A troubled teen goes off to magic school and finds trouble of a different sort.
Tristan Fairholm gets a second chance at an extraordinary school where not everything is as it seems.
– There are a lot of plot threads being juggled here. Overall, this is done well, but a few seem to have petered off. (ie. Evie and the twins)
– There are 15 students gathered from all over the US (presumably), but the story focuses only on 5-6 of them. (I believe that’s for the best, but the number of overall students seems small. If the others don’t matter, then why bring them up at all?)
– Content warnings: rampant casual cursing
– There’s not much explanation for the vast wealth of the school.
– Tristan makes some gains in many aspects but not the driving force presented at the beginning.
– Passage of time was sporadic. It was almost like a survey of the holidays.
What I didn’t like:
*disclaimer – I am a teacher, so my perspectives on how schools are run might be different than the average reader.*
– The idea of rewarding students by letting them out of an assigned homework is terrible. Homework’s not supposed to be busy work. Either it has value or it doesn’t. If nobody “needs” to do it, then why assign it? If it’s vital, then letting some students skip it is kind of counter productive.
– There’s a strong emphasis on hours of punishments and students working them off. The dolling out of such seemed a mite capricious. Keeping discipline and order is important in school settings, and I imagine that’s magnified in a boarding school setting. However, when handing out discipline, it’s important not to punish oneself at the same time. Are the teachers working 90+ hrs a week?
– Some of the cardinal rules of the school seemed to matter one minute and not so much the next. (ie. can the students leave or not? Can anybody leave or not?)
– The vandal’s methods and logic are fundamentally flawed.
– The first practical exam was a terrible idea. The teachers admit this later, but it’s not really an exam if nothing’s taught first.
– Tristan’s acceptance of the end twists seemed way too easy. The mystery built up some good momentum then sort of fizzled.
What I liked:
– There’s a unique premise here and some nice twists in the end.
– The character development is pretty decent at least in the main character.
– I liked Amber and wish her role were expanded. She was left as the “little miss perfect student” instead of becoming a foil for the hero.
– Side characters were decent, although the Zeke/ Leila thing got old very quickly. The relationship has an interesting turn at the end, but nothing’s settled. They seem very antagonistic for no good reason.
– The book as a whole has a summer camp bonding experience vibe to it.
– The narrator’s performance was good.
– End twist is built on a very intriguing premise.
I don’t think the things that bothered me about the running of the school will affect the general public. Overall, this is a decent coming-of-age fantasy with its own brand of magic.
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Thanks for your time.
Julie C. Gilbert
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