5 Sky Pony Protagonists As Cool As Black Widow

Captain America: Civil War hits theaters tomorrow! Most of us in the office are so excited to watch the feud between Cap and Iron Man unfold on the big screen but to celebrate the release of the film we’ve been excited to see ever since the credits rolled on The Avengers: Age of Ultron, we want to highlight one of our favorite female superheroes: Black Widow. Avenger, spy, friend, enemy—someone whose bad side you most definitely wouldn’t want to be on—Natasha Romanoff is quite the powerful female character. We imagine that when you’ve seen Civil War once or twice or three times, you’re going to need another source for your awesome female characters. Check out these Sky Pony books with some awesome female protagonists!


1. Itzy—Divah

Itzy Nash is the kind of hero who takes everything in stride. She isn’t phased by fallen angels swooping in or demons in her closet. And she doesn’t need a boy to rescue her.

“If Buffy the Vampire Slayer edited Vogue, Divah’s heroine Itzy Nash would be its first cover girl.” —Wendy N. Wagner, author of Skinwalkers

giphy941GkjrYv7pL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Eloise meets Rosemary’s Baby in New York City’s very own Carlyle hotel.

Seventeen-year-old Itzy Nash is spending the summer at the exclusive Carlyle hotel in New York City. But the hotel harbors more than the rich and privileged; it is host to a gorgeous fallen angel, reclusive movie stars, and—Itzy soon learns—demons of the worst sort. When the Queen of the Damned checks in, all Hell breaks loose. Itzy is called upon to save herself—and all of humanity—from the ravages of the Underworld. There’s only one problem: Itzy’s possessed.

Part gothic thriller, part historical fiction, the novel straddles the Upper East Side and the lush trappings of the Carlyle hotel, and Paris during the Reign of Terror in 1789. Marie Antoinette is the Queen of the Damned. Marilyn Monroe is an expert demon hunter. To kill a demon, Hermès scarves, Evian water, and a guillotine are the weapons of choice.

For anyone who loved Daughter of Smoke and Bone, this has an epic battle between angels and demons with a doomed love story at its core. But it’s also darkly funny, for fans of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and more than anything it’s something original—dark, funny, clever, and glamorous.

2. Tal—Wandering Wild

Tal is a schemer. Faced with challenges that would force most to bend to expectations, she’s determined to make her own luck and write her own path. And it doesn’t always go well for her—especially when what she wants most clashes with what has long been decided for her. But a fierce loyalty, especially to her brother, is the force that always sees her through. After all, “Fortune favors the bold.”


9781510704008-frontcover“I believe in possibility. Of magic, of omens, of compasses, of love. Some of it’s a little bit true.”

Sixteen-year-old Tal is a Wanderer—a grifter whose life is built around the sound of wheels on the road, the customs of her camp, and the artful scams that keep her fed. With her brother, Wen, by her side, it’s the only life she’s ever known. It’s the only one she’s ever needed.

Then in a sleepy Southern town, the queen of cons picks the wrong mark when she meets Spencer Sway—the clean-cut Socially Secured boy who ends up hustling her instead of the other way around. For the first time, she sees a reason to stay. As her obligations to the camp begin to feel like a prison sentence, the pull to leave tradition behind has never been so strong.

But the Wanderers live by signs, and all the signs all say that Tal and Spencer will end only in heartache and disaster. Is a chance at freedom worth almost certain destruction?

3. Riven—The Almost Girl

Riven is determined and resourceful. She is loyal and fierce and she will do anything to accomplish her goals.

The Almost GirlSeventeen-year-old Riven comes from a world parallel to Earth, a world that has been ravaged by a devastating android war. As a Legion General, she is the right hand of Prince Cale, the young Prince of Neospes. In her world, she’s had everything: rank, responsibility, and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to rescue his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.

Armed with the mindset of a soldier and racing against time to bring Caden home, Riven must learn how to blend in as a girl in a realm that is the opposite of all she’s ever known. Will she be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was designed to be?


4. Kora—Beyond the Red

Kora is the first female ruler in generations and remains powerful on the throne though people think her younger brother should rule in her place. Kora is cunning and strong and fights for what she believes in.

giphy39781634506441-frontcoverAlien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule.

Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him.

When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide.

5. Flo—The Wanderers

Flo is a brave and strong character with a lot of sass. She discovers just how strong and brave she truly is on her journey. giphy4

9781634502016-frontcoverA Unique Twist on Shape-Shifters with Fast-Paced Action, Thrilling Adventure, Mystery, and a Bit of Romance

Flo lives an eccentric life—she travels with a popular circus in which the main acts star orphaned children with secret shape-shifting abilities. Once Flo turns sixteen, she must perform, but she’s not ready. While practicing jumping a flaming hurdle in a clearing beside the circus, she spots a dark figure in the trees and fears he saw her shift. The news sends the circus into a panic.

In Flo’s world, shifters are unknown to humans with the exception of a secret organization—the EOS, referred to as “hunters.” Hunters capture and kill. They send some shifters to labs for observation and testing—testing they don’t often survive—and deem others useless, a danger to society, and eliminate them. To avoid discovery, shifters travel in packs, constantly moving and keeping themselves hidden. Up until now, the circus was the perfect disguise.

Believing she has brought attention to the group, Flo feels dread and anxiety, causing her to make a mistake during her performance in front of the audience—a mistake that triggers a violent attack from the hunters.

Flo manages to flee the torched circus grounds with Jett, the bear shifter who loves her; the annoying elephant triplets; and a bratty tiger named Pru. Together they begin a new journey, alone in a world they don’t understand and don’t know how to navigate. On the run, they unravel secrets and lies that surround the circus and their lives—secrets and lies that all point to the unthinkable: Have they been betrayed by the people they trusted most?

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Women’s History Month: Featuring Marie Antoinette (and Giveaway!)

To celebrate Women’s History Month, editor Adrienne Szpyrka put together a roundup of YA and middle grade books featuring a strong woman we know from history. Check out her post below!  

In Divah, by Susannah Appelbaum, Marie Antoinette is a demon. Not just any demon, but the Queen of the Damned—the Divah.

The Divah was horrible to behold, her eyes—no longer blue—were dark eternal pits; her alabaster skin, where it was not charred and peeling, clung to her form. Her dress was the moldering cloth of the tomb. Her hair, once a thing of beauty, was a soiled, rotting wig, and insects crawled in and out, nesting in its dreary curls.

Appelbaum’s version of Marie Antoinette is dark and twisted , desperate for love and power. She’s the villain of the story, but you can’t help but almost want for her to succeed and fill the world with terror.

The real story of Marie Antoinette has been warped and romanticized again and again in fiction, and, today, for Women’s History Month, we’re doing a roundup of young adult and middle grade books that feature the most infamous Queen of France. When Marie Antoinette first moved to France she was only fifteen, and she became Queen at nineteen. It’s only fitting that she has beceome a favorite subject of children’s books.



Divah by Susannah Appelbaum

“Susannah Appelbaum has written a story so full of high fashion, high society, humor, horror, history, romance, and magic, you might not stop to notice the beautiful writing, but you should. It’s all there.”
—Nora Raleigh Baskin, award-winning author of What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows and Anything But Typical


Becoming Marie Antoinette by Juliet Grey

“A thoroughly enjoyable novel, brimming with delightful details. Grey writes eloquently and with charming humor, bringing ‘Toinette’ vividly to life as she is schooled and groomed—molded, quite literally—for a future as Queen of France, an innocent pawn in a deadly political game.”
—Sandra Gulland, bestselling author of Mistress of the Sun and the Josephine Bonaparte trilogy


The Bad Queen: Rules and Instructions for Marie Antoinette by Carolyn Meyer

“With the gorgeous clothes, sumptuous surroundings, and seemingly limitless wealth, Marie becomes a prisoner of royal pomp and circumstance with no concept of governance or political savvy as France descends into a revolutionary bloodbath. Historical-fiction fans will be swept up in the cruel fates of the monarchs and political forces, particularly as the drama escalates into horror.” Booklist


Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

“A story that mixes slice-of-life teen drama with supernatural menace, infused with the sights, sounds, and tastes of a Paris that comes to life in the process.” —Publishers Weekly


The Lacemaker and the Princess by Kimberly Brukaer Bradley

“ Skillfully integrated historical facts frame this engrossing, believable story. Readers will be captivated by the child’s view of Versailles, its glittering halls infested with rats; the drudgery of daily work; and the terrors of the French Revolution.” —Booklist


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A Sky Pony Night Out

Assistant Editor Adrienne Szpyrka shares the story of a night out for the Sky Pony team. 

1 looking at art

In December, Sky Pony went on its very first team outing. We started at the Society of Illustrators original artwork exhibit, which features art from picture books that pubbed in 2015. Seeing the art in person is so worthwhile—there’s so much detail that just doesn’t translate into the final book. And it’s cool to see so many of the year’s illustrations all together. The last time I saw this exhibit, I noticed whales were big. This year, a lot of the books had elephants!


1 Finding_Winnie

This spread from Finding Winnie was one of my favorites. Can you spot the bear?

1 Carlyle

After the Society of Illustrators, we headed to the Carlyle hotel. Divah, by Susannah Appelbaum, is one of our lead titles this spring (and a book that I love!), and the Carlyle is a huge part of the story. So we had to see it for ourselves! The story came to life when we saw the hotel in person. I felt like Itzy, underdressed and wildly out of place surrounded by the natives of the Upper East Side.

1 Madeline artIf you have a chance to stop by the Carlyle yourself, Bemelmans Bar is a must-see. The entire place is covered in illustrations by Ludwig Bemelmans. And, as Luc points out in Divah, “The guy had a thing for bunnies.” But we also spotted some scenes from Madeline!

Bemelmans was too crowded for our entire team, so after checking out the art, we headed over to the Mark hotel for cocktails. As another Divah angel puts it, the Mark was “adequate.”

(Actually the Mark was lovely and had beautiful star lights in the bar. It was also far less crowded, and we had a wonderful time. But I’m not as posh as Gaston.)

Thanks, Skyhorse, for the fantastic outing, and Julie, for planning everything. Here’s to more bookish adventures in 2016!

1 whole group

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Author Susannah Appelbaum on Bed-Writing and Q & A

Susannah Appelbaum’s YA novel, Divah, hits shelves on March 15th. Angels, demons, and Marie Antoinette—oh my! There are still a few weeks till you can get your own copy, but don’t worry! We have just what you need to keep you busy. We’ve put together a fun Q & A for Susannah, and she has shared a bit about her experience living at the Carlyle hotel, where most of the book is set. 

Divah 9781634506748


Eloise meets Rosemary’s Baby in New York City’s very own Carlyle hotel.

Seventeen-year-old Itzy Nash is spending the summer at the exclusive Carlyle hotel in New York City. But the hotel harbors more than the rich and privileged; it is host to a gorgeous fallen angel, reclusive movie stars, and—Itzy soon learns—demons of the worst sort. When the Queen of the Damned checks in, all Hell breaks loose. Itzy is called upon to save herself—and all of humanity—from the ravages of the Underworld. There’s only one problem: Itzy’s possessed.


Appelbaum, Susannah - DivahSusannah Appelbaum realized at an early age that the world contains both good and evil—and she wanted nothing more than to write about it. By day, she does so. The night is reserved for keeping the world safe from shadows and demons. She has lived both in Paris and at the Carlyle hotel, where the service is exquisite and the food is never burnt. Susannah resides in New York’s Hudson Valley and is the critically acclaimed author of the Poisons of Caux series.



Susannah Appelbaum on Bed-Writing

When I lived in the Carlyle hotel, I used to write from bed. And why not? It was pure luxury. Coffee, tea, little delicate finger sandwiches were but a phone call away, and I was pampered and nourished while horizontal. I was following the tradition of many wildly successful authors who wrote from bed. It has been a few years since I moved to the country, leaving behind the white pressed sheets and room service of the Carlyle, and especially, the practice of bed-writing. I have now a room of my own, and after I lock myself away in it—and perform a series of odd rituals—I can begin for the day. But today, for the purpose of Sky Pony’s new blog, I have decided to break with this tradition and follow the likes of Proust, Truman Capote, Emily Dickinson (to name a few) and prop myself up on every pillow available, and kick back, bedside.

In bed (and out-of-bed), I am writing this on Ash Wednesday. Naturally, my mind turns to fire and ash. For, as I say in my new novel Divah, “Fire transforms everything.” Ash, throughout history, through dark ages and witch hunts, has played an important role in both the sacred (such as today) and the profane. As a young student, freshly attending New York University, I remember Ash Wednesday as the day I would wander the streets of the city and wonder why everyone’s forehead was smudged with black. Today’s ashes are a reminder of human mortality (Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.) For others, ashes can protect, even from such things that roam the dark nights, and haunted ruins. The Talmud explains how to see demons, should you want to, and it involves finding and burning a black she-cat. Ashes can be used in divinatory ways, like tea leaves, or as a burnt offering (Make a wish. Write it down. Set it aflame). A ribbon of ash sprinkled over a threshold will prevent demons and other inhabitants of the spirit world from crossing. There is a drink made of ash from the Tree of Life. I have not tasted it, but it is said to ignite inspiration.

So let’s order room service, and lift our cups of ash tea, and toast together to continued inspiration!



From Susannah‘s days living at the Carlyle. 

Q: Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?

I grew up on fantasy, all the usual suspects. My first attempt at writing (age 6) was a total rip-off of the Wizard of Oz. Now, even if I try, I find it impossible to write realistic fiction. Every time I open my laptop, a dragon pops out.

Q: What are you reading right now?

I am reading a lot of crime fiction. Actually, one of my first loves was Agatha Christie. I am feeling the urge to write something mysterious, dark and deadly. And of course, somehow the supernatural will creep in. I am a big reference book junky. I own the complete Oxford English Dictionary, which takes up much real estate on my bookshelf. The current book on my nightstand is Amazing Rare Things, by David Attenborough. It’s full of beautiful illustrations of all sorts of weird flowers and animals and creatures to inspire.

Q: If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?

Alice! From Alice in Wonderland. I can’t think of anything I’d like to do more than meet the Cheshire Cat. Or perhaps Itzy Nash, my lead character in Divah. I’ve spent a lot of time with her, and genuinely like her. She’s smart, funny, artistic (super into photography—like me), very independent, and, well, everything else is a spoiler.

Q: Where’s your favorite place to write? 

Not bed. My study is lovely, as I hope you’ll agree.


Q: What’s your favorite classic movie?

Anything Hitchcock. Rear Window, perhaps, is my favorite. But nothing can beat the dialog in All About Eve, and Bette Davis is my all-time fave. Can’t you just see her as the ultimate demon hunter?!

Q: If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?

A baby elephant. Or maybe a baby mammoth. Not too big. Something I can bring on a leash to Starbucks.

Q: Milk, dark, or white chocolate?


Q: What’s your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving. It’s a completely non-religious holiday, where you gather and give thanks. Because there’s no talk of Heaven and Hell, you can say this makes it a demon-free holiday, although demons have been known to invite themselves to anyone’s table, at any time, and once seated, they are notoriously difficult to remove.

Q: What’s your favorite emoji?

The poop! I mean, come on. He’s got eyes! How cool is that?

Q: What did you want to grow up to be when you were Itzy’s age (17)?

That’s easy. A writer.


To learn more about Divah, visit www.susannahappelbaum.com/divah/

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