A School For Sorcery
by E. Rose Sabin
In the vast land of Arucadi, magical gifts are rare, and mostly viewed with disdain or even downright suspicion. Normals (non-magical folks) fear and envy the Gifted, and it doesnt help matters when power is misused or harm is done to the community by the activities of the Gifted. So in the School for Sorcery hinted at by this books title, a major part of the course of study is the ethical-moral dimension of power use, and teaching young Gifted to control their talents responsibly.
One such gifted is Tria Tesserell, a farm girl from the central plains, who gets her acceptance letter and brochure for the prestigious Lesley Simonton School for the Magically Gifted. After a childhood of hard work in which the use of her gifts is forbidden, Tria hardly knows what gifts she has. But to the Simonton School she goesa sort of three-year, senior-high level magnet school for magically talented youngsters throughout the land of Arucadi.
After the acceptance letter, any resemblance to Hogwarts ends. Simonton is actually a very small academy, and on the face of it not very attractive. And Trias troubles begin right away, when an inadvertant use of powers she didnt know she had gets her into trouble, and her roommate turns out to be a conniving, ambitious little minx who can turn into a deadly panther when the mood strikes her. And at first Tria is so unimpressed by the faculties, the curriculum, the building, and the food that she thinks the whole school is a fraudespecially the Headmistress, who is as cool as ice, and the mysterious school maid named Veronica, who seems to have more going on than floor wax.
But the worst happens at what could be described, for the convenience of Harry Potter fans, as the Yule Ball. A coterie of second-year boys, led by a power-hungry, amoral slimeball named Oryon Brew, summon Dire Women from the nether realms, take a person very dear to Tria captive, and issue a challenge to Headmistress. Basically, if someone doesnt rescue the two young men who have been spirited away within one year, Oryon and his buddies will take over the school, chuck out all the lessons about morals and responsibility, and retool the school toward a philosophy that would have done Professor There is no good and evil Quirrel proud. I quote: One may do what one has the power to do.
The task of taking up that challenge falls, of course, to Tria. But its a bumpy ride for her, as she struggles with her own moral dilemmas, makes mistakes that have tragic consequences, learns to travel between worlds, and discovers more and more of her hidden talents. It is a lonely adventure for a scared, desperate young heroine, and one that probes more and more deeply into the workings of a fascinating new world of magic. The story gathers not only tension and danger, but also weirdness and complexity, until it reaches a ripping good climax.
Be prepared for horror and romance, mystery and intrigue, shocking violence, and a cast of interesting characters, each with different gifts and flaws. Also, be prepared for an equally entertaining prequel, A Perilous Power. This book from the excellent Starscape label (which specializes in Young Adult sci-fi/fantasy) is a magnificent first novel from a new talent that could be a threat to Diana Wynne Jones, if not J. K. Rowling. So look out!
Recommended Age: 12+
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