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The Scholomance by R. Lee Smith
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The Scholomance

by R. Lee Smith

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R. Lee Smith's books are always are revelation for me. She messes with your head, makes you question your own sanity and moral compass, and wraps it all up in a delicious plot so you aren't able to stop reading until you reach the last sentence.


If you read and loved Heat, The Scholomance is for you. In a way it reminded me of Anne Bishop's UF series as "the otherness" of R. Lee Smith's monsters is pure perfection.


I found out about Miss Smith through rave reviews of Heat and Last Hour of Gann on Dear Author. If you know Dear Author, you know that they don't rave about books very often. So I was intrigued, and then bam! these two books made my top reads of 2013 - they were so mind-blowingly good.

Mara, the main heroine of this book is a natural born mind-reader, a sociopath and a perfect antihero. Throughout her childhood she has been a very strange child and had only one friend, Connie. When Connie found out about Mara's talent she got obsessed with having a power of her own which led her to learning about The Scholomance - a mythical demonic school situated in mountains of Transylvania.


One day Connie disappeared, and two years later Mara received a letter from Connie saying that The Scholomance is not what it seemed and please, will she come and get her out?


At this point Mara is an independent young woman travelling around the globe doing something illegal with her talent and getting paid big money for it. She doesn't have feelings or attachments, but memory of Connie is the only warm feeling that sustains her.

She gets into the school and it's brutal, sadistic and horrifying. But she is a talented gal, she doesn't feel the same things most people feel and she doesn't have same motivations, so she is flying through the ranks while searching for Connie.

This is a twisted tale, very harsh and dark. It f*cks with your head, folks, but the journey is worth it and the ending is incredible. I don't even want to give you any details but this is great horror story with a side of dark romance and monsters who don't hide under the guise of humanity. Very much recommended if you are brave enough to read it. I LOVED it! ( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
Oh, R. Lee Smith. What happened? Why was Scholomance so bad? You are better than this.

Well, dear reader. Where shall I start? This was not my first visit to the R. Lee Smith rodeo. I'm willing to follow her to some weird, dark, enthralling/repugnant places. But Scholomance? It was just boring.

Boring.

Heroine: Mara. She's the most beautiful, desirable, special, steely-willed, smart, secretly-almost-kinda-good-hearted person ever. Her friend Connie is obsessed with learning magic (so she can be more like perfect Mara), so she signs up at the Scholomance: a demon-run, dystopian Hogwarts dug into the heart of a mountain in Transylvania. Two years after Connie leaves, Mara gets a letter saying: help, get me outta here!

So Mara goes to the mountain and joins up at the school. Because she's the most beautiful, desirable, steely-willed, etc., etc., she breezes through all the terrible, grisly trials faster than anyone ever has before. The demon teachers - the Masters - are generally indifferent and bloodthirsty towards the students, but they all want to sleep with Mara so she has a demon protector to ease her way from the get-go. She spends a lot of time scorning the guys who hit on her, leading them on, offering to bribe them with sex, or playing her various suitors against one another.

The rule of the school is that students have ten years to master an Art (or subject/branch of magic), and if they can't, they must move on. But Mara is a powerful telepath so it never takes her more than one day to master what most people take ten years to learn - she just walks into a classroom, rifles through the brain of a student who's put in the hours, and steals all their knowledge. So within a week of showing up, she's the most powerful, most talented student in the whole place.

I dunno...yawn? I mean, her only goal is to find Connie and get Connie out...but by the halfway point or so, she's searched everywhere but one place and keeps thinking she should search that place but then, for hundreds of pages, doesn't get around to it. In the meanwhile, I guess she's in some sort of Darwinian struggle to survive...except that there's no contest. She's the baddest dude on the block. The only creature who outmatches her is in love with her.

In other R Lee Smith books I've been really, really impressed by the quality of the writing. How powerful, how compact, how beautifully phrased. She writes these long books that keep me glued to the page, almost unable to come up for air. But I found myself skimming bits of Scholomance, trying to hurry past whole pages that didn't add anything to the story or the arc. It's the first time I've finished her book and thought she needed an editor.

So. Yeah. Hogwarts by way of Hieronymus Bosch. Mary Sue by way of The Terminator. And a dash of romance. ( )
  MlleEhreen | Apr 3, 2013 |
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