Cave of Nightmares by V. St. Clair

Cave of Nightmares

From the "The Broken Prism" series, volume 1
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The first volume in a YA series follows an orphan who can channel magic through prisms.

Two years ago, the home of Hayden Frost and his mother suffered a magical explosion. She died, and Hayden became an orphan. Now in Kargath, the capital of Junir, 12-year-old Hayden is judged by a Council of Mages. Astoundingly, the council decides that he should receive magical training at a school called Mizzenwald—the same school that Aleric Frost, Hayden’s insane, absentee father, once attended. Despite having never met his father (who tried to conquer the Nine Lands), Hayden impresses Mizzenwald’s staff by surmising from the designs in the pentagonal foyer that there are five major arcana (Elixirs, Wands, Prisms, Conjury, and Powders). And like his father, he possesses an innate talent for manipulating prisms. For his studies, Hayden is outfitted with magical corrective bands—to help balance his immense power—and a headpiece that holds diamonds for him to view light through. He becomes friends with roommates Zane Laraby and Conner and with a girl named Tess; Bonk the dragon ends up his animal “familiar.” While maintaining their grades, the four students must also perform as a group, using magic to survive simulated emergencies. Throughout, nobody lets Hayden forget that his father was the Black prism and that the boy may turn out as evil as the man. In this series opener, St. Clair (The Dark Prism, 2016, etc.) invites readers into a Hogwarts-style world, filled with bullies, strange creatures (like the multiheaded hydra), and teachers both friendly and malicious. Her magical systems are exceptionally structured and include the notions that objects for channeling spells, like wands, can be physically used up, and doubling-up or inverting prisms can alter their power. St. Clair’s prose, while clever and often beautiful, may be too dense for the youngest members of her audience; using two prisms, Hayden felt that “the mask of nature had been stripped away and was staring right into its soul.” Facing various trials, Hayden radiates a hard-won nobility that should enamor him to teens and adults alike.

A winning start to an eloquently grand series about a young hero with complex powers.

Pub Date: March 14th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-692-38685-9
Page count: 478pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2016


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