The truth is, everyone’s seen the telepath and the pyrokinetic way too many times. It’d still be incredibly cool to actually have one of those powers, but come on, if there’s a word for it that ends in “kinesis”, it’s surely entered the mainstream of every pop culture medium by now.
Oh, hey, I’ve seen this one before! Not that I wouldn’t still trade my left kidney for that. I mean, let’s be real here. Still, fiction gets a little stale when every character is a girl who moves stuff with her mind. (Or drains the life force of people she touches. I’m looking at you,
discount Rogue Juliette.)
As with any world-building element, there are some great authors out there who’ve written characters with weird, wonderful and unique superpowers, and here are five of my favourite:
5. Alia Keralis, Wonder Woman: Warbringer
The power: She’s the “Warbringer,” a girl born every few generations whose existence will bring about great bloodshed unless she either dies or is purified by bathing in a spring in Greece. So while hers isn’t a power so much as a curse, Alia does display briefly near the end a slight ability to accelerate her Warbringer powers when she causes one enemy soldier to attack another.
Points for: Creativity, as I don’t think this has been done (much) before. Oh, and look, it wasn’t Helen of Troy’s face that launched the thousand ships anymore! The heroine’s abilities aren’t derived from her beauty after all.
4. Alosa Kalligan, Daughter of the Pirate King
The power: As the daughter of a siren queen and a human pirate, Alosa has several powerful abilities. She has the classic siren song that can control minds, read people’s emotions as colours hovering over them, and enhance her appearance to any (straight) man’s idea of a perfect woman.
Points for: Nuance. Alosa’s song has to be regularly recharged through contact with sea water and comes at a steep price, namely that whenever she’s “charged” she loses her humanity and gains bloodthirsty siren instincts. She hates the loss of control so much that she prefers to use her abilities as little as possible, favouring the human side of her bloodline.
3. Sarai, Strange the Dreamer
The power: Sarai is a godspawn, the daughter of the goddess Isagol the Terrible and a human man. She has the ability to partially transfer her consciousness into a swarm of a hundred moths each night and see through their eyes. If she lands the moths in contact with a sleeping human’s skin, she can also enter and control their dreams. The moths are reproduced each night flying out of Sarai’s mouth and must return back into her mouth before dawn, or else she will be rendered mute for the next day.
Points for: Character development. Strange the Dreamer‘s gods aren’t the Percy Jackson type you’re used to: they’re basically all-powerful aliens who enslaved humans for centuries before being driven out around 10 years before the book’s events. Because of her mother’s identity, Sarai is considered a public enemy and wrestles with how to use her abilities–whether to deploy them against the humans or employ them for good. Of note, it’s implied in Book Two’s synopsis that we’re yet to see the full extent of her extraordinary powers…
2. Esta, The Last Magician
The power: Esta is the first chronokinetic I’ve read in YA. And while her power is more conventional than most of the others on this list and can be described in one -kinesis word, it’s helluva lot of fun. Ordinarily, Esta can freeze time for herself (and essentially be the Flash) or jump a few minutes in time, but with a magical stone called Ishtar’s Key, she can travel back decades or even centuries.
Points for: Execution. It can’t be easy juggling a time traveling story with multiple timelines and paradoxes, especially in a 500-page novel with a cast of sprawling proportions. Yet Lisa Maxwell uses Esta’s time traveling in logical ways while providing a rollicking 1920s heist thriller. Huzzah!
1. August Flynn, This Savage Song
The power: August is a Sunai, the rarest type of monster in the dystopian city of Verity, born of events with huge loss of life. When he plays the violin, it has an enchanting effect on all humans and monsters who can hear it, rendering them subdued and calm. The music exposes its victims’ souls as orbs of light. Sunai can reap a soul if the person has sinned, thus feeding on the human. In extreme cases August can also “go dark,” exposing his true monstrous form which has the potential for vast destruction.
Points for: Creativity, nuance, and writing. My brief description of August doesn’t do his character justice at all. There are so many things that make his character unlike any I’d read before. For example, the Sunai see innocents’ souls as white and sinners’ souls as red, but for them the definition of “sinner” is eventually horrifyingly revealed to be a strict “anyone who has ever killed another person.” So if a mother’s shot an attacker to protect their baby, the Sunai’s nature propels them to reap that mother’s soul, leaving their child alone in the world. Victoria Schwab capitalises on her fascinating premise to explore moral rigidity and many other themes–this is not a book you want to miss.
Lira, To Kill a Kingdom
Zélie Adebola, Children of Blood and Bone
Adrian Everhart/Sketch & Danna Bell/Monarch, Renegades