For Kip, growing up in shadow of the human men-only Prince George’s College of Sorcery has been nineteen years of frustration. Magic comes naturally to him, yet he’s not allowed to study sorcery because he’s a Calatian—one of a magically created race of animal people. But when a mysterious attack leaves the masters desperate for apprentices, they throw their doors open, giving Kip his chance.
As he fights to prove his worth to the human sorcerers, he encounters other oddities: a voice that speaks only to him, a book that makes people forget he’s there, and one of the masters who will only speak to him through a raven. Greater than any of those mysteries or even whether the College’s attacker will return to finish the job is the mystery of how Kip and his friends can prove that this place is where they belong…
Author: Tim Susman
Style: Literary Work
Parental Rating: PG
Publication Date: July 2017
The main reasons I give this book four stars and not five are (1) it’s a bit slow—I started it a couple of times before I could get into it—and (2) I had a hard time keeping track of all the human masters and would have liked more differentiation between them. Other than that, though, I found myself entranced with the world, history, and characters. “School for kids to learn magic” has been done before, but it has not been done like this!
I found the treatment of magic to be quite original. For one thing, it’s a lot more difficult to learn magic in Susman’s world. In the Harry Potter world, for example, anyone with magical abilities can and does learn all the branches of magic, though they may choose to focus in on one. In the world of the Calatians, though, it’s far more difficult to pick up magic in general. Some characters are overall much better at it than others, and, further, most branches of magic require a special skill set that not everyone possesses. This makes for much more interesting world-building as the characters try to figure out what they’re good at (which can sometimes involve skills communicating with demons or particular elementals) and how their skills can fit into society. Some types of sorcery are extremely rare. Also… the masters’ ravens are awesome, and I love how characters’ hands glow in certain colors while casting spells.
Something else unique about this novel is that it’s set in colonial America. Research has obviously been done for historical accuracy/believability, and some characters are based on real historical figures (such as John Adams and John Quincy Adams). However, history has been painted anew to answer questions like: what if it fell upon sorcerers to fight for American independence? What if magical anthropomorphic animals lived alongside humans in the early United States? The result is a colorful, carefully-crafted world that feels vividly real and leaves me wanting more answers (which is good, since this is the first in a series).
Though this book may be slow at first, I strongly encourage you to keep reading. The second and especially the third books are more action-packed, but the Tower and the Fox got me invested in the world, story, and characters, and it dangled plenty of carrots in front of my face, tasty little questions that will be answered in due time.