A Texas teen learns that her new school houses a secret society that trains students with special abilities in this debut YA novel.
Phoebe Douse—pronounced “like Zeus, but with a D”—loses her beloved grandmother Naan. Shortly before her death, Naan assures her granddaughter that Phoebe has great (but still unknown) abilities. Phoebe guesses she may have precognition, but once schoolmates hear this tidbit, she becomes an outcast, from middle school all the way to high school. So when she receives admittance to The Murray School in Scotland, despite not even applying, Phoebe is all too happy to accept. It’s a typical school except that a handful of students have abilities, such as knowing what others are thinking. A couple of the teachers, too, are unusual. Dr. Braithwaite teaches chemistry but focuses on strange concoctions like Bobalgong and Totosol. As it turns out, the Secret Society for Special Abilities and Artefacts invites gifted students to The Murray School for potential training. Phoebe is indeed precognitive and capable of even more. But then so was Cara, a former student who inexplicably vanished. Phoebe; her roommate, Zoe Houlihan; and other new friends delve into the Cara mystery and uncover a few of the school’s dark secrets. Though the different special abilities are all familiar (for example, channeling spirits), the gradual reveal of each student’s skill is a treat. Nevertheless, Phoebe, the ever humble and appealing protagonist, has the best ability. As she doesn’t fully understand it, she, like readers, is surprised by certain things she can do. In this fantasy tale, Samuels sets a leisurely pace and thoroughly develops the characters. This enhances the mystery, as it often involves trusting or distrusting fellow students and faculty members. The author rounds out her tale with increasing suspense (disappearances within Phoebe’s small group of pals) and a continually evolving backstory starting decades earlier and including Naan and the secret society’s genesis. As this is a series launch, the novel ends with copious material for sequels.
A slow but delightful fantasy with a likable and powerful young heroine.