Now, I should make it clear that I'm coming into this series as a first timer. There's probably a ton of background stuff that I don't know . That being said, I managed to follow along with the story pretty well, and I didn't feel like I was being thrown into a very unfamiliar world.
Trial by Fire follows Emily as she returns to Whitehall for her fourth year of magic studies. This is the year where she has to seriously consider her career paths, and things that happened in the previous books are making it difficult for her to make a simple decision. Add a teacher who hates her to that, and students acting weirder than normal, and it's so obvious that Emily's fourth year isn't going to go smoothly.
One thing I thought was interesting was Emily's contributions to Whitehall and the world it's in. It's not really dwelt upon, probably because all this is from the later books, but it seems like Emily has been trying to import ideas and machines from earth to this one. I found the way writing, printing presses, and so on affected the world interesting.
Character-wise, I liked Emily and friends. I thought that Emily, Caleb, Frieda and Alassa were the most developed compared to the other characters, but I think it's because they have more show time. I quite liked their interactions, and how their respective stations (and origins) in life affected how they behave.
As for the big obstacle in the book that's happens, well, no spoilers but I was quite surprised. The first half of the book is very much school-related, and then bam, there are two problems that Emily has to face at one go. I did like the fact that Emily doesn't solve everything on her own, one problem basically requires someone else to step in, but the solution for another problem did feel a little pat. [SPOILER ALERT - Skip to next paragraph if you don't want to see it] Emily basically has to enter a duel to the death, and the way she wins is by a forbidden spell. It was a bit of a let-down, since all the pages before was emphasised how she didn't have the skill and experience, but then suddenly, she had this magic "win everything" card.
All in all, this was an enjoyable book. Even though I didn't start from the first book, I connected quickly with the characters and was engaged in their stories.
Disclaimer: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for a free and honest review.
P.s. I just saw the author bio, and saw that he got married in Malaysia. How cool is that? I wonder if he's been to Singapore...
About the Book
Three years ago, Emily killed the Necromancer Shadye before he could sacrifice her and destroy the Allied Lands. Now, the shadows of the past hang over Whitehall as Emily and the Grandmaster travel into the Blighted Lands to recover anything Shadye might have left behind, before returning to Whitehall to start the fourth year. For Emily, it is a chance to stretch her mind and learn more about new and innovative forms of magic ... and to prepare for the exams that will determine her future as a magician.
But as she starts her studies, it becomes clear that all is not well at Whitehall. Master Grey, a man who disliked Emily from the moment he met her, is one of her teachers - and he seems intent on breaking her, pushing her right to her limits. In the meantime, her friends Alassa and Imaiqah are acting oddly, Frieda seems to be having trouble talking to her and - worst of all - Caleb, her partner in a joint magical project, is intent on asking her to go out with him.
As she struggles to cope with new challenges and to overcome the demons in her past, she becomes aware of a deadly threat looming over Whitehall, a curse that threatens her very soul. And when she makes a tiny yet fatal mistake, she finds herself facing a fight she cannot win, but dares not lose...
About the Author
Christopher Nuttall was born in Edinburgh, studied in Manchester, married in Malaysia and currently living in Scotland, United Kingdom, with his wife and baby son. He is the author of twenty novels from various publishers and thirty-nine self-published novels.
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