Review: “Institute of Magic,” Linsey Hall

Pros: Great action
Cons: Semi-formulaic
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Linsey Hall’s Institute of Magic (Dragon’s Gift: The Druid Book 1) is the fifth sub-series in her Dragon’s Gift universe, following Ana, Bree’s younger sister. As usual, one of the first things that happens is she meets her love interest. This is where I bemoan the formulaic nature of these books: the moment we find Ana walking to a room while noting that she can feel someone super-powerful inside, we know immediately this will be her love interest. Because after all, the love interest in each sub-series is smokin’ hot, physically and magically super-powerful, and wealthy, and shows up pretty much at the start. (Why couldn’t someone be slim and wiry for once? Or bookish? Or female instead of male? Or sweet but poor?) We also seem to be revisiting the “we can’t smooch because we’re working together” argument, which is just kinda meh, especially when done twice in a row (you might recall that Bree and Cade briefly went through this stage as well).

Back to the setup. Lachlan is a super-potent mage who has created an incredibly powerful and dangerous spell which has been stolen. He’s come to the Undercover Protectorate for help in getting it back; he also needs help recovering the friend who was kidnapped with the spell. He immediately takes an interest in Ana (and her magic), and when everyone splits up into teams, he takes her with him. Like Bree, Ana is a fabled Dragon God–but she hasn’t made the transition yet. When it’s time to figure out where to look for the spell, Ana’s first new power pops up and sends the pair to Paris. Soon they’re tracking through France and Italy, killing demons and sharing clues with the other teams. Meanwhile Ana makes some new friends: the Cats of Chaos, Muffin, Princess Snowflake III, and Bojangles, who are internationally renowned jewel thieves, as well as magical housecats. (I’m sure they’d take issue with my calling them housecats. Shhhh. We won’t tell them.)

One of the major early complications that hits is that everyone on the hunt for the spell has their magic dampened. Given that affecting others with magic from a distance without using some object of theirs is… not something we’ve really seen before? I think? And sounds kind of unlikely within the established parameters of the world, it’s hard to imagine how this is possible. Hopefully we’ll learn more within the five-book sub-series that will cause this to make sense. After all, we usually don’t learn about the over-arching power the main character faces until later.

As usual, the highlight is the combination of snark and action. Hall is still excellent at climactic fight scenes with a ton of danger, high-powered hijinks, and an array of adversaries and allies. We even get to see the Triumvirate in action again. I’m looking forward to finding out what pantheon has supplied Ana with her powers and how they manifest. Not to mention, how they’re used to create even more excellent fight scenes!

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