Years ago I dreamed up the idea of a collaborative Internet game. I had some basic rules and protocols, and other people would be free to create their own worlds to add to it. Heck, they could each have a whole galaxy. Of course I never did it; going to those lengths for computer games isn’t really my thing. But still, it was an intriguing idea, and when I found out that Magian High is a work of collaborative fiction, aside from it being fantasy with the natural and inevitable attraction of magic, I was curious to see how it worked out.
I’ll admit some doubts at the beginning. It seemed to start with an awkward infodump, and I feared it was going to be a Harry Potter rip-off. Those concerns, however, dissipated within a few more pages. I mean, the infodump wasn’t all that bad, and my fear of a rip-off proved to be unfounded.
The story centers in and around, obviously, Magian High, where the Mage kids go to school. There are also Nomers instead of Muggles. This was the first thing that made me worry that it copied Harry Potter. The second was that there were some Mages that thought integration with the Nomers was a good idea, and others who were disgusted by the thought. But it turned out not to be the same thing at all.
Nor is it the Harry Potter scenario where those with magic have the power to lord it over the others and only live equitably with them out of the goodness of their own hearts. The Nomers are further divided into Wisers (the smart ones) and Corporals (the athletic ones). The three groups are fairly equally matched in talent. It’s not the sort of magic where Fred and George can conjure up any prank they want as long as they figure out how, a premise that I feel painted Rowling into a corner a few times. Instead, individual Mages are better at some things than others, and can even lose their magic. I’ll leave that point alone now because it it ties heavily into the plot and you should find that out for yourselves. At any rate, it is all a sound foundation for a good story.
And it is a good story. It’s written for kids, which is OK, because I often enjoy a good juvenile, and this one is full of adventure, danger, subterfuge, and mystery. Everything to titillate a young reader, including some meaningful kissing. Oh, yes, love fits into the mix too, but I won’t go into that either. The book is a pleasure to read, and when I got to the climax, when I should have been in the lab doing chemistry (interesting how the kids were always going to chemistry class), I was sneaking peeks at my Kindle instead. There is an epilogue, for which I am thankful, because the last chapter on its own doesn’t quite wrap things up well enough for me.
If this is an experiment in collaborative fiction, I would call it a success. The plot is tight and coherent, and unusually for most juvenile novels, packed with multiple themes and parallels. The story is fairly linear, but there is a lot going on besides the core plot to keep a reader occupied. You know what I mean, things about dams, and losing your Jump, what it means to do the right thing. Maybe you don’t know. You haven’t read it. But you should.
As an added bonus, I get a kick out the character names. Kincaid and Kelsey. I like K names for some reason, and for another reason like Kelsey but not Chelsea. Long story. And there is Amity. Wonderful name that I’d never heard before. I already liked Amy, and no, I didn’t miss the symbolism in that name. And Rikki. I always liked girls’ names that are sort of boys’ names but spelled differently, which includes Nikki and Mikki, too. Hadley and Curry are quite original. I don’t know how to explain it, but the names are great.
Before I wrote this review, I checked with the author to make sure the book is self-published as I thought it was. It is. The reason this is relevant is that Magian High is only the second self-published book I’ve ever read in which I didn’t find any editing errors. Wow! And considering the errors I’m starting to see in traditionally published works, this is an accomplishment.
I’ve read books recently that hold high emotional impact, ones that tickle my intellect, and ones that paint compelling fantasy worlds. But Magian High is just plain FUN. Once I got past those initial reservations, I enjoyed every page until there were no more.