Saturday Shorts #1 – YA Fantasy

I’m starting another new blog series! While I love a good epic fantasy novel as much as the next geek, sometimes I feel that shorter fiction is getting overlooked. The novella is a fabulous form. I love the mystery it creates and precision it takes from the writer to convey a whole world in such a tiny, perfect package.

This series will focus on Short Reads – Novellas of 35,000 words or less. Although I will be incorporating some series novellas, my main criterion is that the books must be able to standalone. If a reader couldn’t pick up the novella and understand it, without reading the rest of the series, then it will not be featured in these blog posts. Each post will feature three short reads, a collection that can easily be read all together on a lazy Saturday morning!

I am an avid supporter of the We Need Diverse Books campaign and promotor of more diverse reads in general. If the book has the “We Need Diverse Books” button next to it, with a link, then it features diverse protagonists. 


This month’s category is (unsurprisingly!): Young Adult Fantasy



Author: Kristina Wojtasek

Publisher: World Weaver Press

Length: 112pgs


Summary (from GoodReads):

In this retwisting of the classic Snow White tale, the daughter of an owl is forced into human shape by a wizard who’s come to guide her from her wintry tundra home down to the colorful world of men and Fae, and the father she’s never known. She struggles with her human shape and grieves for her dead mother—a mother whose past she must unravel if men and Fae are to live peacefully together.

Trapped in a Fae-made spell, Androw waits for the one who can free him. A boy raised to be king, he sought refuge from his abusive father in the Fae tales his mother spun. And when it was too much to bear, he ran away, dragging his anger and guilt with him, pursuing shadowy trails deep within the Dark Woods of the Fae, seeking the truth in tales, and salvation in the eyes of a snowy hare. But many years have passed since the snowy hare turned to woman and the woman winged away on the winds of a winter storm leaving Androw prisoner behind walls of his own making—a prison that will hold him forever unless the daughter of an owl can save him.

My Review:

A new imagining of the classic Snow White tale! I absolutely loved that fact that the main character was born an owl and turned human, rather than the more typical reverse. The opening of the book really shows the transition and the character’s confusion.

The author’s style is really lyrical, bordering on prose poem. Fresh and refreshing to see writing this literary in YA fantasy. I thought the style contributed to the ethereal tone of the book.

I initially read this book during the winter, which really is the perfect time for it. It was one of the stories that got me hooked on the novella format because I felt the length and style so perfectly suited the story.

4.5 / 5 stars


A Recipe For Magic

Author: Aggy Bird

Publisher: Harmony Ink Press

Length: 64pgs


Summary (Goodreads):

Connor Roth is a fire mage who’s going places. He’s powerful, popular, and he has a plan. But his plan for fame and glory is disrupted when the Oracle sticks him with Landyn Glendower for Senior Trial. This is an act unprecedented in their school’s history. Landyn is a water mage, and everyone knows mages with opposing elements can’t work magic together.

Connor is left with a choice: work alone and fail or swallow his pride and work with Landyn to find a way to combine their magic in a display the Archmages will never forget—if they don’t get kicked out of school in the process.


My Review:

Elemental magic? Dragons? Sweet M/M Romance? I went into this book wanting to love it. I loved the developing relationship between Landyn and Connor — Agatha Bird really teased out their time together and everything about the relationship progression felt natural. I also loved how the boys’ personalities matched their powers. I thought Connor’s need to prove himself was also compelling. And I liked that the coming out wasn’t a shock. In the world of this novella, the focus was on the romance itself, not on being gay. The boys have plenty of awkward, loveable moments.

However, without giving it away completely, I have to say that the ending really didn’t work for me. I WANTED THE BIG DISPLAY! It would have been satisfying and for me and would have rounded the story out beautifully.

Rating: 4/5 stars


Heir Apparent

Author: Lauren DeStefano

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Length: 17pgs

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Summary (GoodReads):

 Rise back up to the floating city of Internment in this original enovella, a dark look at life in the royal family after the events of Perfect Ruin.

When King Furlow begins to treat Prince Azure as the heir apparent that he is, he takes him to see the “re-education camps” for wrong-thinkers. But as he enters the camps ,Azure discovers the dark underbelly of the kingdom—and the king himself. His view of his father can never be the same, but what about his view of himself?

My Review:

I really enjoyed this, but I did feel it was much more of a short story than a novella. The plot was very simple, almost single-episode and I thought there were a lot of suggested nuances that the author didn’t have the chance to fully explore.

That being said, this little story does pack a punch. Although I would say it’s aimed at the younger end of the YA-spectrum, with a twelve-year-old protagonist, this story is dark and psychological. I found the writing fluid and compelling – we just needed more of it!

Part of a series, but I read this without having read the other books and did not feel I was missing too much information.

Rating 3.5/5 stars.


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Writer’s Resources #2: Using Adult Colouring Books to Help you World-build

Two of the hardest things about being a fantasy writer are coming up with those elusive starting ideas and then developing and fleshing out your world. For me, time spent just thinking, letting my imagination run wild like whirlwind while the plot is still unclear, is one of the more exciting and also frustrating parts of manuscript development. It’s hard to run with something if you don’t have that one special IDEA yet or you’ve had a fragmentary idea, but really struggle to just sit and imagine without getting distracted.

For me, the discovery of Adult Colouring books has been a bit of a godsend. When I first started my job selling books as an Account Manager for a large wholesaler/distributor, I was completely shocked by the wild popularity of these books. I couldn’t imagine myself — as a 26 year old woman — actually sitting down and colouring in a book.

But the more of them I sold, the more curious I became. Until one day, I brought a copy of Animal Kingdom home for myself, bought a cheap packet of Crayola pens and sat down to colour. And as I coloured, I quickly found my mind wandering in imaginative thought in a half-dream state. It’s easy to focus if your attention is slightly split, as ironic as it sounds.

For me, that state of peace is the most conducive to inspiration. In our modern lifestyles, even if you set aside daily to write, it’s really hard to just turn everything off and imagine/let your mind wander. I quickly found that I could capitalise on it by colouring while I was working on a very difficult chapter or trying to think up a scene. The activity in itself was soothing, and setting aside time to just think through the problem has helped me when I feel stuck in a rut.

Then, I discovered Dream Cities — an adult colouring book with beautiful fantasy cityscapes, and it upped the anti yet again. I started to imagine the people that might live in a city like that, and then to try to locate my own characters within that mapped out environment. The twisting turrets and exotic locals helped me picture places outside my norm.

I’ve come up with a few meditative exercises for writers to do with these books. A lot of these centre around the Mindfulness Principles.  I think that if you find that colouring or drawing helps you in a totally separate way to write, then you should go with the flow. But for the skeptics … try this:

A Writing Exercise to do with Colouring Books

You will Need: 

(1) An Adult Colouring Book, preferably one set in a clear ‘place’ rather than featuring abstract designs or animals. I recommend the following: 

(1) Colouring for Mindfulness: Dream Cities

(2) Enchanted Forest

(3) Dreamcatcher: Soulbird
(2) Pens, Coloured Pencils or Pastels 

(3) Some space to be on your own with no distractions. Music in the background is OK.

EXERCISE – Setting a World

(1) Pick a large spread, a two page joined book page will work the best.

(2) Think of the page as a place. If it’s a forest scene, what atmosphere are you going to give it? Pick colours that suit the first feeling you have towards the atmosphere of the place.

(3) Whether it’s a forest or a city, try to populate your world. Who is there in the space? Are they human? Do they live there or are they just passing through?

(4) How does the colour palette atmosphere that you’ve created affect the beings in the space? What emotional headspace are the people in? Are they calm and blue? Passionate and red?

(5) What made them feel that way? If they’re angry — what are they fighting? If they’re scared — what are they running from?

(6) Consider the world at large again. What’s around this place? If it’s a forest scape, is it expansive? If it’s a city — where is it located? What kind of climate does it have? What are the neighbouring cities like?

(7) Look at the details of the page, the shapes of the leave ,the curves of the city turrets. Why are they this way? What could be special about them? Was this place always this way? What is it’s history?

(8) How do the history and detail tie in with the beings you’ve imagined in the space created?

(9) Once you’ve finished the page, balance the book on something so you can clearly look at the image. Get a pen and a separate piece of paper.

(10) Set a timer. Attempt to free write about something that happens in the space for 20 minutes. Your writing can be in note-format.


My Own Meditations 

An ‘in-progress’ capture of a page I did while meditating on The Tiger’s Watch, my current WIP:

(1) Doing this page, I realised I wanted the riverscape world I’d intended to be a bit more oceanic. I also liked the idea of introducing the dolphins and giving them a use within the culture … thereby giving me a new element of world-building depth. The dolphins will feature as messengers and carriers. They will also pull boats.

(2) I also wanted to emphasise the contrast between the peaceful natural environment and the dangerous, militaristic culture. The city is in bright, violent colours, completely enclosed by a high wooden fence.

(3) The city I designed ended up looking like a flame on the water. And then I thought why? What does that say about the culture itself?



And a complete meditation that I did while brainstorming a scene where there is death and hope (fall means that to me), that takes place in a forest and is very solitary and emotive.


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