Young adult books roundup – reviews

Frances Hardinge’s gripping tale of redemption, stories of the Syrian war and a Swiss finishing school for the undead

As the nights draw in, where better to lose yourself than in the pages of Frances Hardinge’s Unraveller (Macmillan, £12.99), a world of misty marsh-woods, uncanny creatures and moonlight markets, where anyone with enough hatred in their hearts can summon a life-destroying curse. Fifteen-year-old Kellen has the rare gift of being able to unravel a curse, travelling to help the afflicted with his companion, Nettle, uncovering a deadly conspiracy along the way. Themes of humanity and redemption play out against this intricately woven backdrop, illuminated by characteristically sublime prose. Hardinge may be marketed as a young adult author, but herein lie rich rewards for readers of all ages.

More curses in Lightlark by Alex Aster (Amulet, £13.99), which sees young ruler Isla compete in a lethal game to break a centuries-old curse and win unparalleled powers. The YA tropes may be thickly spread – a deadly competition, the chosen one destined to save a kingdom, the ubiquitous love triangle – but the stakes are high and the storytelling addictive. The author’s popularity on TikTok helped her snag significant publishing and film deals; this will be catnip for fans of the high fantasy romance genre that dominates the platform’s book content.

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