Erica's Reviews > Magisterium

Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch
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's review
Aug 21, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: adventure, fantasy, dystopia, science-fiction, young-adult
Read from June 30 to July 01, 2012

813: a beautiful planet full of forests and wildlife carefully studied by the resident scienitsts. And the best part? It's light years away. Just to travel there takes 6 years--meaning that when people go there, they don't come back. They have to say goodbye to everyone and everything they've ever known. It's not an assignment for everyone, but it sounds like paradise to Glenn. Ever since her mother disappeared and her father began doggedly pursuing insane ideas Glenn has wanted nothing more than to get away. She's worked to make herself a good candidate and if she can get her father's signature she could skip a year at school, go to the Academy and be ready to leave with the next departing group in four years. There's not much she'd miss. Things have been weird with Kevin since that night at the train station and her cat she could take with her. Her father is the only thing standing in her way, and he's so distracted that he is an easy obstacle to overcome. At least until his crazy theories become a dangerous reality and Glenn finds herself leaving everything behind ahead of schedule--and in a completely different way than she had planned.

I like the way Hirsch blends the worlds of fantasy and science fiction in this novel and while the YA market is glutted with dystopias at the moment the premise of the novel is unique enough that it still contained some surprises and I felt that it had some interesting things to say. The characters have some complexity to them, which I always appreciate, and even the government agent that would usually remain a faceless evil is given a family to be fighting for. Of course my favorite character was *******minor spoiler****** Glenn's cat who ends up turning into a cat/human hybrid warrior with a troubled past but a heart of gold--how could I not love this book!? ********end minor spoiler******** I appreciated that Hirsch had the big kiss between the two friends happen before the novel started instead of milking it for all it was worth and there doesn't seem to be a love triangle in sight--both of which help set this novel apart. Glenn also breaks some YA heroine stereotypes by being a computer programming whiz and decidedly uninterested in romantic relationships. The best friend/love interest Kevin Kapoor was a good character too and had me laughing out loud (in public) several times, although I didn't like him as much in the second half of the novel. The pacing was deliciously fast and I read it within 48 hours even though I had a lot of previous commitments that weekend and was in fact staying with my cousins and probably should have been socializing with them more. They're nice, book-loving people though so I'm sure they understood.

It's certainly not Hirsch's fault but I am feeling a bit burnt out on YA dystopias. While there were enough new and unique ideas and twists in the novel to keep me reading there were definitely also times when I felt a sense of deja vu. Some of the plot points felt a bit too convenient for me, especially near the end and I felt that some of the characters and plot points were glossed over but I tend to favor details over pacing. I'm sure many readers will appreciate the fast pace and not be bothered by the lack of details on certain points.

The novel is dark even for a dystopia, although not more so than The Hunger Games and that certainly has very young fans. Still it seems to be aimed at (at the very least) a middle school set. I'd recommend it to fans of science fiction and fantasy who are looking for more fast-paced dystopian fiction to read.

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