Book Reviews

Review: First Year by Rachel E. Clarke


By Rachel E. Carter | Published August 2017

3 out of 5 Stars

Do you want me to break you?

Unhelpful One Sentence Summary: War mage hopeful Ryiah enrols in the most cutthroat tournament in the land: first year admissions.

Thoughts on the Cover:

Love the colours and the typography. Model doesn’t really fit with how the MC is described, but she fits in well on there. My main gripe is that the fireball-in-the-hand is something the MC is explicitly told not to do but hey it looks cool! It actually reminds me of an earlier Leah album cover.

Things I Liked:

  • Finished my reading challenge!! Anything else herein is a bonus!!
  • I found this really easy to read – I actually got through it all in two sittings which is really rare for me.
  • I had a hard time connecting with Ryiah and I think that’s because she’s such a persistent and worker who just doesn’t give up and can’t relate? I really appreciated the message that hard, diligent work can pay off in the long run.
  • Also the exploration of privilege in success – I found it a little heavy handed sometimes (PRISCILLA) but it really worked with the setting and added a lot to the story.
  • While I didn’t really understand the mechanics of it (it worked on stamina?) I liked the different approach to magic. No spells exactly, but even the first years and apprentices can attempt really advanced magic, as long as they have enough magic stored.

Things I Disliked:

  • There wasn’t a lot of world building within this book – why are so many/few mages trained? are they at war? It’s not really explored in this one but it may be in further books.
  • It might have just been my copy but I found a few errors in it and some of the phrasing was a little clumsy but you know what they say about glasshouses and stones.
  • I feel like Ella’s backstory was handled a bit clumsily.
  • Besides one or two side characters (Ella, Eva, etc) there wasn’t a lot of characterisation in the side characters. Someone like Clay or Ruth were supposed to be good friends with Ryiah but I don’t remember much interaction between them until the very end.
  • While it was really easy to read, I feel like Clarke has a strange aversion to contractions in her dialogue. It got a bit jarring after a while.
  • As someone who 1) has a teaching degree and 2) works in a school, can I just say that this academy’s philosophy of education is so… bad. Wrong and horrible. They should all have their VIT membership revoked.

Recommended to: Fans of Air Awakens and Royal Bastards.

Goodreads | Buy it here!


(Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash)

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