Rachel Griffin wants to know everything. As a freshman at Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts, she has been granted to opportunity to study both mundane and magical subjects.
But even her perfect recollection of every book she has ever read does not help her when she finds a strange statue in the forest - a statue of a woman with wings. Nowhere - neither in the arcane tomes of the Wise, nor in the dictionary and encyclopedia of the non-magic-using Unwary - can she find mention of such a creature.
What could it be? And why are the statue's wings missing when she returns?
When someone tries to kill a fellow student, Rachel soon realizes that, in the same way her World of the Wise hides from mundane folk, there is another, more secret world hiding from everyone - which her perfect recall allows her to remember. Her need to know everything drives her to investigate.
Rushing forward where others fear to tread, Rachel finds herself beset by wraiths, magical pranks, homework, a Raven said to bring the doom of worlds, love's first blush, and at least one fire-breathing teacher.
Curiosity might kill a cat, but nothing stops Rachel Griffin!
©2013 L Jagi Lamplighter (P)2016 L. Jagi Lamplighter
The author did an excellent job of developing the main character and her friends. As the story went along, the image I had of them in my mind became clearer and clearer. The plot does a bit of world building in the beginning, but then it is off to the races. The author sets her story in a world that parallels our own, but with some rather significant differences, which are introduced and mostly explained through the narrative. This is definitely the beginning of a longer series, and the story points to later works in a way that makes me want to listen to the rest.
It is certainly easy to compare this work with the Harry Potter series, but I also saw elements of Nancy Drew as Rachel tried to puzzle out what is happening at her school.
The narrator did a good job of voicing the characters with different tones and accents. This made the reading richer. Unfortunately, the editing was uneven and the pacing was on the slow side.
At times, it made me laugh, and several times I stayed in the car for a few minutes so that I could listen to the end of a chapter.
The story is delightful, and the main characters are well drawn. The protagonist, thirteen-year-old Rachel Griffin, has a close-knit family and a perfect memory. This is her first year at Roanoke Academy for the Magical Arts, and we watch her develop friendships and the beginnings of her first love interest as she also learns how to rely on herself instead of her parents. And rely on herself, she must--for her fellow students, and ultimately the school itself are under attack from forces wielding powerful, evil magic.
This is a great book for pre-teen and teenage girls, for Rachel is a role model of a girl who can take on challenges and succeed. At the same time, it is a well-written, intelligent book that does not talk down to its young audience. And Rachel's friends, especially the orphan Sigfried Smith, are interesting characters in their own right.
The actor has a lovely voice and enunciates clearly, but she was tripping all over her tongue trying to produce the accents that all of the many characters--from all over the globe--have. The accents are not authentic and in many cases indistinguishable from one another (and when an Australian accent sounds vaguely Eastern European, that's a distraction!). The actor would have done better simply to read the book in her own accent, differentiating the voices of the characters by tone or some other means. Also, I couldn't figure out why the chapter numbers and names were spoken with a phony-sounding British accent while the narration was in an educated American accent.
There was an additional problem with long spaces in odd places in the middle of sentences. These were disruptive, as it sounded. Like the sentence was finished, when it wasn't. This problem was especially pronounced. At the beginning of the book, and by the end. It had disappeared. (And I will now stop writing the way the actor talked. You get the idea.)
There wasn't just one moment, but I especially liked how the author showed the moments of change when Rachel was growing up. She referred to the "needle of the compass" of Rachel's loyalty and trust, and we watch Rachel learning not to do what an adult tells her, just because they are an adult. Instead, she weighs the moral imperative--a friend's life in danger--and takes action. We watch Rachel becoming a hero!
There are two things that really surprised me: A), it's really funny. If there's a spin off, it had darn well take place in Magical Australia. B), While it's a very Harry Potter-esque story, there are hints of influences of everything from Narnia to Amber, and the greater mystery lurking in the background is more than sufficient to make me anxious for the next book.
She's a little sing-song fairy tale styled for my tastes, and she stumbles over a few unfamiliar words-- particularly Japanese words and names-- but she gets much better over the course of the book. A little bit of polish would've helped.
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