Where to start with this one? By now many of us book bloggers have read a fair amount of boarding school books, with exclusive academies and mean girls and love triangles. So where does this one fit? Well I've read a few of these, some were better than others, but I have to say- this one is pretty good. Perhaps even more than that. It starts out the way a lot of them do, with a troubled teen who gets sent to a mysterious school called Cimmeria. She's a bit of a rebel and there is the obligatory imposing school, where everyone is rich and from powerful families, there's a mean girl who hates her, and two guys who like her. Of course the two are hot and are a big deal at the school. And of course all kinds of mysterious things are going on.
Sound like YA boarding school 101? I thought so too- but it was good. I didn't care about all the cliches because it was fun, and the story zipped right along. I liked Allie right away and I liked most of the supporting cast too- and wonder of wonders I actually didn't mind the love triangle! That's rare- -I usually hate those. But here it worked for me. Sylvain is a French kid who takes a fancy to Allie, and he's a big deal in Night School- which is sort of a school within the school for the elite students- and Carter is the outsider, the mysterious guy who is hard to read, etc. You can see where this is going, but I actually enjoyed trying to figure out where their loyalties really lay, and who (if either) she'd end up with. Yes I rolled my eyes a few times at the drama, but by and large it wasn't bad.
The other thing about this book is the paranormal aspect- or lack thereof. I knew going in there was no paranormal element even though throughout the first half or so of the book I could totally see it going there. I knew though from reviews that this wasn't the case, and that was a little disappointing. I really liked this book and a paranormal vibe or some urban fantasy elements would have made it even better. And I just like my boarding school books with an uncanny touch- who needs the real world?- but even with the absence of that I had fun. There's enough going on that the suspense and tension is there even without the paranormal stuff.
So I was surprised how much I liked this. The writing is good, the school is well realized and I liked Allie's interactions with her fellow students- her relationships with Sylvain and Carter were well done, and there are enough twists that you never know who you can trust. There's not a lot of action but there is a lot of skulking around and secret doors and such- often the feel of the academy itself is a big part of these stories, and here I can say, for me, it definitely added to the vibe of the story. Another thing I enjoyed were the references to science fiction writers or settings- Cimmeria is the homeland of Conan and I thought maybe that was just a coincidence, until a faculty member named Zelazny showed up. And there a few others- a wink and a nod to fans from the author?
If you like boarding schools and mysterious going on and love triangles, this is your jam. If you don't you still might like this- and the good news is there are five books and they're all out. I just may binge them.