Wednesday, October 17, 2012

ARC Review: Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch

Publisher:  Scholastic Press
Publication Date:  October 1st, 2012

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.
With MAGISTERIUM, Jeff Hirsch brings us the story of a complex, captivating world that will leave readers breathless until the very last page.
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

I haven't read Jeff Hirsch's acclaimed debut, The Eleventh Plague, yet, but it is up there on my list of already-published books to read.  When I got an advance copy of this, his second book, I was really excited.  Because I had heard so many fabulous things about The Eleventh Plague, I went into Magisterium with pretty high expectations, and I was not disappointed!

My first impression of this book was great!  It has one of the most fabulous covers I've seen this year.  The art is beautiful in a kind of dark, foreboding way, and it has a gorgeous combination of colors.  I'm not usually overly impressed with Scholastic's covers, but they really delivered with this one.  Honestly, I was a tiny bit afraid that what was between the covers would have a difficult time measuring up to what was on the outside (kind of like people sometimes, you know?)...

Fortunately, the story was good too.  It's extremely original; very different from everything else out in the YA book world right now.  First off, I'm having hard time classifying it.  It kind of fits within several different genres, while not really fitting into any single one completely.  It has dystopian elements for sure, or rather, utopian-unless-you-step-out-of-line elements.  It also has elements of sci-fi, with the protagonist's life ambition being space travel and her father being a mad scientist type.  The genre I most closely identified it to was Fantasy, though.  On one side of the "Rift" you have your technological utopia/dystopia, while on the other side, the side most of the novel takes place on, it is pure fantasy.  It too lived under an oppressive leadership, but this one was fashioned from magic, rather than technology.  Those with the most "Affinty" ruled, and those with less were forbidden to use it, or risk death as traitors to the Magistra.  Each side of the Rift had its advantages, technology on one side, magic on the other, but what was cool was that each side's strength only existed its own side of the border, and became useless the moment one crossed it.  This made for a peaceful, if tense, arrangement between the two governing entities; the people just accepted the lies they were told about what existed on the other side of the border.  Everything changed when the protagonist's scientist father created a device to make the wearer able to cross the border, and still be able to retain his/her strengths from the other side.  Both sides get word of this device, and want it, and that is when the adventure really begins.  Unstable alliances are made, betrayal lurks around every corner, and all out war ensues...

The plot was really good.  I liked how the story played out, and there weren't any questions left unanswered in the end, but at the same time, it was written in an open-ended sort of way, leaving room for a possible sequel.   I also really liked the characters.  The protagonist, Glenn, was great.  She was strong, smart, and principled, but also very human.  She had a couple of really selfish moments, and in a way, those were what made me connect with her.  I also really liked Kevin, her BFF and sort-of love interest.  There were a few times I questioned his intelligence and mental stability, but in the end I got him.  The old witch, Opal, was another character I thought highly of.  She was tough and cunning, and I liked that she helped Kevin and Glenn, even though she knew who they were and what it could cost her.  My favorite character, however, was Aamon.  Not only was he a fantastic creature, a feast for the imagination, but he was a kick-ass warrior, and kept me guessing as to what his motivations were right up until the very end.

This book did have a few issues, but they ended up not being all that major.  The pacing of the story wasn't very even.  There were times when it felt very disjointed, making me feel like I was reading a different book.  The same fantastical descriptions that really brought this book to life at some times, dragged it down at others.  There were times when I felt like some of the elaborate constructs of the setting and plot and were unnecessary, slowing the story down, while at others, I was absolutely enthralled and couldn't stop reading.  Then there were times when I was confused because I felt there wasn't enough description.  I also sometimes felt like some things were rather predictable, especially Glenn's strange connection to the Magisterium.  That said, there were a few reveals that took me by surprise, even if the timing was a bit convenient.

Overall, despite my minor misgivings, I really liked Magisterium.  It was unique and packed with adventure.  I can't give it five stars because of the aforementioned problems with execution, but I still feel like it is well worth a read by anyone who is a fan of Dystopia and/or Fantasy.  If a second book is ever written, I will definitely read it.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  Violent, but otherwise squeaky clean.  This is appropriate for readers grades 4 and up (ages 9+).

**Don't forget to enter my GIVEAWAY for a SIGNED copy of Lauren Oliver's fabulous new book, THE SPINDLERS! Click HERE to enter! US/CAN. Ends 10/20/2012.**


  1. ZOMG! THIS BOOK! THIIIISSSSSS BOOK! Loved it, hardcore. I was not a major fan of The Eleventh Plague (characterization did not wow me), but I was wicked excited for this story. It's fantastical in all the right ways. I loved how the magic or technology immediately ceased after crossing the Rift. And I loved Opal, too, though she creeped me out, at first. Great descriptive scenes and world-building. Just LOVED it!


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