New fantasy books fantastic for young readers

Published: Saturday, Nov. 6 2010 3:00 p.m. MDT

Magic and wonder await readers in two fantastic new releases for young adults that feature fantasy and fairy tales unlike any that have come before them.

"SECONDHAND CHARM," by Julie Berry, Bloomsbury USA Children's Books, $16.99 (young adult)

Evie's life is simple. She goes to school and dreams of one day becoming a healer. Living in a secluded village, though, makes things difficult. But when the king comes for a visit, Evie has a chance to shine.

Evie's parents were healers, and she seems to have inherited their gifts. The king's visit has a rocky start, with one of his courtiers becoming ill. But Evie is able to care for his ailments and the next day is honored for her educational achievements.

The king gifts Evie and her best friend, Prissy, entrance into the kingdom's university, and Evie is on Cloud Nine. She hates to leave behind her grandfather but can't believe her good fortune.

Or not so good fortune.

Rather than a simple carriage ride, their journey turns into an adventure with highway robbery and a treacherous trip on the high seas.

There's more to Evie than even Evie knows. She discovers a legacy so amazing, so fantastical, she can hardly believe it. If only she can survive to see it come to fruition.

Part adventure, part mystery, part romance, "Secondhand Charm" is an enchanting fairy tale that young readers won't want to put down.

Author Julie Berry's prose is easily accessible, and her tale has just the right amount of twists and turns.

Though readers might see the book's end coming, they'll enjoy it nonetheless. "Secondhand Charm" is a charming fairy tale, after all.

"PEGASUS," by Robin McKinley, Putnam Juvenile, $18.99 (young adult)

Sylvi is the fourth child and thus, not as important as her older brothers. Or is she?

As a member if the royal family, Sylvi still has many responsibilities, including being bound to her own pegasus on her 12th birthday.

The Alliance was made almost 1,000 years ago, with specially trained Speaker magicians on hand to help the Pegasi and humans formally communicate.

But it's different for Sylvi and her pegasus, Ebon. They can understand each other — without the help of a Speaker. It's never happened before. Their bond quickly strengthens, and soon the status quo seems broken.

Sylvi and Ebon are now a threat to the magicians and the peace between their two nations is in question. The two must work together to make sure their bond doesn't upset a delicate balance held in place for generations.

In a way, "Pegasus" feels like a fantasy primer. New worlds and creatures are introduced, as is a new language. Readers are gently introduced into this magical world, making them comfortable with the unknown and making impossible creatures not only plausible but real.

"Pegasus" is not a fast book. There are adventures and action, but most of the story seems to dreamily meander.

Newbery Medal winner Robin McKinley ("The Hero and the Crown") spends a lot of time helping the readers get to know Sylvi and Ebon, and it pays off. They become the readers' friends as they are swept into a gravity-defying journey.

e-mail: jharrison@desnews.com

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