“And now, the moment has arrived for our annual Student Stunt!” Singh announces.
I audibly groan. A few heads swivel in our direction, prompting Gusto to sink into his seat with embarrassment. Then someone else appears on the stage, and I don’t have to worry about drawing any attention – because it’s all handed over to Dragonsong’s star student.
She has the type of reputation that demands you regularly use both her first and last name. She’s only fifteen, but you’d think she was a seasoned wizard by the way the school treats her. Her mystique is probably helped by her height: Harlee is so tall that most of the school population has to literally look up to her. Her dark hair is cropped short, except for the two long locks dangling down either side of her face. Those locks, along with the tips of her bob, have a dash of red dye, which I begrudgingly admit is very cool, and matches her uniform. I say begrudgingly because, in case it isn’t apparent yet, Harlee Wu and I are sworn enemies.
As least we would be if she knew I existed.
Cara Moone was super excited when she learned she had magic. At that moment, she entered a secret society filled with magical possibilities, including a school for wizardry. In this exclusive school for wizards, students have the opportunity of learning about potions, magical beasts, and all the magical things one can only dream about. Cara soon learns Dragonsong Academy is like all schools everywhere; there are the chosen ones who can do no wrong – popular, talented, smart, celebrated - and there are the students who struggle. Cara finds herself in the latter group. After failing the wizard standardized test, she is enrolled in what she refers to as Remedial Wizardry, which trains students to clean up after a magical event. She is on her way to becoming a MOP, or Magical Occurrence Purger. In other words, she feels she is being trained to clean up the residual magic left over when the other more accomplished students perform a spell because residual magic is feral magic, and it can go very, very wrong.
Cara is not impressed with her lot in life. While all the other students are learning to fight dragons or levitate, she is learning how to make a broom and how to be a spell sweeper. She sees her future self as a glorified custodian, and she doesn’t like it. On the other end of the student spectrum at Dragonsong Academy is Harlee Wu. The Chosen One. The person destined to save the magical world. The most powerful and most popular student at the school – maybe in all the wizarding world!
When Cara finds herself fighting feral magic that only seems to appear when Harlee is around, she starts to wonder if maybe Harlee is the reason for the magical rifts that are appearing around the world. Maybe Harlee is in league with a group led by the infamous Cipher who are trying to destroy magic. The only way to know is to go undercover and clean up the mess made by the Chosen One. Along the way, she may learn a few lessons like how to be part of a team and how to deal with some family drama – including an angry and antagonistic older sister.
Födi has created a charming story built on the deep literary tradition of the chosen one in fantasy literature. The strength of his prose comes from his choosing to tell his story through the character who is not supposed to be the hero, although she fights to become the hero in her own story. Cara is sarcastic and, like many students who don’t think they measure up, may be characterized by those in authority as having a bad attitude and a casual disregard for the rules her school places on her. She is a flawed character who is often blinded by her skewed perception of her world, which makes her a very relatable heroine.
Readers will giggle and cheer as they follow the antics of the spirited underdog.
Jonine Bergen is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.