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Book Review: Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch

Synopsis: On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.

Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn’s only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn’t for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn’s mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father’s work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run—with only one place to go. (from Goodreads)

It has always bothered me that libraries have Science Fiction sections and then we interfile Fantasy books as if they are one and they same; they are not sir.  To completely oversimplify things: Sciency things are science fiction while things with magic and dragons are fantasy.  An exception to this rule would be the Dragonriders of Pern series by McCaffrey as her dragons are genetically engineered, so sciency.  (Two points: 1. yes I know sciency isn’t a word and 2 Georgia McBride from Month9Books will soon be doing a Genre 101 post so check back for a better explanation, this is just a book review).

And because he wants to be awesome like McCaffrey, Jeff Hirsch brings us a book that is both Science Fiction AND Fantasy, depending on what side of the Rift you live on.  This is a world literally split between the old and the new; one side is steeped in ancient magic and the other is ruled by science and technology – and the two would prefer to keep their distance thank you very much. 

Glenn Morgan has ties to both worlds, she just doesn’t know it at the beginning of Magisterium.  When she suddenly finds herself fleeing across the rift in an effort to save her life, she – and the readers – are in for a wild ride full of interesting characters, unexpected sights, and some life threatening adventures.  In short summary: this is a pretty cool read with some awesome genre blending.

But wait, there’s more . . .

Hirsch gives us a lot of background in a really unique and interesting way by having our two main characters, childhood best friends, debate the various theories out there regarding the Rift while studying history together.

Kevin is a fantastic male best friend who has romantic interest potential in truly organic ways.  By starting them out as established friends Hirsch avoids the instalove squick and provides us with some compelling and interesting relationship dynamics.

Glen is an interesting character, her world is rocked and she is thrust into this bizarro world and she kind of handles it.  I like that she is not all one thing, she stumbles and yet manages to keep picking herself up and carrying on.  She doesn’t always know what to do but isn’t totally hopeless.

There is the most awesome cat in this story. Ever.

In light of all the fantastic “wild” magic, great tech, government conspiracies, hidden agendas and secret plots, there is a touching, authentic, organic romance that beats at the heart of Magisterium between two characters that you like and root for.

I have already declared this my favorite book cover of the year.  Totally irrelevant to the book review, but totally relevant in my discussion on YA Books Covers and Body Image.

4 out of 5 stars for this fantastically trippy read that channels the magic of Manga – think Spirited Away – and blends it with some epic sci fi and drizzles it with some sweet romance, a perfect recipe for success. (If only this were somehow a book about cooking, that would be an awesome description).  There is a lot of wonder here.