The story that you seek is dangerous, Ivy. For you and for others.
4/5 paper planes
What’s This Book About?
Genre: YA/middle-grade fantasy (magic boarding school)
Synopsis: In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret…
For sixteen years, Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical.
When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald’s mysterious gems.
When Ivy’s magic—and her life—is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever.
What I Thought:
This was a fun and adventurous romp through a refreshingly original take on the magical boarding school premise! It recalled the wonder and warm comfort of ‘Harry Potter’, and it was like I got to experience the magic all over again in a different world.
The prologue, set years before our protagonist (Ivy) appears, builds up an intriguing mystery that the book gradually unravels. There were several really nice hints and exposition scenes – I particularly liked the allusions to shifting portraits (evoked a bit of Dahl’s ‘The Witches’) and the entire Hollow Shaft segment was excellent.
Having lived her whole life slaving away as a scaldonry maid (basically a kitchen maid who tends to adorable little mini-oven dragons), Ivy is ostensibly ordinary, but there’s certainly more to her than meets the eye. Side note: I found it utterly hilarious that I spent 97% (NINETY-SEVEN PERCENT!) of this book thinking Ivy was 11, like Harry Potter. She is, in fact, 16. Oops!
Ivy has hidden powers, might even be the ‘Chosen One’ – but the real questions are how and why. (Okay, also who, but then it just turns into the 5 W’s.) While Ivy does show traits of the ‘Chosen One’/hidden identity tropes, it doesn’t feel rehashed or stale. At times though, she felt more like a plot vessel than a person – some of her actions felt contrived to extend the mystery and tension, for example (highlight for spoilers) Ivy fleeing from the glanagerie captain who was trying to tell her something essential felt out of character, as she’s typically impulsive and inquisitive to a fault. This wasn’t a big issue though, and most of the time Ivy reads like a realistic person.
Trust the magic in you and know I will forever be in the shadow of its light.
Whole stars should go to the school (Halls of Ivy), the magic system and the secondary characters Rebecca and Fyn. The names of the professors, shops, textbooks and spells were all so quirky and I loved it! (Similar wacky vibes to ‘Harry Potter’, as I’ve already mentioned.) I particularly liked the glanageries, which are little enchanted bottles that hold a miniature scene inside, sprung from the imagination of their owners. Glanageries may sound whimsical and cute, but rest assured, they can be very dangerous and play an integral role in this book’s plotline. Rebecca was my favourite character – everyone needs a friend like her (and she was the real MVP in the ballroom scene) – and Fyn Greeley is just adorkable. To paraphrase Nina Zenik, Fyn’s sweeter than mint meringues! (You know a budding romance is cute when you literally put down the book to smile at their exchanges.)
Throughout the book, the antagonist hovers like a storm cloud on the horizon – their motives are kept in the shadows for most of the book, but their unexplained, uninvited presence is enough to feel unsettling. However, during the actual confrontation, I did feel like the villain’s monologues came off a little cartoonish. That being said, the spell used by the antagonist was certainly twisted (highlight for spoilers) was not expecting them to start trying to drown kids – and I definitely took them seriously after that.
A slurry girl is far better than a dead girl, don’t you think?
I think there’s definitely more to the story (along with certain authority figures that I don’t quite trust), and I’m really looking forward to the sequel! There’s a major question that I felt went unanswered by the Big Reveal™ (re: Ivy and the Forgotten Room) and I really hope that gets addressed in ‘The Girl with the Whispering Shadow’.
Thanks to the publishers and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review!