Title: First Years
Author: Rachel E. Carter
Series: The Black Mage
Publication Date: October 31, 2015
Genre: YA, high fantasy, romance, magic
Source: Amazon Purchase
SYNOPSIS (FROM GOODREADS):
Magic. Romance. Rivals. Perfect for fans of Throne of Glass, Falling Kingdoms, and Tamora Pierce. Before the age of seventeen, the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice —pursue a trade or enroll in a trial year in one of the realm’s three war schools to study as a soldier, knight, or mage… For fifteen-year-old Ryiah, the choice has always been easy. Become a mage and train in Combat, the most prestigious faction of magic. Yet when she arrives, Ry finds herself competing against friend and foe for one of the exalted apprenticeships. Everyone is rooting for her to fail—first and foremost among them is Prince Darren, the school prodigy who has done nothing but make life miserable since she arrived. Will Ry survive, or will her dream go down in flames?
I rarely give one or five stars. One star means the book is absolutely intolerable. And I give four that's when I feel there's something missing, but at least it's still enjoyable. But when I give five stars to a book, for me it means absolutely flawless.
This has not been the first time I've said this, and it would certainly not be the last. This book (and this series in general) has the best romance I HAVE EVER SEEN. It's unbelievably well paced, and with the realistic hate-love relationship, alongside the whole idea of magical, competitive academy...it was just heaven. To this day I still wasn't able to find another series or book that can even compete with this one.
How Ryiah overcame the stereotype of weak 'lowborn' and her struggles in the begging of her study was absolutely inspiring. Even though she was falling behind in school work, that doesn't stop her from staying up all night, sneaking into the library to study after curfew, in order to transform from one of the worst to one of the best.
I also extremely enjoy the little 'scenes' Rachel added in, that highlighted Darren and Ryiah's relationship and characters in a positive way. In fact, I had been dreaming a specific to find a way for a pair to met, and Rachel made that dream alive from how Darren bumped into Ryiah in the library, and how they eventually fell in love.
And then there's Darren. I have honestly never met a character whom I am confused over whether I should punch him in the face or kiss him. He managed to be arrogant and insecure, selfish and selfless, merciless yet kind, all at the same time. In a way, Ryiah with her redhead represented fire, the fire which melted the ice around cold Darren's black heart, and unintentionally making him fall unconditionally in love with her.
The world building was also very well done. I've read books where the authors just throw a bunch of information to the reader and expect them to just get it. I've also seen worlds which are a way too cliche and makes us fall asleep as we read. Rachel managed to make the world complicated, yet simple at the same time. She doesn't need this scene where someone explains everything in a conversation. Throughout the story, we learned about Jearar, Caltoth, magic, medicine, and everything we need to know in order to understand and follow the plot-line. Perfectly paced.
Overall, this is a flawless, absolutely, enjoyable book that you can read over and over again and still love it like you've just read it the first time.