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If You Like Harry Potter… Then Try These New Fantasy Novels

By Adrienne Ehlert Bashista
Posted Tuesday, January 6, 2004

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As always, there’s too much to read and too little time!

a column about books for kids

Now that we’re well into winter the excitement about the newest Harry Potter has died down. Hopefully your headache from wading your way through all 800 plus pages has faded and you’re ready for the next installment. Trouble is, the book’s rumored release date isn’t until 2006! That’s a long time to wait for something to read. Fortunately, I have some suggestions for all the fantasy junkies out there.

If you aren’t familiar with Garth Nix’s stellar fantasy series about the age-old battle of good and evil that began with Lirael, continued with Sabriel, and probably doesn’t end with his most recent installment, Abhorsen (EOS, 0060278250, $17.99, ages 12 and up), you need to be. These brilliantly detailed series of novels document the fight of the Abhorsen and the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, sorcerers who patrol the borderlands between life and death. The Abhorsen and her helpers battle against evil spirits that want to rain death and destruction on humanity. The wonderful thing about these novels is that their main characters, while possessing awesome and strange powers, are confused adolescents, thrust into their roles prematurely due to the strength of the evil that plagues the land. Nix’s series is marketed towards high school readers, but a sophisticated younger reader who isn’t afraid of a little death and destruction would no doubt enjoy these books immensely.

Another book suggestion for fantasy readers is The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau (Random House, 0375822739, $15.95, ages 10 and up). The City of Ember is the story of Lina and Doon, two twelve-year-olds who live in a mysterious town in which the sun never shines and food and supplies come from vast storehouse underneath their city. Light and power comes from a generator, but this generator, like the rest of Ember, is aging, and no one knows how it works or how to fix it. Power flickers and the light goes out daily, leaving the residents of Ember in complete darkness. Ember’s townspeople are never sure if this is the moment the light finally goes out for good. Meanwhile, supplies in the storehouses are dwindling and a corrupt mayor refuses to admit there are any problems. Luckily, Lina and Doon find a mysterious set of Instructions left by the Creators of their town, and it is up to the two of them to unravel the secrets of Ember to save the only world that they’ve ever known.

Another fantasy novel for slightly younger readers is Hatching Magic, by Ann Downer (Atheneum, 0689834004, $16.95, 8 and up). Harry Potter fans will love the mixture of reality and magic in this story of a young girl, Theodora, who finds a newly hatched baby dragon. The hatchling’s mother falls through a magic bolt-hole, which shoots her from her native 13th century to the terrifying future of 21st century Boston, where she lays her egg, which later hatches. Two wizards, one good and one bad, a demon, and some modern-day magic makers all search for the pair of dragons, with sometimes funny and sometimes frightening results. But in the end it’s Theodora who possesses the power to reunite mother and baby.

My final suggestion, Secret Sacrament, by Sherryl Jordan (EOS, 0064472302 $6.99, 14 and up), tells the story of a young healer, Gabriel, born of the elite and favorite to the Empress. Gabriel has become a healer against his father’s wish that he learn to be a trader to continue the family business. Gabriel, however, is compelled to help people, partially because of a horrible crime he witnessed as a child against a Shinali woman. The Shinali are a marginalized race of tribal people who the leaders of Gabriel’s society plot against in order to get their land. Gabriel gets caught up in the politics of court and is forced to flee the city. He hides among the Shinali and comes to respect their way of life. In the end, Gabriel must decide if he should side with the Shinali people or his own. The fate of both peoples may ride on his decision. Although fantasy, the plight of the Shinali is reminiscent to that of the genocide of Native Americans in the U.S. or that of the Maori in Jordan’s native Australia.

There will be more to come on this topic – I’ve heard great things about Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart and Christopher Paolini’s Eragon. And I recently read one of Sheri Tepper’s newest books, The Visitor, which was amazing (although for high school and older readers only). Keep posted for more fantasy reviews coming soon. As always, there’s too much to read and too little time!


Adrienne Ehlert Bashista is a writer, librarian, and mother of two small children who lives near Silk Hope, NC. Her website is

Copyright 2004. Adrienne Ehlert Bashista. All rights reserved.

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If You Like Harry Potter… Then Try These New Fantasy Novels
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