fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsRandom (The Were Chronicles #1) by Alma Alexander YA fantasy book reviewsRandom by Alma Alexander

There’s a group of Young Adult authors — I’m thinking of Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier, Justine Larbalestier, and a few others — who write the kind of books that snooty adults who look down on YA in Internet articles have clearly never read. These are books that don’t get made into popular movies, because most of what happens is internal to the characters.

This kind of YA has depth and resonance and significance. It shines a light on the path for young people (young women, in particular) who are looking for courage and a place in the world. It’s been some time since I was young, and I’ve never been a woman, but I’m glad that young women have writers like these in their corner, writing the sort of books that will help to shape their lives towards being remarkable people with a sense of hope and purpose, despite the challenges they face.

Not only does Alma Alexander understand this, and talk about the phenomenon in Random (Book One in THE WERE CHRONICLES), but the book is itself an example of what I mean. The experience of being an immigrant, the experience of being different, the experience of being treated unfairly by self-righteous authority and being powerless to do anything about it, are all her:, beautifully depicted, unflinchingly described, shown with all their terrible consequences.

Random begins with one young woman’s unexpected and disconcerting transformation, but then takes a step back and shows what lay behind the transformation and what triggered it: the rediscovery of her older sister’s diaries, telling the story of what led up to her tragic loss. In fact, the older sister’s story takes over the book, relegating what would otherwise be a remarkable transformation almost to an inconvenience (though it’s clear it will be important in the rest of the trilogy). Random closes with a stunning revelation that left me unable to say anything but “Wow. Wow.”

I don’t give five stars often or lightly, only to books that I know I’ll remember for a long time to come, that were more than just entertaining, that showed me something out of the ordinary. Random is such a book.

Publisher: My name is Jazz Marsh.I am a Random Were, which means I am a Were of no fixed form – like all Random Were, my family can become any warm-blooded creature which is the last thing they see before they Turn. For me, when my time came, that meant… trouble. I was quite young when I lost my older sister, Celia, and my family never spoke about her. It was only when I found the secret diaries that she had left behind that I began to discover the truth behind her life and her death. I never understood what drove my moody and dangerous older brother until I began to get an inkling about his part in Celia’s death… and until, driven to the edge of patience and understanding, he finally had to face his own Turn problems… and disastrously took matters into his own hands. One thing is clear. Everything I thought I knew about Were-kind was wrong. THIS IS BOOK ONE IN THE WERECHRONICLES SERIES.


  • Mike Reeves-McMillan

    MIKE REEVES-MCMILLAN, one of our guest reviewers, has eight bookcases which are taller than he is in his basement, and 200 samples on his Kindle. He's trying to cut down. A lifelong lover of the written word, he's especially a fan of Jim Butcher, Lois McMaster Bujold, Terry Pratchett and Roger Zelazny. He reads a lot of indie fiction these days, and can report that the quality and originality are both improving rapidly. He himself writes the Gryphon Clerks fantasy series, and numerous short stories. Mike lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and also in his head, where the weather is more predictable and there are a lot more dragons. He rants about writing and genre at The Gryphon Clerks and about books he's read at The Review Curmudgeon.

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