- Author: Mary Weber
- Series: Standalone
- Genre: Magic Realism/Action Adventure
- No. of pages: 314
- Dates read: 21.05.19 – 29.05.19
- Star Rating: 4 stars
This is the kind of book I need more of in my life! This book is incredibly empowering and is something that all young girls should read.
Plot: Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port have received a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well, Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition. With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone is ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.
First of all, you have a female protagonist who aspires to be the first female scientist while also dealing with dyslexia, I love it. While dyslexia only plays a small part in her character it really shows her determination to want to learn and succeed. I thought she was an amazing protagonist and I found myself relating to her a lot!
One of the main themes of this book is about a women’s place. Who she should be in accordance to the male characters, you see Rhen try to break free from the societal constraints placed on her and she says numerous times that she is not owned by any man and that she is her own person to make her own decisions. Then you have Seleni who enjoys the more stereotypical roles of a housewife and mother and I loved that both women were empowered to lead their very different lives and the Seleni wasn’t ridiculed for her choices by Rhen and vice versa.
Seleni and Rhen’s relationship was one of my favourite parts of this book. I love their support for each other, their love for each other and how Seleni didn’t bat an eyelid in taking part in the contest to support Rhen. They were never really pitted against each other and even if they were they had each other’s back which I loved to see.
Many men in this book were awful! Point blank awful. I have never wanted to launch a book across the room as much as I have with this book, as some of the boys (the privileged, rich kids) were so rude and horrible. We had attempted assault, gaslighting, classism etc. Weber did a great job of making you hate these characters. I also felt that Weber did a great job though in separating the bad men from the good men who were allies to Rhen and Seleni. Like Lute, Beryll, Sam etc. These boys were a ray of light, especially Lute, who didn’t feel emasculated next to the girls and didn’t feel the need to bring them down but actually lifted them up and gave them opportunities to succeed.
What I liked about Beryll, especially, was he was raised exactly like the horrible boys were. Rich, privileged lives but he didn’t look down upon others and he took his experiences and the people he met and ultimately learned from it and tries to be the best ally he can me and I loved that about his character!
The setting for this book is really interesting. It’s sort of light fantasy/magic realism and I really enjoyed the setting. I loved that it was the norm to avoid going out at a specific time or specific areas because of ghouls and monsters and how some people didn’t bat an eyelid about it. The labyrinth was my favourite part of the plot, I do think we could have spent more time and I was disappointed that it was over so quickly. I felt it was incredibly imaginative and that not all was as it seemed, I love seeing the character dynamics play out with each obstacle. But I felt more time should have been spent in there.
The next book I will be reviewing is Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve. I have heard some amazing things about this novel so I’m excited to give this a go. I will also be re-reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire at the same time. I will go into a bit more detail about my re-read and why I am re-reading the series in a future post.