It’s impossible to write a review of this and not mention the similarities to Harry Potter. A parentless boy is whisked away from the ordinary world and taken to a fantastical school. He ends up with really only two friends, one of whom has constantly unruly hair. Each class focuses on a different discipline and has a quirky and/or mean teacher. The kids will all eventually be sorted into different houses…er cliques. The boy’s past and parentage obviously are important, with more to the story than we’re told right away. There are creatures. There are hovering deathly beings. There’s an unseen dark-lord-type with evil followers. Etc. Etc.
In a lot of ways, this feels like an obvious attempt to appeal to a certain crowd of readers, almost like a kind of fan fiction. BUT, I soon forgave all that and just went with it because the author does a lot of unique things too. For example, one of Ewan’s two friends (both girls) is a pirate. It’s also refreshing that the world-building is not *entirely* based in magic. There is magic, yes, but we’re told pretty quickly that most people aren’t good at it and instead focus on other talents. And I really enjoyed what the author did with the true Queen of England.
It’s easy to fall in love with Ewan as a character. The poor kid just can’t win, and he’s a very believable 11 to 12-year-old boy thrown into new and overwhelming circumstances. Enid and her pirate family added a much-needed feeling of newness to this story, and I loved that her character was rough around the edges. Mathilde is great too, with her confidence and loyalty and almost-ever-present smile. I even enjoyed the adult characters, who are a little flat because the focus is more on the kids. As the plot thickens, you aren’t supposed to know which adults and older kids to trust, so their elusiveness adds to the suspense. It usually drives me nuts when there’s some huge danger and kids don’t bother to tell the adults about it, but here it completely makes sense that they try to stop the danger themselves.
As for the author’s writing, there is a LOT of description. It really is a bit too much, slowing the dialogue especially. And sometimes a word is used incorrectly so that a sentence might sound flowery but really doesn’t make sense.
Still, I stayed in this book for the three main characters because their friendship dynamic was so lovely and fun. And, yeah, if you miss Harry Potter in your life, give this a go.
See it on Amazon!