Publisher: Astraea Press
Rating: 4 / 5
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Before the age of seventeen the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice –follow tradition, or pursue a trial year in one of the realm’s three war schools to study as a soldier, knight or mage...For 15-year-old Ryiah the choice has always been easy. Become a warrior and leave the boring confines of her lowborn life behind. Set to enroll in the School of Knighthood on the eve of her next birthday, plans suddenly shift when her twin brother discovers powers. Hoping that hers will soon follow, she enrolls with Alex at the Academy instead –the realm’s most notorious war school for those with magic.Yet when she arrives Ry finds herself competing against friend and foe for one of the exalted apprenticeships. Every “first-year” is given a trial year to prove their worth –and no amount of hard work and drive will guarantee them a spot. It seems like everyone is rooting for her to fail –and first and foremost among them Prince Darren, the school prodigy who has done nothing but make life miserable since she arrived.When an accidental encounter leads Ryiah and Darren to an unlikely friendship she is convinced nothing good will come of it. But the lines become blurred when she begins to improve –and soon she is a key competitor for the faction of Combat... Still, nothing is ever as it seems –and when the world comes crashing down around her, Ry is forced to place faith in the one thing she can believe in –herself. Will it be enough?
Reading the book summary, I honestly couldn't help but to think of Hogwarts. Magic and school, right? I tried not to let my first thoughts hinder my opinion of First Year because--let's be honest--no book in this world could ever compare to the excellence that is Harry Potter, but I don't want that affecting how I feel about similar books.
Having said that.. What a delightful surprise! First Year isn't what I was expecting, at all, and I truly enjoyed reading it! The world and people of Jerar were quite different and I can't wait to read the next books in The Black Mage series! I'm very interested to find out what happens next to all the competitors that achieved their apprentice status!
What I Enjoyed
The story-line wasn't what I expected. As I mentioned above, I was thinking First Year would be something reminiscent of Harry Potter. That wasn't the case at all! In the world of Jerar, those who display magical abilities at a young age can choose to attend The Academy, a prestigious school that develops the best of the best. The number of those who enroll are slowly whittled down until there are just 5 apprentices in each faction (Combat, Restoration, and Alchemy). It was quite fun to see how the teachers pushed their students to quit and how the participants did everything necessary to force each other out of the running.
Ryiah. It seems more and more lately that authors are shying away from writing of Bella Swan-type heroines that turn to mush when swoon-worthy men come along. There were a few moments where Ryiah's brain shut down (like during her kiss with Prince Darren), but 97% of the time she was a strong heroine that pushed her abilities to be better, studied her textbooks late into the night, and called Prince Darren out for the scumbag he could be! I enjoyed her character very much and found myself rooting for her to beat out her competitors for the coveted Combat apprenticeship!
The slow progression of romance. No insta-love, folks! There was a touch and a kiss toward the later pages of the book, but that's it! I'm actually anticipating this romance in book 2!
What Could Have Been Better
More background on Jerar. I only have one small bone to pick! I wanted to know a bit more about Jerar! Why is there a School of Knighthood? Why is there an Academy? Why is the Combat faction the most distinguished faction? Is Jerar at war or something? I do expect all my "whys" will be answered in book 2!
"The people that tell you what you want to hear are the most dangerous enemies you’ll ever meet."
Harry Potter or Alanna fans who want to read of a different world that involves magic and training, young adult fantasy readers, or those that just want a quick and fun read!