Don't you love discovering a new book? It's a delicious feeling. Yum. My latest discover is Janice Hardy's Healing Wars trilogy, or more specifically, book two, Blue Fire, which came out this October. (Book one is called The Shifter.) The Healing Wars are about Nya who can shift pain from person to person in a world where pain is bought, sold, and used as a weapon. By book two, Nya is a hunted outlaw desperate to protect her friends. The books are mid-grade, so violence and romance are toned down, but the subtlety actually makes both more effective.
Several things impressed me about Blue Fire. One was the logic behind the villains. Hardy didn't bring in new magic, she made her enemies smart enough to use the rules she'd already invented to their advantage. That made the world more believable and showed off her villains intelligence. Also, the stakes are not just high, they're very personal. Nya isn't just out to save the world, she wants to save people she cares about, and because she cares, we do too. Hardy writes quite a bit about raising stakes on her blog. She has an excellent article on the subject here. It's worth checking out.