I have a teen in the library who is a full-on fantasy reader (and this number seems to grow larger every year!). I have just about gone through EVERY BOOK in the fantasy section with him and thought I was at a loss until....I remembered I had two at home I read over the summer that were over the top! He's going to be SO happy tomorrow! And what are these titles? Well, glad you asked!
Fletcher never thought of himself as nothing more than the blacksmith's apprentice. He knows little about his background and has no family. But his life dramatically changes when a soldier who has survived the wars comes into town and gives Fletcher a scroll. Knowing little about it and allowing his curiosity to get the better of him, he reads the scroll and unleashes a power he never thought he possessed - one in which he has control over demons.
Usually reserved for wealthy families, demons are handed down from generation to generation but Fletcher is the unknown component because he has never had nor owned a demon and doesn't have the right pedigree. This makes him an anomaly which eventually leads him training to become a leader of an army for the Hominum Empire, fighting against the orcs.
At the military academy he finds himself in, he is also in the company of many others who are competing for top leadership positions including an elf of royal heritage, a dwarf with an upstanding family name, and human brother and sister, who believe themselves to be above all of them.
But Fletcher soon realizes there is more happening than he thought. Prejudice, long standing rivalry and dark political maneuvers take Fletcher further than he dared do by himself. He now has to trust those he thinks he can or be betrayed by those who hide their loyalty, and with whom their loyalties truly lie with.
What was so refreshing for me was to see a strong male character in a fantasy novel. Fletcher is real and brings a much needed masculinity to YA fantasy while not washing out the other secondary but critical characters, including some tough girls. Readers will be able to see literary and character influences the author uses, from The Lord of the Rings and even Pokemon (demons isn't the right word for the creatures in the novel....you'll understand when you read it). Matharu does such an excellent job at creating a novel based on elements of both low and high fantasy with characters, creatures and a setting that create personality, charm and deception. This novel truly delivers. First in a series I can't wait for!
Nic lives a hard life working in the mines as a slave for the Roman Empire. He remembers little about his family, only that his mother deserted him and his sister to the existence they both lead now. But his life is about to change with a twist of fate.
A powerful general comes to the mines in search of a bulla, or medallion, that once belonged to Julius Ceasar. Said to hold magic from the gods, this is something only heard of in legend. The general, having searched for it quite a long time, has a hunch it is hidden in these particular mines and Nic is chosen to go into a cave no one has survived to bring the bulla out.
When Nic enters the cave, he is surrounded by wealth, and has to fight for his life against a griffin to find the bulla. When he does, he mistakenly unleashes the power that begins to work within him. Without knowing it, Nic has turned himself into the most powerful Roman in the Empire.
But even with this power, his life becomes even more precarious. Not knowing who to trust, Nic is thrust into the center of a power for struggle between praetors, generals, and emperors. Now in the city of Rome, Nic has no one to help or turn to and finds himself in the arena, facing off against some of the most ruthless gladiators for the brutal pleasure of the city's citizens.
Nielsen's book is one that you may find yourself reading and finishing in one day. Fast-paced and full of twists, the reader is left with some of the confusion the main character finds himself in. Her details of ancient Rome engulf the reader through description and emotion and seamlessly connects reality with mythology. Nielsen doesn't give anything away in this first book of a series, and leaves you feeling the rush this fantasy/mythological journey takes you on.