Saturday, October 26, 2019

Review: Shadow School: Archimancy by J.A. White

Archimancy (Shadow School, Book #1)
by J.A. White
Release Date: August 27th 2019
2019 Katherine Tegen Books
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062838315
Genre: Fiction / Supernatural / Juvenile
Source: Review copy from publisher

3.5 / 5 Stars

Cordelia Liu knew Shadow School was going to be different. Black gates and ivied walls. Long hallways lined with old paintings. A tower with a window that looks like an eye. Different she expected; different she could handle. Still, Cordelia can’t shake the feeling that something’s not right—and that she’s being carefully watched.

The answer isn’t just in front of her eyes—it’s in her gym, next to the bulletin board, even in the cafeteria. The school grounds are filled with ghosts. Cordelia soon realizes she’s not the only one who can see them; her new friend Benji can too. Together with supersmart Agnes, the trio are determined to find out why the ghosts are there, and whether there’s a way to set them free. But the school was created with more sinister intentions, and someone is willing to go to extreme lengths to ensure that the ghosts remain trapped forever.

My Thoughts 
Shadow School: Archimancy was a solid, middle-school ghost story that I found quite enjoyable. Now, if you are going into this book expecting a great puzzle and complicated plot, that you will not find, but if you are looking for a solid ghost story, this has that in abundance.  This has a simple plot, easy outs for everyone, uncomplicated characters, and a lot of action.  Perfect for those just looking for a fun, but light read.

First of all, I really wasn't too impressed with Cordelia at the start of the story as I found her a bit whiny and annoying.  I understand that she had to move away from California and leave her friends and she is only 11 years old, but she was annoying.  She did however, grow on me as the story developed.  I did like her friends however, but I did feel like there was too much emphasis on the kids' descriptions and their ethnic differences as if the author was trying to point out the inclusiveness of the characters.  Inclusiveness is good, info-dump however, is bad.  Besides, kids are pretty smart and can figure things out on their own, you know?

I actually thought the same thing about the plot.  Although it was enjoyable, there was little in the way of cryptic clues and puzzles that allowed a reader to try and figure things out.  Again, middle grade readers have the ability to read between the lines and figure things out on their own, everything does not have to be fed to them and it does feel a bit condescending when this is done.  The whole concept of the book had this amazingly rich background and setting that would have been a perfect setup for a variety of clues and puzzles for kids (and for adults) to work through but I felt this was not maximized at all.  I personally like to discover things and work through things and as a kid, one of the best things was figuring out the puzzles as I read.  So I felt kind of cheated, even as an adult.  Gosh, haunted house that is a school?  What more could someone ask for?  Best line in the book:

""Plus there's an honest-to-goodness secret passageway in my school," she thought.  And there's no reality where that's not super cool."

Isn't that a great line?  As a kid I would have loved to find a secret passageway.  Giving kids the opportunity to explore, puzzle things out, and solve clues is awesome and I have high hopes the author will include some of that in the next book.  

Shadow School: Archimancy definitely has a lot of potential and I had high hopes going into the book.  While it was an interesting read and the characters definitely grew on me, I was disappointed in the plot in that it was way too linear which drastically lowered the suspense in my eyes.  Too many outs for the kids kind of takes away from the suspense.  I really do feel that there is a lot of potential in this series and I am looking forward to some more adventures by these kids with a lot more twists and turns in their stories for me to try to figure out.  Hopefully!