Sorcery and Scholarships by Ian Isaro
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Everyone wishes the ancient prophecy would go away. Pixies commute to work and sirens make mp3s of their songs, yet antique forces stubbornly persist. They want to bring about a war between Light and Darkness in an era when most people just want to cash in on the merchandising.
Aki is struggling to make ends meet and hopes her scholarship can at least earn her a better apartment. Blake refuses to believe he could be something so cliché as a Knight of Darkness. Keisha is pursuing a career in law when she’s told she has no choice but to serve the forces of Light. All of them will be attending the same university, whether they like it or not.
It’s hard to think about dark omens when there’s a term paper due, much less a party that night. But they’d better relax while they can, because after college is only the real world, which is stranger and more dangerous than they could possibly imagine.
An uncommon book in the fantasy landscape, Sorcery and Scholarships is an on-going trip in a rich fantasy world. Dynamic and complex, the world is too rich to catch in a few words, and it is a setting hosting a saga of magic, youth struggles, destiny and war.
The new students to Axis University are distinct, well sketched characters. We meet Aki, a girl trying to live on her own and struggling with basic spells to prove herself. Blake, a powerfully distinct character from the start, presented to us as a bearer of Darkness and from his very introductory scene the author shocks us with his behavior. I would rather not give spoilers, so I’ll pass over the details, I’ll just say that not everything is rosy, and that has caught my interest from the start. Then we have Keisha, the smart girl aiming for law school, an overachiever in anything she puts her mind to.
The book is well written on characterization and point of view, though not easy: it switches often the points of view, following the experiences of every of our students. However, thanks to the skillful depiction of the biases of each and the clear distinction between their take on Axis, on their entourage, on the war going on, we have no trouble following them and enriching our experience of the world of Sorcery and Scholarship through the superposition of their perspectives.
The world is complex, and more than once, at the beginning of the book, I’ve felt it rushing to the reader with many assumptions on history or events we don’t know yet. We have to figure out as we go, the fey, the spites, races we’re dealing with in this world, the magic system, or rather systems, since there are more areas of magic, the prophecy that lies above the events and puts things into motion at the time we enter the world.
The book doesn’t have too long infodumps on magic, still it transmits a lot of information, through part-infodumps. That’s somehow more confusing, because they’re clearly only hanging parts, that we have to figure out how they relate in the bigger picture. The magic system is complex, with many areas and specific characteristics, partially dependent on the native abilities of the student as well as the willingness of their professors to train them. Weird things are happening, and in the course of the story we don’t know much of what or why. Only that it’s a war, a war between Light and Darkness, with many aspects we discover along the way.
Thankfully, the plot is character-driven, and very well done at that. We can easily sympathize and connect with Aki, and likely Keisha, from the start. Twists and surprises keep our interest alive as they move along, we can learn with them as they try to uncover the deeper meaning of what is happening in the university and in the world.
A complex fantasy with a complex magic world, Sorcery and Scholarship is an interesting read. Light, though snappy, switching fast through events, the writing style makes this book a pleasure to read, for the fantasy fans.
Note: I have received a copy for free from the author, for an honest review.
This review is part of Making Connections blog tour.
View all my reviews