Pros: Delightful fight scenes; great characters
Cons: A bit formulaic; some inconsistencies
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Linsey Hall’s Academy of Magic (Dragon’s Gift: The Valkyrie Book 2) starts off two weeks after the events of the previous book. In that volume, Ana and Bree, sisters who’ve been on the run since they were children, were taken in by the magical Undercover Protectorate as potential recruits. There was just one major problem: they were poisoned and would be dead in a few days. The Protectorate was happy to go after their nemesis, Ricketts, who had the antidote, since he’d been on their radar anyway. Bree also met Cade, the ultra-hot Celtic god of war, for whom she fell like a rock. In this volume, Bree and Ana are training to join the Protectorate. During one of her tests, Bree discovers that the portal to the Fae lands that lies within the forest is cursed. It’s coated with a black, oily substance, and the area around it smells rotten. A creature tries to push its way out and calls Bree’s name. If Bree and her new friends can’t find an answer to the curse, the Protectorate’s castle itself will be in danger of falling.
There are some inconsistencies. Melusine calls Bree “Njord” at one point and Bree totally ignores it until Melusine does it again. When Bree and Cade meet a man made of rock they find that his idea of ‘recently’ could mean days or years, and he mentions that rocks can’t tell time, then crows about his fastest time crossing a river being 45 seconds. They’re little things, but they add up.
The other thing I’m not always fond of is the formulaic nature of these books. There are some advantages to it. For one, as an author I’m sure it’s a lot easier to write all of these books when you know there’s one discreet task per book, the hot guy always shows up at the beginning, and so on. For another, as a reader, while many people like surprises in their reading, sometimes you just want a particular kind of writing. Like wanting a comfort read when you’re sick or depressed. You can get that here. But it does take away that element of risk and surprise. I mean, once you’ve identified the task for the book you know it’ll get resolved by the end–the only question is how. Each main character even has her own Favorite Drink and Favorite Food, as though the author filled out a form for each character. We know that each main character will gain powers as the books progress, even if it’s for entirely different reasons than previous main characters.
I love the Fae world in here, although we don’t see it at a “normal” time. I love the predator/prey interactions and how they work. The rock-man (“Rocky”, naturally) is also an entertaining character, and I wish we’d gotten to see him a little more.
One of my favorite parts of this particular sub-series in the Dragon’s Gift world is the Pugs of Destruction. They’re just so damn entertaining and adorable:
But it was Ruckus who really caught my eye. The dog sat in my sink, which was full of water. His fangs glinted in the light.
“Are you taking a bath?”
He barked an obvious denial.
“There are bubbles in there.”
He looked away.
So in conclusion, you kind of need to be in the right mood for these books. If you want a comfort read with undeniably strong female characters, respectful love interests, and exceedingly creative fight scenes, these are excellent books. If you need to be surprised or to feel the tension that comes with risk, this isn’t for you. I find that when I’m in the right mood they’re fantastic.