Jenny Davidson‘s first YA novel, The Explosionist, takes place in an alternate version of Edinburgh in 1938. Sophie’s world diverges from our own when Napoleon wins at Waterloo in 1815, though there are other discrepancies that cannot be traced back to that battle–most importantly, the paranormal element of this book. Spiritualism is alive and well in this world, and actually real and sometimes state-sponsored. It’s quite possible to speak to the dead here, though not everyone can do it, and there are certainly plenty of frauds and skeptics.

Sophie is a fifteen-year-old schoolgirl who lives with her Great-aunt Tabitha in Edinburgh. Oh, how to explain this book! All of the political intrigue (to which Sophie is privy–often by eavesdropping–because of her great-aunt’s high status) and the ways in which this world differs from our own would take pages to explain properly (which is why you’re lucky there’s a lengthy novel about it). Suffice to say, Sophie and her friend Mikael soon find themselves involved in various mysteries and plots on which the fate of Scotland and the rest of the world hangs. Seances, explosions, terrorist groups, murder, politics, and various other things are involved. This world (like our own in 1938, though for different reasons) is on the brink of a war that will shape the coming years, a war that could be avoidable.

Like I said, this is a difficult book to explain, but not difficult to finish–I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough! There’s suspense and intrigue and mystery and adventure and even a bit of romance. I was caught up in it all from the beginning, and now I absolutely cannot wait for a sequel–which is too bad for me, as this book isn’t even out until July, so there’ll be quite some time before any continuation of the adventures of Sophie and Mikael. I admire the way Jenny Davidson ended this in just the right place–readers are anxious to find out what happens next, and there’s no doubt that, barring exceptional circumstances, there will be a sequel, but there’s still a decent enough ending place so that the book actually ends rather than just stopping the way some series books do.

The Explosionist is an amazing book! Jenny Davidson is such a talented writer, able to make more than 450 pages absolutely fly by. The complicated twists and turns of the plot are never overwhelmingly confusing, but just enough to keep your brain busy. I quite enjoyed all of the characters, who were refreshingly real and human. This is an unputdownable, read-it-in-one-sitting kind of book, a remarkable feat for one so long. And remarkable really does describe this novel! I was so impressed and completely in awe of Jenny Davidson’s skill the whole time I was reading it. And when I finished, my first thought was of course a desire for more! Seriously, read this book. If you have any way of doing so, get ahold of a copy now, and if not, well, you’ll just have to wait for July.

Ever is the latest novel by Gail Carson Levine, an author who has proven herself time and time again to be an enchanting storyteller. In this latest fantasy from a talented author, Kezi is a girl from a monotheistic family in a setting that sounds kind of Eastern Mediterranean, biblical times (Israel? Greece? Really, I have no idea, that’s just my guess).  When Kezi’s father makes a vow to Admat (God) that results in his having to sacrifice his daughter, however, Kezi’s beliefs are challenged. Not because of her impending death, but because of Olus, the goatherd who reveals himself to be the Akkan god of the winds.

Kezi and Olus fall in love (unrealistically quickly), and embark on a journey to change Kezi’s fate by making her immortal. This journey is a literal one, but also a quest searching for the truth; Kezi has always believed in Admat, the one supreme being, but she’s just found out about more than forty other gods!

Ever is a love story, an adventure, and a few other things, but what I noticed most about this book was a distinct fairytale-like quality; that’s the best way I can think to describe it. It doesn’t really have depth in terms of great characterizations or realistic relationships–but as I was reading it, that was okay, because it didn’t feel like all that was necessary. It also has beautifully drawn settings and an interesting mythology. The writing is simple and clear, setting the fairytale-like tone I mentioned earlier. It’s not a deep story, exactly, but it does require thought. It’s simple, thoughtful, and an enchanting story that, if readers do not look for what is not there, they will definitely be able to appreciate, but there have been mixed reviews. Taking it for what it is, I loved Ever, and I devoured it in a morning! It’s not my favorite of Gail Carson Levine’s books, but it is certainly one that is worth reading.