Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin (2011)
Format: Paperback | 306 pages
Format: Paperback | 306 pages
Genre(s): Young Adult, Romance, Historical Fantasy
Description (Goodreads): "Lady Victoria Mansfield, youngest daughter of the earl and countess of Fairmount, is destined for a charmed life. Soon she will be presented during the London season, where she can choose a mate worthy of her status. Yet Tory has a shameful secret—a secret so powerful that, if exposed, it could strip her of her position and disgrace her family forever. Tory’s blood is tainted . . . by magic.
When a shocking accident forces Tory to demonstrate her despised skill, the secret she’s fought so hard to hide is revealed for all to see. She is immediately exiled to Lackland Abbey, a reform school for young men and women in her position. There she will learn to suppress her deplorable talents and maybe, if she’s one of the lucky ones, be able to return to society.
But Tory’s life is about to change forever. All that she’s ever known or considered important will be challenged. What lies ahead is only the beginning of a strange and wonderful journey into a world where destiny and magic come together, where true love and friendship find her, and where courage and strength of character are the only things that determine a young girl’s worth."
Warning: Contains SPOILERS!
"What did you think?", asks Goodreads at the top of the review box. "I really can't say", I answer. I have noticed a distinct lack of interest in reading (which scares me a bit... after all, I am a sort-of compulsive reader), nothing seems to interest me much and I only manage a few chapters (sometimes pages) before I get bored. This weird "funk" may very well be the reason why I thought this book... average. I distantly liked the story, but I didn't think it was anything special.
Lady Victoria Mansfield, 16, is the daughter of an earl. She kind of knows how her life will play out: she will be presented to society, find an eligible husband and marry. But all her hopes and dreams are shattered when she learns she can do magic! Yes, magic is recognized in England and it's all well and good that commoners use it, but nobles of pure blood shouldn't be tainted by such... vulgar things as magic. So her parents send her to Lackland, an eerie school for aristocrats who were unfortunate enough to be "afflicted" with magic. At first, Victoria (or Tory) just wants to be "cured" but as she gets in touch with her magical powers she realizes she wants to learn more about them... not suppress them.
This book started rather weirdly: at the end of the 18th century magic was widely used by everyone... but then a noble used said magic to seduce the wife of another noble or cheat at cards or whatever and everything went downhill. A group of nobles decided (in a shadowy cafe, no less) that they would "ban" magic from polite society. And that completely ridiculous reason is why, a few years later our heroine is shunned by all when they learn she is a mage.
Ridiculous prologue aside, I really liked the general story. A group of Lackland students and some rebel teachers decide to learn magic instead of suppressing it in order to be useful in case Napoleon invades. I liked learning about the different powers (weather mages and healers and scryers and "general mages") and how they all could share energy (because magic here is energy). I thought the discovery of the mirror was a bit "random" but also liked when the Irregulars travelled in time and used the skills they had been training to defend against Napoleon to protect the English in WWII.
The part where they all sat around and controlled the storm was a bit boring, but the part with the boat had action and suspense enough to compensate.
Most characters were very likable enough although not particularly well-developed: Tory was cute and determined; Elspeth was an awesome free-spirit and Cynthia... well, she was great, probably my favorite (should have been the heroine!) and the one that grew more as a character during the book. Jack was funny and flirty. Basically they were a... again... likable bunch. The only one I didn't really like was Allarde. The author was probably going for dark and mysterious, but he was always... not there and therefore what little I read of him I didn't like. Too much of a stereotype and almost no personality and/or character development.
Another thing I didn't like: the romance. I didn't get the whole Tory and Allarde thing, first they barely spoke and next they were in love? Not realistic. I guess I expected more from a veteran historical romance writer like Putney. The romance in this book seemed hollow and I really didn't see the chemistry between the two characters.
Still, overall this book was a quick, entertaining read with likable characters and some points in the story were really compelling. If you like historical fantasy in the vein of "A Great and Terrible Beauty" you'll like this book, although it's not as richly descriptive and intricate in terms of plot.