Genre: YA, Fantasy
Source: a copy in exchange for an honest review
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Before 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. She enrolls with her twin brother to the Academy, the realm’s most notorious war school for those with magic.
When Ry arrives she finds herself competing against friend and foe for one of the exalted apprenticeships. It seems like everyone is rooting for her to fail –first and foremost among them Prince Darren, the school prodigy who has done nothing but make life miserable since she arrived. The lines of friendship become blurred as she starts to improve… But will Ry be good enough?
Rachel E. Carter’s The Black Mage: First Year has everything I love in a fantasy story. There’s magic and a boarding school Academy where apprentices compete and a dark, mysterious Prince. Count me in.
I have to say, even though the story is under 300 pages, I really enjoyed it and flew through it. There was so much packed in and the story covers an entire year at the Academy, and it never once felt rushed. I liked Ryiah, though she did things that annoyed me at times, she was stubborn and headstrong and did whatever it took to prove herself. I also loved the relationship with her brother. We ever rarely see sibling relationships in YA fantasy, and I think this one was done very well. Ryiah and Alex’s relationship is one of my favourite sibling relationships in YA fantasy, I think. (Now, Alex just needs to dial it back with the constant flirting please).
Throughout the story, Ryiah struggles with her magic which, unlike her brother, doesn’t come as easily to her. Even though it seems everyone other than her brother and her new friend, Ella, is rooting against her, she doesn’t allow this to get in the way of her goal and I found that very admirable and one of my favourite traits of hers. I loved the fight scenes and the Combat drills. The fight scenes were well-written and never felt dull. I feel like it was well-researched and seriously, jut reading some of the scenes made me exhausted.
This story is compared to a couple of fantasy books on GR e.g. Throne of Glass, but I’d also like to add one other. The Black Mage reminded me a little of another fantasy YA book that I love, The Novice by Taran Matharu. It has some similar elements with the magic and the school for apprentices. So, I would recommend to anyone else who enjoyed The Novice!
There is one thing I feel the need to address. A couple of times in the story, Ella – who is one of my favourite characters in this book – is referred to as ‘my dark-skinned friend’. I’m not entirely sure why that bugged me… maybe because none of the other characters were referred to in terms of their skin colour and because it happened more than once. I’m hoping this doesn’t carry on into the other books because other than this, I really did enjoy this book and I flew through it.
Can we talk about mysterious Prince Darren? Who doesn’t love the conflicted, mysterious prince who’s an ass but an undercover softie? I can’t wait to read more about him!
Overall, The Black Mage: First Year was a fun, fantasy and action-filled short read. I feel like I’d recommend it to fantasy lovers and even readers who haven’t read much fantasy stories but have been wanting to get into it. This has all of the classic elements of a great fantasy and is short enough that it can be read in a single sitting! I’m definitely planning on getting the other books in this series.
Favourite quote: The people that tell you what you want to hear are the most dangerous enemies you’ll ever meet.