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CONSPIRACIES by Mercedes Lackey


From the Shadow Grail series, volume 2

by Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill

Age Range: 12 - 16

Pub Date: July 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7653-2823-6
Publisher: Tor

Paranoid speculations prove to be sensible strategy in the second entry of this fantasy series.

Spirit and her friends deserve a little downtime after defeating the Wild Hunt at Oakhurst, the elite boarding school for magical orphans. Instead, the winter holidays set off a new round of attacks. Spirit's friends dismiss her warnings as a pathetic bid for attention and seem interested only in shopping and fashion. After all, the headmaster has recruited powerful alumni to take over school security, and the only one who shares Spirit's forebodings is the new girl, with her crazy babbling about the eternal battle between Arthur and Mordred. Then the killings start... A nefarious anti-Hogwarts provides a compelling premise, undercut by sloppy worldbuilding and overreliance on brand-name-dropping. Spirit's tragic life plausibly results in her constant anger and depression, but it doesn't make for a likable protagonist. Her friends are shallow caricatures, and it's hard to fathom their fierce devotion, aside from narrative compulsion. Although the potential for Yet Another Teen Love Triangle is firmly squashed, the tepid established romance adds little. The meandering pace, rife with disappearing subplots and convenient coincidences, builds to a climactic battle that is over in a scant few pages, with heavy foreshadowing of inevitable sequels.

A diverting if trivial read; it could have been so much more. (Fantasy. 12-16)