marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin

The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin by L. Jagi Lamplighter

Rachel is going to the famous Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts.  She makes friends, learns history, learns magics. . . and makes discoveries.

The discoveries are most interesting of all.  Because while this is about a school for the Wise, hidden from the Unwary, it takes place in an alternate universe.  Or, rather, as becomes clear to the reader, in an altered universe.  Our first clue is that while this is a polytheistic-practice universe -- in New York City, her parents take her not only to the Statue of Liberty before dropping her off, but temples of Apollo and Amaterasu --  on her first day at school, she goes flying on her broomstick and finds a statue of a human with wings.  Bird wings, so it's obviously not a fairy, who would have butterfly wings. . . . so what is it?

There are enough clues for the students to find out that something's wrong, too.  Alongside the usual school adventures, such as making friends.  There's an orphan hero there, who was raised in an orphanage among the Unwary, and who had a dragon -- Sigfried, generally known as Siggy -- and an older student, Gaius, who helps Rachel first by taking the orange juice spill from her dress, and Princess Nastasia of Magical Australia, whose story about a magician who can't stop his magic a la the sorcerer's apprentice is of a man who pulled a rabbit out of the hat, and then another, and couldn't stop it, which is why Australia is overrun with rabbits.  True History, you know.

There is, in fact, a discussion in history class that the Wise hide True History from the Unwary, and Siggy asks the obvious question:  how do they know no one's censoring theirs?  This hits possible divergence points, but, of course, the altered aspects mean that the failure to tidy everything up is an in-universe feature.

The bits and pieces they pick up add up to trouble, and more than once, the students have to act, decisively, rising to the climax.

I found the style a bit clunky, particularly in the dialog, but I'll definitely be picking up the next two.  It ends on a triumph, but there are plenty of things ahead.
Tags: fiction reviews: alternate world fantasy, fiction reviews: ya fantasy

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