I love to read widely, but keep coming back to speculative fiction for children and teens. That’s no big surprise, since it’s also what I write. I adore the more literary end of the spectrum, and am amazed at the quality in Canada alone.
Below are six recent fantasy novels that represent the tiniest tip of a spectacular Canadian iceberg. There are so many more I could add here (and probably will, in later posts), but I’ve gone with six that have stuck with me, mostly due to the breath of their imaginative scope and the quality of the writing.
Bog, Karen Krossing
This middle-grade book deals with the issues of those raised to hate; in this case, trolls and humans. While the book is obviously a perfect metaphor for divisions in our own world, it steers clear of the heavy-handedness that could have killed this enthralling tale about identity.
Seraphina, Rachel Hartman
From the opening paragraphs this young adult novel had me. I was reluctant to get into a high fantasy with dragons, but the sheer beauty of the prose lured me in. The murder mystery, characters and relationships kept me reading. I’m on Shadow Scale now.
Sorrow’s Knot, Erin Bow
An original and fully realized world with extraordinary details and compelling characters. Brutal, beautiful and bruising. Genuinely scary young adult fiction. I’m excited for The Scorpion Rules – everything I’ve heard about it makes me desperate to get my hands on it when it comes out in September.
The Boundless, Kenneth Oppel
This middle-grade magical realist adventure had particular appeal to me as an immigrant. A wonderful twisting of Canada’s history, pairing the Canada Pacific Railway and historical characters like Sam Steele and Sandford Fleming with sasquatches, a swamp hag and a seven-mile long train. It meshed well with my revision for the citizenship exam, vividly creating a new folklore for the True North.
The Night Gardener, Jonathan Auxier
Visual, haunting and creepy. This middle-grade gothic thriller is about the desires that can destroy you, as two orphans become servants in a house shadowed by the deadly gloom of a sinister tree. The Night Gardener reads like a dark fairy tale in the kind of detail you always wanted to hear it.
Witchlanders, Lena Coakley
The world building in this young adult novel is perfect, setting up a story of dualities, faith and doubt, rich and poor to match the two protagonists. Their beautifully written travels, among restless covens, across sweeping landscapes and though dank catacombs, leads them to challenge all they believe about their societies. And I’ve been lucky enough to see an early draft of Worlds of Ink and Shadow – Lena Coakley’s next fantasy novel. It’s fabulous, and I can’t wait to read the final version in January.