In Moon Chosen, P.C. Cast’s newest epic fantasy and the first installment in her new Tales of a New World series, a girl named Mari rejects her birthright: status as her clan’s Earth Walker, an inheritor of mystical healing powers. However, after she’s chosen by an animal ally, and in the wake of a dreadful attack on her clan, she reclaims her abilities and sets out to rescue her people. But something darker is coming than a threat to her people alone, and soon she finds herself teaming up with the son of a rival clan to face it.
Cast is the bestselling author of the Goddess Summoning Series, the House of Night series (cowritten with daughter Kristin Cast), and more. Here she is to share 10 of her all-time favorite reads for fantasy fans.
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Dragonriders of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey
I start my list with the author I think of as the Queen of Fantasy. When I was a very young teenager (about 13), I lost myself in Pern. McCaffrey created a rich world filled with love and loss, heroism and hedonism, and then she added the magic of Oh, how I love those dragons! I especially appreciate the thoughtfulness with which they were created. McCaffrey didn’t rely on magic and spells or any other hocus pocus—she used science and extrapolated what might happen with genetic manipulations and mutations, making them as believable as they were magnificent. In Dragonflight and Dragonquest, the first two books of the Dragonriders of Pern trilogy, McCaffrey introduces us to Lessa. It was 1973, and it was the first time I’d ever read a fantasy book with a female lead written by a female, and it opened a whole new world to me—a world in which I’m now a bestseller! I owe Ms. McCaffrey a debt of gratitude, and though I briefly corresponded with her, I’m sad I was not able to meet her and thank her in person before she left us for her eternal Dragonhold. She is well missed.
Beauty, by Robin McKinley
I love this book so much that when I was teaching (at Broken Arrow’s South Intermediate High School) I applied for and received a grant to buy classroom sets of this book to teach to my sophomores. They fell as in love with it as am I! This book is so fantastic that classrooms of 16-year-olds didn’t move from their desks when the bell rang because I was reading this aloud to them. I think what’s so captivating about McKinley’s version of the classic “Beauty and the Beast” tale is how believably she grows the friendship, and then the love story, between Beauty and her Beast. Beauty is relatable and likable. Beast is fabulously tortured, yet still he develops compassion, empathy, and even a sense of humor. The book is also beautifully written from an academic standpoint. McKinley masterfully blends mythological references with lovely figurative language, making this an intelligent as well as an inspiring read.
Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
This is the most unique and moving vampire story I’ve ever read. McKinley gives us a brilliantly tortured and dangerously desirable hero in Constantine, and a strong, intriguing heroine in Sunshine. She puts the two together in a frightening situation that should have been the end of our heroine, but her intelligence and our unlikely hero’s ability to reach deep within himself to find hidden goodness create a surprising plot twist. One thing that really sets this book apart from the monotony so many vampire novel fall into is her flawed hero. He is a killer. And he is hideous, and I do mean physically. McKinley describes him as smelling foul and having skin like a mushroom, and yet by the end of the novel I was in love with him and wanted nothing more than Constantine to experience a happily ever after.
The Silver Metal Lover, by Tanith Lee
I first read this book in my early twenties, and I’ll never forget reading a climatic scene near the end and bursting into giant, sobbing snot tears on my living room couch in front of my utterly baffled boyfriend! IT WAS FABULOUS! Lee gives us a heroine in Jane with whom so, so many young people can identify. Jane feels fat, untalented, unattractive, and completely overshadowed by her over-the-top eccentric, controlling mother. Then she meets Silver, who is a robot built to entertain humans. He has the voice of an angel, and from the moment Jane sees him, she begins to question her regimented life. This is the best coming of age story I have ever read. It’s maturing for Jane and humanizing for Silver. They find each other, as well as themselves. I had the privilege to work with Ms. Lee on an anthology I guest edited for BenBella Books. She was smart and gracious, and she is sorely missed.
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
These books hooked me immediately because of how much I appreciate their 16-year-old heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is my favorite type of hero—a reluctant one. She does what she believes is right, first for her family, and then for her world. And in the end, I was pleased to see that she also grew and matured and did what was right for herself, too. And I do love me some Peeta!
Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr
This is a deliciously written book! Marr creates a darkly beautiful world, hidden to most mortals, but not to Aislinn. She can see fairies, though she has been warned by her grandmother to act as if she cannot. But she can’t stop the avalanche that happens when she does attract their attention—specifically the attention of the dangerously alluring Summer King, Keenan. I particularly appreciate the creepy cool tone of this book. Marr does a spectacular job of bringing the fey alive. She also is brilliant at spotlighting themes of truth and the various faces of friendship. This modern fairytale is brilliant!
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
The fantastic fantasy filled my third-grade year with adventure and discovery. I’ll never forget how mesmerized I was as my teacher began reading this book to us during story time. I understood and identified with Meg Murry, and adored her little brother, Charles Wallace. As a girl who has always been very close to her father (and believed him superhuman—a lot like Meg does her father), I instantly fell for this book. It’s particularly outstanding because L’Engle masterfully moves the children through dangerous and difficult situations by allowing them to discover their own bravery and intelligence, and use their own strengths to come together against evil. This classic opens a universe of wonder to people of all ages. Yes, it can certainly be read as an allegory, but it’s also just a damn good story.
The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
I will always pay respectful, sincere homage to the fantastic J.K. Rowling. Without Harry Potter, House of Night probably wouldn’t have existed. With her amazing boy wizard, Ms. Rowling introduced a generation of children, and their parents, to YA fantasy. I love all of the books for many reasons, but what I appreciate most about them is that they awakened a thirst for big, fabulous fantasy books in an entire generation of children—and that awakening has held true for almost two decades. I love the boy wizard and his group of friends—though it is their creator I salute.
Fallen, by Lauren Kate
This was a fast and fun read! I particularly enjoyed the mystery surrounding Luce and Daniel and Cam. When I first read this in 2010, it was at a time when lots of new YA authors were sending me books to blurb, and I found Kate’s angels a refreshing change. Luce is a great heroine. I think many young women can identify with her, along with being intrigued by the angels and shadows surrounding her. Luce is tenacious and believable, and I appreciate Kate’s skill in creating her, and the dark, intriguing story she tells. And I like the cliffhanger, too!
Poison Princess, by Kresley Cole
This book sucked me in instantly! I love that about Cole. I adore her Immortals After Dark series, which led me to check out her YA work, and I wasn’t disappointed! My favorite thing about this book/series is the complexity of the heroine, Evie. She has the ability to be evil, but instead of giving in to darkness, which would be easy for her to do, she chooses to fight to be good—to rely on herself and to trust her friends. Cole is masterful at world building, and creates for us a stark, postapocalyptic fantasy landscape that would be overwhelming were it not for her signature humor and ability to make readers fall in love with her characters.