Want to write that next Young Adult Paranormal Fantasy Romance blockbuster?
Who doesn’t? Of course you might be worried about all the YA tropes that have become clichés. Or not. (Certainly the writers who have been flooding my inbox with their latest YA opus are not the least bit concerned with clichés…)
But that gave me an idea. Why shouldn’t I be the one to pen that next best-seller and get the TV and licensing deals? I already know most of the tropes involved. I’d just have to be careful to avoid a couple (okay, a lot) of YA clichés.
I’ve totally got this one!
Susie Smith is a sixteen-year-old girl whose family disappears for two months. Nobody notices because it’s summer and school is out and she isn’t really all that popular.
Tragically, her parents don’t die and leave her an orphan compelled to excel at martial arts while concealing her dark secret identity. (Heartlessly, her parents even make their mortgage payments, hold down normal jobs, and contribute regularly to her college fund, making it impossible for her to take on the adult role of paying bills and taking care of the house and her younger siblings.) Instead they all go on vacation together to her grandparents’ house, where Susie does not meet a sexy boy with a devastating secret and bizarrely pale skin. She has a good time, and comes back at the end of the summer with her virginity and all her blood volume intact. Oh, and she still has her soul. Plus she is not secretly revealed to be the love child of a powerful member of the fey domain. Or a princess.
She catches sight of herself in the mirror and instead of spending the next few minutes cataloging the ways she is a totally and completely normal girl (who happens to have long red hair, big green eyes, pouty lips, and black hole of darkness within her very soul), she leans in to plop some Clearasil on a couple of pimples, pulls her shoulder-length brown hair into a ponytail, and then heads off to school, surreptitiously humming Abba songs along with her phone.
There is a sexy new guy with a devastating secret sitting behind her in class. They pay no attention to each other, and she sits with her best friend, who is gay, but isn’t a fashion expert or a good cook. Neither one of them flips their hair. That night, Susie wakes up to find the sexy guy watching her from the rocking chair in the corner of her bedroom. He whispers that he’s been in love with her all his life, or at least since he saw her in third period history class. She screams, and her father runs in and beats the hell out of him.
At school, the head cheerleader and sexy captain of the football team break up because of his devastating secret. He tells Susie he’s always noticed her and thinks she would be stunningly beautiful if she let her hair down, stopped wearing baggy jeans, and took off her glasses. But since Susie is not preternaturally intelligent and thus has to work hard for her grades, she doesn’t want to be late for biology class. She leaves, and they never speak again. In class, she practices her DNA testing and discovers that she is, in fact, the biological child of both her parents and not the offspring of a god or paranormal creature.
In calculus class, a sexy boy with a devastating secret tells Susie that she has been chosen to help him save the universe and that she’s going to get some secret powers any time now, so she must reject the advances of his rival, the sexy captain of the football team. Further, he tells her their last calculus test was really The Test and they are now the Chosen Ones and must forever more wear only their team’s Chosen Colors (him: purple and red, her: blue and silver). She tells him that her only secret powers are a double-jointed right thumb that allows her to scoop ice cream really quickly, and the scary ability to memorize Abba lyrics. She’s late for her part-time job at the ice cream store, so she takes a raincheck on universe-saving. He decides that it doesn’t make sense for the universe to depend on a couple of teenagers (plus the thought of a lifetime of wearing purple and red makes him slightly nauseous), so he joins Susie’s study group instead.
They get into the same University and occasionally share a ride home for the holidays. She heads back east for graduate school, and he ends up taking over his family’s business, a small group of painting & decorating stores, which he sees as a brave stand against a gloomy dystopian future, plus it’s free. She gets tenure. He gets a boat. The Universe doesn’t end.
They meet again at their tenth high school reunion, and she introduces him to her partner, a woman from the Classics department. He’s married to the former head cheerleader from their high school, and they have three daughters, the youngest of whom occasionally turns into an owl and flies around the house. Someone else saves the universe. Probably.
The end? Oh, please. This is just Book One. Of at least a 28-book series… We haven’t mentioned sexy vampires with a devastating secret. Or alien mind-control. Or even were-badgers.
[Fess-up time: the above is from a guest post I penned for Eric Gates fabulous blog, Thriller-Writer. But if you’d like to find a writer who nails almost all the tropes—sadly, no were-badgers—and shows readers why and how they work their magic, please take a look at Guardians of the Lost Lands, Shelley Wilson’s latest release in her Guardians of the Dead series.]
Guardians of the Lost Lands (Book 3 of The Guardians) by S.L. Wilson
Amber’s final quest could claim her soul, but it’s a journey she must make.
The evil that lurks in the Lost Lands threatens to infest the realms unless Amber, Redka, and Connor can destroy it. But Amber is more concerned about her father’s safety as he is held captive by the wickedness that terrorises them all.
Amber faces isolation and mistrust from her friends as they travel across land and sea to meet their most dangerous foe.
Will she be able to stay true to her destiny as the last Oracle, or will she be tempted by the darkness? The fate of the realms is in her hands.
Amber’s final quest will be her most terrifying yet. This time, it will be deadly.
In my review of the first book in this series, I talked about how author Shelley Wilson nailed the elements of the magical girl coming-of-age story. She continued to apply those tropes in the next series title, Guardians of the Sky. But her latest release, Guardians of the Lost Lands, takes both the basic tropes and young Oracle Amber to a much darker place.
From the beginning, Amber has had one goal.
“Not so long ago, it had been her number one task to gather her mother and father, Tom and Connor, and flee back to the human realm and the leafy streets of Hills Heath. Returning to her part-time job a the coffee shop, sand spending her free time with Connor, Tom and India in the magic shop had seemed like the perfect end to her story.”
Instead, she’s learned to embrace her nonhuman heritage as the Last Oracle, and even to dream of a future with fae prince Redka. Although her parents remain emotionally or physically distant—her father first married to and then kidnapped by the most evil stepmom ever, and her mother too wrapped up in the magical royal family of her adopted country to even notice her daughter’s seventeenth birthday—Amber and her friends prepare to risk their lives in a deadly mission to rescue her father.
As with the earlier books in the series, author Shelley Wilson lays out the fantasy trope elements with a sure hand.
- World building? This is where some of the writing really comes into its own. For example, the horrific world they are venturing into is “All sharp angles and screams.” Although the various lands and people they visit have tendency toward ‘by their haircolor shall you know them’ profiling, individuals are easy to pick out, such as a street vendor who embarrasses Connor with her request for a kiss. “The woman’s rotund face was tanned from spending many years outside, and her greying hair was scraped into a side plait. It hung over her shoulder and nestled between her ample breasts.”
- Plucky but motley band? Amber’s posse/love triangle of fey prince Redka and half-human Connor is augmented with the addition of young witch Tanya, although as Amber’s quest begins, her best friend Tom is off in the dragon realms with his new girlfriend.
- Politics? Amber only wants to rescue her father, but if she has to wear skin-tight black leathers and save the world to do it, then bring it. Girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do…
- Big Bad Dark Forces? One of the ways the writing this book makes a huge leap forward is in its much darker tone. We are in Amber’s head as the land’s dark magic subtly begins to take over her thoughts, until we realize that the true villain is already inside her.
- Hobbit? Every fantasy needs one, and this one doesn’t disappoint with doomed sea serpent Clem.
My early series complaints of too-extensive backstory and too-convenient Magic Power Upgrades no longer apply, especially now that the real evil has taken up residence inside Amber’s head.
There are several ways that the writing and storyline impressed me. First of all, author Wilson hasn’t been afraid to take her main character to some very dark places indeed, while inviting her readers into Amber’s head for the ride. And then there’s the twist. I don’t want to risk spoilers, so let me just say that the story’s pivotal dark moment doesn’t come until after you think everything is won and the day is saved. The reactions of Amber and her band bring almost all of them to fully-rounded three-dimensional life.
In Guardians of the Lost Lands, author Shelley Wilson continues to polish her craft as she presents a darker fantasy thriller. Plus she gives her characters—especially not-so-fairylike Radka—more well-rounded personalities and flaws. Indeed, my one complaint is that she does such a good job that I now want to know what happens to Amber’s friends.
If you like young adult fantasy with a darker twist, I would not hesitate to recommend this series. And you’re in luck! With the publication of this third book, you won’t have to wait to find out what happens to Amber and her friends as they face inner demons, dark magic, parent issues, love, and—hardest of all—growing up.
And as a special treat, the book’s unusually beautiful design—from gorgeous cover to internal chapter headings and layout—makes reading particularly enjoyable.
- Book Title & Preview: Guardians of the Lost Lands (Book 3, Guardians series)
- Author: S. L. Wilson
- Genre: YA Fantasy
- Publisher: H2O (9 Nov. 2016)
- Length: 178 pages
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