In this YA fantasy novel, students attend a magical boarding school where they learn spells, play Mageball, and contend against evil forces.
Soon after Greg Warren’s birth, his parents received letters informing them that he was gifted and would receive private school scholarships. Greg and his friends—Annie Petersen, Zach Talbut, and Annabelle “Belle” Blue—are in their last semester at Bourdinbaugh Preparatory Middle School in Milwaukee. Upon graduation, they’re chosen for the prestigious Hazelwood Academy. When the new school year begins, they travel by a special train, in which Greg and his friends learn that magic exists. Outside the Academy is Hazelwood Village, where shops selling magical items line the cobblestone streets; the school itself is “like a castle…and like a modern commercial high-rise,” with a surrounding forest. The luxurious, co-ed dorm rooms include four-poster, canopied beds and other perks. The foursome meets other students, some friendly, some less so, such as “Magical-Born” Alec Sterling, who sneers at those born to “Normals,” like Greg. As the students learn and practice magic, choose a “Magical Focus” (an “Elemental Spirit” connected with an object), and play Mageball, an evil cabal is hatching a plot against the magical world. Meanwhile, Greg goes on a quest to help strengthen his Magical Focus. In his debut novel, Bandor owes many obvious debts to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, with elements similar to the Hogwarts Express, Hogwarts itself, Hogsmeade, Quidditch, Muggles, and more. Bandor does elaborate more on just how magic works; for example, humans have an “ætherial” core, but need an elemental spirit to amplify it, and this ties in well with the story. However, these explanations are dull, and Bandor lacks Rowling’s lightness of touch; there’s much leaden jollity, and Bandor’s adolescents blush and giggle with tiresome frequency. The style, too, lacks grace, as when Greg explains a cheese grater to Annie, who blushes (of course) and notes “the efficiency with which Greg utilized the grater.”
A derivative take on the magical boarding school novel that offers little entertainment.