Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Schooled in Magic by Christopher G. Nuttall
It's the school-based magic story that schools other school-based magic stories (or thinks it does), Schooled in Magic! This book dares to do what others like it have rarely done before: give an in depth look on the criteria of magic and how it works. How's it handled? Well, let's take a look.
The story is of a young nerd named Emily. Emily is sad because she has a verbally abusive stepdad and a constantly drunk mom and hates school because it doesn't teach her anything useful. Quite out of nowhere, Emily is zapped away from her terrible nerdy life when she is kidnapped by an evil Necromancer who wants to kill her because she's a supposed Child of Destiny, who is to bring great change in the world. Emily is saved by another wizard named Void, and is sent to Whitehall, a school of magic where she learns the skills needed to survive the Necromancers, and maybe leave an influence on the world herself.
Okay, first off, you know those smart kids back in school who liked to prove to everyone else how smart they were by blathering on and on about smart stuff they knew even if it didn't have anything to do with what you were learning? This is kinda like that. Oh, don't get me wrong. This book is very smart. A lot of thought went into it, the process of spells, the delicate process of alchemy, the multitude of ways things can go wrong, it's all thought out very well. The problem is that this book knows how well it's thought out. There's this tone in the book that just sounds like it thinks its better than everyone else who's tried this context before, and goes into detail about who it's so much better than them. It comes off as a bit arrogant.
Speaking of arrogant, let's have a little chat about Emily here, shall we? For someone who is perfectly happy about being brought to a strange new world, she sure does complain about it a lot. She says she can't be this Child of Destiny because she can't do anything for the world, but she's constantly thinking up ways to change the world by introducing basic numerical systems and stirrups and stuff like that. I just get the feeling that she finds the medieval nature of this new world almost beneath her and she longs for things she had before, even if she never wants to go back. It's not like she's mean or ungrateful, just that she doesn't seem to want to fit in with this world, but make the world fit to how she wants it. I wasn't crazy about her.
Then there's the fact that this book is wordy! 75% of the time if felt like I was reading an instruction manual for something I could never possibly make ever. The "class" sections of the book take up the brunt of it and they go into so much detail that it feels like I'm back in high school doing assigned reading in a textbook. News flash: Most people don't read text books for fun! They read them because they have to! These magic instructions, while indeed well thought out, just go on so long you almost have to be reminded that there's actually a plot to this thing.
Emily's nerdy nature also leads to a crap ton of references in this book. She brings up Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, and so on and so forth. These wouldn't bother me except that they're everywhere! Now, sometimes it works okay, like her naming her Martial Magic team the Redshirts and then acknowledging that that might be a bad omen. That's fine. But when you're in the middle of the big climax of the book, lots of crap is happening, mass hysteria and this girl stops right in the middle of an intense moment to stop and reflect for two paragraphs on something stupid in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Time and place, girl. Time and place! Also, she brags so often about how much better she is compared to Harry Potter, I wanted to put this book down and read the entire Harry Potter series again out of pure spite!
Schooled in Magic is a smart book. It really is! You can tell a lot of work went into it and the ideas behind magic and the world set up. Unfortunately, with that intelligence came arrogance that, alas, some nerds can possess. If you can look past this, then I recommend that this book be checked out at your local library.
Next time: Seven brides to...one really creepy guy.