First Year by Rachel E. Carter
Series: The Black Mage #1
Kindle Edition, 322 pages
Published 24th January 2017 by Rachel E. Carter (first published 11th August 2014)
Genre: young adult, fantasy
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Synopsis: Magic. Romance. War. Perfect for fans of Throne of Glass, Falling Kingdoms, and Tamora Pierce.
Before the age of seventeen, the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice —pursue a trade or enroll in a trial year in one of the realm’s three war schools to study as a soldier, knight, or mage…
For fifteen-year-old Ryiah, the choice has always been easy. Become a mage and train in Combat, the most prestigious faction of magic.
Yet when she arrives, Ry finds herself competing against friend and foe for one of the exalted apprenticeships. Everyone is rooting for her to fail—first and foremost among them is Prince Darren, the school prodigy who has done nothing but make life miserable since she arrived.
Will Ry survive, or will her dream go down in flames?
Overview: Three years late to the party, but I’m so glad that I picked this up! If there is something that everyone should take away from this book, it is learning to be resilient. Ryiah’s trial year at the Academy was an adventure, and although this book really lacked in world-building, I suspect the author has everyone in for a ride.
What I loved about the book: The characters! I loved every character, even the bad guys. Rachel E. Carter is brilliant at character development. I loved how everyone in the book was so head-strong and purposeful. There didn’t seem to be a character who was there just because. Each character who was given a spotlight had a reason. Every relationship was so meaningful. I felt the characters alone made the book shine.
And don’t even get me started on Ryiah and her love interest. I wanted to yell at them to kiss already from the start. The chemistry between them was dazzling! I always enjoy it when a love interest is introduced as an enemy. I think it makes the relationship more spicy. 😉
Even though the book lacked in world-building, I still loved how the Academy and the three factions were introduced. I enjoyed following Ryiah through her trial year. I kept wanting to learn more, just like she did. It was almost as if I were there myself since everything was described in such intriguing detail. Due to that, I’m positive that the author has a much more planned in the following books. The way magic worked in this realm is unlike in most books. I was genuinely impressed by it.
Favourite passage: “The worst thing wealth does is give those who have it a false sense of security.” Piers chuckled as he moved on to another student to correct. “You stop trying as hard, and there’s always another who will gladly take your place.”
What didn’t work for me in the book: For a book that has been both edited and proofread by numerous people, there were still a few grammatical errors—even a simple one, where ‘you’re’ should have been ‘your’ (Loc 2651)—and format errors (e.g. the start of Chapter 7). This really disappointed me. However, while this did not stop me from enjoying the book, it was half of the reason that prevented me from giving this book five stars.
Highlight to read mild spoilers: The other half had to do with how infuriating it got to read Ryiah fail at her trials over and over again. As mentioned above, resilience is one of the main themes in this book. I understood that the author was trying to portray that, but the way she did became tedious after a while. Ryiah seemed to whine about the same issues. How tired she was. How difficult it was. How much she wanted to be in Combat. I felt that there were better ways to show Ryiah’s struggles, but I suppose at least the author got across how trying the Academy was.
Conclusion: I already got the next book! I’m excited to find out what Rachel E. Carter has in store for her readers. Anyone who loves magic, strong female protagonists, enduring friendships, and gritty settings should give First Year a try. It won’t disappoint.