Even the Darkest Stars
By Heather Fawcett
Balzer + Bray, 432 pages, $21.99
Kamzin lives in a magical world, but she doesn't care about magic. She cares about mountains. As the Elder's daughter, Kamzin is expected to learn how to wield talismans to cast spells, but her passion and talents lie in navigation, hiking and adventure. Her dreams come true when she gets the chance to set off with the Royal Explorer on a journey to climb Mount Raksha, a 20,000-foot-high mountain guarded by deadly witches and soul-sucking ghosts. The fantasy elements are on point, but the real fun lies in B.C. author Heather Fawcett's allusions to Everest and her agonizing descriptions in the punishing climbing scenes. Kamzin is a true athlete, relying on her own human strength in an inhuman setting. It's Into Thin Air drenched in fantasy with some bonus high-altitude make-outs.
Miles Morales: Spider-Man
By Jason Reynolds
Marvel Press, 272 pages, $18.99
National Book Award finalist Jason Reynolds (Ghost) plants his version of Spider-Man firmly in our contemporary reality of racism and resistance. Miles Morales, a high-school junior, works hard to earn his room and board at the elite Brooklyn Visions Academy. He is introspective and socially aware, struggling with the perception of his "rough" neighbourhood and breaking the cycle of his family's criminal past. Miles also has to deal with a racist, Confederate-worshipping white teacher whose motive is much more disturbing than simply bringing Miles down. The resounding message of this superhero story is not of the pithy "good can conquer evil" variety. It goes deeper and is succinctly articulated in Miles's last line of dialogue. When fighting back against unfair treatment, he breaks the bounds of the fictional narrative by speaking for anyone who experiences oppression: "We are people."
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo
By F.C. Yee
Amulet Books, 320 pages, $22.99
Genie Lo is a seemingly normal, hard-working, high-school sophomore. But then she meets Quentin, a hunky new student who turns out to be Sun Wukong, the powerful Monkey King from Chinese mythology. Quentin tells Genie she is the human reincarnation of the Ruyi Jingu Bang, the most powerful weapon in the world, and the only hope to rectify a recent demon jailbreak in hell. Genie comes to fully embrace her kick-ass calling and her sardonic voice is as refreshing as her brute strength. She muses on the lunacy of Silicon Valley and how she, a high-achieving Asian American, struggles to get into the Ivy Leagues because "there's only so many Bay Area Chinese they're willing to take." There are Imax-worthy fight scenes and insane demons mixed with hilarious one-liners and astute cultural critique. Really, Genie makes Wonder Woman seem like a bit of a snooze.