Carter’s book about mages is captivating and magical, mostly in character development and vivid descriptions of training and battle scenes. We follow the main character, Ryiah, through her first year at the realm’s most prestigious magic Academy where she trains hard with her twin brother Alex and friends they have picked up along the way. Clear your mind of all things Harry Potter; this is a very different depiction of magic school. Here, magic isn’t taught, it’s an innate ability one either has or does not have. While there are lessons at the Academy for geography, history, and math; there are training exercises for physical fitness, weapon wielding, and magical casting. Attendees at the Academy work their minds and bodies incredibly hard their first year in order to secure one of five spots in each category of Combat warriors, Alchemists, and healing Restoration mages.
Though witty, brave, hardworking and dedicated to beating the odds against her, Ryiah starts out insecure in her own abilities, performance, and chances at succeeding. As two of several low-born first years with enough potential to participate at the Academy, Ryiah and her twin Alex have considerably less schooling and training under their belt than most of their comrades when the year begins. This only motivates Ryiah to practice harder with weaponry and casting and to study longer hours in the library. Throughout her first year, we follow her progression of increasing skills and increasing confidence. This growth feels natural and watching her improve is satisfying.
Also satisfying is watching Ryiah’s usual realistic and sarcastic demeanor turn into fluttered heartbeats and speechlessness as the mysterious Prince’s behavior leaves her confused about both his intentions and her reactions. There is no insta-love or insta-crush or love triangles in the First Year; a welcome and refreshing change in the realm of magical YA stories.
I received a review copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.