Shadowy monsters

Reviews of Queen of Shadows, The November Criminals and When I Was Me


Humans locked inside black-collared demons; witches clawing their enemies with iron fingernails; and, in a touch inspired by author Sarah J. Maas's heritage, a heroine laying stones on the grave of her friend ("stones were eternal, flowers were not"). This is the world of Queen of Shadows (Bloomsbury, £7.99), fourth in the Throne of Glass series. Maas herself is the queen of fantasy - this has a real epic and cinematic feel, with all the monsters, swords and cliff-hangers one could wish for and a satisfying 600-plus pages in which to wallow. Age 16 up.

Fans of The Catcher in the Rye may be exasperated at first by Sam Munson's The November Criminals (Atom, £12.99); its protagonist is such a Holden Caulfield wannabe. Addison Schacht is writing an essay entitled, "What are your best and worst qualities?" for his university application. The novel is his answer - and given that he deals weed and swears liberally, makes sick Holocaust jokes and accidentally shoots a pet dog, he has plenty to put on the "worst" list. His best qualities are not immediately obvious but, perhaps because he seems almost at the mercy of his own destructiveness, somehow we're rooting for him by the end. Age 16 up.

The ordinary becomes chilling in When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman (Hot Key, £6.99). Ella wakes one day to find her life has undergone inexplicable, subtle changes that are terrifying to her - but apparently imperceptible to everyone else. Having set up the situation, Freeman plays it out with great skill, thinking through every consequence of finding oneself living a new life, from guessing the PIN on your phone to going on a "first" date with someone who, yesterday, was the boyfriend you intended to dump. Thrilling book, contentious ending. Age 14 up.

War crimes cast a long shadow in The Edge of Me by Jane Brittan (Blowfish, £6.99). Sixteen-year-old Sanda is an ordinary shy teenager, a refugee from the Bosnian conflict, now living in the UK and looking forward to her first date with fanciable Joe. But she returns from school one Friday to find the house empty, her parents gone - and someone waiting to snatch her and Joe away to a Serbian orphanage. Most readers will be hazy about the historical background but Brittan creates a nail-biting Silver Sword-style adventure, the feeling of threat and mistrust enhanced by the unfamiliar setting. Age 12 up.

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