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I also had a hard time contemplating young adult fiction similar to the Bartimaeus series, and wasn't too successful except for one name - Cornelia Funke. Dragon Rider and The Thief Lord were the first two I read by her, and I much preferred The Thief Lord, set in Venice Italy but with a supernatural aspect to the story of two young brothers (runaways) who take up with a group of other homeless youth under the protective eye of a young man who uses them to steal items that are commissioned by those who want the items. One such item ends up with an interesting history and even more interesting use. They made a movie out of the book and it's pretty faithful to the book. Dragon Rider is a stand-alone book that is what Eragorn should have been - a boy and his dragon.

Ms. Funke's other series is the one I should mention though: Inkheart, Inkspell and coming soon Inkdeath. They are set "here and now", but again with a supernatural aspect: our heroine's father has the ability to read characters into our world when he reads aloud. Doesn't sound so bad, until you think about how unpleasant it would be to read, oh say, Stephen King's Flagg character into reality. Oh and all things require balance so someone from this world ends up in their world, which is exactly what happened to our heroine's mother many years earlier. The first book is, I understand, being filmed with Brendan Frazier as the dad. Did I mention that the ability is genetic?

I also have a fondness for at least the first few books by Jane Lindskold about a world much like our medieval Europe, but in which animal species have a level higher than the one we are used to, a level called Royal animals in which those animals can understand and communicate with each other. The first book is titled Through Wolf's Eyes. Our heroine was raised by a pack of Royal wolves after the village that she was in as a baby is destroyed yet she survived. She therefore can communicate with the wolves and has their mannerisms and straight-forward way of thinking. In short, she considers herself a wolf and would given the chance change her body to become one if it were possible. Another group of humans arrives to find what happened to the original colonists and the Royal wolves insist to our heroine that she needs to go live with her own kind. It seems the colony was founded by the younger son of one of the kingdom's rulers, and since that king's sons who were not in exile have died, this younger son might well be heir to the throne. When only our heroine is found, it is thought she might be heir. After a long trip to this kingdom (one of the Royal wolves goes with her), our heroine finds herself bewildered by the odd behavior of human kind and their struggle for power, as she is being tutored in the ways to act at court etc. as well as figure out who she can or should trust and who means her harm. I haven't yet read the last two books.

Jane Lindskold has two other books called Changer and Legends Walking, a pair of novels about the Athanor, gods if you will but in "reality," immortals whose exploits were recalled as the folklore we know. Changer would be the Trickster figure in Native American folktales, with other immortals in literature ranging from Camelot to Greek, Teutonic and African folklore. As a shapeshifter, Changer has spent some time away from other immortals and has a coyote family in the American Southwest. When his coyote family is deliberately killed, Changer sets out on a course of revenge and finds himself in league with Arther Pendragon and his court. The most interesting thing about the writing style in this book is in present tense - "Changer enters the room and sits at the table." It gives the book a sort of unusual sense of realness when compared to standard past tense styles, once you get used to it. Oh and Elvis was also Dionysus - nice touch that. The second book deals with Changer's daughter Shahrazad, sole survivor of his coyote family, who has inherited daddy's shapeshifting ability. I wish she'd write a third in this series but have lost hope she will after all this time.

Tamora Pierce has several series set in a medieval kingdom sort of world populated also by monsters etc from our standard folklore (centaurs etc). Some of the series are about young women struggling to become trained and recognized as knights in service to the king, and others are cops of a sort, called Dogs. They have a rather liberal mindset in relationships, with the young women generally choosing to not marry as Knights and Dogs, and as such it is considered normal to engage in sexual relationships with the young men they are in love with.

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