KELCIE MURPHY AND THE ACADEMY FOR THE UNBREAKABLE ARTS, by Erika Lewis, Starscape, March 1, 2022, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)
A foster child is thrown into a magical world at war in Erika Lewis’ Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts.
The Otherworld is at war. The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts trains warriors. And Kelcie Murphy ― a foster child raised in the human world ― is dying to attend.
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. —Synopsis provided by Starscape
Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts follows the familiar “magic school” format that readers have come to love. The main scaffolding is a protagonist is sent to a school where they learn that have magical powers. The protagonist/s and their plucky group of friends must then join together to stop some bemouth power, and then they return again the next year (next book) to do it all again — think Harry Potter, School for Good and Evil, etc.
Though the basic format may be the same, author Erika Lewis has created a unique world and storyline that utilizes Celtic mythology. And at first, that mythology kind of slowed me down. After a break-neck first three chapters, the action stalls a bit and the terminology kind of hits you in the face. It wasn’t until later that I realized there was a glossary at the end of the book, which would have been helpful early on. Instead, I struggled through a couple of chapters, even putting the book down for a few days.
When I came back to it, approximately 60 pages in, things sort of clicked into place. Suddenly, I wasn’t thinking about the world, I was immersed in it. It was as if I was standing next to Kelcie rather than watching her story unfold from far away. Kelcie becomes more interesting, and so do the supporting characters. Obviously, Lewis has left room to grow in future books, but you get a satisfying sense of place and person.
And then there’s the action. There’s a lot of it — magical, physical, mental. Lewis’ strong pacing allows for a lot of movement while still offering substance. It’s a tough balance, and she does it well.
The publisher’s suggested age for Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts is 8-12. It does have a darker, more mature feel to it. I would suggest it for more mature 9-year-olds and up.
I started out unsure if I even wanted to finish Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts and ended it craving the next book. It has the makings of a fine new series.
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