First Year (The Black Mage #1) by Rachel E. Carter (review)

December 23, 2015 All Reviews, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Urban Fantasy, YA 0 ★★★½

First Year (The Black Mage #1) by Rachel E. Carter (review)First Year (The Black Mage, #1) by Rachel E. Carter
Series: The Black Mage #1
Published by Astraea Press on August 11th 2014
Number of Pages: 276
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Urban, Young Adult
Source: Library
Format: eBook
Purchase: At Amazon

Before the age of seventeen, the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice-follow tradition, or pursue a trial year in one of the realm's three war schools to study as a soldier, knight or mage...

For 15-year-old Ryiah, the choice has always been easy. Become a warrior and leave the boring confines of her lowborn life behind. Set to enroll in the School of Knighthood on the eve of her next birthday, plans suddenly shift when her twin brother discovers powers. Hoping that hers will soon follow, she enrolls with Alex at the Academy instead -the realm's most notorious war school for those with magic.

Yet when she arrives, Ry finds herself competing against friend and foe for one of the exalted apprenticeships. Every "first-year" is given a trial year to prove their worth -and no amount of hard work and drive will guarantee them a spot. It seems like everyone is rooting for her to fail -and first and foremost among them Prince Darren, the school prodigy who has done nothing but make life miserable since she arrived.

When an accidental encounter leads Ryiah and Darren to an unlikely friendship, she is convinced nothing good will come of it. But the lines become blurred when she begins to improve -and soon she is a key competitor for the faction of Combat... Still, nothing is ever as it seems -and when the world comes crashing down around her, Ry is forced to place faith in the one thing she can believe in -herself. Will it be enough?

The synopsis was a bit deceptive. I thought we’d get to see or at least hear about, Ryiah and her twin choosing their schools. Or even anything about Ryiah and her powers. But the book starts off with the twins heading to the magic Academy. I also wasn’t a fan of how the book dealt with her powers prior to entering the School. It almost felt like important story bits had been cut out of the beginning of the book during an editing phase.

The friendship theme with Darren didn’t work for me at first. He had been too much of a bully, along with the rest of his group. It did grow on me however, and by the end of the book I could see exactly why Ryiah wanted him as a friend.

The author did a wonderful job of showing the relationships between all the characters instead of telling about them. We saw every important moment, and that was a big part of why the friendship that Ryiah and Darren eventually worked for me. We got to see him at his worst (and we saw a LOT of that!) but we also got to see the other side of him. The side that made for a good friend.

I loved how Ryiah grew as a character over the course of the book. Alex did as well, but we didn’t really see as much of it since the book was focused on Ryiah and then Darren and the classes. I really liked Ella. She was the perfect best friend. Funny as well as loyal, and she had her own strengths and weaknesses that were different from Ryiah’s and the other characters. It was also fun to see how Ella and Alex’s relationship evolved.

I also liked the twist given to magic in the book. A lot of books have magic being as easy as breathing for the characters. Not so with this book. Magic was one of the hardest things for Ryiah to accomplish. It took a lot of work and effort on her part, and that helped make the book feel more real.

The duels were exciting to read about, and I liked how you could learn things about the other characters based on how they attacked as well as what they said. The classes weren’t boring to read about, and everything mentioned in class was useful at some point in the book even when it seemed like it wouldn’t be.

We don’t really learn much about the world. All the focus of this book is on the school and relationships between the students. Maybe the next book will have a wider view point, it would be nice to see how the world works. And why there is a magic school that is so selective.

I liked the ending, but I also disliked it. I can’t really explain why without major spoilers. So all I will say is you will understand once you get there.


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