Author: Jeff Hirsch
Genre: YA, dystopian, paranormal, fantasy
Publication Date: October 1, 2012 (Scholastic – North America)
Source: NetGalley Review Copy/ARC provided by publisher
Summary: On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.
Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn’s only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn’t for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn’s mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father’s work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run—with only one place to go.
☆: 3.5/5 stars – a solid YA paranormal dystopian tale!
Review: This one’s a bit hard to review, guys, because it’s such a different animal when you compare its beginning and its end. Not that that’s a bad thing – it certainly made for interesting reading, and I can tell you, “Magisterium” is a very absorbing tale of a future severely divided between science and magic, civilization and chaos, with life-changing choices to be made.
I found the start a bit slow to get off the ground – and I feel like a lot of that beginning portion that laid the groundwork of the Rift and the relationship between Kevin and Glenn could have been a bit more cleaned up and shortened, since we do spend something like 80-85% in Magisterium or on the border between the Coloquiuum/Magisterium. However, once Glenn gets over the border, things really start to speed up, and my attention no longer wandered.
The ‘lost princess’ trope that we see so often in fantasy (usually in high fantasy, but I wouldn’t quite classify this book in that genre) worked pretty well, as it was a trope used twice over – both for Glenn and her mother. There’s also the trope of the journey (a la Tolkien), so there’s a lot of tramping about and walking around. Both work well, as this no longer just becomes a tale of “going home” for Glenn and Kevin, but also one of coming of age and discovering oneself. The writing around mid-book turns into something totally different than what we started with, as do the characters – they all get their own character arcs, which was great, but those arcs didn’t really kick in at full speed until halfway through.
So you can see my dilemma when trying to talk about this book.
Honestly, I think this book needed one more editorial pass (and I hope it got it before publication) with all of the stops and starts within the first half of the book. The writing itself wasn’t all that I’d hoped for, as there was a lot of infodumping and telling over showing once Glenn got to Magisterium, but that was very slowly remedied throughout the book – to the point where I’m very, very interested in reading a second book (seriously, with a cliffhanger like that…). The sensory imagery and language was a bit precarious as there was SO much telling, but once the sensory language was put into play, Hirsch can really capture an imagination. I just wish there’d been more of it to enjoy.
All of my nitpicking on the technical writing-only aspects aside, the worldbuilding could have been better (its base was built a little shakily – I wanted more info on how the Rift happened instead of the oversimplified explanation that both the Magisterium and the Colloquiuum gave), but otherwise, what I got was adequate enough to go on. The Magisterium was built up a lot more than the Colloquiuum – another worldbuilding issue that really needed to be fixed with another draft. But the Magisterium itself was absolutely beautifully built once it got off the ground – with women made of crows, ghosts luring people into canyons to feed themselves, and ghosts that overtake their hosts, particularly when a certain Spider lures them into her web in the forest. AWESOME.
The characters were also great – I think that I liked Kevin’s personal character arc the best, because it feels like he actually changed the most over the entire book. Glenn is rather stubborn and doesn’t understand the severity of her situation, instead insisting on destroying her father’s bracelet until the identity of the Magisterium (and by proxy, her own true identity) is revealed. Kevin, however, turns into a badass. Provided, he does do it with the help of a cat-turned-man and a ghost in his head.
Final verdict? If you’re looking for a great fantasy to ease your mind into this fall season, “Magisterium” is a book you should look into. It’s out now from Scholastic in North America, so be sure to check it out when you get the chance!