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Five Frigid Books for a Warm Winter

On a personal level, I could be more broken up about it being 45 every day in NYC, but there is definitely something not in the spirit of things. Since this winter’s been so warm, get your fix of snow and frost with these books about deep winter.

 

Winterwood – Shea Ernshaw

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We have witches! We have winter choked woods! Actually, witch might be a stretch, but there’s something wrong in the Winterwood, and Nora Walker might have to find it. When a boy comes out of the woods alive after a brutal snowstorm, its secrets become too important to ignore.

 

Shiver – Maggie Stiefvater

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We’ve got another forest, yall, but I admit I’m a sucker for them. Every winter Grace watches the wolves in the woods behind her house, feeling she understands them. They end up being more connected than she could have possibly imagined, and she’s drawn further into their world of curses and winter.

 

The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

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Vasilisa has always seen things and other people don’t, but is especially fascinated with the ice demon Frost. When her new stepmother forbids the traditions that appease and strengthen the spirits of the land, it’s up to Vasilisa and the things only she can know to save their crops, their community, and all their lives.

 

East – Edith Pattou

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Rose war wilder than her sisters since birth, and despite her mother’s efforts, can’t be kept from adventure. When a white bear promises her family prosperity if he can take her away, she agrees easily. But the bear is more than he appears, and running away into the cold was barely the beginning.

 

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – C. S. Lewis

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Image via Seven Miles of Steel Thistles

A classic, but always worth a reread. In a land held in eternal winter by the terrifying White Witch, four children discover a grand destiny and an opportunity to save a world, even if it’s not their own. If you haven’t read it, you absolutely must, and if you have, you still probably should.

 


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5 Books Inspired By Celtic Mythology

Celtic mythology is, by far, one of my favorite things to discuss. Ever. I’ve spent a good chunk of the past two years studying and reading the myths and legends for my own personal research, and I’ve come away wanting to learn even more. The tales are beautiful and the mythical beings–be they deities or other magical creatures–are enthralling. Personally, I think one of the best way to share these myths and legends is through stories like the ones listed below. After all, intrigued individuals will seek out the source material, and they will be able to see what inspired the authors who borrowed from said material.

Here are five books inspired by Celtic mythology.

 

 

1. Daughter of the forest

image via goodreads

This is the first book in Juliet Marillier‘s Sevenwaters series. It should be noted that there is a very heavy romance component to these stories. I also want to add, for the individuals who need this note, that there is a sexual assault scene in this story. This series follows four generations of the Sevenwaters family, a family that has maintained a relationship with the people of the Otherworld–also known as the Fae. The Daughter of The Forest follows Sorcha, a member of the Sevenwaters family and the only daughter of Lord Colum. After his wife’s death, Lord Colum marries an enchantress who curses Sorcha’s brothers. She can only save her siblings by remaining silent as she carries out the will of the Fae and their Queen.  When Sorcha is kidnapped by enemies of her family, it looks like all hope is lost. Will she save her brothers? Read and find out…

2. Hounded

image via goodreads

This isn’t the first time that I have mentioned Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid Chronicles in a list. Hearne has a fun way of pulling from different mythologies and making the tales and characters dance together so well that I couldn’t resist putting Hounded on this list. The series follows Atticus O’Sullivan, the last living druid. Atticus runs an occult book shop in Arizona where he sells magic teas to his customers. A sword comes into the picture here, and it proceeds to set off a chain of events that Atticus gets involved in. This series is a blend of urban fantasy and mythology.

3. Heir of Fire

image via goodreads

Heir of Fire is the third book in Sarah J. MaasThrone of Glass series–which is made up of eight books (if you include the novella collection). While Maas has made reference to the Fae and magic in the previous two books, readers get to read about them in more depth in this installment. Readers are introduced to Queen Maeve, a figure who has both mythical and historical roots. Maas also portrays a version of the Fae in both the first book of the series and the final book, and this version falls more into line with the tales that say that the Fae are small beings of nature. She also presents the image of the Fae as simultaneously being godlike while also being lords and ladies, which are portrayals that have also been attached to these beings as well. While there are, technically, two books before this one, this is where the story is truly set into motion.

 

 

4. The cruel prince

image via goodreads

Holly Black‘s The Cruel Prince, and the other books in The Folk of the Air series, has gained a great deal of attention. Our main character, Jude, was still a child when her parents were murdered and she and her siblings were captured by the Fae. Though she was captured by them, Jude still wants to be a part of the Faerie court. In this book, Jude learns that she has the capacity for trickery–a trait that the Fae often possess and can be observed using in tales and myths. Ultimately, Jude will have to put her life on the line to protect her sisters.

5. Lament: The faerie queen’s deception

image via goodreads

Maggie Stiefvater‘s book Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception follows Deirdre Monaghan, a young musician who can see faeries. A faerie soldier and a faerie assassin are tracking Deirdre, and their goal is to kill her before her music can attract the attentions of the Fae and weaken the Faerie Queen’s authority over her people. In Irish lore, the Fae would sometimes kidnap mortals who were musically gifted, and this could lead to a number of things happening to the human–sometimes the human would be forced to remain with the Fae forever, and that was one of the kinder fates awaiting said person.

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Desert Books for National Dessert Day

Okay, okay, before you @us, we do know the difference. But what goes better with your favorite dessert than a good book and some mediocre word play? Here are three books to embrace on #nationaldessertday.

 

All the Crooked Saints 

This story follows a family of banished saints, perched high in the Colorado desert where supplicants must travel far for a miracle. These saints can help you, but they can’t save you from yourself, as many pilgrims learn to their dismay. Still, there’s much to be gained by braving the miracles of Bicho Raro. Enthralling, luminuos, and with enough Mexican and Native southern states folklore to keep you from wandering the sand alone at night. At once grim and terribly hopeful, this is an exploration of love, family, and growth, set to pirate radio and the rushing wings of owls.

 

The Golem and the Jinni

New York, magic, the turn of the century – what more could you want? Unlikely friendships? Varied mythology? This book has it all, weaving a lush and surprising tale out of a premise that asks more questions than it answers. A golem and a jinni meet in New York. It’s more likely than you think! I love fantasy being laid over history like velum, especially more modern history. New York, and only a hundred years ago, is not where you most expect to encounter myth, but weaving it in seamlessly can make a world close enough to imagine, both in time and in possibility. goodr

 

The City of Brass 

Street smart and clever, Dara bites off more than she can chew when she summons an ancient and magical creature to her side, soon discovering that she has magic and an ancient legacy drawing her as well. She will have to travel to the city of the djinn itself, where struggles for power, purity, and prestige rage in the streets, if she hopes to find the truth of her past. Opulent, adventurous, and deeply ruted in folklore, this is a must read for anyone who wants a world that breathes with magic, prophecy, and intrigue. If you’re seeking mythology that often gets overlooked, pick this up.

 

The Wrath and the Dawn

I’m always a fan of a clever reimagining, and the tale of Scheherazade was neglected for far too long. You’ve got a lot of classic fairytale beats, like the murder of wives, along with a clever heroine, an unfathomable mystery, and gutting revelations. Scheherazade volunteers herself after her best friend’s murder, intent upon revenge against the cruel monarch who weds and murders so many young girls. But it’s not so simple as it appears, and though Scheherazade makes it to the morning and more, with each dawn she is less certain of her hatred.

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'City of Bones,' 'City of Ashes,' and 'City of Glass,' books 1-3 in the six book Mortal Instruments series

7 Unmissable Books for ‘Shadowhunters’ Fans

Happy Birthday, City of Bones! YA Fantasy superstar Cassandra Clare released her debut (the first entry into the sprawling Shadowhunters universe) on March 27th, 2007, which makes the book twelve years old. That would land it squarely in middle school—a familiar landscape which has nonetheless changed a lot since this book’s release. Some things have, of course, remained the same: children are mean and hormones so rarely help anyone. But there are some major differences—YA is more diverse; genre fiction is booming; and social issues have risen to the forefront of modern discourse.

 

'City of Bones' by Cassandra Clare

Image Via Twilight Sleep

 

Cassandra Clare’s novels have continued to do what they did at their outset: tell stories of characters who don’t often have their stories told. Clare’s LGBT+ rep throughout her body of work hits each of those four letters (and perhaps, soon, we’ll get some of the other letters that come with the +.) Clare has also recently gained attention for autistic representation that transcends superficial stereotypes. Her characters are bombastically human with all that entails—dramatic love stories, deep-seated emotional issues, ridiculous inside jokes. Clare’s obvious love for fantasy and the genre is second only to her understanding of human nature, and it’s obvious her work resonates for innumerable reasons: there are currently more than 50 million copies of her novels in print. The Mortal Instruments series in particular has inspired both a film adaptation and a successful TV series. And, of course, her work has always resonated with me.

Picture this: I’m thirteen. I’m wearing a horrific amount of bright blue eyeliner (read: any amount). I am distinctly not straight. Since it’s not terribly likely you know what I look like, imagine me this way: uncomfortable with everything. City of Bones featured one of the very first LGBT+ couples I ever encountered—withdrawn, struggling Alec and the ever-bold Magnus Bane—and changed the way that I thought about what are currently two of my favorite things: genre fiction and myself.

Gay puns on the respective 'Shadowhunters' characters' sexualities.

Image Via @Kayla_Darktale Tumblr

 

We’d call this a list of books to help you fill the Shadowhunters void—except, of course, that there isn’t one! Cassandra Clare has dutifully (and enthusiastically) expanded her universe’s lore since its inception, with new releases forthcoming in 2019: Chain of Goldthe first entry into a new historical fantasy trilogy, and The Red Scrolls of Magic, the start of a trilogy centered on the magical misadventures of Alec and Magnus. Clare even has a section on her website entitled “where to start,” acknowledging the fact that readers might be a little intimidated by the canon. Some advice on starting? Do it. Immediately.

 

Which 'Shadowhunters' Book Should You Start With?

Image Via Riveted Lit

 

But if, like me, you’ve already plowed your way through the majority of the seemingly limitless Shadowhunters canon, here’s a delightful mix of 7 Young Adult & New Adult classics to remind you of all that this genre can accomplish.

1. The Raven Cycle

 

'The Raven Cycle,' a quartet by Maggie Stiefvater

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Is this first on the list because it’s my personal favorite? Yes. Is it first on the list because it’s sure to be your personal favorite? Also yes. It would be a travesty to reduce Maggie Stiefvater‘s quartet to its LGBT+ characters, mostly because it’s so many other things besides strong representation: dangerous, raw, and human as its characters and all the things they want. Bonus content: Molotov cocktails, dead things that are supposed to be alive, alive things that are supposed to be dead. Every possible use of ‘Dick’ as a nickname for Richard. Distinguished boys who, for some reason, continue to wear boat shoes. The feeling of returning home and, for some, the immense desire to leave it. Bees…? One of the most unique series in YA fantasy today, The Raven Cycle is startling, strange, and filled with a cast of characters so real you won’t believe you haven’t really met them. Cassie Clare fans will live for the sarcasm, the limitless wit, the character dynamics, and the positive LGBT+ representation.

 

2. SHADES OF MAGIC

 

The 'Shades of Magic' Trilogy by VE Schwab

ImaGe Via Book riot

 

In V.E. Schwab‘s delightful, inventive, and ambitious trilogy, four different versions of London exist with varying levels of magic—and equivalent levels of danger. (Spoiler: that level is HIGH.) One is the London of old, one that we might recognize: no magic, lots of crime. One London is magic the way that we might imagine it. One is magic with all the cruelty that magic so often entails. And one—the most magic London of all—no longer exists. Or, at least, it no longer exists in any way that we might recognize. Oh, did that description make these books sound happy and upbeat? They are… when everything’s not busy going very, very wrong. Fans of Jace and Alec’s affectionate-yet-frequently-frustrated brotherly dynamic will love the give-and-take between adopted brothers Kell and Rhy. And it would be quite the challenge to build a world richer than Cassandra Clare’s—whose books are physically large enough to build that world brick by brick. V.E. Schwab’s attention to detail will delight those who are after a detailed lore.

 

3. The magicians

 

Lev Grossman's 'The Magicians' Trilogy

Image Via The Reading Room

 

The Magicians has gotten a lot of attention lately thanks to its SyFy TV adaptation—and if it doesn’t already, it deserves to have yours. This may just be the best book series you ever read about a fictional wizard school (and yes, I do know about the other one). Unlike many fantasy series, which can paint concepts of good and evil in the broadest brushstrokes, The Magicians thoroughly examines all the thematic implications of the fantasy genre, subverting every trope in the process. The humor is frequently raunchy, nihilistic. The magic is even more frequently absurd. And the story is consistently unthinkable in its imagination, pushing the limits of what magic (and the fantasy genre!) can accomplish. Lev Grossman‘s world is as dark and sensual as it is intellectual and calculating—but, in the end, it’s more startlingly earnest than it is anything else, a subversive novel written from a clear love of the genre. Bonus: disaster gays, talking bears who drink Peach Schnapps, a hell that looks like a high school gymnasium, and a story to remind you exactly what storytelling means.

 

4. SIX OF CROWS

 

'Six of Crows' Duology by Leigh Bardugo

Image Via Affinity Magazine

One of the best things about Cassandra Clare’s writing is the never-ending banter, each topic seemingly more ludicrous than the last… and somehow, for all its silliness, it only makes the characters feel more human and their dynamics more sincere. Leigh Bardugo‘s Six of Crows is a character-driven heist duology set in a richly-realized fantasy world full of crime; corruption; and badass fight scenes, baby! What’s the difference between a heist and a regular robbery, you might ask? Well, it’s pretty simple: a heist is what they call theft when it’s cool. But as fast-paced and high-concept as this well-oiled plot machine may be, it’s also a deeply character-driven story. This misfit (and very queer) cast of characters may or may not steal what they set out to pilfer, but they’ll certainly steal your heart. And possibly crush it—this book has one of the most devastating backstories of all time.

 

5. Carry On

 

'Carry On' and 'Wayward Son' by Rainbow Rowell

Images Via Amazon; image made with photocollage

 

Rainbow Rowell‘s Carry On isn’t exactly fan-fiction, but it’s certainly fiction written for fandoms. You might call it your average wizard-boarding-school book, except that there’s very little average about it. Carry On is oft called ‘the gay Harry Potter,’ but it’s certainly not derivative—Rowell acknowledges its predecessor in clear ways, and chooses to thoughtfully play with beloved genre tropes. Oh, and you’re not going to find any LGBT+ subtext here—it’s all very much on the page. Rowell herself has commented on the matter of overt representation in Vanity Fair: “there was a time when this had to be subtext… don’t [read] it for the subtext, don’t [read] it for the moments [in BBC’s Sherlock] when Sherlock and John make eye contact and the world sets on fire but none of it’s real. As a culture, we are ready for text.” As a bonus, she also doesn’t think she’s a social justice hero for including a gay couple. “I’m definitely not the first person to write a gay Y.A. story,” she acknowledges, “by a million years.” Regardless, we’re always happy for more! This fun, subversive novel will appeal to pop culture fiends across all fandoms—including Cassandra Clare’s!

 

6. Peeps

 

'Peeps' and 'The Last Days' by Scott Westerfeld

Image Via Pinterest

 

Scott Westerfeld‘s gritty urban fantasy is the It Follows of the mid-2000s urban fantasy world: college freshman Cal’s previous girlfriends (read: YA way to say ‘sexual partners’) have been infected with an unusual sort of vampirism. Sure there’s the whole lurking-in-the-darkness thing, but there’s also the anathema—Westerfeld’s vampires are repulsed by everything about their old lives, everything they once loved. (Especially Cal… although that may have something to do with him dropping off his vampire chlamydia.) A New Adult novel before the classification was coined, Peeps and sequel The Last Days are gritty trysts into the dark supernatural underworld of NYC reminiscent of Clare’s Downworld, where the parties can last as long as some of their attendees’ lifespans. The edgy, fun tone with surprisingly poignant moments is sure to remind audiences of Clare’s own work. This isn’t your average vampire story… probably because it isn’t a vampire story at all. It’s about home, lies, love and equally powerful hatred: things far more human than that.

 

7. Modern Faerie Tale

 

The 'Modern Faerie Tales' trilogy by Holly Black

Image Via yALSA

If you were around when the original three books of The Mortal Instruments were being released—that is, if you weren’t, like, eight years old—you may recall Cassandra Clare and established fantasy writer Holly Black‘s power-couple friendship. (I happen to remember Cassandra Clare’s livestream when she announced that there would be three more books in the series, so it’s safe to say I do.) Author of the children’s classic series The Spiderwick Chronicles, fantasy queen Black gave fans a nod to her close friendship with Cassie by including a mention of Jace and his fellow Shadowhunters in her books! In turn, Clare mentions the protagonist of Valiant in her trilogy as well. Does she use Valerie’s name? No. But which other bald junkie who lurks with the fey folk in subway tunnels could the unnamed character possibly be? Given that Black’s series (urban fantasy, NYC, chaotic fey) fits in quite naturally with Clare’s Downworlder mythology, it’s an excellent companion series.

 

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deathly hallows

5 Books That Almost Had Wildly Different Endings

So it may be that ‘all’s well that ends well,’ but some of these books nearly didn’t! The secret alternate endings of these five popular novels are different from the endings that made it to our bookshelves. (That’s ‘different’ as a synonym for completely bizarre.) Some endings changed the tone of the story in ways the author decided against. Some endings changed other important things, like whether or not anyone would buy the book.

 

1. The Fault in Our Stars

 

'The Fault in our Stars' by John Green

 

It’s hard to imagine John Green changing one thing about his devastating hit The Fault in our Stars (besides the title, which would work just as well as Buckets of Our Tears). Actually, Augustus’ death was almost the second most tragic thing about the novel. In a twist that Green himself describes as “epically terrible,” the novel initially ended with Hazel Grace and author Van Houten attempting to murder a drug dealer in order to honor Augustus’ life… knowing that they will likely die (just relatable teenager things). This ending supposedly lasted only forty pages, which begs the question—what? It gets worse. Green also considered using the ending of the novel to explore the Trolley Problemwhich, to sum it up, asks whether it’s more morally heinous to let a trolley crush five people or to personally divert the train to crush only one person. His editor admitted later that she “[couldn’t] tell whether or not it [was] a joke.” It wasn’t. 

 

2. The Dream Thieves

 

'The Dream Thieves' by Maggie Stiefvater

 

Maggie Stiefvater‘s Raven Cycle series stands as one of the most positively critically reviewed YA series of all time. Its second book, The Dream Thieves, is particularly rife with the dark (best friends replaced with subservient clones) and the delightful (every possible use of ‘Dick’ as a nickname for Richard). In one earlier draft, troubled protagonist Ronan enters into a magical drag race with distinctly-more-troubled antagonist Kavinskywhich, contextually, is not as strange as it sounds. The two subsequently have their magic race up the side of a mountain, and in a reckless but astoundingly unsurprising move, Kavinsky drives his car off the edge of a cliff. Stiefvater herself summarizes the whole plot as: “Fireball! Death!” This is also an excellent description of the novel’s actual ending. However, this earlier draft lacks the redemptive elements and positive LGBT representation of the rewriteespecially since the rewrite is also full of cars and danger.

 

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

 

'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' by J.K. Rowling

 

One of the most chilling lines in the Harry Potter universe reads: neither can live while the other survives. It would then logically follow that… to use J.K.’s own words… neither can live while the other survives. So it doesn’t exactly add up that J.K. Rowling almost concluded her series with Voldemort AND Harry surviving. In one strange version of the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows ending, the spirits of Voldemort’s dead parents appear during their showdown to comfort Harry and turn Voldemort into a child. When Voldy tries to zap Harry with his final curse, it rebounds, freezing him as a living statue. If you’re wondering how the rebounded spell doesn’t kill him, you can keep on wonderingthere is no real explanation. Fortunately, we have the original standoff between Harry and Voldemort, as well as all the powerful scenes and lines that come with it. 

 

4. Thirteen Reasons Why

 

'Thirteen Reasons Why' by Jay Asher

 

Especially after its TV debut, Thirteen Reasons Why is almost universally recognizable as a story of the tragic suicide of a high school student and the following series of upsetting confessional tapes detailing fellow students’ contributions to her death. But what if Hannah didn’t die? According to author Jay Asher, that’s exactly what almost happened. As the near-suicide of a close relative inspired Asher’s work, he considered that Hannah might also live. In the end, he decided against it. He felt that Hannah’s survival meant fewer consequences for the students who tormented her, as well as lower stakes surrounding the issue. Asher explained: “it felt false for this particular story and for the seriousness of the issue. If someone goes through with a suicide, there are no second chances for anyone involved.” 

 

5. 1984

 

'1984' by George Orwell

 

We all recognize George Orwell‘s 1984 as the classic behind the phrase “Big Brother is watching.” Fewer people know that this grim tale once had an alternate endingone that made the ending tonally more optimistic (not an easy feat, given how depressing this story gets). Free-thinking Winston undergoes torture in order to destroy any part of him that might rebel against the novel’s totalitarian government. But just before the end, he has a brief nervous break and thinks to himself: 2 + 2 = 5. This signifies the extent to which Winston, wholly indoctrinated, now accepts Big Brother’s lies. However, Orwell’s first edition tells a different story. There, the sentence ends with 2 +2 = (without the number 5), implying that Winston manages to hold onto some sense of self and that resistance is real. One letter subtly but unmistakably changes the meaning of the entire novel… and makes it a whole lot sadder.

 

 

 

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