When the novel opens, we meet Glenn, our heroine, who desperately wants to graduate early and become an astronaut (though it's called something else in their futuristic society. Ever since her mom left, she has struggled with connecting to people and just wants to get out, just like her father escapes into his Project. Her only friends are her cat, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Kevin Kapoor, who pestered her until she accepted his friendship. Now he seems to want more from their relationship and Glenn is really trying to keep from getting attached to anyone here, thus she's putting on the brakes big time.
Her father tells her the secret of his Project, what he's been working on. He has made a bracelet that will allow them to travel across the Rift, a dead area, behind which everything is supposedly destroyed. He believes that there is a whole different society over there, functioning under different laws than theirs and that her mother has gone back there. She doesn't believe him; in fact, she thinks he's crazy and gets the government brought down on them. She and Kevin escape across the Rift, while Dad sits in jail.
Much to Glenn's chagrin, Dad was right after all. Across the Rift is a whole other government and a completely different world. There people have magic. There are animal-human hybrid things, like Aamon, who helps them survive. This world is the Magisterium, and it is ruled by the tyrant, Magistra.
Kevin was my favorite character, as much as I had one. Of course, being that his name is Kevin, he's Indian, he's slightly annoying, and he's incredibly persistent, I could picture him as only as Kevin G from Mean Girls.
I also liked Hopkins, however, all of the characters underwent major changes once they crossed the Rift and things got crazy, at which point I wasn't so much connected as doing my best to follow along with what was going on. Pretty much the whole time they're in there, I had no clue what was going on...mostly weird things just kept happening.
Pretty much the only thing I could think about for most of the book, though, was HOW MUCH it reminded me of LOTR for the two thirds. I know that LOTR influenced a lot of authors and commonalities can probably be found in just about any fantasy novel. However, I am not drawing this comparison just because. There was a ton of stuff. Seriously, let's sit back and think about this okay?
So we have an unlikely individual to be confronting The Man. She doesn't want to take the bracelet (aka magical bling bling) and go on this journey, but she has to. The first official plan is to take the ring...I mean, bracelet...to the only city in the world where it can be destroyed, so that it can be removed from the world, since every power only wants it for EVIL.
They set out in their little small fellowship, Aamon leading Glenn and Kevin. They make a plan for how to get to the city where the bracelet can be destroyed, but find the easy route blocked. Thus, they have to try the more dangerous way, about which Aamon says this: "'I can protect you from Garen Tom and his men,' he said. 'But there are things in the deeper places that...change you. Things I'm powerless against.'" Does anyone think that sounds remarkably like Gandalf's reluctance to go through the Mines of Moria?
As they're journeying, Glenn and Kevin sneak off one evening and see beautiful, magical fairy-like creatures in a scene that brought to mind Frodo and Sam watching the elves. She tries several times to get Kevin to leave her, until he delivers a little speech that seems eerily reminiscent to Sam's "And I'm coming with you" from the end of The Fellowship of the Ring.
Still not convinced? Well, how about the fact that, when Glenn removes the magic bracelet, she suddenly has magic powers and the descriptions make it feel like she's just entered a brand new world, and the forces in that world can act upon her. Taking the bracelet OFF = putting the ring ON. They also encounter a spider lady and fight wraiths. The final comparison, as if this all wasn't enough, was that the Magistra was described as being very powerful but not yet fully awake, so they were initially going to be facing only her servants directly.
In the end, I thought this was okay, but I found myself getting bored with the constant unexpected plot shifts. There were a lot of secondary characters that would flit in for some back story and then leave again, all without me knowing precisely why I was supposed to care about any of it. Hirsch's writing was decent, but didn't hold any special appeal for me.
Fantasy fans that like a more eclectic read will likely want to look into Magisterium. Also, if you're fascinated by concepts of the distance between things, the line between magic and technology, you would probably be interested in the divide of the Rift, which, frankly, I would REALLY like to know more about. As of this moment, I think this is a standalone, but there's space for more.