It Ends in Fire

Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown/. Jul. 2021. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781368057950.
Gr 9 Up–Alka Chelrazi is not who she appears to be. She is not a Humble—someone without magic who must serve the wizards in the Republic of Marovia. She is not a hapless member of the gang that attacks the coach of Lady Alayne Dewinter. She is not Lady Alayne, though she assumes her identity and takes her place at Blackwater, an elite academy where young wizards prepare to take leadership roles in the Republic. She is on a mission of destruction for the rebellion and a mission of vengeance for the family that she lost. Alka—posing as Alayne—nevertheless encounters those at Blackwater who are far more complex, far more sympathetic, and far more human than she ever imagined. From the servant Marlena and her classmate Fyl to handsome prince Talyn and the mysterious Professor Calfex, Alka attracts allies as she schemes and struggles toward a final bloody confrontation with her parents’ murderer and the system that caused their deaths. There is much violence here, yet there is also tenderness, loyalty, and a protagonist who manages to acknowledge who she is and take a stand for what truly matters. This society is structured around discrimination and abuse of power by magical people over non-magical people; various ethnicities are described but don’t correlate clearly to real-world ethnicities.
VERDICT Older teens who enjoy imperfect heroes in realms where magic creates as many problems as it solves will relate to this story immensely. Recommended for high school collections.

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