Title: Shadowspell Academy; The Culling Trials
Author: K.F. Breene & Shannon Mayer
Genre: Fiction/ Romance/ Fantasy/ YA
Source: Kindle Recommendations
Favourite Quote: ‘”Death can come in many forms, but it’s up to us if we embrace it or fight it. I suggest embracing it. We all die. But do we all truly live?”
Your presence is requested at the Culling Trials.
You don’t choose an Academy. An Academy chooses you.
Report to the address below within forty-eight hours or your family will die.
Time is ticking.’
When Wild read through the contents of the mysterious manila envelope for her younger brother, she couldn’t control the loss she felt when she realised it was the same envelope that had come for her older brother Tommy a few years ago. The same Academy that was responsible for his death, which she knew was covered up to look like an accident. Now they wanted her other brother who was too young and innocent for college. Especially one that threatens the entire family as part of the joining process. Wild quickly discovered through her father that this was no normal Academy, but rather one full of magic and dark secrets. She knew that there was only one thing she could do to save her brother from this inevitable outcome as well as the threat looming over the rest of her family, she had to take his place.
That was an interesting first part of the culling trials trilogy! I have to say, I was impressed by the storyline and the quick change of pace throughout the book.
The story beings with Wild, a young woman caring after her family in Texas. A strong willed character who has accepted her life working on her family’s farm forever with no options available to her after her mother died. So when the letter came and the world opened up to a life with magic and a possible death sentence, the determination to save her family was all she cared about. Cutting off her hair and posing as a boy was difficult but didn’t take a lot of hesitation knowing she would do anything to protect her brother. The fact that she could find potential answers to the death of her other brother was also a push in the same direction. I liked Wild, she was a fantastic protagonist that you could really sympathise with. As if being kidnapped and thrown into a magical world that didn’t exist to her days before all whilst posing as a boy wasn’t enough, she fights her way through every challenge, even when things don’t go as planned.
I really enjoyed the way the additional characters joined together and created a close bond throughout the first trial they were thrown into. Gregory the goblin, Pete the shapeshifter, Ethan the magic wielder and Orin the stealthy vampire hidden in the shadows. Wally was a quirky addition that I particularly liked, a walking encyclopaedia in the form of a necromancer in training, young and innocent with the determination to push through the trials with ease and a sense of humor that will have you smiling as they progress through the story.
‘The helicopter tipped to the side, aiming us toward the open door. I rolled and shimmied, ending up on my ass as I dug my boots into the slick metal for traction. Wally began to slide next to me, the sound of her body scooting across the floor tipping me off. I stuck my leg out, catching her against my thigh.
“Thanks,” she said, as calmly as if I’d offered to hold a door open for her. “Splatting from this great of fall would end my life, I’m quite sure.”‘
I was drawn into the storyline as the students gathered at the start of the trial gates. There are 5 trials in total, this book only introduces the first one, which is the House of Shade for students who have the traits of an assassin. The additional trial houses are; House of Wonder for magic wilders, House of Night for dark creatures such as vampires and necromancers, House of Claw for shapeshifters, and finally the House of Unmentionables for everything else creature or magic related. The trials are a chance for the students to find where they truly belong within the Academy which could also be a death sentence if they are unable to pass through the challenges in each gate. It’s recommended that students form teams to get them through each trial but no one tends to follow through as each magical group clashes through pure instinct, which brought our own band of underdog misfits through an exciting pace in the story that kept you on your toes.
The author did a great job at setting the scene, you knew you were in a magical world set up as a challenging game of sorts, but the unexpected took the students through the dark corners of a city which really helped bring the magic to life with perspective. It was familiar but cold and calculating with power, a brilliant means to bring the assassin to it’s roots.
‘We’d taken no more than a few steps when the light around us dimmed to an unnatural twilight. Deep shadows pooled between the trunks of the trees and hid the path ahead. Then the entire scene shifted right in front of us. The trees shifted and spun, dizzying me. Then they grew, their limbs shooting up and out, changing colour and appearance as they did until we were surrounded by towering buildings. The ground below us hardened rapidly, turning from dirt to concrete. In the distance, the sound of traffic cut through the night instead of the birds and soft rustling of leaves. Dead ahead was an alley that cut between a series of buildings. At what had to be the end, I could see a sign blinking in the distance, well above our heads. Exit.
“Here we go,” I said. The anticipation of our first challenge intensified me.’
As the first trial comes to the end, Wild discovers more about herself that ever before, she was destined to be something else, but more questions are brought to light when someone from her past shows up unexpectedly giving the book an additional purpose on it’s cliffhanger.
Overall a great story and I have downloaded the other books already with the means to finish them all over the next day or so.
You Don’t Choose The Academy. The Academy Chooses You.
I had no idea how those words would change my life. Or how they’d changed my life already…
Until the day the most dangerous man I’ve ever met waltzed onto my farm and left us a death sentence.
In an invitation.
My younger brother has been chosen for the prestigious, secret magical school hidden within the folds of our mundane world. A place so dangerous, they don’t guarantee you’ll make it out alive.
If he doesn’t go our entire family will be killed.
It’s the same invitation my older brother received three years ago—the same place he mysteriously died.
The academy has already killed one sibling. I’ll be damned if they take another.
I do the only thing an older sister can: chop off my hair, strap on two bras to flatten the girls, and take my brother’s place.
Magic and monsters are real. Assassins are coming for me, and the dead are prone to rise. What’s a girl faking it as a boy supposed to do? That’s right—beat the academy at its own game.
Or die trying.