Review of YA fantasy Academy Arcanist by Shami Stovall
Hopes. Dreams. And literal nightmares out to kill a young boy.
Gray Lexly, son of a candlemaker, wants to escape his life of old-world technologies and study at the prestigious Astra Academy, a school for arcanists—those who can wield magic. But Gray has a major problem. Every night, as he sleeps, he’s visited by monsters. When they injure Gray in his dreams, he wakes with the same wounds in real life…
On the night Gray might finally die in his nightmares, he is saved by the kind and mysterious Professor Helmith, a powerful arcanist. She offers to protect Gray and invites him to attend Astra Academy.
Before that can happen, Gray must bond with a mystical creature to become an arcanist himself. Will he bond with a unicorn? A pegasus? A kitsune? Whatever he bonds with will determine his magical abilities, so he must choose wisely.
And when trouble finds Professor Helmith, Gray must become powerful enough to help her and fend off the terrible nightmares, before it’s too late…
Excerpt from Academy Arcanist
“I don’t want to sleep,” I said. “The monsters will return. They’ll…”
My father lingered by the door, half inside my bedroom and half in the hall. He turned down the light of my oil lamp, though he didn’t snuff it out. The shadows in the corners of my room grew darker. I dared not stare at them.
“The monsters aren’t real, boy.” My father offered a gentle smile. “Those were just nightmares. Everyone has them occasionally.”
I sat on the edge of my bed, my posture stiff as I tried to act twice my age. With my throat tight, I lifted my left arm. An injury ran from the crux of my elbow all the way to the edge of my palm, scabbed over and red. It was a straight and shallow cut, but it stung worse than a normal wound.
“The monsters are real,” I said, defiant. “I told you—they attacked me.”
“Gray, we talked about this,” my father said, sighing.
His shoulders sagged and his eyes were heavy lidded. He looked tired. Probably because he was. Every day, he worked from sunup until sundown, mixing waxes and perfecting wicks. He was our island’s only tallow chandler—a person who made candles with oil, wax, and animal fat.
My father wore an apron marked with his profession, stained by the hot wax. He rubbed his blistered hands down his sides, no doubt trying to think of what to say. I already knew what he would eventually settle on.
He would say, “You just fell out of bed.”
“You just fell out of bed,” my father muttered.
And then he would say, “I know your arm hurts, but it was an accident. Just go to sleep.”
“I know your arm hurts.” My father half closed the door as he spoke. “But it was an accident. Just go to sleep.”
All those long hours working meant my father didn’t like dealing with problems. He was rather predictable. His most common advice was to just ignore my problems. “They’ll go away eventually,” he often muttered. “Keep your head down and do your work.”
That was easier for him, I supposed.
And although I knew he cared about me and my brother, I sometimes feared he didn’t listen. The monsters in my dreams? They were real. One had attacked me, and if I hadn’t woken up, it would’ve ripped me apart.
My Review of Academy Arcanist
This is the first book in a series set in the same world as Stovall’s Frith Chronicles. I loved those, so when this came around, I jumped on it. And I definitely wasn’t disappointed.
This is one of the coolest story worlds. If I’d been in middle school when this came out, I would have spent my afternoons, weekends, and summers pretending I was bonded to a mythical creature and training at a magical academy. This book, in particular, touches on some very interesting creatures that don’t get a lot of screen time in the initial series, and that leads to some excellent character development. I also really enjoyed the dream elements and, without spoiling, how they were so seamlessly woven into the narrative.
Highly recommend to fans of magic schools, mythical creatures, adventure, and superheroes—as the bonding and powers has a bit of similarity to that. As for me, I’m very excited to get a new series in this universe, so bring on the next one.
About Shami Stovall
Shami Stovall is a multi-award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction. Before that, she taught history and criminal law at the college level, and loved every second. When she’s not reading fascinating articles and books about ancient China or the Byzantine Empire, Stovall can be found playing way too many video games, especially RPGs and tactics simulators, or hugging John.
If you want to contact her, you can do so at the following locations:
Shami Stovall will be awarding a $25 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.