Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Number of Pages: 368
Published: March 21st, 2017
Source: LibraryWhy I wanted to read this: From the author of the Jinx series which I've read and enjoyed.
Opening line: "A secret nearly cost Chantel her life, on a dark summer morning when the rains ran down the stairs stepped stone streets of Lightning Pass."
Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded sits within the walled-off city of Lightning Pass and is where young maidens learn to cast spells and to be "shamefast and biddable". Chantel is one of its best students, having summoned a familiar, a snake affectionately called Japheth at a really young age and is particularly good at casting spells. Some could even say better than the enchantresses who use magical wards to "button" or protect the walled city from the Marauders beyond its gates. Although Miss Ellicott would probably say that Chantel doesn't display the proper amount of deportment for a young maiden at the School for the Magically Minded, Chantel does try very hard to set an example for its younger maidens. When the school's head sorceress, Miss Ellicott goes missing following a mysterious visitor and the students are left to fend for themselves, Chantel tries to seek help from the Patriarchs, only to be told that they've received word from the Marauders that in exchange for tearing down the wall, they will release the sorceresses. As events unfold, Chantel begins to recognize that the Patriarchs, along with their King might not be trustworthy and to protect against the imminent dangers facing their beloved school and city, she may need all the help she can get.
One of the interesting facets of Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically Minded is that its students be "steadfast and biddable," something that is taught above all is that they have the proper manners and deportment befitting of a young maiden. However, Chantel struggles with holding her tongue, curtseying and not asking questions of the adults around her. She has her own ideas of what is right and wrong, and I really appreciated this about her. Partway through the story, Chantel even gets assistance with telling the men of the city exactly what she needs from them from her familiar, Japheth, in a most interesting way and I was rooting for her the entire time. Japheth, who secretly is a dragon doesn't solve all of Chantel's difficulties but does bring about changes within her that ultimately make her a force to be reckoned with and leads to her turning Lightning Pass on its head. Chantel also leans on the support of her friends Bowser, a boy who scrubs pots in the kitchen, her best friend Anna, and Franklin, a boy the trio meet outside the city wall. Franklin is a Marauder and is instrumental in showing them how Lightning Pass, with the Patriarchs and King, have been controlling everything within the Harbor and surrounding mountains through the tolls and port fees they've been collecting. Chantel also receives help from a long-dead Queen when she casts an Ago spell and is able to ask her for advice on how to save the city. I loved how Queen Haywith advises her that her thinking is too small and Chantel begins to see the bigger picture of what she, her city and school need. My favorite part of the story is at the very end when Chantel brings up the point that the reason boys may never have performed magic before is that they've never been taught, and she changes the way the school is going to teach magic in the future. A very timely story with wonderful world building, entertaining to read while being thought-provoking.