Tristan Fairholm has always liked fixing things. It makes up for everything in his life he can't mend - his parents' divorce, his father's alcoholism, and his little brother's weak heart. But when he kills his brother in a car accident, he destroys the only thing he truly cared for.
He has nearly given up when a mysterious woman appears and offers him a place at her school. Along with 15 other juvenile delinquents, Tristan is given a chance to escape penitentiary while he studies magic in the wild mountains of Canada.
As he learns to extract and shape raw magic, Tristan finds unexpected friendship in his fellow students, from lovable Rusty Lennox to mysterious fey Amber Ashton. But when the school is threatened by a vandal who endangers the lives of everyone living there, Tristan learns that the magic they are harvesting is being put to a dark and dangerous use. While he races to uncover the vandal before his friends are harmed, Tristan must decide if his new friends and his freedom are more important than his morals.
If you loved Harry Potter and The Magicians, you won't want to miss this new YA series.
©2015 Rebecca Vickers (P)2016 Rebecca Vickers
Scifi, mystery, thrillers - all welcome here.
Summary: 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, 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 dumb.
- 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 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.
Conclusion: 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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