After 12-year-old Fort’s father is abducted during an alien attack on Washington, D.C., he jumps at the chance to attend a school of magic that is preparing to go to war with the invaders.
Fort is anxious to start his new school, but he finds Oppenheimer School to be nothing like Hogwarts. Instead of a castle with turrets and magical creatures roaming the forest, Fort’s new school is on a military base complete with armed soldiers and high-tech security. Although the school teaches both Healing magic and Destruction magic, Fort is determined to master the latter in order to avenge his father. When he arrives, Fort is given an ultimatum: learn three spells in three days or be sent home. While he quickly makes enemies with the aggressive Destruction students, he also makes important friends. Jia Liang is a master of Healing magic. Rachel, a wielder of Destruction magic, helps Fort fight his battles. And Cyrus, newly transferred from London, uses his clairvoyance to keep everyone out of trouble. While this new take on a magical academy is imaginative, the narrative wanders, spending too much time on bickering, dead ends, and flashbacks. Fort’s indecision is his greatest stumbling block, making him a lackluster leader. An open ending suggests more to come. The book adheres to the white default; Jia is a Chinese immigrant, and Rachel is African-American.
A potent mixture of magic and monsters that never materializes. (Fantasy. 8-12)