LEGACIES (Shadow Grail #1)
Mercedes Lackey & Rosemary Edghill
Paranormal Young Adult
Received from publisher for review
Spirit White just recently become an orphan. Her mom, dad, and sister all perished in a car accident that left her in the hospital for weeks until she was informed an institution by the name of Oakhurst Academy put up the money to pay her bills and is to bring her under their care per her parents request. Though she has no home to go to since it mysteriously burned to the ground not long after the accident, she's not entirely excited to be shipped off to the middle of Montana either.
On the way to the school via expensive car and private jet, Spirit meets fellow orphan and new Oakhurst initiate Lachlan, and they both learn they are Legacies–one or both of their parents also attended Oakhurst. Upon arrival, both Spirit and Loch are taken to meet Doctor Ambrosius and are enlightened with yet more shocking information. Turns out the students of Oakhurst possess magical gifts, and the academy is in place to help the students learn and harness their abilities.
When it's Spirit's turn to find out what gift she has, nothing happens, and though everyone insists the ability is there, it refuses to manifest and Spirit finds herself an outcast among outcasts. She doesn't have much time to dwell on her feelings of inadequacy though when students at Oakhurst start going missing, though no one seems too worried other than Spirit and her friends. They soon learn these are not the first students to disappear, and it turns out Oakhurst is hiding a secret deeper and darker than the magic it teaches.
Legacies is a story not entirely original in nature, focusing on a boarding school for students with magical abilities, but despite its familiar premise, Ms. Lackey and Ms. Edghill infuse their world with a lingering darkness we've not encountered before. Instead of being a nurturing environment designed to foster trust and understanding of the use of magic, Oakhurst Academy has a rather sinister edge where students are discouraged from forming tight friendships and are forced into rigorous training programs with instructors who don't spout words of encouragement, but rather speak harsher truths presumably designed to hasten improvement. As a result of this unnerving situation, we feel Spirit and the other student's sense of profound isolation much more vividly, the remote locale of the school echoed in the cold teaching methods and lack of student-instructor positive interaction, and we are left with an intentional sense of unease as the physical and emotional coolness mists from the pages and sinks deep into our bones, chilling us to the core as magic and mystery unfold.
Though the suspense surrounding the disappearing students is well-executed with clues deftly woven throughout, this is the type of story that's engaging while we're reading–keeping us questioning how each revelation fits with the one before–but when we finish we come to realize we don't have nearly as much information as we thought we did. We scan the final page with the hope a book dealing with magic might have the answers we seek secretly hidden and is just waiting to reveal them to us until we've wished for them hard enough. While we do discover the who/what is behind the disappearances and a fraction of the why, so many of the fundamental issues remain shrouded in darkness, denying us the warmth understanding provides and leaving us shivering on the outside wondering when of if we'll be brought into the fold.
Because this is the first book in a series, some unanswered questions are to be expected and ultimately necessary so the series can continue, but in addition to several facets of the disappearance mystery remaining completely unknown, we also learn very little about the purpose for the school itself. We are told initially it's to help train students in their magical abilities so they can defend themselves against those who would use magic to harm them, but we are given no details about either the aforementioned villains or the impending war we're told is coming. Why is this war happening now? Have the two factions always been at war? Furthermore, the title of this series is the "Shadow Grail" novels, yet in this first installment no mention is made of a Shadow Grail outside of its appearance on the school's coat of arms, leaving us with still another question as to why this object is important enough as to name the series, but not important enough to introduce in this first book.
Overall, Legacies is an interesting read, one where a dark plot is beautifully revealed and where a romance is not the primary focus, but rather is refreshingly replaced by the bonds of friendship between five gifted individuals. Because the story is engrossing while we're in the middle of it, the long line of unanswered questions only becoming bothersome upon conclusion, it is a series worth continuing in the hope so much information is withheld purposefully. We walk away from this tale longing to shed our jackets, hats, and gloves, leaving them behind in the cold environment of the unknown as we are finally welcomed inside Oakhurst Academy to become privy to her secrets and the secrets of the people she houses.