This book ended up being a total surprise. I knew it was a Harry Potter pastiche, but it really surpassed that label.
We’ll get to the romance in a second, but first I need to talk about the magical school Watford and the general world in which it takes place.
I got warm fussy, nostalgia feelings while reading it. The atmosphere is captured perfectly, with the exception that it made more sense. The magical world isn’t as segregated from the normal world as it is in HP. They have cell phones and the kids go to normal colleges after they graduate. Carry On basically addressed all the things that bugged me about the Potterverse. But that’s enough comparing. This book can stand on its own feet.
The characters are portrayed realistically. Be it trauma, obsession or the awkwardness of re-evaluating people while you are growing up. That time when black and white becomes all messy greys.
I liked Agatha as a character. She does not like her place in the narrative and where everybody is casting her. Instead of going with it, she stands resolutely for what she wants. And Penny is the friend we all need, if only to get us in and out of trouble.
Now Baz and Simon… the best love/hate relationship I’ve read about in a while. A Romeo and Juliet (or Julian) love story between the forces of… not so much good and evil, but one political side versus another. Like the Tories versus Labour. Yeah – realistic, but with dragons.
There are some old fashion good versus evil battles, but they also have a twist.
This was a refreshing contemporary fantasy read. Not as dark and broody as twilight, not as silly as Dirk Gently.