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Neville in the spotlight

By theredsheep, author of Pyrebound

Apr 6, 2019: It’s not high art. It won’t teach you any grand lessons about the human condition. As the self-described amateur author’s preface admits, it isn’t even particularly well-written. But you know what? That’s okay. It knows what it’s trying to do, it does it, and it doesn’t put on airs. That’s worth something.

What we have here is essentially Harry Potter with a female Neville Longbottom as the hero. It’s a wizarding school without the shadow of Voldemort; the drama so far revolves around Lucy being in so grossly over her head that she’s the laughingstock of the school and faces expulsion if she doesn’t turn it around sharply. The blurb hints at higher stakes, but it’s a young story yet.

What’s good? The author obviously put considerably greater thought into the nuts and bolts of his magic system than one sees at Hogwarts, so if you ever got annoyed by J.K. Rowling’s "oh, well, they have a workaround for that bloody obvious exploit your eight-year-old just thought of," you have a much lower chance of seeing that here. It also doesn’t overdo it on the introspective angst, and doesn’t stop to shove irrelevant worldbuilding trivia down your throat like you’re a foie gras goose. That’s two distressingly common pitfalls avoided. In general, it moves briskly.

What’s bad? The writing, as noted, isn’t terrific, but mostly it suffers from bloat—many details are described with two words where one would do, and there are a bunch of unnecessary explanatory clauses. If the author learned to trust himself and his readers with tight prose, that would take care of eighty percent of it. And, to be fair, it’s YA, so beating your reader upside the head with the point is not a mortal sin. This tale isn’t half as inhumane about it as, say, Divergent. More seriously, the characters are fairly cardboard at this point, especially the stock-sadist villain. And it uses "whom" for "who" several times. I have killed men for less.

What’s the bottom line? If you’re waiting for a bus and need something clean, sweet, and straightforward, you could do worse.

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