Book Review: Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch

magisterium cover

View from the window seat:
Glenn Morgan believes the Rift she has lived next to her entire life contains nothing but a vast, dark, empty wasteland. Her best friend Kevin thinks the other side holds monsters and magic, but logical, scientific Glenn doesn’t believe in magic. What she does believe in is her troubled home, where her scientist father has obsessed over a mysterious Project since her mother disappeared ten years ago. When her father completes the project, the Authority of Colloquium chases him down and arrests him, leaving Glenn with just a bracelet that he says changes reality. Soon Glenn and Kevin are on the run, and there’s only one place they can go to escape capture: across the border into the Rift.

Magisterium is a masterpiece of world building. The technologically advanced society of Colloquium with its police-like drones and tablets is juxtaposed next to the wild Magisterium with its near-humans and primitive living conditions. These two worlds are separated only by a thin border, yet on one side magic runs wild while on the other science reigns supreme. The magic of Magisterium is original. One of my favorite scenes is the introduction of the terrifying and beautiful Miel Pan. I loved the way that the author created these worlds in such a way that one isn’t better than the other. Both are deeply flawed, with villains and heroes alike. The tyrants on both sides have depths that are surprising.

Our main characters, Glenn and Kevin, have surprising depth as well. Glenn can be frustrating at times as she struggles to accept a magical world that her logical brain can’t comprehend. Her arc is a slow one; she starts off with the single, selfish goal of returning home so that everything can go back to the way it was despite the fact that she sees the horrors of the oppressed Magisterium firsthand. She slowly comes to realize that there is no going back, and that she can do more with her life. Kevin, on the other hand, easily embraces the magic in Magisterium. He becomes entangled in this new world, and fights to protect its freedom. My favorite character though is Aamon, a cat-like creature who guards Glenn and Kevin fiercely and who hides a tragic past that is an interesting twist to the story.

My only complaint is that I want to learn more about the Rift and how it happened. An experiment gone wrong? An act of war? An unknown natural disaster? I want to know more about how the two worlds of Magisterium and Colloquium were created and evolved to be such different places.

Overall impression:
With unique settings and interesting characters, Magisterium is a must-read dystopian. The ending is left open, so I hope there will be more to come for this story. Now I definitely want to read Jeff Hirsch’s previous novel, The Eleventh Plague.

Rating:
7

Note: I received this ARC from the publisher at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference.

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