Book #59: Arcanum 101: Welcome New Students (2012)

mlarcanumauthors: Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill
language: English with a bit of Spanish
length: 195 pages
finished reading on: 23 May 2014

As is becoming my regular thing nowadays, I got this book via the Humble Bundle. It is quite a short one, and since it’s aimed at children, it was fast-paced and plot-driven and quite easy to read.

In the story, a kid goes to a magic school and learns how to control his powers… it’s obviously trying to be Harry Potter, here. No, scratch that, it’s trying to be an edgier version of Harry Potter; the main character Tomas is a “troubled” boy from Mexico, among other things (like, the school they go to is in some disused military buildings in upstate New York, instead of a castle in the Highlands). His sole power is being able to set fire to things. One of the book’s most annoying habits is having him slip into Spanish in the text – gives international flavour, sure, but I don’t speak Spanish, and while I can understand a few basic sentences and words, anything longer than one word was lost on me (even though most times it was translated soon after). It’s… realistic, I guess, but realism isn’t always a goal authors should aspire to.

The other main character is called VeeVee, of all the toe-curling nicknames, and she’s there to be a Mary Sue and be the perfect foil to Tomas’s troubled macho teenager. She has many more powers than he does, and goes out with her parents to battle enemy monsters in her spare time. She’s kind of a boring character – when your one weakness is your heterosexual attraction to someone you “shouldn’t” be attracted to, I have little interest.

The title hints at a series that starts with this book, but it turns out that this is, at least yet, the only one in the series. Similarly, there seems to be a developed world behind this book that is not explained or explored thoroughly enough – when researching the book online later, I found that someone had mentioned in their review that it’s a kind of tie-in for another series by the same author and may only be interesting for people who had already read that. Perhaps I’m inclined to agree.

In summary, it’s quick and easy to read, but doesn’t go into enough detail about the world it occupies. Instead of this, I’d read something similar but more substantial like Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl.

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