I don't know when the authors began this book, but it feels like a very, very belated cash-in on the "Harry Potter" franchise.
And by "cash-in," I mean that Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill have dug up virtually every "magical school" cliche they could find, and whipped it into a tepid, sluggish stew. "Shadow Grail No. 1: Legacies" suffers from bland characters, a slapped-together plot, and lots of filler stuff about martial arts and the interior decor of the school.
After her family is killed in a car crash, Spirit White is whisked off by a mysterious organization called the Oakhurst Academy -- and no sooner have she and her new friend Loch arrived than they are told by Doctor Ambrosius that this is a special academy for magicians. And he turns them into mice to demonstrate his point. Spirit soon gets used to life there, but seems unable to do any kind of magic.
But as the months go by, Spirit and her friends notice that periodically, a kid or two will go missing -- and the school is covering up these disappearances. Is there some kind of financial scam going on, or is it something more supernatural? Whatever it is, they plan to combine all their powers to make sure it's stopped once and for all.
"Legacies" is one of those books I really wanted to like, only to be forced to read a couple of experienced, respected authors making the book up as they go along. Nothing really happens for the first two-thirds of the book, except vague rumblings of Bad Things A-Comin'. It feels like Lackey and Edghill hadn't really thought up any actual plot, so they just ramble a lot about martial arts, fencing and interior decor.
Then in the last couple chapters, Lackey and Edghill hastily cobble together a 2-D villain and a climactic battle, ignoring pretty much all the sinister hints they've dropped thus far. They also drop most of the subplots, and leave major questions (Ambrosius' weird behavior, Spirit's car crash, the magicians not doing anything to save the kids) dangling in the wind. We don't even know what the "Shadow Grail" in the series title is, or who the series villains are!
The lack of plot is made even worse by the ghastly dialogue (" "Since when is life fair?" "The only people that say that are people who don't want it to be") and endless pop culture references that add absolutely nothing. Mentioning Hogwarts and Dumbledore doesn't mean you're not jumping on a bandwagon, ladies.
And the characters are pretty limp as well. Spirit is a whiny, bland character who fades into the background whenever other characters are around, and who spends most of her time complaining about... stuff. Most of the other characters are bland cliches -- we've got the Wizard Mentor, the Studious British Girl, the Goth Rebel, the Designated Love Interest, the Uptight Female Teacher, etc etc. Except for the fiery Muirin, most could have been ripped from the pages of a JK Rowling book.
"Shadow Grail No. 1: Legacies" is a flaccid, cliche-ridden story that never quite manages to develop a plot or memorable characters. Give this one a skip, and read "Wizard's Hall" or some Eva Ibbotson.
on January 27, 2011
Spirit White wakes up from a car accident to discover her body's beat up, her parents and her sister died, and her house burned down. She has no one in the world and no possessions. It's hard to fight back, but eventually time heals her.
Then she learns of a school for orphans where her parents set up a trust for her in case anything ever happened to them. It is a huge mansion filled with amenities for sports and academics. It's also a place for people with magical abilities.
Spirit believes there's been a mistake. She has no magical powers. It's quite evident during the first day of testing. However, she's a legacy to the school. She must have one; it simply hasn't appeared yet.
Despite its grandeur, Oakhurst thrives on rules. As Spirit's finding her place at the school and amidst all the guidelines, a student goes missing. It might not have made a huge difference, until another student disappears, too.
Spirit and her friends begin to question these disappearances and come to the conclusion that there's something strange going on at Oakhurst. Can they solve the mystery before the same thing happens to yet more students, possibly one of them?
LEGACIES is a fun start to a new series that creates a blend of magic and mystery with a dash of potential romance. Once Spirit and her friends comprehend the danger within the school, they do everything in their power to change the situation. They must unravel layer upon layer of mystery, all while keeping their suspicions to themselves. I loved the double lives they lead and the lengths they go to in order to keep them separate.
Reviewed by: Jennifer Rummel