her to how much her family cares for her. Much of Tamsin’s bitterness is tied to her older sister Rowena who is an extremely gifted witch. She is also smart, beautiful, and is about to marry a kind, handsome young man. Rowena’s character is also given depth. We see later in the novel that she isn’t so perfect, nor does she want to be.

The plot was unique and will keep you on your toes. The dialogue is witty. This books has a lot of elements to it, a little bit of mystery, magic, romance, and time travel. Warning, this books is the first in a series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carolyn MacCullough was born and raised in Connecticut. She has traveled to Iceland, Scotland, and taught English in Sicily. She teaches creative writing to adults and teenagers at Gotham Writers Inc. and the New School. Her other novels are <emAlways a Witch, Falling Through Darkness, Drawing the Ocean, and Stealing Henry.

McCullough says she always wanted to be a writer, except for those times she wanted to be a ballerina, veterinarian, pilot, or princess. She currently resides in New York City. She claims that she spends just as much time writing as she does procrastinating.

AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: http://www.carolynmaccullough.com

READING LEVEL: 12+

CHALLENGE ISSUES: Some may challenge the fact that this book contains witchcraft and underage drinking and smoking.

DEFENSE: I would suggest looking at the ALA’s support page for challenged materials.

CURRICULUM TIES: N/A

BOOKTALKING IDEAS: How do you feel time travel was dealt with in this book? Do you see this as a new trend within the genre?

WHY INCLUDED: This title caught my attention because the main character was the one without magical powers. I included it for it’s originality and complex characters.