In the kingdom of Jerar, the crown funds three different schools of warcraft. Before the age of seventeen, each citizen is given the chance to enrol as a soldier, knight or mage.
No need to guess which is the most prestigious.
The chance of being accepted as a mage is slim and the most fought after faction is that of 'combat'. With only five students chosen in each faction, each year, competition is fierce. There is an intense rivalry between students of different social classes - the 'low-borns' and the nobility, perfectly demonstrated by the two main protagonists - Ryiah and Prince Darren.
The end goal? The coveted robes of the Black Mage.
Ryiah and her twin brother, Alex, start their lessons at the keep, making friends and enemies along the way.
This series, described as 'Hogwarts meets the Hunger Games' had me gripped from start to finish. I love a good YA fantasy book and these definitely ticked all the boxes - fast paced action, romance, magic and a touch of intrigue.
The characters are well rounded and like-able despite their flaws. I can't stand unrealistic, 'perfect' heroes/heroines and these two make far more than their fair share of mistakes. The second book, 'Apprentice', follows the students lucky enough to be chosen to continue mage craft after the 'First Year' and it's a bit frustrating in parts. The story is slower and focuses on the developing relationship between Ryiah and Darren - I adore soppy love stories and so still rated this book highly but I know it wouldn't appeal to everyone.
Just don't be turned off, books three and four, 'Candidate' and 'Last Stand' are action packed, exciting and well worth sticking with.
In 'Candidate' the plot thickens with enemies from neighbouring Caltoth threatening the peace of the kingdom and rebels stirring trouble from within. Ryiah finds herself mired in trouble and intrigue, fearing for her family and her Prince. At the same time, she and Darren compete in the infamous 'Candidacy Trials' where the very best mages fight it out for the highest title and coveted robe.
I did not see the conclusion coming. The third book ends on a cliff hanger and the wait for 'Last Stand' was almost unbearable. I jumped at the chance to get a sneak peek and review the final book ahead of it's launch (you can pre-order now and join the FB launch party here).
I'm going to do my best to not give anything away about the fourth book, but if you want to avoid even a tiny hint, stop reading now!
The story picks up right at the end of the third book. Ryiah is conflicted, to save her country and thousands of lives she must betray the guy she loves.
I couldn't help feeling that she should have just bloody told somebody but with so much at stake, Ryiah walks a fine line between the rebels and the crown and Rachel E. Carter has a fair few surprises (and deaths) up her sleeve before the nail biting conclusion.
Will anyone get out alive?
If you're a fan of authors like Tamora Pierce, Maria V Snyder and Elise Kova then do consider trying out this debut series!