Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch
Release Date ~ October 1, 2012
Review copy received from Scholastic Canada
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.
Magisterium is a portal fantasy book, which if done well usually ends up being REALLY GOOD. I was especially interested in this one because there’s a fantasy world on one side, and more of a dystopian world on the other which I think is a fascinating and fantastic blend of genres.
Unfortunately, I found Magisterium largely lacking in regards to both characters and its world. I had hoped for more, but found myself struggling with it for the most part as it didn’t deliver in either area to my liking.
- Two richly complex worlds – one dystopian, one fantasy:
I could marvel at the creativity Jeff Hirsch exemplified here for hours. I was astounded at the uniqueness of the setting his book was set in. It is totally unlike anything I have ever read, with people with special abilities, creatures that blend the lines between animal and human, and some so beautiful yet twisted into something dark. I’d love to explore the Magisterium all on its own. We don’t get much of a glance at Glenn’s home, but we experience enough of it to recognize it as a fairly dark dystopian world.
However, the main problems for me were that I didn’t get to experience enough of the world building as I would like to better understand the story and its circumstances and that the characters were not developed or likable enough for me to be invested in their story. Glenn was too cold and distant, which I can understand given her past, but a story told from the first person narrative should give me more of a glimpse at their vulnerability and I’d like to see them break through it. Perhaps that’s a personal preference of mine, but I didn’t enjoy Glenn for that reason. Likewise I felt Kevin’s sudden change in demeanor to be completely unlike how he had come across earlier on in the book. And he only became more distant as the story moved, again leaving me with very little to root for.
I need to care about the characters to care about the setting and therefore the story. I didn’t care about anything that much, and as a result I felt completely disconnected from the book. Which is unfortunate because I was extremely curious about the world it featured.