My top five YA fantasies by Holly Race #MidnightsTwins

Fern King is about to uncover a place that she could not have imagined in all her wildest dreams. Annwn is the dream mirror of our world, a place where Dreamers walk in their slumber, their dreams playing out all around them. An enchanted, mysterious place that feeds our own world – as without dreams, without a place where our imaginations and minds can be nourished, what kind of humans would we be?

But Annwn is a place as full of dangers as it is wonders: it is a place where dreams can kill you. Annwn and its Dreamers are protected by an ancient order known as the Knights – and when Fern’s hated twin Ollie is chosen to join their ranks, Fern will have to do whatever she can to prove she is one of them too.

But the world Fern discovers in Annwn, in this dream mirror of her London, is a fragile one, threatened by vicious nightmares. Nightmares that are harder and harder for the Knights to defeat. Something dark is jeopardising the peace and stability of Annwn, something that must be rooted out at all costs. And gradually, Fern realises that the danger lurking inside our sleep is more insidious and terrifying than any nightmare. Because if you can influence someone’s dreams, you can control their thoughts …

Release Date: 11th June 2020
Genre: YA
Page Count: 432
Publisher: Hot Key32 Books

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My top five YA fantasies
by Holly Race

  1. Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

I was told about this book at the London Book Fair shortly after it was published and downloaded it before I left the fair so I could start reading it on the tube home. I finished it that same evening, after foregoing supper so I wouldn’t have to put it down. Set in a bleak future where women are engineered to serve men, it’s not dissimilar to The Handmaid’s Tale: a depressing but important and incredibly powerful read. My heart was pounding with the claustrophobia and insidiousness of Freida’s world, which was at once so dystopian but also pretty familiar from the years I spent at an all girls’ secondary school! It made me heartbroken and furious all at once.

  1. Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

I’d been meaning to read this book for ages, but only got round to doing so early this year when I was on holiday (before lockdown!) I stayed up late, swinging on a hammock slung outside my cabin, with the sound of the sea whispering through the darkness, and got bitten to shreds by mosquitoes as I read! It was worth every bite: I’ve read this book a few times since, just to admire the way Ngan tackles the incredibly sensitive subject matter while also allowing the main character, Lei, some joy. The story is set in a world that is inspired by Malaysian folklore, and it follows a group of women who are forced to become concubines to the Demon King. I love that every one of those women reacts to their situation in very different, very relatable ways – even when they do terrible things, Ngan treats them all with huge compassion.

  1. The String Diaries by Stephen Lloyd Jones

To be honest, I’m not sure that this is necessarily YA (sorry!) but I couldn’t not mention it. I read this book when I was a script reader (which involves reading books for production companies to see whether they’d be suitable for adaptation) before it was published and immediately pre-ordered it so that I could have a hard copy of my own. It’s a thriller about a shapeshifter who hunts the women of a family through the generations. In most horrors the suspense is rooted in things jumping out at you or attacking through darkness. In The String Diaries the terror emanates from the fact that you don’t know if the villain is right in front of the protagonist, talking to her in the guise of a loved one.

  1. Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Stepsister takes up the Cinderella story at the moment when Cinderella is found by her Prince Charming. She rides off into the sunset, leaving her stepsisters behind to deal with the consequences of their poor behaviour. The main character is Isabelle – a young woman who’s more interested in battles and horse riding than decorum or fashion. That doesn’t go down well in the world of Stepsister, where women’s appearances are valued far above their brains. Stepsister is definitely more Grimms than Disney, but it’s still a fairytale, and a truly wonderful, affirming one at that. The book explores the ways that society (I was going to say archaic society but let’s face it, it still happens far too often today) pigeonholes women and pits them against each other. I love that Donnelly doesn’t shy away from the fact that the stepsisters were bullies – nor does she turn Cinderella into a vain, shallow girl. We end up rooting for all three sisters, and there was one moment near the end where I actually punched the air in glee.

  1. The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle

I have recommended this book to so many people over the years; I find it outrageous that more people aren’t shouting about it. Five word summary: Amish community meets vampire apocalypse. There – now go read it. No, seriously – what more do you need?


Holly Race works as a development executive in the film and TV industry, most recently with Aardman Animations. Holly is a Faber Academy graduate, and Midnight’s Twins is her debut novel and the first in a trilogy. After spending several happy years in East London, a few streets away from where Fern lives, she now resides in Cambridge with her husband, their daughter and a large black poodle called Nymeria.



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