The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge
- Reading level: Young Adult
- Hardcover: 512 pages
- Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (February 22, 2011)
In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.
Aoife Grayson's family is unique, in the worst way—every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.
5 Paranormal Creatures You Don't Know About (But Will Be the Next Big Thing)by Caitlin Kittredge
So we've all accepted that vampires, angels, ghosts and werewolves are fun, and popular, things to write YA novels about. I don't pretend to have any kind of secret market prediction powers, but I find that overlooked paranormal types tend to set your story apart from the rest and open up fun new mythology that hasn't been raked over by dozens of authors before you. Here's a few of my favorites:
1. Lovecraft Mythos
Okay, I'm biased here—my novel, The Iron Thorn, centers around the Mythos, the world created by H.P. Lovecraft for many of his stories, including arguably his most famous, The Call of Cthulhu. Lovecraft freely encouraged others to use his monsters, settings and characters, which has spawned dozens of novels and films (Hellboy is a prime example), but very few YA novels. WHY IT'LL BE HUGE: Lovecraftian monsters are genuinely scary and not based wholly in established folklore—Lovecraft literally made up his own secret history for his world. They're also fantastic for historical fantasy, as many of Lovecraft's works are set in the Victorian era, and his modern ones don't go beyond the 1930s, as he died very young.
2. Native American Folklore
Every creature that's popular today—vampires, demons, werewolves or others—has an equivalent (and often far bloodier and more terrifying) creature in Native American folklore. Legends like the skinwalker, the Thunderbird, and the wendigo are ripe for stories that root themselves in traditional folklore. This one can be tricky—you need to be sure to do your research and avoid whitewashing your cast, but the lore is deep and comprehensive, and the stories are magical. WHY IT'LL BE HUGE: Native American folklore is a largely untapped market in fantasy, as are Native American characters. We need more!
3. The Loa
Loa are part of Vaudaun, or voodoo, a religion springing from Haitian and Afro-Caribbean traditions. Loa are patron spirits similar to saints, and represent voodoo's two distinct sides, dark and light. Vaudaun can heal the sick or reverse a curse, but it can also cast the same curse or create a zombie, in the traditional sense—a person under complete sway of the practitioner. Loa such as Papa Legba lend power during a ritual, while Baron Samedi watches over the dead and can help rid yourself of ghosts. WHY IT'LL BE HUGE: Vaudaun's loa spirits would make fantastic characters to base a paranormal YA around, and they have a rich historical tradition as well as many varied settings for a novel—vaudaun is found in Haiti, West Africa, and the American South, just to name a few. Again, research and cultural sensitivity are key.
Kitsune are mischievous fox spirits, originally found in Japanese folktales. They can shapeshift into human form to further their mischief, or to watch over and protect their human companions. Kitsune are known for wisdom, loyalty and bravery. They sometimes pick a specific human to watch over and often protect them from the machinations of more evil trickster spirits, or demons such as oni. WHY THEY'LL BE HUGE: Kitsune are already wildly popular in manga, and the YA market is ripe for a new type of shapeshifter with a new mythology to go with it. Plus, who wouldn't love having their very own fox spirit to watch over them?
Citizens of Asgard who ferry fallen warriors to Valhalla, valkyries are both awesome and terrifying creatures. Equally capable of falling in love with a human warrior or presiding over his death, you'd have to look hard to find a more kick-ass group of women. When not helping their einherjar (slain warriors) prepare for Ragnarok, the valkyries are the servants of Odin, and frequently act on his bidding. WHY THEY'LL BE HUGE: Norse mythology is popular, but not as popular as Greek, Celtic or Judeo-Christian. There's a serious need for butt-kicking valkyries and a YA version of the Norse gods—who also embodied many strong females, including goddesses Freya and Sif.
What are some of your top picks for the next big thing?
Want to win my finished copy of The Iron Thorn?
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Books by Caitlin Kittredge
Caitlin started writing novels at age 13. Her first was a Star Wars tie-in. Fortunately, she branched out from there and after a few years trying to be a screenwriter, a comic book writer and the author of copious amounts of fanfiction, she tried to write a novel again. Her epic dark fantasy (thankfully) never saw the light of day but while she was struggling with elves and sorcerers she got the idea of writing a story about a werewolf who fought crime. Two years and many, many drafts later, she pitched Night Life to a bevy of agents and one of them, Rachel Vater, sold the series to St. Martin’s. Caitlin collects comic books, print books, vintage clothes, and bad habits. She loves tea, loud music, the color black (especially mixed with the color pink) and ghost stories. She can drive a stick shift, play the violin and knows more English curses than American ones. Visit her Official Website
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Steph Su Reads—Thursday, April 21st .