Published: October 1st 2012
Source: ARC from Books & Books
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On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.Magisterium tells a post-apocalyptic dystopian/fantasy hybrid story. That’s a mouthful, I know. In simpler terms, it’s about coexisting realities, technology versus magic, and a girl with a destiny. There’s the typical hero’s journey, but it is definitely unique - from the setting to the writing.
Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn's only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn't for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn's mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father's work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run---with only one place to go.
Between the summary and cover, I definitely had high expectations for Magisterium. However, despite the awesome concept at its core, the worldbuilding and packing were lacking.
Let’s start with the good: the plot. I love the idea of these two different realities, the Colloquium and the Magisterium existing side by side. All that divides them is the Rift, and each side tells their people that all that’s to be found on the other side of the Rift are awful creatures and barren wastelands. Obviously, that’s not true. One side has incredible technological advances (the Colloquium), while the other is a complete fantasy setting (the Magisterium). You have bad guys in from Colloquium
Our protagonist Glenn and her friend/love interest Kevin end up crossing the Rift to discover the amazing and scary world beyond, and along the way they get caught up in some dangerous politics and the like. There’s a stark contrast between the two worlds, and the way each is set up to have its pros and cons was great. But I wish there’d been more details about how the Rift came about other than the vague information provided in the story.
The writing is very descriptive, the language is very fantastical and evocative, which is awesome up until the point where it distracts from the more concrete aspects of the story. There were a few times where I found myself thinking, wait, what just happened? and having to reread certain parts.
This also ties into the pacing and the way the story’s “journey” is not smooth at all. I can only think to describe it in movie terms. You have movies that are edited smoothly, you don’t even notice the transitions from one part to the next, and then there are movies that use jump cuts all the time for fancy effect and you end up feeling really awkward because how did we get from point A to point B and was that really necessary? That’s how I feel about the scenes with the swan princess and the old witch lady in the woods (and her dead son). Their integration into the main storyline felt forced, slipped in to impress and expand on the magic of the Magisterium but not quite part of the whole?
I honestly enjoyed the first half of the novel the most because it had great pacing and flowed well. The story felt like it was going somewhere! But once the hero’s journey took off in earnest with lots of stomping around the woods, the story started to feel like lots of great scenes clipped together, snapshots of an interesting quest, but missing all the filling. Combined with the some info dumping, this really detracted from the overall book.
By the time the end rolled around, I felt like I’d only read half the story. Maybe a closer read would help with this, I don’t know. I honestly did like the concept, I liked the bare bones of the story Magisterium was trying to tell, and the arcs the characters had.
The characters themselves were … well. I don’t know if I connected with Glenn entirely, but her story was compelling. Kevin started off as an interesting character but then, for spoilery reasons, he undergoes a personality change that made no sense to me? Like, objectively it sort of did, I understood the in-story reasoning, but no, it makes no sense. Aamon was the most stable, interesting character, I think. He’s at the center of a plot twist that I sort of saw coming a mile away but I still enjoyed.
Overall? Magisterium is a decent book with lots of imagination and flair. If you find yourself intrigued by the summary, you could pick it up and decide for yourself. I stand by my initial feelings; Magisterium had some awesome ideas but I wish it had been more cohesive as a whole.