My rating: 4 of 5 Stars
How I Got It: Purchased ebook
Publication Date: August 2014
Publisher: Rachel E. Carter
Point of View: 1st Person Heroine
Genre: YA Fantasy Adventure
Well, that was a ton of fun!
Honestly, I zipped through this book so fast, it made my head spin. But it was just that enjoyable of a story with such a great pace, the pages flew by in a breeze!
WHAT I LOVED
Well, for starters, I REALLY appreciated how Rachel E. Carter handled her magic. Magic doesn't come easily to people in this world. They have to WORK for it. There are specific RULES for how it works, and the magic itself takes a physical toll. It was all very well thought out!
As a result of this well-thought-out magic system, the setting of the Academy and training in magic was that much more believable. I enjoyed observing Ry in her classes as she learns the ins and outs of magic--often the hard way! There was a sense of reality to this fantasy world that was engrossing.
Ry herself. I kind of waffled between loving and hating her, but ultimately ended up loving her. She struck me as a bit whiny at first, but as I read more about her, I realized that, you know, she's no more whiny than I would be under those circumstances! Magic doesn't come easily to her, so she has to work HARD. She spends much of the story sleep-deprived and exhausted, constantly afraid of failing . . . how relatable is that? Anyone who's been challenged in an academic setting knows those feelings, that sense of dread, that sense of inevitability. But I loved how, even when she was completely in over her head, she never, never, never gave up. So ultimately I loved her and look forward to seeing how her story continues.
Also, let me just say, I thoroughly appreciated that Ry WASN'T a "super special" like so many heroines in this genre turn out to be. She's middle of the pack, sometimes back of the pack. She starts out thinking she will somehow make herself stand out, but ultimately stands out in all the wrong ways! It's so humiliating . . . and again, I related on a personal level! But she doesn't let her lack of super-specialness get her down, at least not for long.
Darren was . . . intriguing. Moody and broody, but not two dimensional in his moody-brooding. We didn't get a lot of development of his character, in this first book, but what I saw leaves me curious to see where he'll go as a person. And I have to say . . . some of his scenes with Ry definitely worked on a swoony level!
Alex and Ella. I enjoyed watching the two of them throughout this first year! Both as they relate to Ry and as they relate to each other.
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE SO MUCH
I had some trouble with the beginning. I didn't understand why Ry was setting out for the Academy even when she'd not yet manifested ANY magical ability. Does the Academy have no screening process for students? My brother went to the Air Force Academy, and the hoops he had to jump through just to get accepted were CRAZY! A prestigious academy like that doesn't just accept anyone and then weed out those who can't make it. They accept only the best of the best and THEN start weeding! So I guess I just don't quite believe that Ry would have been accepted into a mage academy before demonstrating any magical ability.
Once Ry got there and the story got underway, I kind of tried to just forget that weak opening, because I liked the story so much. But I have to say, that struck me as rather poorly thought-out.
The ending was a bit rushed. SPOILERS Why was Ry accepted as an apprentice last-minute like that? What did the Black Mage see in her that made him decide to spontaneously bend the rules for her sake? It wasn't clear. I know she worked really hard, but so did everyone else. And she technically failed her big test. So what made the difference? A line or two might have clarified this for me, but I was left scratching my head. END OF SPOILERS
Priscilla. She was SO two dimensional and SUCH a stereotype. I would have much preferred to see Ry's rival at the Academy be someone that she actually respected. That makes for a more intense and interesting rivalry. But the moment Priscilla appeared on the scene (and I mean, that name? Priscilla? Can you get more Mean Girls than that?), I kind of rolled my eyes and thought, "Here goes!" Those scenes between the two of them were skimmable scene scenes for me.
The names threw me off a little too. Other than Ryiah, our heroine, everyone else had pretty ordinary, our-world names. That seemed inconsistent. But this is a nitpicky critique and ultimately not something that hindered my enjoyment of the story . . . just something that made me go "Eh?" now and then as I read along.
Seriously, though, I enjoyed myself so much, I'm more than happy to overlook any minor distractions! This was only the first book in the series, after all. Got to expect a couple of bumps in the road.
Ultimately I highly recommend it to fans of the genre. I personally enjoyed this MUCH more than the more well-known "Shadow and Bone." It had similar themes to that popular book, similar character types, but everything was handled much more interestingly! So if you loved the Grisha Trilogy, I'd definitely say to give this a try. And if you DIDN'T love the Grisha Trilogy (like me!) I'd still say give it a try. Because it's just fun!