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Sarah Beth Durst

Sarah Beth DurstSarah Beth Durst grew up in Northboro, MA, a town in central Massachusetts which (she claims) was temporarily transformed into a fairy tale kingdom for several days in 1986. These events later inspired her novels as well as her paralyzing fear of glass footwear. Sarah has been writing fantasy stories since she was ten years old. She holds an English degree from Princeton University and currently resides in Stony Brook, NY, with her husband and daughter. Visit Sarah Beth Durst’s website.

Ice: Cassie is not one of those passive YA heroines

Ice by Sarah Beth Durst

Cassie doesn’t believe in fairy tales. Sure, Gram used to tell her that bedtime story about how Cassie’s mother was stolen away by the North Wind and imprisoned by trolls. But Cassie, who lives with her scientist father at a research station in the Arctic, has every intention of following in Dad’s logical, analytical footsteps. She has no time for fantasy. And besides, as she grew older, she realized that “stolen by the North Wind” was just a euphemism for “died.”

Or was it?

On her eighteenth birthday, Cassie tracks a polar bear into the icy wastes, intending to tag it for research. When it escapes by walking through a wall of ice, she realizes it’s no ordinary bear — and when she describes it to Dad, he panics. Turns out the story was true, and now Cassie is fated to become the polar bear’s bride.

She doesn’t go passively, instead striking a deal with the... Read More

Enchanted Ivy: Delivers on all accounts

Enchanted Ivy by Sara Beth Durst

One problem I often have with contemporary fantasy is its tendency to ignore the magic of the world around us in its longing for something Other. Enchanted Ivy avoids this problem by striking a nice balance. There’s certainly a great deal of otherworldly magic, as evidenced by the dragons and faeries and talking gargoyles and cute were-tiger boys. Yet I got a real sense that all this magic was inspired by the feelings the campus of Princeton genuinely evoked in Durst. I can actually picture the author looking at the great old buildings and the gargoyles and imagining they could come to life at any second. Otherworldly magic inspired by a place that is, to the author, already magical. So to speak.

Although Enchanted Ivy’s cast of characters don’t entirely jump off the page, they’re still strongly written and easy to like (o... Read More

Drink, Slay, Love: Amusing YA

Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst

Drink, Slay, Love is a good example of what young adult urban fantasy can be. It's funny, it's light, it doesn't take itself too seriously, and most importantly, there is actually more to the story than just how handsome everyone is. Sarah Beth Durst strikes a good balance between adventure and emotional angst.

Pearl is a young vampire. Sounds kind of funny to think that someone who is undead could be young, but in the world of Drink, Slay, Love the possibility to be born as a vampire exists. Pearl is living the young vampire life, hunting for humans to feed on, keeping up her combat skills to defend herself, flirting with the uber-hot male vampire and learning how to live within the rules of her race.

Then Pearl is almost killed by a unicorn. She survives, and begins to undergo traumatic changes. For example, ... Read More

Vessel: One of the best of the year

Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst

Once every hundred years, the desert clans’ gods come to walk among them. One young man or woman from each clan is chosen to serve as the vessel for that clan’s deity. The human soul dies and returns to the Dreaming, while the god takes over the body. Now incarnate in the vessel’s body, the god works magic to help keep the clan alive in the harsh conditions of the desert.

Liyana has known for years that she is destined to be the vessel for the goddess Bayla. But Bayla never shows up. Believing the goddess has found Liyana unworthy, her clan abandons her to the elements, but soon she is found by the incarnate god Korbyn, who has shocking news for her. Five of the desert deities have been magically imprisoned, including Bayla, hence why she never appeared to claim Liyana’s body.

Now Liyana must help Korbyn find the other four vessels, traveling across the desert to the encampments o... Read More

Conjured: The Sarah Beth Durst book for Laini Taylor fans

Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst

I want to live in Sarah Beth Durst’s brain. Every time I turn around, she has a new book out, and it’s completely different from the last one. Her imagination is seemingly boundless. Another thing I appreciate about her books is that they stand alone. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good series as much as the next girl, but there’s also something to be said for a self-contained novel.

Laini Taylor, author of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, provided the front cover blurb for Conjured, and I can’t think of anyone more fitting. I’d call Conjured “the Sarah Beth Durst book for Laini Taylor fans.” In a few of its broad lines (girl in our world who is threatened by secrets from a parallel, dreamlike world), it’s similar to Daughter of Smoke and Bone and will probably appeal to a lot o... Read More

The Lost: Durst’s first foray into adult fiction

The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst

You never know what Sarah Beth Durst is going to do next. Fairy tales mixed with science? Vampires and unicorns? Gods taking over human bodies? Creepy carnivals? She’s done all of that and more, and with The Lost, Durst begins another story that, just like her previous novels, is completely different from what has gone before.

Lauren Chase took to the open road to get away, just for a little while, from the prospect of bad news about her mother’s health. Instead she found herself caught in a dust storm and then stuck in a town called Lost. People and things that are “lost” to the outside world find their way here, and no one can leave until the Missing Man allows them to go home. But something goes terribly wrong when the Missing Man meets Lauren, and now the townspeople of Lost are convinced Lauren has driven away their only hope. Now, with most of Lost’s population hostile toward h... Read More

The Girl Who Could Not Dream: Dreams come true… with rainbows and teeth

The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst

Monsters, glittery flying ponies, ninja bunnies and other fantastical creatures inhabit the pages of The Girl Who Could Not Dream, Sarah Beth Durst’s enchanting new middle grade fantasy adventure novel. Sophie’s parents own a secretive dream shop, where you can buy bottled dreams or ― if you prefer more frightening adventures ― nightmares. (It’s like reading a Stephen King novel, only more immersive.) Her family uses woven dreamcatchers to capture other peoples' dreams, and then her parents distill the dreams into liquid form, bottle them and sell them to customers.

Because Sophie has never had a dream of her own, when she was six years old her curiosity led her to swipe a dream bottle ... Read More

The Queen of Blood: A solid, dramatic opening

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

The Queen of Blood (2016) is the first book in an epic fantasy series by Sarah Beth Durst, THE QUEENS OF RENTHIA. Durst seems to be able to write whatever she sets her mind to: YA, urban fantasy, or dark fairy tales. The Queen of Blood is a briskly-paced story that introduces us to an original fantasy world with some unusual magical powers.

Daleina lives with her parents and little sister in one of the “outer villages” in the great forests of the kingdom of Aratay. The forest is filled with nature spirits: air, water, ice, earth, fire and wood. These spirits are not friendly. Their instinct is to kill humans, but the power of Aratay’s human queen keeps them mostly in check. Sometimes there are incidents, but for the most part i... Read More

The Reluctant Queen: Retraces some steps while starting new paths

The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

The Reluctant Queen (2017), the second in Sarah Beth Durst’s QUEENS OF RENTHIA trilogy, follows quite closely on the heels of The Queen of Blood and reveals the consequences of Daleina’s unexpected rise to power as the Queen of Aratay. This series is meant to be read in sequence, so there will be some mild inevitable spoilers for The Queen of Blood.

Just six months after her bloody coronation, Daleina has a large problem on her hands: she is dying, which means that her control over Aratay’s spirits is weakening, which further means that the land and people she is sworn to protect are at daily risk of attack. She gives her Champions... Read More

The Queen of Sorrow: Complex and triumphant

The Queen of Sorrow by Sarah Beth Durst

The Queen of Sorrow (2018) is the third volume in Sarah Beth Durst’s THE QUEENS OF RENTHIA series, appearing to conclude the storylines of Queens Daleina, Naelin, and Merecot which began in The Queen of Blood and were explored further The Reluctant Queen. Renthia is a world filled with all manner of spirits, who are capable of tremendous destruction unless kept under tight control by the queen of the realm, who must also perform the expected state duties of caring for her subjects and guarding against incursion from foreign entities. It’s a lot of responsibility, and the stren... Read More

The Deepest Blue: Love conquers all

The Deepest Blue by Sarah Beth Durst

Readers who have been anxiously awaiting more tales set within the lands of Renthia (and I am loudly, proudly one of them) are sure to be pleased by The Deepest Blue (2019), the latest from Sarah Beth Durst, which is billed as a stand-alone TALES OF RENTHIA novel and is set after the events of The Queen of Sorrow. The only true indicator of timeline is the appearance of one of my favorite people in all of Renthia, and though her contributions are critical to the overall plot, The Deepest Blue could easily function as a continuation of story for existing fans or an introduction for new readers.

This time, our story is set on the tropical ar... Read More

Journey Across the Hidden Islands: The lion swoops tonight

Journey Across the Hidden Islands by Sarah Beth Durst

Seika and Ji-Lin are the twelve year old princesses of the Hidden Islands, a group of a hundred islands cut off from the rest of the world by a magical barrier created by an ancient volcano dragon. Seika is the heir to the throne, while Ji-Lin is being trained as an imperial guard, dedicated to protecting her sister from any danger. For the past year they’ve been separated while Ji-Lin is in training at a mountain temple, with the winged, talking lion Alejan as her partner and closest friend.

Ji-Lin’s training is unexpectedly cut short when she is called to return to the imperial city. The emperor, their father, tells Seika and Ji-Lin that the next day they will begin the ritual five-day-long Emperor’s Journey to visit the Dragon’s Shrine. There they will renew the traditional bargain with the volcano dragon to keep the barrier around the islands, which protects their l... Read More

The Stone Girl’s Story: A heart of stone

The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst

High up in the mountains, in a marble house, live a stone girl and her animal friends, who are also carved from stone. In this world, magical symbols and marks carved into stone make the stone come alive, giving it the power to move above, see, speak and hear, think, and even fly. Mayka, the stone girl, and her family of living stone birds, rabbits, a cat, an owl and others, were all carved and brought to life by a kindly master stonemason. The marks tell their stories, and the stories give them life.

Mayka and her friends live an isolated and contented life. Any harm or danger is far away in the valleys below them … except the danger of time. Their beloved Father, the stonemason, died many years ago, and gradually the magical marks etched on Mayka and her stone friends are wearing away and breaking. Harlisona the rabbit can’t speak any more ― her mark for speech accidentally chip... Read More

Fire & Heist: An easy contender for Best YA of 2018

Fire & Heist by Sarah Beth Durst

I’d only previously read Sarah Beth Dursts QUEENS OF RENTHIA series, so I was excited to have the chance to read Fire & Heist (2018), her latest YA novel. I never know whether an author whose adult work is enjoyable will write well for a young adult audience — or vice versa — but I’m pleased to be able to report that Durst is clearly adept at writing for any age group, and particularly so for nerdy readers.

Sky Hawkins is the kind of leading character many readers would love to hate. She comes from a family who “owned at one time a fleet of Aston Martins and [gave] the gardener his own Tesla,” and readily acknowledges that she might seem like just another “poor little rich girl” in Aspen, Colorado who deserves “the world’s smallest vio... Read More

Catalyst: An incredible journey

Catalyst by Sarah Beth Durst

Just before her twelfth birthday, Zoe finds an impossibly small, breathtakingly cute kitten hiding behind her parents’ garage. Having been forbidden from bringing home any more animal rescues — and there have been many — the obvious course of action is for Zoe to sneak the kitten into her bedroom, text photos to her best friend Harrison, and go eat cake. The next day, she tells her family about the new arrival (christened Pipsqueak) and, to her great joy, she’s finally allowed to keep this one. After all, Zoe’s beloved brother Alex is making plans for college courses in Paris, her mom is starting a new job with the mayor’s office, and her dad is renovating part of the house.
“You all have something you’re excited about,” Zoe pleaded. “… I think … I need something that’s mine?”
But two days later, Pipsqueak is the size of a full-grown cat, and she keeps growing. And t... Read More

The Bone Maker: A solid novel

Reposting to include Jana's new review.

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

There’s a point almost exactly halfway through Sarah Beth Durst’s latest novel, The Bone Maker (2021), where the author teases us that the book we’ve been reading just might go in a completely different direction, prompting me to write in my notes, “Love this.” And then, well, it didn’t. Instead, as if the inertia were too great, we’re shortly steered back into a well-worn fantasy story, which, despite being mostly satisfying — with some moments that rose above that level and a few that pulled it below — had me wishing I could have gone back to that moment fifty-three percent of the way in and chosen the plot less traveled.

Twenty-five years ago, Kreya led her crew of magic-users (husband Jentt and friends Zera, Stra... Read More

Even and Odd: Fun and thought-provoking

Even and Odd by Sarah Beth Durst

Even and Odd are pre-teen sisters living in Stony Haven, Connecticut, where their parents operate a border shop carrying “supplies for the mundane world, as well as imports from the magic world — anything a magical customer might need for their visit here.” Those imports and magically-inclined customers come from the land of Firoth, where Even and Odd were born, and which is accessible via magic portals. The sisters trade off magical abilities on alternating days, leading to their nicknames, though each girl has different opinions on their access to magic: Even, more than anything in the world, wants to become an Academy of Magic-certified hero, while Odd wants to focus on her volunteer work at the local animal rescue center and pretend that she’s completely mundane (unless the opportunity arises to transform Even into a talking skunk, at which point all bets are off).

Much to everyone’s ... Read More

Marion and Terry report on the 2013 Nebula Awards Weekend

The 48th Annual Nebula Awards weekend was held by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America at the San Jose Convention Center in northern California from May 17 through 19, 2013. Terry Weyna and I, who both live in Northern California and both are aspiring writers, decided to see what a bunch of published writers get up to when they party together.

Gene Wolfe and Teri Goulding

Marion Deeds: I think what surprised me most is how light on programming the weekend was. I thought there would be sessions about the nuts and bolts of a writing career, but I guess that SFWA members already have a pretty good idea about that. Still, I thought we’d hear about things like the new Amazon publishing arms, the Night Shade Books mess, that sort of thing. Read More

Sarah Beth Durst asks “Why do you read?”

We've got Sarah Beth Durst with us today, author of several books we love. I'm currently enjoying her new book, Conjured, which will be released next week. Sarah's got a fundamentally important question for you. 

So here's something I've been thinking about a lot lately... Why do people read?

I have my big-picture generic answer, of course: we read because we need stories as desperately as we need air, food, and water. Stories are how we process, cope with, and/or escape from the world. Whether they're told by friends, inside books, on TV, or whatever, they're how we connect with other people, understand our past, and prepare for the future.

Plus, they're awesome.

But on an individual level... Why do people read?

I think that the reason differs from person to person, and that it can be different ... Read More

Sarah Beth Durst asks, “What have you lost?”

Fantasy Literature welcomes back Sarah Beth Durst, whose new novel, The Lost, is out this week. I'm currently reading The Lost and really enjoying it — it's eerie, and filled with mysteries. In the spirit of The Lost, Sarah has a question for you. One commenter (U.S. address) will win a signed copy of The Lost. Thanks for stopping by, Sarah!

My question for you this Thursday is: What have you lost that you'd like to find?

I've lost earrings — a little silver gecko, a blue butterfly. When I was in college, I sold my Barbie mobile home in a yard sale. Always regretted not saving that and giving it to family instead of letting a stranger have it for a few quarters. I've lost friendships, frayed by distance and time, that I wish I could have back. I've lost memories — events that are hazy or only remembere... Read More

Writing for Kids

Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers. My guest today is Sarah Beth Durst. Durst is the author of nine fantasy novels for children, teens, and adults, including (click link to read our reviews) ConjuredVessel, and Ice. Her new middle-grade novel, The Girl Who Could Not Dream, which Read More

More novels by Sarah Beth Durst

Into the Wild — (2007-2008) Ages 9-12. Publisher: The Wild is a fairy-tale world — at least it was until the fairy-tale characters escaped — but lately it’s just a mass of hungry vines stuffed under Julie’s bed. Julie, her mom Rapunzel (yep, that Rapunzel — think long hair, tower, prince), and her brother Puss-in-Boots (okay, he’s a cat) do their best to keep it hidden and under control. But Julie’s sick of living with the Wild — it eats her jeans and sneakers whenever it wants! Junior high is tough enough, even with a normal family. When someone makes a dangerous wish that sets the Wild free, it grows and grows and quickly begins to devour Julie’s entire Massachusetts town. The Wild is hungry, and this time it wants its characters back for good. Julie must venture deep into the Wild and outsmart wicked witches, feisty giants, and super-cute princes in the ultimate quest to save her family. She fights her way to the heart of the fairy tale and discovers she must risk everything or lose her chance to live in the real world… and if Julie can’t find a way to defeat the happily-ever-after, she’ll never see her family again. Sarah Beth Durst weaves a postmodern fairy tale that’s fresh, funny, and sweetly poignant.

children's fantasy  book reviews Sarah Beth Durst Into the Wild, Out of the Wildchildren's fantasy  book reviews Sarah Beth Durst Into the Wild, Out of the Wild

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Chasing Power — (2014) Publisher: Sixteen-year-old Kayla was born with the ability to move things with her mind—things like credit cards and buttons on cash registers—and she has become a master shoplifter. She steals to build up enough money for her and her mom to be able to flee if her dad finds them again . . . which would mean grave danger for them both. When she’s caught stealing by a boy named Daniel—a boy with the ability to teleport—he needs her help and is willing to blackmail her to get it. Together, they embark on a quest to find and steal an ancient incantation, written on three indestructible stones and hidden millennia ago, all to rescue Daniel’s kidnapped mother. But Kayla has no idea that this rescue mission will lead back to her own family—and to betrayals that she may not be able to forgive . . . or survive.