In the hallowed halls of Oxford’s Merlin College, the most talented – and highest born – sons of the kingdom are taught the intricacies of magickal theory. But what dazzles can also destroy, as Gray Marshall is about to discover…
Gray’s Britain is a fragmented kingdom of many tongues, many gods and many magicks. But all that concerns Gray right now is returning to his studies and setting right the nightmare that has seen him disgraced and banished to his tutor’s home – without a trace of his powers. And it is there, toiling away on a summer afternoon, that he meets the professor’s daughter.
Although she has no talent of her own and has been forbidden by her father to pursue it, Sophie Callendar longs for a magickal education. But she started a bookish rebellion in her father’s library long ago, and her sheltered upbringing conceals a mysterious past and what may prove a catastrophic future. Her meeting with Gray sets off a series of events that will lead them to uncover a conspiracy at the heart of the kingdom and into the legend of the Midnight Queen, who vanished without a trace years before.
What I Thought
I was immediately drawn into this British alternate history fantasy world that author Sylvia Hunter has created. Men are the only ones allowed to study magick, even though women can possess it too. The magick system seems to be quite complex and some can be taught and other aspects need to be harnessed. There’s shapeshifting (the front cover might give you a clue into what), scrying, elemental and summoning magicks. There’s an awful lot to learn. Cue a library and books and also practical demonstration.
We are first introduced to Gray who has got himself, through no fault of his own, thrown out of Oxford and – not all that kindly – invited to his tutor’s house for Long Vacation. He meets Sophie and their instant connection is apparent and she is particularly intriguing to both Gray and the reader. She is definitely a feminist who wants to challenge the status quo.
But then she learns that her own status quo isn’t exactly all she thought it was. Thus begins a thrilling journey to find out the truth and foil an assassination with a little burgeoning romance thrown in for good measure.
The other character I adored was Sophie’s younger sister Joanna who is a handful, and a half.
The pace is a pleasantly odd mix of regency travel and society with added crime busting and magick but it kept me reading and comfortably entertained. Near the end is a scene that personally I felt was surplus to requirements – it was a little like Hercule Poirot explaining how a crime had been committed but we and most of the characters already knew most of the information. That being said I still loved this book, the character and the world, and it had a satisfying conclusion. Some elements introduced I would love to see explored more (the worldbuilding is masterful and hints st lots of aspects, religion etc without being an info dump) and the story is left open for more adventures but the main plot is completed and I would say it could be read as a stand alone.
Books 2 and 3 in the series are also out now – Lady of Magick and A Season of Spells – I’ll definitely be checking them out. Fans of Zen Cho, Leigh Bardugo and Jane Austen should enjoy.
Thanks to Allison & Busby for the finished copy for review. It is beautiful inside and out and all opinions above are my own.
What a jacket synopsis! Intrigued? You should be. Now this is one of the first books that’s been compared to Harry Potter that I feel lives up to the expectations. I loved it.
And just pause again to look at this stunning hardback – as gorgeous naked as with the dust jacket.
Now I received a review copy through Netgalley but I was enjoying it so much and I spotted the beauty that was this edition, and I knew I would regret not owning it, so I bought it and switched to reading from real paper.
Now. Because of the comparisons to Harry Potter there will inevitably be some comparisons made but in my view they are all positive.
Child gets whisked away to a wonderous world from a not particularly pleasant life. Check. Although, unlike the muggle world the world that Morrigan leaves is just as intriguing as the world she moves to. Cursed Children? The Hunt of Smoke and Shadow?
Genial magical man to guide our young protégée. Harry had Dumbledore. Mog, as he decides to call her despite her protestations, has Jupiter North. Is he as conflicted as Dumbledore, only time will tell.
Fierce friendships and fantastical foes. One main friend Hawthorne and some allies who may or may not become closer as the series progresses.
He who must not be named. The Wundersmith has a whole creepy parade float dedicated to him. Take that Voldemort.
The Hotel Deucalion becomes Mog’s Hogwarts with fun rooms to discover. Far too much smoking and lots of whacky residents to engage with.
And what are the trials of which the title speaks? Think of it as the Triwizard Tournament with a Talent Show at the end. All to get INTO the Wundrous society. If she doesn’t the Hunt may come for her yet.
This is a brilliant book full of magical world building, very very colourful characters and a form of transportation previously popularised in Mary Poppins, The Life and Death Brigade (Gilmore Girls) and Practical Magic. Move over broomsticks umbrellas are making a comeback.
Joking aside Harry Potter will Always remain in my heart (I know you see what I did there). But there is room in readers’ hearts for plenty of books. This one is going to snuggle alongside it. The one thing this book did that the Philosopher’s Stone didn’t was grab me from the first sentence. It took the introduction of the Wizarding World to draw me in. Once I was there I loved it. I loved this from : ‘The journalists arrived before the coffin did.’
So as Jupiter North does I invite you to Step Boldy into Nevermoor.