YA Book Reviews by Amy
YA Book Reviews by Amy: A Magical Education
Some of us have been waiting for our Hogwarts letter for way too long. Or wanting to go to Camp Half-Blood during our summer breaks. Whatever the case may be, it would be amazing to have magical powers and to be whisked off to a whimsical school to teach you to control your magic. You would make best friends in the process, have the best mentors, and fight off any villains that threaten any sense of safety… or at least that’s what happens in Harry Potter. Other magic schools are different: they can be deadly, they can have teachers that betray you, and magic might be lesser preferred to being normal.
Here are some YA magical school reads!
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik
El attends Scholomance, a magical school that is more deadly than helpful. El must survive to be able to graduate and escape. True friendships do not exist, only allies that are strong or clever are wanted to help. Following the rules is the only way that will ensure safety: El does not walk the hallways alone and is aware that monsters can be anywhere.
This book has totally different vibes from any magic school books that I have ever read! This is a school you would not want to attend, and I enjoyed how legitimately scary and dark the setting is written. This is the first book in the series, so if you enjoy this book, you should continue on with: The Last Graduate.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
Sunny, an African Albino, who currently lives in Nigeria, enjoys the simple things: family, friends, soccer, but Sunny’s appearance, sun sensitivity, and being from America has made her life difficult. One day she finds out that she is special, she begins to have visions of the future and is linked to the spirit world. Sunny begins to learn about her magic and hone her skills, but evil is lurking and threatens the balance.
The setting of this book is so original and our main characters are so likable! This book is magical and connects culture to the enchanted themes. If you liked this book, you must check out the sequel: Akata Warrior.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Simon is convinced that his enemy and roommate is a vampire. Baz cannot stand his wand-waving, inferior-chosen one, winey–classmate, Simon, either. When Baz does not return for their final year of magic school, Simon knows that something has gone horribly wrong. While Simon is not worrying about his missing enemy, his questionable birth begins to be in the forefront on his mind; he is to be the most powerful magician ever and has a fatal future in front of him.
This book is framed as a story within a story by Rainbow Rowell’s main character, Cath, writing fanfiction for the Simon Snow series which is clearly inspired by Harry Potter. Carry On might be a fantasy, but there are still relatable characters and difficult topics. The magic school is fun to read about and is one that I would like to attend before going on my own adventures. If you enjoyed this book, you can read the sequels: Wayward Son and Any Way the Wind Blows.
Iron Trail by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
When Callum comes of age, he must be tested in front the magical Magisterium, but his goal is to fail and continue to live his normal life without magic. Callum fails to hide his true nature and is placed with others his age to train to become a powerful mage. There he meets Aaron and Tamara, who become his friends and help him to fight against evil.
This is a first book out of five, in a middle-grade fantasy series. I thought that this book was a lot of fun and the characters were different from others that I have read. This book harkens the magical school and chosen–one archetype seen in series like Harry Potter and Percy Jackson but seems original due to the characters’ voices and a couple of twists. This is an adventure tale that many will enjoy.
Vampire Academy by Rochelle Mead
Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, half human and half vampire (an alive vampire is known as Moroi); as a Dhampir, she must train to protect her best friend and Moroi royalty, Lissa. While Lissa’s life is in danger more often than not, Rose could use their psychic connection to save her as long as no one knows this deadly secret. Rose attends an academy that lends itself to tough physical training, learning about her role in society, and an instructor that catches Rose’s eye.
This is the first book in a six-book series, so definitely jump in if you want to be lost in this world for a while. I liked this series, but enjoyed the spin-off series, Bloodlines, infinitely more (which also features vampires). You do not have to read the first to enjoy the other series. Rose attends a vampire school, while in Bloodlines, Sydney and the others try to blend in at a normal-human school. Both schools are fun settings for these paranormal books.
The lore is enjoyable, but there are some problematic storylines in this series that readers should be aware of, such as a student-teacher relationship.
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Camellia has spent her entire life training as a Belle, a girl with the ability to control the beauty of the people of this world; legend has the gods turning the humans into ugly and painful creatures with severe consequences if left to their natural state. Belles are limited and important to the society, and Camellia would love to become the favorite, the Belle working for the royal family and the most lavish people at court. But not all is what it appears to be when beauty is fabricated, and the past turns more questions than answers.
I wholeheartedly enjoyed this creative dystopian plot that speaks to beauty and societal standards. Camellia is a realistic and likable character that must make tough decisions throughout the novel. While the readers don’t see her schooling too closely, her working for the royal family has an education like atmosphere.
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