One of the greatest joys of this chilly season is afternoons inside, cozied up with a mug of hot chocolate in one hand and a good book in the other. This crop of YA fantasy novels imbues familiar settings with rich enchantment, unleashing the imagination far beyond your four walls. Get ready to travel from your warmest reading nook to extraordinary new worlds steeped in magic and mystery.
• “The Guinevere Deception,” by Kiersten White
In White’s story of Camelot, Guinevere arrives shaking with nerves that have nothing to do with her impending wedding to a total stranger. Her marriage to King Arthur is only the cover story for her real mission - to stop a magical attack against king and kingdom. Guinevere fears her power is insufficient for the task but practicing even her simple skills is a risk in Camelot, where all magic has been outlawed.
Daunted but determined, Guinevere investigates the threat while she forms a connection with her legendary husband. Lies are more common than truth in his court, and Guinevere must discover which deceits are dangerous to her king and which are dangerous to her heart.
The usual cast of characters is invigorated by several women representing a variety of stations and experiences, all of whom help Guinevere unravel dreamy mysteries in an Arthurian story that feels familiar yet fresh.
• “Call Down the Hawk,” by Maggie Stiefvater
Ronan Lynch has the power to bring objects from dreams into the waking world. Jordan Hennessy has no control over her dreams, and it’s only a matter of time before her nightmares end her waking life. Carmen Farooq-Lane, meanwhile, works for an organization to find and neutralize dreamers before they can manifest a cataclysm that will end the world.
These spiky, fascinating characters orbit one other while being pulled by the gravity of a mysterious figure named Bryde, who might be the mentor Ronan and Hennessy need or the destructive dreamer Carmen fears.
Stiefvater’s layers of dream world and waking world are mind-bending and original, filling the novel’s action with unpredictability and a deep mystery that promises to continue unfolding in future volumes.
• “Wayward Son,” by Rainbow Rowell
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This long-awaited sequel is set a year and a half after the events of “Carry On,” with Simon Snow stagnating in his life as a Normal after a childhood of prophecy-laden magical heroics in England. Baz, his magician/vampire boyfriend, aches to see Simon happy. Their best friend, Penelope, insists a road trip across America will put their melancholy in the rearview mirror. Baz and Simon reluctantly agree and the three of them end up careening across the countryside, encountering a wilder brand of magic than they’ve ever seen.
They find friends they can’t trust and face perils, but for each of the three leads, the greatest challenge is reconciling their ideas of who they were with the realities of what they’ve become. That struggle is echoed in the ways they must adapt to American magic, which expands Rowell’s already inventive and exciting World of Mages.
• “The Infinite Noise,” by Lauren Shippen
From the outside, it might seem like Caleb Michaels is having the prototypical high school experience of a good-looking, well-liked football star gliding through life. But inside, he’s overwhelmed by a new ability to feel the emotions of everyone around him. Anxiety, giddiness, fear, sadness, humiliation and rage swamp him, and sometimes the addition of his own feelings creates an explosive cocktail.
On his therapist’s advice, Caleb identifies his classmate Adam as an emotional anchor, a person whose feelings ground him. Their surprising friendship begins on an awkward footing but soon balances between the agony and exhilaration of falling in love.
These characters immerse themselves in their emotional lives with courage and candor. The least fanciful of these fantasy novels, Shippen’s world feels entirely grounded in the internal chaos of adolescence and shows the presence of the extraordinary in everyday life.