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The art of deception

The protagonists of the following new YA fantasies all face complex societal structures which force them to hide, lie, or deceive others in some fashion. Along the way, this leads each character to re-examine her or his own identity and prior beliefs…and also makes for compelling reading.

Rachel Hartman returns to her fantastical medievalesque world in Tess of the Road, a worthy companion to Seraphina and Shadow Scale. Seraphina’s human half-sister Tess, disguised as a boy, embarks on a journey with a quigutl (half-dragon) friend. Tess refashions herself, finally free from the misogynistic teachings of her upbringing and the burden of her mistakes. There’s much richness in this fantastical tale’s nuanced, accessible expression of adolescent naiveté and sorrow, and in Hartman’s magical imagery and practical themes. (Random, 14 years and up)

In Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles, everyone is born ugly in the fantastical courtly society of Orléans — except for the innately lovely Belles, who also have the supernatural ability to manipulate others’ appearance. Camille, the Queen’s Favorite Belle, moves into the palace to provide beauty services to royals and aristocrats. Clayton vividly describes her world’s dazzling fashion and lavish galas in the midst of betrayal, profound racism/colorism, forced labor, and distorted body image. (Disney/Freeform, 14 years and up)

Human girl Jude and her sisters are abducted to be raised in the realm of Faerie by Madoc, the general of the High King — and their parents’ murderer. Jude is drawn into the web of lies, deceit, and political intrigue that swirls around the Faerie Court. With complicated characters, a suspenseful plot, and the Faerie setting of many of her popular books (most recently The Darkest Part of the Forest), Holly Black’s latest novel The Cruel Prince is sure to enchant fans. (Little, Brown, 14 years and up)

In the alternate history of E. K. Johnston’s That Inevitable Victorian Thing, the modern-day British Empire is still vast and strong, with a multiracial populace that values equality. Eighteen-year-old Crown Princess Victoria-Margaret travels under an assumed name to Canada, where she befriends Helena and her beau, August. Readers follow their alternating perspectives as the relatable characters navigate society balls, secrets, and unconventional romance (involving an intersex person). Johnston’s world-building is a unique mix of Victorian customs and advanced technology, while also thoughtfully addressing timely topics. (Dutton, 14 years and up)

From the August 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Cynthia K. Ritter About Cynthia K. Ritter

Cynthia K. Ritter is associate editor of The Horn Book Guide. She earned a master's degree in children's literature from Simmons College.

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