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BOOK REVIEW: First Year by Rachel E. Carter

| 21 September 2015 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: First Year by Rachel E. Carter

Astrea Press
August 2014
eBook, £2.99
Reviewed by Aly Locatelli


“The people that tell you what you want to hear are the most dangerous enemies you’ll ever meet.”

First Year is easily compared to a piñata filled to the brim with awesomeness, badassery, glitter and a whole lot of snark. This isn’t just a book about competing and fighting for what you want most in the world, or about true love, or about any of the themes that are recycled over and over again in YA fantasy. It’s so much more than that, and it’s 100% certifiably unique. First Year follows our main character, Riyah and her twin brother, Alex, as they enter the Academy to compete for a spot to become apprentices to a faction of their choice: Combat, Alchemy or Restoration. Alex is the sibling who has the magic, and knows how to use it, whilst Ryiah’s is still dormant and practically non-existent. Her outlook changes, though, when a chance, terrifying encounter on a dark, lonely road has her magic bursting out with tremendous consequences.

The Academy itself is brutal. First years are regarded as weaklings, children who are there to be broken and put back together. Out of the 100+ students that join every year, not many make the cut. Stakes and tension are high, and Riyah wonders if she made a huge mistake.

“You should never trust a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Because the only thing the wolf will ever want to do is break you.”

As training gets harder and her magic suddenly disappears once again, Riyah finds herself at the bottom of the class, desperately trying to claw her way to the top. She trains harder than anyone, spends hours in the library studying and pushes her limits every single day. But it doesn’t matter how hard she tries — Darren, the prince of Jerar, and his fellow cronies will always be at the top. And it certainly doesn’t help that he seems to have it in for her and Priscilla, Darren’s closest friend/girlfriend, seems to have made it her life’s mission to make Riyah miserable.

An encounter in the library after hours, though, and Darren offers to help Riyah find and use her magic. Although, at what cost?

“Darren, Prince Darren, the sometimes-bane-of-my-existence, had put faith in a future that even I had never bothered to foresee.”

What I absolutely adored about this book was the dynamics and relationships between the characters — between Riyah and her brother, Alex and Ella, Clay and Ruth and even Darren. Each character was constantly in the spotlight, making those relationships realer than anything I have read so far, and making me root for every single one of them… including smart-ass Darren, whose only mission is to annoy Riyah (and the reader!) until she bursts.

“I wonder if you have ever given someone a compliment that wasn’t a backhanded insult.”
Darren’s grasp on the handle stilled, and he glanced back at me, eyes dancing amidst the surrounding shadows. “I prefer not to, it gives people an unsettling impression of self-importance.”

And I loveloveloved Riyah and her persistence. There is no chance of Mary-Sues and Gary-Stus in this book. Riyah works harder than anyone to achieve her goals and better herself, and does everything in her power to make sure she doesn’t fail. She makes sacrifices other characters wouldn’t even dream about and trains until she’s ready to drop because her goals are her life and nothing will get in her way or stop her.

The one thing that did bother me was the repetition. Although I appreciated seeing how hard Riyah worked, it did get tiring sometimes reading the same scenes over and over again. Still, each scene was unique in its own way, which kept my attention fixated on the characters and plot.

I would totally recommend this book to fans of fantasy, and to fans of characters who fight, fans of plenty of snark and humour, and a love interest that is both hateful and loveable.

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

About the Author ()

21. A reader, a writer, a reviewer and a full-time sloth lover. I am addicted to coffee and my laptop, and love reading especially when it's rainy outside.

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