Ruthless Magic

377p. (Conspiracy of Magic: Bk. 1). Another World Pr. Jun. 2018. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781989114018; pap. $11.99. ISBN 9781989114001.
Gr 7 Up—As student novices anxiously await the news if they have been Chosen by the North American Confederation of Mages, Finn and Rocío are looking to prove themselves for different reasons. Finn, wealthy and with the proper surname, wants to be Chosen because of his skill and not his lineage. Rocío wants to show that a poor girl with no name legacy can be Chosen because of sheer talent. When Finn turns down his Chosen status to earn his way and Rocío is denied, they both enter the brutal mages' exam to validate their worth. Faced with horrific wartime situations, the ghosts of their loved ones, and fellow examinees willing to kill to be a Champion, Finn and Rocío band together to pass and more importantly, to survive. This is a fast-paced urban fantasy with influences of "Harry Potter" and "The Hunger Games." The cast is composed of teens of different races, classes, abilities, and sexual orientations. Although there are strong themes here, the plot relies too much on action and not enough on world-building or character development. For example, there are several moments when Finn states that he is weak in magic and confidence, but he consistently demonstrates a lot of certainty in his actions. The exam/challenges take up most of the narrative, which leaves little room for readers to understand the rules of this world and the role that magic plays in it.
VERDICT A strictly additional purchase.

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