I love a good adventure. I love the stories about epic destinies and quests, of those happy few standing against all odds in the face of pure evil and then going home to live in the new world that they have wrought. But sometimes I wonder: What happens next?
Perhaps it’s the fanficcer in me, but I am always curious about how our heroes live on in this world that they have fixed. It’s not like every problem would disappear, after all, and as has been said: We need to handle our financial situation. I love the idea of The After, and I love reading books that examine how these new worlds are stabilized after the foundations are laid.
An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet
Leah Bobet writes beautiful books, so when she told me she was writing a post-quest story about what happens after the Wicked God is dealt with, I was all in. Her examination of the scars we bring with us into new places, and her unpacking of each trauma, whether it’s the ones who fought or the ones who stayed to farm or the ones who push the science of why, is absolutely gorgeous and real. Effortlessly balancing the cosmic and the personal, An Inheritance of Ashes unfolds like a riddle with healing at the centre.
The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy turns several things on their heads at the end of book one, and by the time we get to the third installment, the characters are kingdom-building to save themselves and everyone else. Decrees are made, but they’re a little difficult to enforce while on a road trip, and I loved how Elisa (the main character), used her divine influence to get what she wanted—even if her divine influence had a different plan. (I love a girl who takes every advantage she can get and plays on people’s expectations of her!) Carson doesn’t finish the whole story, because that’s not how fiction works, but we get to see so much of Elisa’s efforts towards peace making, and that’s an absolute delight.
The Inquisitor’s Apprentice by Chris Moriarty
(Let me begin by saying what I always say about this book: It has the best magical system and world-building I have ever come across.)
Anyway! So Sasha is born into a New York that doesn’t love him. Magic has lost. J.P. Morgaunt has made his millions and cut magic off from the working class, and Thomas Edison is trying to invent machines that will replace magic entirely. The Pentacle Shirtwaist fire looms. And Sasha can see every bit of the magic that clings to the city. The Inquisitor’s Apprentice is a brilliant examination of faith and privilege and family and deciding when you’re 12 to make a better world because the grown-ups are wrong.
Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas
I love everything about this book. Introverted science nerd becomes incredibly reluctant Queen? Check. Political machinations to make Josh Lyman blush? Check. GIRLS WHO ARE FRIENDS WITH GIRLS??? Check. Rebuilding a kingdom is hard enough when you’ve been raised to rule, and Freya was twenty-third in line for the throne. With almost everyone dead and all of the survivors (including herself) prime suspects, Freya has to be entirely self-reliant and deal with everything from her anxiety to her father to the fact that her kingdom is on the brink.
The Swan Riders by Erin Bow
So imagine you’re an AI and you’ve taken over the world. You hold hostages around the globe to ensure everyone’s good behaviour, and you have a host of devotees called Swan Riders who cure diseases and build desalination plants and occasionally host you in their bodies if you need to make a physical appearance for some reason (like executing a rebellious general via cider press). Imagine the world is pretty good, only you have lost touch with it. Except you’re not wrong. You can’t be. It is literally impossible. Oh, and there’s a new AI, and she thinks your Riders may be on to something. You made a perfect world. And now you have to deal with the consequences.
E. K. Johnston is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of several YA novels, including the L.A. Time Book Prize finalist The Story of Owen and Star Wars: Ahsoka. Her novel A Thousand Nights was shortlisted for The Governor General’s Award. The New York Times called The Story of Owen “a clever first step in the career of a novelist who, like her troubadour heroine, has many more songs to sing” and in its review of Exit, Pursued by a Bear, The Globe & Mail called Johnston “the Meryl Streep of YA,” with “limitless range.” E. K. Johnston lives in Stratford, Ontario. Follow her on Twitter at @ek_johnston.