Review: Magisterium

I received this book for free from BEA in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: MagisteriumMagisterium by Jeff Hirsch
Published by Scholastic on October 1, 2012
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery, Science Fiction
Pages: 310
Format: ARC
Source: BEA

On one side of the Rift is a technological paradise without famine or want. On the other side is a mystery.

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.
With MAGISTERIUM, Jeff Hirsch brings us the story of a complex, captivating world that will leave readers breathless until the very last page.

First Sentence: “Glenn followed the hum of machinery out to the edge of the forest.”

Magisterium was one strange book. Seriously, this is probably the second oddest book I’ve read so far this year, second only to Dust Girl. Though Magisterium definitely does have dystopian elements to its setting, it’s really not about that. Instead, this is a novel for fantasy fans all the way. Occasionally, there are even moments where it felt like a fairy tale. Be prepared for all sorts of craziness when you set out on this journey

When the novel opens, we meet Glenn, our heroine, who desperately wants to graduate early and become an astronaut (though it’s called something else in their futuristic society. Ever since her mom left, she has struggled with connecting to people and just wants to get out, just like her father escapes into his Project. Her only friends are her cat, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Kevin Kapoor, who pestered her until she accepted his friendship. Now he seems to want more from their relationship and Glenn is really trying to keep from getting attached to anyone here, thus she’s putting on the brakes big time.

Her father tells her the secret of his Project, what he’s been working on. He has made a bracelet that will allow them to travel across the Rift, a dead area, behind which everything is supposedly destroyed. He believes that there is a whole different society over there, functioning under different laws than theirs and that her mother has gone back there. She doesn’t believe him; in fact, she thinks he’s crazy and gets the government brought down on them. She and Kevin escape across the Rift, while Dad sits in jail.

Much to Glenn’s chagrin, Dad was right after all. Across the Rift is a whole other government and a completely different world. There people have magic. There are animal-human hybrid things, like Aamon, who helps them survive. This world is the Magisterium, and it is ruled by the tyrant, Magistra.

Kevin was my favorite character, as much as I had one. Of course, being that his name is Kevin, he’s Indian, he’s slightly annoying, and he’s incredibly persistent, I could picture him as only one person:

He’s Kevin G with a green mohawk. O_O

I also liked Hopkins, however, all of the characters underwent major changes once they crossed the Rift and things got crazy, at which point I wasn’t so much connected as doing my best to follow along with what was going on. Pretty much the whole time they’re in there, I had no clue what was going on…mostly weird things just kept happening.

Pretty much the only thing I could think about for most of the book, though, was HOW MUCH it reminded me of LOTR for the two thirds. I know that LOTR influenced a lot of authors and commonalities can probably be found in just about any fantasy novel. However, I am not drawing this comparison just because. There was a ton of stuff.  Seriously, let’s sit back and think about this okay?

So we have an unlikely individual to be confronting The Man. She doesn’t want to take the bracelet (aka magical bling bling) and go on this journey, but she has to. The first official plan is to take the ring…I mean, bracelet…to the only city in the world where it can be destroyed, so that it can be removed from the world, since every power only wants it for EVIL.

They set out in their little small fellowship, Aamon leading Glenn and Kevin. They make a plan for how to get to the city where the bracelet can be destroyed, but find the easy route blocked. Thus, they have to try the more dangerous way, about which Aamon says this: “‘I can protect you from Garen Tom and his men,’ he said. ‘But there are things in the deeper places that…change you. Things I’m powerless against.'” Does anyone think that sounds remarkably like Gandalf’s reluctance to go through the Mines of Moria?

As they’re journeying, Glenn and Kevin sneak off one evening and see beautiful, magical fairy-like creatures in a scene that brought to mind Frodo and Sam watching the elves. She tries several times to get Kevin to leave her, until he delivers a little speech that seems eerily reminiscent to Sam’s “And I’m coming with you” from the end of The Fellowship of the Ring.

Still not convinced? Well, how about the fact that, when Glenn removes the magic bracelet, she suddenly has magic powers and the descriptions make it feel like she’s just entered a brand new world, and the forces in that world can act upon her. Taking the bracelet OFF = putting the ring ON. They also encounter a spider lady and fight wraiths. The final comparison, as if this all wasn’t enough, was that the Magistra was described as being very powerful but not yet fully awake, so they were initially going to be facing only her servants directly.
In the end, I thought this was okay, but I found myself getting bored with the constant unexpected plot shifts. There were a lot of secondary characters that would flit in for some back story and then leave again, all without me knowing precisely why I was supposed to care about any of it. Hirsch’s writing was decent, but didn’t hold any special appeal for me.

Fantasy fans that like a more eclectic read will likely want to look into Magisterium. Also, if you’re fascinated by concepts of the distance between things, the line between magic and technology, you would probably be interested in the divide of the Rift, which, frankly, I would REALLY like to know more about. As of this moment, I think this is a standalone, but there’s space for more.

Favorite Quote:

“‘I was almost killed and I don’t want to go back. That’s the difference between you and me. We’re led up to the edge of a whole new world, a world we’ve been told our whole lives doesn’t exist, can’t exist, a world with things like Aamon and the Miel Pan in it. And me? I want to see more. I want to know if there are even more amazing things out here. But you? You want to turn around and go home so you can get your homework done on time.'”

16 responses to “Review: Magisterium”

  1. fakesteph says:

    I’m afraid to read your review, because I’m really excited about this one!

  2. aLilLacey says:

    I want to read it just because you said it was one of the oddest books you’ve read. Need a little odd every once in awhile and it’s always fun to see what people’s imaginations come up with

  3. Lilian says:

    OOOOO, I like fairy tales! That chicks’ face is weirdly rendered SIMs. And her hair, it’s like she got electrocuted.

    “She doesn’t believe him; in fact, she thinks he’s crazy and gets the government brought down on them.”
    *dun dun duuunnnn* Seriously? she gets her father arrested?

    Did the similarities to LOTR put you off the book? or made it much more predictable?

    “the line between magic and technology”
    it DOES have me slightly intrigued! Though I am NOT intrigued by the distance between things. If it shows up in the library, I’ll see.

    • Christina says:

      It’s not a fairy tale per se, but there were elements that seemed plucked out of this and that one. I really felt like I was reading a mish mash of things. I would love to talk to someone who’s read this to see if they felt the same. I guess I could search GR, but I’m too lazy.

      She didn’t MEAN to. She thought he was crazy, and, to be fair, she was talking to her psychiatrist, who really shouldn’t have told anyone, what with doctor-patient confidentiality. But this is a dystopia of sorts, so that doesn’t exist.

      Ehhhh, I don’t know if they put me off. I was more just astounded, because I don’t know WHY. The book doesn’t read like LOTR, but so many plot elements seemed straight from it. I didn’t know what to make of it. I really don’t know how I feel about this book at all. Lol.

      The cover is very pretty, except for the scary person. This one was SO HARD to quantify.

    • Lilian says:

      SHE WAS TALKING TO A SHRINK? does she have mental stability issues?

      Maybe it was trying to pay homage to LOTR? OR maybe it was done accidently…which would be a whole lot of coincidences. hmmmm….*strokes beard*

      I like the background, the crows/ravens…but not the figure. ugh. Is she supposed to be the villain or the protagonist?

    • Christina says:

      I think it was because of the sadness of her mom leaving. Or something. I actually do not remember already.

      Yeah, I really just don’t know what to make of all the LOTR similarities.

      Having finished the book, I HAVE NO IDEA WHO THE FIGURE IS SUPPOSED TO BE. Birds were with a couple people, but they didn’t sound exactly like that. I’m not even sure if that’s a dude or a lady.

    • Lilian says:

      “I’m not even sure if that’s a dude or a lady.”
      *looks at cover with a magnifying glass*
      I think s/he has nails, and a FRENCH MANI! So it must be a chick, right? Or a dude with super exotic tastes…

    • Christina says:

      But the face doesn’t look remotely feminine. THIS IS A MYSTERY.

  4. Hm. I thought this was going to be way more fantasy then what you’ve described. It also saddens me to see the LOTR comparisons – why can’t people come up with their own stories? This was at the bottom of my to-read list anyway, so I’ll probably skip it.

    • Christina says:

      It’s really fantasy. It’s just sort of absurdist fantasy. Sometimes made me think of Alice in Wonderland, because things that weird would happen. If that an LOTR had baby, it would look something like Magisterium.

      This book will either greatly entertain someone or mystify them.

  5. Adriana says:

    Ahhh! Too much fantasy for me. You know my cousin has the middle name Manley and so does his dad and grandfather.

    Have you ever heard of The Roar by Emma Clayton?

  6. Kayla Beck says:

    I didn’t read all of your review because I pre-ordered this one a while back. (Would you believe that I’m on a book buying ban? No? Okay…) I do like that you compared its oddness to Dust Girl, which I adored. 😀

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