4/22/17

Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded, by Sage Blackwood

Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded, by Sage Blackwood (Katherine Tegen Books, March 2017), is a book I first heard about from the author herself, when we met in real life in Beautiful Rhode Island (tm) before it was even all the way finished.  So I have been wanting to read it for rather a while (although of course as always happens when I buy a book I really want to read it sits for quite a while unread whilst other books checked out from the library or received for review claim my attention).  But in any event, I read it last week and  there was much to delight me.  A most interesting dragon, who has a lovely library!  Magic!  Orphans!  A city sufficient unto itself, with steps and terraces and bits of garden (I like that sort of city lots...).  And bonus overthrow of the patriarchy and destruction of xenophobic walls (literal walls.  Or more accurately, the one big wall around the city). 

Chantel, the central character, is a student at Miss Ellicott's School for Magical Maidens, where deportment is featured prominently in the curriculum, along with sundry useful spells.  Chantel was always good at the magic part, though the deportment, which basically meant being "shamefast and biddable" never came naturally.  When her familiar, a snake, morphs (rather disturbingly by crawling into her ear) into a dragon, she gives up all together on the biddable part.

This proves to be a Good Thing for the city kingdom of Lightning Pass, when the sorceress who have kept the walls of the city safe from the marauders roiling around outside it (some days more densely than others) disappear. Including Miss Ellicott, leaving Chantel and her fellow students in a pickle.  The council of Patriarchs and the King are not taking any useful actions viz the threat of marauders, which has become more immediate than usual/food shortages among the people of the city/long term plans for economic stability and peace/the state of Miss Ellicott's school. 

Chantel, seeing these problems clearly, and having the wherewithal to do things, thanks to her dragon companion and sundry other old magics, and thanks as well to more mundane, though still powerful young friends (including a marauder boy), she finds herself putting things to rights very satisfyingly indeed.  She is the right person at the right time for the job, and though young, she's smart and capable (and has advice from a long-dead queen who the patriarchs wrote into history as a traitor....).  So it is not difficult for the reader to accept the firmness with which she ends up holding the reigns of the runaway events that have overtaken her city....and it certainly not difficult for the reader to enjoy the rush of alarms and excursions that fill the story.

All in all, a very entertaining and thought-provoking read!

A particular thing I liked--you may have noticed that the school is originally the school for "magical maidens," but in the title of the book is referred to a school for the "magically minded."  Which makes the point that when patriarchal gender divides are smashed, it helps boys too.  In this case, boys who want to do magic.





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