The Black Mage: First Year by Rachel E. Carter

22907405Before 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. – Goodreads

You know what the best feeling in the entire world is? Getting completely sucked into a literary world. That being said, it’s often followed by the most dismal feeling in the world: finishing said book and longing for another.

I’m going to admit a weakness as a reader (I’m a little bit ashamed to admit it, but I’m hoping someone does the same and therefore won’t judge me too harshly): I judge books by their covers. I mean that in a literal and metaphorical sense. For example, I looked at this book’s cover and immediately decided the title was too Harry Potter-esque* and the subhead too swirly. Paired with the $.99 pricetag (which, unbeknownst to me, was simply because of a sale)…and I wasn’t too sure. However, I read the summary, read a few reviews, and was intrigued. So I hit that one-click purchase button to beam it to my Kindle and was on my merry reading way.

The first chapter immediately launches the reader into an action packed scene with bandits, running, and kidnapping. While a little jarring, it did a great job at capturing my attention and explaining the setting—Ry and her twin brother, Alex, are on their way to a magical academy to become mages.

By chapter two, I was hooked. I finished the book as quickly as I could, and was seriously distraught when I found out on 2/16 that the second book wouldn’t be released until 2/17. Reader’s dilemma: do I start a new book or just wait? I had more anxiety over this than I’d care to admit.

I seriously love the shit out of fantasy. I can’t get enough. I grew up with JK Rowling, Tamora Pierce, Gail Carson Levine, and Ursula Le Guin. The librarians knew me by name and gave me ARCs when ARCs were seriously uncool. I love a strong, kickass heroine who values her success over a boyfriend. Ry did not disappoint.

I truly enjoyed the characters in this book—with the exception of Prince Darren, who is a royal douchebag. I think he’s supposed to grow on you, but I’m sorry…no. Ryiah is awesome. She’s confident, resilient and determined, but has those insecurities that all of us have. They were present, but never really held her back. By the end, I really felt like I knew Ry, but also her brother, her best friend, Ella, and several other students.

The worldbuilding was okay, but the magic was better. I appreciated that magic-wielders have limited energy reserves, which makes them more human and real. I also liked the complexity of casting, and that they actually have to hone their skills. Ry is more adept at casting when she’s inflicting pain on herself, which I found interesting.

I rated this a 4/5 because Darren seriously aggravated me (also I got really tired of the word ‘non-heir’) and because I wanted to know more about the world—I know there are highborns and lowborns, but I had no idea what the landscape was like, how big the kingdom was, who the rivals were, etc. I would have liked to know more. I highly recommend to those who enjoyed Throne of Glass, Protector of the Small, etc. I’m currently reading the second book sincerely hope the third will be out soon. I believe the $.99 deal is still going on until the end of February, so check it out on Amazon!

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* I mentioned Harry Potter—I would like to say: the book was nothing like Harry Potter. Sure, they go to a magical school and some teachers are bigger asses than others, but other than that—nothing Harry Potter about it!

 

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