In Susman’s fourth fantasy-series entry, sorcerer Kip Penfold, an anthropomorphic fox, must save his new school during a revolutionary uprising.
It’s two years after the American Revolution of 1817, and Kip, the first nonhuman sorcerer, has founded a college for sorcery in East Georgia. Money is tight, however, and Kip and his colleagues don’t know if they’ll be able to keep the school open. Kip is one of the Calatians—a historically marginalized group of humanlike animals—and his school serves the local Calatian community. He suspects that some humans in the newly formed American government would be happy if the school failed. Along with his partner, Alice, and his friends Emily Carswell and Malcolm O’Brien, Kip sets off for the International Exposition of Sorcery in Amsterdam in the hope of procuring support for his college. He’s wary of the presence of his human nemesis, Victor Adamson, who’d like nothing better than to see Kip’s school go under. When some students Kip brought along start disappearing, however, he realizes that Victor’s plot to harness demonic magic is a threat to Calatians everywhere. To save his people, Kip won’t let anything stand in his way—not even a French revolution. Each chapter features a lovely black-and-white illustration by Garabedian, which serves as a point of entry for the reader’s imagination. Susman’s prose is smooth and even throughout: “Having a raven, Kip had discovered, was like having a very perceptive young child, and he’d learned to project calm and assurance even when (as now) he did not feel them naturally.” In addition to the normal Harry Potter–esque wizarding fare, Susman uses the setting to explore issues of intolerance toward women and minority groups. For those who haven’t read the previous books, the world of the Calatians is a lot to wrap one’s head around: an alternative history with humanoid animals, magic, and some complex domestic relationships. The plot is perhaps not quite compelling enough to warrant the amount of mythology the reader has to wade through, which makes it a troublesome starting point for newcomers.
A conceptually dense installment that will likely satisfy fans of the series.