W. J. May's Rae of Hope blends J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter with the Casts' House of Night and television's Heroes and X-Men to imagine a school for the powerful hidden away in the English countryside. Rae's parents died in a mysterious fire when she was a child. Now living with an Aunt and Uncle in America, she's surprised to find herself invited to join the very select and curious Guilder boarding school. But many more surprises await as she learns about her past and what being "the girl who survived the fire" means to her future.
I'm not sure I'd ever thought of Manchester and Edinburgh being at "different ends of the country," nor of blindfold chess being like "some twisted live action game" with unknown rules and goals, but perhaps my Englishness and my family's chess-playing background are holding me back. Rae, of course, is held back by her American-ness, easily assuming she's being put down by those cliquey schoolkids, determined to go it alone, and, like any teen, failing to see the subtext. The story's intriguing, and the burgeoning attraction to boys is natural, but the voice has a teenaged awkwardness that grates sometimes, and some word choices feel rather odd to my English American ears.
Like the Philospher's Stone in Harry Potter, Rae of Hope covers Rae's first year at Guilder and ends with the summer. It's an interesting start to a series, with special powers neatly tied to mysterious tatus (not quite tattoos), all the fun and pain of growing up, sweet tinges of romance, divided loyalties, and the hope of more to come. Are the sins of the fathers truly inherited with the tatus, or can a fiery girl blaze her own unique path? I guess we'll have to wait to find out.
Disclosure: I received a free ecopy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest review.
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