Twelve-year-old Autumn Malog is a servant at the enchanting Inglenook School, where young magicians study to become the king’s future monster-hunters. Along with her Gran and three too many older brothers, she works as a beastkeeper, tending to Inglenook’s menagerie of terrifying monsters.
But when she isn’t mucking out the wyvern stalls or coaxing the resident boggart to behave, Autumn searches for clues about her twin brother’s mysterious disappearance. Everyone else thinks he was devoured by the feared Hollow Dragon, but Autumn is convinced she’s heard–and glimpsed–him calling to her from within the castle walls. But who will believe a lowly servant?
So when Cai Morrigan, the “Chosen One” prophesied to one day destroy the Hollow Dragon, comes to her for help, Autumn agrees on one condition: Together, they’ll search for her brother and uncover the dark truth at the heart of enchanting Inglenook School once and for all.
I have been having a really hard time picking up books that I am loving lately, but I was entirely enchanted by this read. This is a switched take on a boarding school and chosen one tale. Our two main characters, Autumn and Cai. could not be more different in their social status or their understanding of the world. However, their stubborn beliefs and talent make them logical allies and interesting friends. The family dynamics felt really authentic and I liked that they showed siblings that weren’t friends but still loved and supported each other.
The world was nothing super new, but I felt like we were getting to see a new side of it, through the Malogs who are decidedly not “special”. I think the monsters were super engaging and endearing. However, due Autumn’s relationship with the monsters of the world make scary situations with them feel tense but not threatening. I felt that this was a story that grew really well and was really well paced especially for a stand alone. It was not a magic bullet ending, but definitely a satisfying one.
In general, this was incredibly charming story that made me laugh and gasp as an adult. I feel like it would be appropriate for 4th grade and up. I would definitely recommend for anyone who is interested a tenacious protagonist, flipped tropes, and figuring out the moral compass of the world.