This was a book I had to force myself to finish, which is rarely a good sign. It was a horrible book and I mean that especially in the sense that horrible things just keep happening and no one does a thing to stop them. Or they claim that they will, but then either allow or participate in yet another cruel/ brutal act to get what they want, negating their seemingly laudable goals. The whole thing was an exercise in futility.
Good descriptions, but I found the story oddly lifeless for all the strong emotions that were supposed to be there. Especially in regards to Franklin and Sadima's romance. They have zero chemistry and precious little else to make their romance remotely interesting. And why on earth was Franklin so touchy mere moments after first meeting her? *shudders* Everything about them seemed forced, staged. As if they were nothing more than a plot device to counteract Somiss. Idiots, the both of them, for believing that a return of magic could possibly fix the world, much less their own problems. "No more hunger, death, pain, poverty."
As if magic could fix all those problems.
Why did Somiss and his cronies torment the boys? Set them against each other? It seems like a way to get the very worst out of the boys, though given Somiss' bullying personality perhaps that was his goal. It took me till near the end to find much sympathy with Hahp and Gerrard. The sheer awfulness of the methods employed by the Academy to train and select their wizards rules out there ever being any kind or humane wizards in my opinion, since only the most ruthless and heartless of every group would likely survive to join their ranks. They torture and scare the boys "witless, shitless, heartless." They try to manipulate them into willingly participating in the murder of their classmates, allowing them to starve to death. Had the boys worked together, none of them needed to die. Instead, the boys allow the wizards to determine their actions like puppets on a string. The wizards keep them hungry, filthy and scared to control them and the boys go along with it.
Somiss claimed to desire to resurrect magic and start a school to teach the Songs to children. Somiss is an evil, selfish person. Look how he treats Franklin and uses Sadima's "affection" for him against her. Somiss' world of magic simply means that the wealthy can pay for it and poor still suffer as much as ever, when not more.
Any sort of system of magic that is taught through methods of torture via bestial, inhumane tests and trials is neither worth learning nor existing. It is fundamentally wrong.
So, this first book in a projected trilogy ends with Franklin, Somiss and Sadima just poised to discover the ancient secrets in the City of the Magicians, in what will later become the accursed Academy, while in the future/present Gerrard and Hahp, at long, looooong last, ally with each other to survive and somehow destroy the academy.
Reading this book was not fun and I did not feel I learned anything new or substantial about anything. I disliked most of the characters and could not bring myself to really care for the rest. Again, the book was lifeless and so unrelentingly depressing with all these manipulative, sadistic people running around and no one doing anything. Not recommended and unless I hear very good things about the others, I will not be finishing this trilogy.