Blind the Eyes, a YA dystopian paranormal fantasy by K.A. Wiggins, coming to bookstores near you and online Christmas 2017

YA Fantasy - K.A. Wiggins

Reviews, writing and publishing news and more from YA fantasy author K.A. Wiggins.


K.A. Wiggins is a Vancouverite who doesn't know how to live in the same place for long, a bookstagrammer and a fan of Islay Scotch and craft gin. She writes stories about being on the edges of things.


Her first published novel is BLIND THE EYES, a YA dark fantasy in which a not-quite alive girl and her not-quite dead ghost discover trusted authorities lie, allies have their own agendas and even the monsters wear masks in a story that evokes STRANGE THE DREAMER and THIS SAVAGE SONG with the flawed, challenging voices of PLACES NO ONE KNOWS. A free 5 chapter preview ebook and audiobook is now available for newsletter subscribers (along with other exclusive content) at


Find her YA portal fantasy/post-apocalyptic survival thriller FLAME OF THE CONNARII, inspired by Disney's TARZAN-meets-Celtic-warrior-princess, and her NA horror rom-com THINGS GOT OUT OF HAND serialized on Wattpad under the pen name KAIE.


Disposable kids, human selfishness, and deadly irresponsibility

Unwind - Neal Shusterman

Well, it's official. Shusterman is obsessed with death. Or perhaps more accurately, with our social, systematic, and personal relationships with death.


It's crazy reading through his backlist having been introduced to his work through Scythe, because so many of the same ideas that he's developed so wonderfully in the Arc of a Scythe series pop up in his earlier work.


The Unwind Dystology uses the two camps of abortion activists as a jumping off point to develop a dystopian future where both have lost and population control is dealt with by harvesting unwanted teens for their organs. There is some exploration of the perspectives on abortion and what it says about human beliefs and human nature, including: unwanted babies are a burden on society, no one can prove when (or if) a soul exists in a human, adults are frequently irresponsible and want to be freed of the consequences of their actions, teens are a hassle to deal with, organ harvesting is big business, it sucks how much women have to take on, everyone wants to not be the last one left holding the bag. But really, what this first book, at least, leaves you with is not an argument for one camp or the other (women's rights vs. infant rights), but rather that humans are mostly trash.


I mean, that makes it sound more depressing than it is as a read. It's fast-paced and entertaining, with well-developed characters and oodles of conflict. I basically read it in a sitting (hello 3 am, my old friend!) But what comes out clearly is that no one wants to deal with nasty chores and the burden of being responsible for someone else. There's the time adults in a community passed around an unwanted baby in a weeks-long game of "hot potato" until it died of neglect. There are the parents who went nuts with having kids and adopting unwanted babies, ultimately to decide to "tithe" the 10th one as a human sacrifice out of some twisted interpretation of their religion. There's the young teen mother who abandons her infant on a doorstep, assuming the wealthy family there will be better able to care for it. There are the parents of teens who, for various reasons, choose to give up troublemakers and disappointments. There's the state, which harvests orphanage kids to finance raising the younger ones. We're told that the demand for organ donation is so high because the adults en masse are more comfortable with kids being "unwound" to parts than they are signing organ donation cards in the event of their own death.


So basically, people treat people like trash most of the time. And teens are the least likely to get any sympathy. And most of our bad behaviour comes down to economic reasons, comfort, and convenience.


There are heroes, of course. The troublemaking teen who escapes, channels his anger and discontentment into leadership and rescues others. The father who tries to make up for the sacrifice of his own son to save others. The "underground railroad" that works to save fleeing kids because they still believe in something besides convenience and passing the buck. The brainwashed religious (cult) kid who learns his own life and the lives of others have value after all. But those heroes are few - greatly outnumbered by the careless masses.


And the series continues. Maybe there's hope for the rest of humanity. Maybe if they're forced to confront the ugly reality of the cost of their normalcy, they'll choose to sacrifice something of their own, and not just tap off kids to sacrifice for them. Or maybe not. Maybe they'll just shift the blame once more to a population without the power to protect themselves. The unborn. The elderly. The damaged. Another nation. Another skin colour. Another religion. Because without something big enough to believe in and convince us to sacrifice our comfort and convenience, most of us subside into willfull ignorance. But hey, idk, maybe that's not where the series is headed. After all, fiction is all about the escapist happy endings, right?

That one time you had a work-study visa in Europe and spent all your time drinking instead of sightseeing (+time travel)

Paris Adrift - E.J. Swift

Disclaimer: reviewing uncorrected digital proof via NetGalley


"Adrift" is apt: the author took on a challenging format and offers some true excellence in character writing and worldbuilding, but the experience of reading this book is, for better or worse, as if you're just as adrift, confused, and purposeless as main character Hallie.

Hallie's doing the dissipated youth finding herself routine in Paris. But before we find that out, we have to wade through some future revolutionary setup with time-travellers who want to go back and change the past to resolve the blighted dystopian future they're living in. This is the frame story and the plot, but Hallie doesn't figure out where she fits into it until extremely late in the game. Instead, she's working and drinking her life away in a bar, hanging out with people who do the same, and - unwillingly at first - hopping through time in the cellar.


There's a lot to like at a technical level. Swift conveys that dreamy/nightmarish feeling and atmosphere of being 20-something and finding your group on the road, living in the moment, but with an uneasy awareness that the moment must pass and you're more than where you're stuck now. Paris and the group of international workers at Hallie's bar are conveyed with detailed world-building excellence, including what (as far as my limited French can tell) is accurate and characteristic uses of French.


If you think of this as a literary novel, it deserves a high rating. Dreamy, evocative, endlessly confusing, but in a way that hints at careful construction, it's an effective deep-dive into character. But the frame story plot lags as Hallie finds herself, and there are too many mysteries held for too long for it to be effective as a genre work. If you need fast, thriller pacing, spicy romance, or intricate and engage SFF goings-on to enjoy a book, this is not the story for you. If you're happy to invest some time, drift through the story, and maybe reminisce about (or look forward to) your own dissipated youthful travels, this offers much to appreciate. Just sit back and let it flow.

Bandits, miner's daughters, a boring prince and a sentient mountain

Princess Academy - Shannon Hale

This is the type of excellent children's publishing that I craved as a preteen/young teen. It reads sort of like a middle grade, more accessible to younger readers than a lot of the YA MA books these days.


This wasn't at all what I was expecting from the title and cover; I thought it would be fluffy romantic school stories, but it's the type of smart, political historical fiction-inspired fantasy that I loved well before paranormal romance and urban fantasy took over YA.


Miri is a 14-year-old miner's daughter who mourns the fact that she's too small and can't go help out in the mines. Fantasy!politics decree that all daughters in the village between 12-18 or so must be removed to a training camp to be prepared as a potential princess pool. Handwavy explanation aside, it's a chance for Miri to start to see a wider world and her own home's context within that. She uses what she learns about economics, politics, reading and math to negotiate a better situation for her village, protect her classmates, understand her family, and fight oppression. There's some very mild romance (again, suitable for MG/young teen readers), but the story is more about personal growth, community and friendship, and helping others through learning and sharing knowledge. Beautiful, meaningful, engaging and fast-paced.

Bikers, escorts, and a detective with a conscience in hipster Vancouver

Invisible Dead - Sam Wiebe

I do read mysteries, but I don't tend to read the gritty crime/noir genre. Too dark, in most cases. I loved this, though. 


Wiebe captures the culture, ephemera, and atmosphere of Vancouver with endless telling details, making his narrative about crime and the seedy, dark underbelly of the city all the more alarming. Reads smoothly and convincingly, with all-too-recognizable characters. The endless men (and some women) dismissing the harm they do to others, particularly to the most vulnerable (and often First Nations and visible minority) women, are the company owners I've worked with and for, the powerful and dismissive, the entitled and self-satisfied, and most of all, the casually careless.


The specificity of eating out in Vancouver and enjoying the views are so common in the city as to be living stereotypes, and the friendly familiarity of the lifestyle and location details drives the knife in even further as one character after another drives the women who've suffered in this book, and on our streets in real life, further into the mud.


I prefer reading mysteries set in exotic foreign places and times. New York. Chicago. London. Paris. 1920s. 1940s. A crime novel calling out not only the shady hidden figures of my Vancouver, but all of us in the city, privileged and struggling alike, for glossing past, stepping over, and treating with casual disdain and irresponsibility the ones having the hardest time surviving, hits far too close to home. But there's a balance of hope and tenacity in this book that keeps the darkness from feeling entirely crushing. So I'll read more of Wiebe's work, if only to remind myself of the faces, the voices, and the stories I need to not forget.

Dangerous - Shannon Hale

This was great. The setup is diverse science-geek kids become a Power-Rangers-style team of superheroes with mysterious alien-derived powers. Then it goes somewhere different.


Some cool things it included:

-caring parents that remain present and supportive
-kids with goals/girls w/ STEM goals they're pursuing
-decent representation across genders, races, abilities, nationalities & economic statuses
-everyone has a nuanced backstory
-it's not just another 'yay team' clone

-MC is homeschooled (but not a genius), multi-lingual & multi-racial, lost her hand at birth, designs her own prosthetics


There was a dizzying whirlwind of plot, and I think this could have been split into a duology given the amount of twists and developments. I inhaled it almost in a single sitting. Really entertaining and a lot of fresh takes on tropes while still checking all the boxes for thriller/SF/superhero story. So different than Hale's fairytale retellings, but just as excellent.

Ghost gangs and murder teens go atomic

Everfound - Neal Shusterman Satisfying conclusion to the series. Shusterman seems to have a genius for setting multiple characters and plots off in different directions, and them weaving them back together for a smashing, dizzying finish. I generally enjoyed the series as a whole, but didn't find it as gripping as some other recent reads. Might be because there's so many characters and different perspectives. Neat to see a lot of the stuff that went into the Arc of a Scythe series emerging here. Might need to take a break from my Shusterman marathon, since I slowed down on this trilogy, but I've got at least one more series to go.

Jack (of Beanstalk fame) and Rapunzel save fantasy!New York

Calamity Jack - Dean Hale;Shannon Hale

This second entry keeps all the fun, humor, action, and social commentary of the first but shifts the setting east for an urban makeover. It's the late 19th century and giants are pulling the strings of the city in this revolutionary spin on Jack and the Beanstalk. Art continues to be appealing, funny and a little manic.

Russian dragon royalty + hot historian Cinderella-style shifter romance

Grigori: A Royal Dragon Romance (Brothers of Ash and Fire) - Monique Patterson, Lauren Smith

I picked up a copy of this by mistake as part of a newsletter chain/giveaway/review group and I don't usually read adult romances, but I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of writing. There's an underlying story that holds up quite well even without the racy bits, character motivations are clearly expressed and somewhat believable (I mean, aside from all the paranormal/shifter stuff), the writing style is strong and engaging, and the world-building is convincing.


I don't particularly care for dragons or shifters in general as a trope or topic, but I do like paranormal or fantasy stories and romance subplots, so it wasn't too much of a stretch for me. Cinderella-style romances with a rich guy are generally a good time, and there are other pretty classic storytelling threads that are combined competently enough to be entertaining, if predictable. It seemed pretty short, but there was a reasonable story arc and some character development, so it just very clearly leads into a series for the larger story. I would have continued on if it were less explicit, but that's totally a matter of personal taste, and I think this would do very well with romance fans. In my opinion, the writing and storytelling, as well as the quality of production, are a cut above typical indie fare.

More ghost gangs and murder teens

Everwild - Neal Shusterman

I wasn't going to continue after book 1 in this trilogy, but I'm glad I did. The stakes and shape of the rest of the series surge in this second adventure. The kids are learning more about the nature, limitations, and opportunities afforded by their state. Particularly the skinjacker situation. Murder and manipulation, control and chaos, and good old world-domination via terrorist acts of destruction on the horizon. It's cool to see the seeds of conflict that birthed the Arc of the Scythe series popping up in this context. I'm not as glued to the page as I might be, but there's enough going on to keep me invested for the final book in the trilogy.

Dead kids and their afterlife feuds

Everlost - Neal Shusterman

Interesting premise and entertaining quick read, but this left me with less of an impression than other recent Shusterman books.


Nick and Allison die in the same accident and knock each other off the path to the light. They wake up still on Earth, but stuck on the ghostly side. They discover there are others - lots of others, and they're all under 17. Gangs form, sides are taken, monsters are fought and discoveries made.


Interesting, mildly creepy young YA action. I'm reading the sequel, but I almost stopped after this first book because I was entertained but not really all that invested in spending more time with the characters and story world. But the blurb for book 2 had a good twist, so I'm going to keep going. I should stress that it's not at all a bad book, just a matter of taste, I think.

A girl and her deep relationship with her cat

Book of a Thousand Days - Shannon Hale

This was lovely and unexpected.


Set in a sort of alternate medieval fantasy!Mongolia, it brings to mind classic fairytales with a princess locked in a tower for defying her father's mandate to marry the evil lord of a neighbouring land. Except the hero of the story is neither the resistant princess nor her dashing princely love, but the unsuspecting, dutiful servant girl who accompanies her into exile.


Dashti is a mucker, a sort of herding, yurt-living nomad, who heads to the city for a job after her mother and last remaining family member dies. She's trained as a lady's maid because she knows the healing songs of her people. Her first assignment is to the daughter of the khan, but when she shows up for work, her new employer has been deserted by the rest of her staff and is about to be locked up for seven years for refusing a marriage.


There's much to love about this book - apparently a 10-year anniversary re-release. Dashti has the kind of slow but significant character arc that is extremely hard to pull off, but entirely convincing and satisfying. She's determined, responsible, and hard-working, and very aware of her low-class status. Her transition from being happy just to be fed and housed to falling in love and learning to want, pursue, and fight for more than she ever thought she deserved is inspiring and natural-seeming.


The story is entirely told through Dashti's writing-practice journal entries, a unique perspective that creates an almost delicate-seeming storytelling style. The character experiences are mostly conveyed from the outside, from observations and actions, which can pack more of a punch than a close voice and strong interiority.


A poverty-stricken, bottom-of-society, functionally powerless girl saves everyone from her nearest relationships to the country. But don't read it for that. Read it for the amazing healing power of cats, and the story of one girl who's totally, utterly and completely in love with her cat.


Lovely read. I'm grabbing everything written by this author to marathon through right now.

Face-stealing monsters, intergenerational drama, and squabbling witches

The King of Bones and Ashes (Witches of New Orleans) - J.D. Horn

Disclaimer: reviewing uncorrected digital proof via NetGalley


I'm not quite sure how to categorize this. There are pretty strong contemporary fiction leanings, what with the complicated, extraordinarily messy and interwoven multi-generational family dynamics. There's the paranormal/fantasy content, with witches, shapeshifters, and monsters lurking around the edges. Things skew from drama to thriller and right on into the realm of horror as the story progresses.


I found the first quarter really slow going. Like, I kept double checking to make sure this wasn't a companion series to an earlier series because there is so much worldbuilding detail and so many different points of view and webs of interrelational drama to wade through. Despite the deep, rich worldbuilding, or really, probably because of it, the book didn't draw me in at first. I felt like I just didn't care about the characters, the witchy goings-on, or the New Orleans southern setting. But by the end of the first third of the book, all that detail starts to settle in and the shape of the story emerges. Well worth the extra effort to get there.


The investment in backstory and getting to know so many different threads at the beginning starts to really pay off heading into the latter portions of the book. Various mysteries start to unravel and a race for the finish line tangles against late-in-the-game twists for an unexpectedly high stakes, surprising wrap up that provides some closure while setting up the series for further drama.


One caveat for squeamish readers; the family drama and dynamics get about as sordid as you can imagine. There's no explicit sexual content, and abuse isn't lingered over (though things get pretty violent in the paranormal/horror scenes), but there's plenty of cheating and backstabbing (and front stabbing), plus a little mixing of the generations that may turn off some.


Verdict: detailed, engaging start to what's sure to be an impressive new Urban Fantasy series. Good read for readers who enjoy a dense, richly imagined story world.

This shouldn't work but it does

Violent Ends - Brendan Shusterman, Courtney Summers, Neal Shusterman, Beth Revis, Elisa Nader, Shaun Hutchinson, Delilah S. Dawson, Tom Leveen, Trish Doller, Kendare Blake, E. M. Kokie, Blythe Woolston, Mindi Scott, Margie Gelbwasser, Hannah Moskowitz, Steve Brezenoff, Christine Johnso

So I generally reserve 5 star reviews for a both that was both excellent *and* I'm likely to want to reread. In this case, it's not necessarily that I'm likely to pull this down off the shelf over and over again, but that it was a truly remarkable book.


Told in 17 points of view, this is the story of - or maybe it's more accurate to say "around" - a high school shooting. Each segment was written by a different YA author and is from a different character or object POV. Remarkably, it still feels like a consistent, singular work. I would have thought the tonal shifts would be too jarring, or the way it doesn't come back around in a classic narrative structure would be more like reading a series of news accounts or a short story anthology. But - and this feels like a super weird comment to make - it reads really well. It's fast, engaging, even entertaining or enjoyable, at some level. The characters are well fleshed out, though it's hard to keep track of them and their relationships to one another, especially at first. There's insight, but not explanations.


The book as a whole doesn't answer much. The shooter was a boy with some problems. He might have been a good friend. He might have been destructive from a young age. He might have been bullied. He might have been suicidal. He might have had psychological issues. It might have been the system, or isolation; other kids, or school or genetics. There's complexity and confusion and bad choices and too much unexplored desire and it pretty much captures adolescence and the terrors and triumphs of high school. It's a mess and it's brilliant and remarkable.

Luxury cruises, snarky stowaways & human smuggling

Ship Out of Luck - Neal Shusterman

Fun and funny YA that weaves awkward mid-teen shenanigans, poverty, and immigration together in a light yet high-stakes tale that's unfailing entertaining. Great for the younger end of the YA spectrum, with just enough dating angst to make it a bit mature for some MG readers, but none of the explicit content that ages YA up into adult territory.

Heartfelt & hilarious read on the border of YA/MG

Antsy Does Time - Neal Shusterman

Wasn't able to track down the first book in this sequence, but it's pretty seamless to jump in on this second one. Worldbuilding is smooth and convincing, to the point that you almost might miss the fact that a lot of the stuff referenced actually happened in a second book, and isn't just stage dressing.


Antsy's inscrutably cool Swedish classmate shares that he's going to die in six months. Antsy offers him a month of his own life out of sympathy. Then everyone else wants to get in on the good deed. Things spiral. Life, (the fear of) death, and comedy abound Lot of heavy themes explored with a light, funny touch. The mid-teens boy perspective is solid, by turns insightful and hilarious, and helps make the content feel approachable instead of heavy. Faith/prayer/religion, parents' career and relationship conflict, and illness and death covered.


Mild dating content (kissing) but I'd say this is an accessible read for male and female readers from about mid-Elementary school age on up. Main cast are in the 15-16yo range, but tonally it feels more MG.

The YA fairytale retelling you've never heard of but need to read

Duckling Ugly - Neal Shusterman

This series is begging for fresh covers and a grand rerelease. There's such a wave of fairytale retellings making the rounds in YA right now, and these offer a sharply insightful modern day variation with more chilling horror than sparkly princesses which seems like it'd be fresh and well received. They're pretty short reads, borderline novella, so maybe that's holding them back a little (and yeah, those covers *shudder*) but the human, social, and cultural insight explored through a sort of twisted magical frame is spot on. This one picks up on the ugly duckling primarily, with a dark hook centered around the idea of beauty - or ugliness - being skin deep vs. all the way through, and drawing from or contributing to its surroundings. Not to get too spoilery, but it almost heads into YA paranormal territory; not quite vampires, but shades-of. Murder and abuse and Carrie-like bullying abound in a depressed smalltown (southern?) America setting.

Currently reading

Daughters Of The Storm by Kim Wilkins
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Blind the Eyes by K.A. Wiggins
Blind the Eyes Special Preview Edition: 5 Chapter Preview by K.A. Wiggins