I’m not really into “magic school” stories. I did enjoy the Mildred Hubble books, but I’ve never read any others that I can think of, not even the Harry Potter books. However, this was part of a reading group book challenge. So I read it. And I just didn’t get it. There was very little background information about the characters, and all sorts of creatures kept being mentioned with no explanation as to how they fitted into the world of the book. It was as if I’d started the book in the middle, but I hadn’t. And this was definitely the first in the series, although two of the characters apparently appeared in one of the author’s other books. It just didn’t flow.
The general idea was that magic was passed down through families, and that the children of those families attended a special magic school, in Watford. That was the school’s name – Watford. With all due respect to Watford, which is a perfectly pleasant name, it doesn’t exactly scream “magic” in the way that “Hogwarts” or “Miss Cackle’s Academy” does. However, Simon Snow had emerged from a children’s home as the most powerful magician there. But no information at all was given as to how this had come about. There were three other main characters – Simon’s room-mate Baz, who was from a very well-to-do family but had been bitten by a vampire and was now a vampire himself, Simon’s best friend Penelope, and Simon’s ex-girlfriend Agatha. Their world was under attack from something called the Humdrum, and there were mentions of numpties, goblins, merwolves and assorted other creatures, with no explanation as to how they fitted into anything. It also emerged that Baz’s mother had been murdered, and that the pupils were trying to find out why.
It was all just so confused. Bits of information came at random. Some never came at all. It was meant to be a young adult book, so maybe the author was bothered that too much explanation would make it sound as if the book was aimed at younger kids, but it just didn’t hang together. Also, it kept using “spell” (as in magic spell, not as in to spell a word) as a verb instead of a noun, which really annoyed me. I’m sure some people will love this book, but it really wasn’t for me.