- Kids Fiction
- Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts (The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts #1)
Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts (The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts #1)
A place at AUA means meeting Scáthach, the legendary trainer of Celtic heroes. It means learning to fight with a sword. It means harnessing her hidden powers and―most importantly―finding out who her parents are, and why they abandoned her in Boston Harbor eight years ago.
When Kelcie tests into the school, she learns that she’s a Saiga, one of the most ancient beings in the Otherworld. Secretive, shunned, and possessed of imposing elemental powers, the Saiga are also kin to the Otherworld's most infamous traitor.
But Kelcie is a survivor, and she’ll do whatever it takes to find her parents and her place in their world. Even if that means making a few enemies.
The familiarity of the format makes it easy to follow, as Kelcie is whisked away to a secret school and discovers she has rare elemental powers. The students are divided into five houses that don’t always get along. Most classmates fear and mock Kelcie, so she’s an instant outcast. It’s fun to see how authors take this basic premise and modify it to create their own stories. Kelcie’s fianna of four first-years won’t move on to the second year if any one of them fails, so they have an incentive to cooperate. Kelcie’s powers frequently go out of control and put people and property in danger of being destroyed. She needs to muffle her powers instead of practicing to let them grow. Creatures impossibly appear on school grounds, and no one can figure out how they’re doing it. The Lands of Winter and Lands of Summer are in the midst of a never-ending war, and it seems clear the war is finding its way into the academy.
The book presents mysteries to make readers wonder about what’s going on behind the scenes. The plot opens with Kelcie becoming an heir, but the heir of what? She has no idea what happened to her real parents until she receives a broken message from her father. He warns her to leave the academy immediately, return to the human world, and keep running. She decides to stay at the academy. Kelcie hears a voice that sounds vaguely familiar, but she’s not sure what it’s trying to tell her. She keeps secrets from the school and her friends about what’s happening until she’s forced to reveal the truth.
Kelcie’s friends are interesting characters that enhance the plot. Brona is the best at everything and other girls want to become her closest friends. She’s the daughter of a goddess and seems to have everything going for her. However, things are not always as they seem, and Kelcie gets a sense of déjà vu when she’s around Brona. Then there’s Niall. He becomes Kelcie’s friend from the beginning, and everyone else, including his family, doesn’t want him at the academy because having one arm guarantees he’ll fail. The fianna learns to work as a team to help all of them succeed.
What didn’t work as well:
There are a lot of characters from different houses, fiannas, and school staff, and it’s sometimes difficult to remember them all accurately. However, the important thing is to focus on the four members of Kelcie’s fianna and everything else will eventually make sense. The characters aren’t a huge issue so readers should still fully appreciate the exciting adventure.
The final verdict:
The clash between Summer and Winter. The plot follows the successful format of similar novels. Kelcie is a likable underdog, and the teamwork within her fianna creates a positive story of cooperation and trust. The creative twists to the plot will entertain most middle-grade readers, so I recommend you give it a shot.