Book Review: DarkSkull Hall (The Mage Chronicles Book 1) by Lisa Cassidy (published by Tate House)
This YA fantasy is super enjoyable, a quick read with intrigue, well-formed characters, vivid descriptions and excellent worldbuilding. I was completely hooked by the prologue, the writing effortlessly bringing the scene alive for me, and I raced through the novel after that brilliant opening.
DarkSkull Hall tells the story of Lady Alyx Egalion, a teenager happy in her court life, with her best friend and boyf, the Prince of Rionn, Cayr, and their outsider friend Dashan. She doesn’t pay much attention to her classes, loves gossiping with her fickle friends and going for rides on her horse. But trouble is brewing with a neighbouring country and the King’s new mage advisor insists they need some more mages, just in case war breaks out (which, by the end of the novel, is looking highly probable!).
Alyx, aware that her late mother was a mage, is forced to attend the mage training academy for the region, DarkSkull Hall, by her father, who is forced by the King. Alyx’s magic hasn’t yet ‘broken out’, she doesn’t want to be a mage and she doesn’t want to go. And that is why I found this book so enjoyable! Alyx’s resistance to magic, her complete dismissal of mage life and her hatred of the school is refreshing compared to the magic training school novels I’ve read in the past. It didn’t go into too much detail on all their classes, and I never felt bogged down with history or in depth explanations about the magic.
There are plenty of hints as to Alyx’s history, and – when her magic does finally break out – a big expectation of what she’s going to become, but her resistance to this path makes for a compelling read. The ending is satisfying in that it confirmed a lot of my suspicions and felt like a great standalone read, but also is a perfect lead into book two.
Alyx’s friends are particularly well drawn, the dashing prince Cayr, the dark but loyal friend Dashan, the twins who are sent from Rionn to DarkSkull with Alyx, and the various friends she makes at the school, although she doesn’t want to admit that they are her friends. Garan is also a spot-on overprotective father.
However, I had a bit of difficulty with the evil bully mage Galien and his fanatical hatred of Alyx and determination to kill her – all the time – as I felt if he really wanted to use his magic against her, he would. I think it would’ve been more sinister if he bullied her for a while before launching straight into an attempted murder. I’m hoping his motivation will become clearer in the next instalment.
Why not quite 4 stars? Because, although I enjoyed reading this, I craved some more juicy intrigue or blow-my-mind plot twists, but I’m sure that fans of YA fantasy will love it.
I received a free copy of this book from the author to review.
My rating: 3.5/5
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**My debut novel, an epic fantasy called MELOKAI, is out now! Available from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play Books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Read more about my books here.**
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