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The Philosopher's Flight

(The Philosophers Series #1)

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  4,468 ratings  ·  836 reviews
A thrilling debut from ER doctor turned novelist Tom Miller, The Philosopher’s Flight is an epic historical fantasy set in a World-War-I-era America where magic and science have blended into a single extraordinary art.

Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape cloud
Hardcover, 422 pages
Published February 13th 2018 by Simon & Schuster
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Ben Hello, fellow person who disliked The Magicians! I think the only similarity here is that both books involve a main character going to a magic college…moreHello, fellow person who disliked The Magicians! I think the only similarity here is that both books involve a main character going to a magic college in America.(less)
Abigail Carlin Yes. This was part of a two-book contract with Simon and Schuster. According to Miller, there is no release date for the second book yet, but it is in…moreYes. This was part of a two-book contract with Simon and Schuster. According to Miller, there is no release date for the second book yet, but it is in revisions, and tentatively scheduled for summer 2019.(less)

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Will Byrnes
And what is empirical philosophy—what is sigilry—except a branch of science that we don’t yet fully understand? There’s no dark art to it; it’s nothing more than the movement of energy to produce a physical effect. The human body provides the power, while the sigil, drawn sometimes with beads of water, sometimes with cornmeal or sand, catalyzes the movement. You can do a thousand useful things: make a plant grow larger and faster; send a message a thousand miles in an instant; fly. If you gr
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
This WWI era SF/fantasy novel is a 2018 book and a worthwhile read. A strong 4 stars. Full review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Many historical eras ― particularly the Regency and Victorian, with World War II in the mix as well ― have been reimagined through the lens of fantasy and science fiction: alternative history, with magic or superpowers as the focus for recasting historical events. World War I has, I think, been underserved in this genre. Tom Miller’s The Philosopher’s Flight does
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
My reason for reading this book was that I saw and requested The Philosopher's War on Netgalley and then discovered it was book 2! So a quick trip to the library gained me book one The Philosopher's Flight and how lucky was I! It is a really good book and I have the next one all ready and waiting for me!

The story is a delightful mix of fantasy and history with very well handled world building and an intriguing magic system. It is a magic which belongs chiefly to women and Robert, our main charac
Mogsy (MMOGC)
4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

The Philosopher’s Flight might be my first genuine surprise of 2018. Backed by a fascinating premise that blends together historical fiction and fantasy, this novel held my attention captive from beginning to end. Set in an alternate World-War-I-era America, at the core of this tale is “magical science”, also known as empirical philosophy, a system of magic that uses the artform of “sigilry” to perform amazing feats like
Book of the Month
In an alternate world where only women are strong enough to wield magic, a gifted boy goes where no man has gone before: Radcliffe, a prestigious female-only school of sigilry.

Learn more at
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was excellent, and I'm really glad I took the risk with it.

It was recommended by a fellow writer on a forum we both frequent, and when I saw it was on Netgalley I picked it up. My big concern was that the genderflip inherent in the premise - women are, for unexplained reasons, the best at magic, and a young man tries to establish himself among them during the period of the First World War - could so easily have gone terribly wrong. (I'm thinking of that awful raceflipped Pearls thing from
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love books about alternate history. But The Philosopher's Flight is something more....a combination of fantasy, sci-fi, alternate history...and pure magic.

The Basics: Certain symbols, called sigils, can be used to focus power. That power can be used for mundane things like making plants grow larger, curing illness or even flying, but also for more destructive actions like killing 40,000 enemy soldiers in one battle during the Civil War. Although some men can wield the power, women are much mo
Laura L. Van Dam
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy, arcs
I know I'm in the minority here, but didn't like it.
I give two stars because it's really well written, but couldn't connect with the story at all. Sorry, but couldn't suspend my disbelief for one moment.
I found the use of certain words irritating ("Sapphist", "cartogramancer" for example, why choose so many archaisms, euphemisms and invented words?) and the weird physics was too much for me (Example "at the same time you're braking, you are also accelerating toward the ground", wtf? how can so
Books on Stereo
Feb 17, 2018 rated it did not like it
A high-fantasy, Harry Potter-esque story about a female-centric world. Although Miller's worldbuilding is unparallel, the lack of characterization and plot made The Philosopher's Flight a complete misfire. ...more
I honestly and truly wished I loved this book. I felt like there's a lot of potential for it being a great series, but after only reading the first novel from both the author and the series I wasn't all too excited. This was definitely more like Harry Potter where magic (also known as Empirical Philosophy) exists alongside the very real world. This "magic" is not inherited, but learned and anyone can basically pick it up. It requires the use of sigils and specific minerals. For example, using a ...more
Leah Lucci
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
Imagine a world where women's lib happened ages ago because women were able to do magic. (Some men could do it too, sometimes, but to a much lesser extent.)

Women were on the front lines of wars, rescuing men and doing spells to create smokescreens or weapons. Women were making transportation and communication efficient. Women were leading medicine, using spells to save lives.

Imagine a story set in the middle of a women's college in the early 1900s, with someone learning this magic.

And then...
Skyler Autumn
Jan 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: surprise
4 Stars

The Philosopher's Flight is my first surprise read of 2020. I really enjoyed this reimagined fantasy novel set in the World War I era that follows Robert Weeks as he strives to become the first man to be part of the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue, positions that have only ever been filled by females.

This books plays on this form of reverse sexism as the world of magic is mostly performed by women and men are considered to be lesser in their abilities. So the majority of this book is abo
Bam cooks the books ;-)
*3.5 stars

A unique reimagining of history that blends science fiction, fantasy as well as historical fiction.

In this story, sigilry, or empirical philosophy, is a branch of science which came into widespread use in 1750. Since women have always been much better at this powerful technique than men, a group of fanatics calling themselves Trenchers seek to eliminate it as being witchcraft or some other dark art.

But just what is empirical philosophy? "It's nothing more than the movement of energy t
Linda Zagon
Feb 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
My Review of “The Philosopher’s Flight” by Tom Miller Simon and Schuster, February 2018

Tom Miller, Author of “The Philosopher’s Flight” has provided a unique story that combines the Genres of Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Magical Illusion, Magical Realism, and Fiction. The author has woven these genres in a coming of age tale of a young man fighting for his dreams in a women’s world.

The author describes his characters as complex and complicated. The time-line for the story is around World
BAM Endlessly Booked
Netgalley #57

Many thanks to Tom Miller, Simon and Schuster, and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for my unbiased review.
Philosophy is not magic the saying at the beginning of the book tells the reader. Some thought it was straight devilry; others that it was science. Regardless it helped women to fly. During battles. And rescue missions. And they could go to school for this. Until one year there was a young man with skills, untrained skills, who could perform as well as if not better than they
Sherwood Smith
Empirical philosophers--the term 'philosophers' used in the historical sense, which could include the practice of the sciences alchemy, astrology, etc.

In this alternate world of ours, magic works, has been developing rapidly and scientifically alongside the industrial revolution all through the nineteenth century, and it is mainly used by women, who are better at it than men.

The time is now early twentieth century, with World War I dragging on bloodily in Europe, and wars flaring fitfully elsew
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

4 Stars for Narration by Gibson Frazier
4.5 Stars for Concepts, Details & Characters
4 Stars for Story

The Philosopher's Flight was an interesting spin of alternative history. What would the world be like if alchemy was developed and applied in various aspects of life between everyday, work and war? What if women were more likely to be skilled in alchemy in practice and application?

Robert Weekes grew up wishing to be a good enough philosopher to join the US Sigilry Corps' Rescue and Eva
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: net-galley, 2018
This book is fantastic. It's an alt-history with a truly excellent grasp on the social impacts the discovery of "empirical philosophy" (alchemy/magic by any other name) might have on the course of history. And we get snippets of history throughout the book, not just the course of the story, but all the epigraphs as well.

Our protagonist, Robert Weekes, is the son of a war hero - a woman who we're told did some pretty terrible things in previous campaigns. Women are usually the best at philosophy
Nov 28, 2017 rated it it was ok
Trying to like this book, but finding it a bit challenging. I know, I know. The other reviews are great. And while I promise to come back when I've finished and layer more review on top of this brief one, I have some pet peeves for now. The main one is the use of unknown words that made me have to stop reading to go look them up. Emanuensis? Stasied? Never did find what that meant. Why not just say secretary? The other peeve was character development. I wasn't sure if I liked the mom or found he ...more
Moderately entertaining YA fantasy.
The author subverts a lot of the norms of gender and race, but it's so in your face and obvious that he's doing it that it doesn't quite work.
Still it's a debut novel and I can forgive a lot in a first try.
I've picked up book 2 and will see how that goes.
Feb 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
OVERALL AVERAGE RATING: 5/5 (This book is too good to pass up, just sayin’.)

World-building: 5/5
The book was an imaginative historical fantasy set against the backdrop of WWI. Miller’s world-building was one of the best I’ve read in a long time. He wrote with such convincing authority about the history of and science behind empirical philosophy that it was easy to buy into the authenticity of the world. An interesting feature was the way in which Miller opened each chapter with an excerpt from a
Sep 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Okay, I'm a bit tired right now, but lets try and get a coherent review down on paper, while I can still remember the story.

I have to admit it's been an age since I last binged a book. And boy, does it feel good to just sit down with a book and just devour it. I wonder if it's due to it being a historical fantasy, set in this world, and the writing style that idea generally generates. Mm, not sure.

Anywho, The Philosopher's Flight is the story of Robert Weekes going off to college with the dream
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Robert dreams of becoming a flying Rescue-and-Evac specialist. Even though females are better at arcane magic/science. We spend the bulk of this book at Radcliffe college where Robert trains among formidable women. The gender issue could have easily been mishandled, but the author does a commendable job. For some readers, this book may hit too close to home about social issues in current-day America. It's spot on. Also of note, this book is similar to Lev Grossman's The Magicians but a lot less ...more
Nov 17, 2019 added it
Yet another dnf, but at over 50%.

Much about this should have worked for me. It really feels like a case of, Its not you, novel, it’s me.

Maybe I’m not in the right mood? Maybe the juxtaposition to some delightful, heavier reads lately?

But I still have to walk away.

It felt like a kids’ book, though clearly it isn’t meant to be. Even there, I’m a Harry Potter fan, my ace card for, See, I do like some juvenile lit.

Just couldn’t warm up to this even though the idea of it still has me wanting to
Rachel Stansel
Nov 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most fun books I have read this year. A unique alternate history where "philosophers" use special combinations of chemical or compounds to do what we would consider magic. Smokecarving, hovering, transporting and lots more. Women are the lead sigilists with some men having basic abilities. Robert is the son of one such woman, but he gets the chance to show he is just as capable. Throw in their enemies, traditionalists men who want things done the old way, and you have a terrif ...more
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley, but my opinions are my own...

...And my opinion is: Mr. Tom Miller needs to write more books in this world!

This is a 4.5 rounded up. The only reason it isn't a solid 5.0 is because I wanted the plot and story to cover a little bit more ground, but I expect that this is the first in a projected series.

If you liked the depth and texture of Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, then this is the book for you. The character's are realistic and
Feb 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Subtly executed, Miller turns gender domination on its ear in the most delightful way. A fantasy novel that reads with the detail of historical fiction . . . this one needs more attention!

The Philosopher's Flight is an absorbing mix of Harry Potter and a Patrick Rothfuss. The detail and length at which so many topics are covered, along with the span of years explored, this could be considered historical fiction—it’s certainly written that way, but with its fully-constructed alternative history.

Out of the Bex
Jan 21, 2018 rated it liked it
In a world much different, yet entirely similar to our own, debut author Tom Miller crafts a story for the ages.

Between a spellbinding front and back cover, 405 pages explore artfully crafted characters and phenomenal world-building. The play between science and magic introduces a myriad of previously unexplored technologies, inventions, and unique perspectives. Additionally, Miller’s choice to experiment with an alternate reality where standard gender roles are reversed made for a thought-provo
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
(The publisher provided a copy for me to review)

In this alternate history novel, empirical philosophers have discovered how to manipulate energy with sigils to send messages, grow better crops, control fire - even flight. Although women have an overwhelming ability for sigilry, our main character Robert is a rare man who has an aptitude for it and wants to pursue it. His dream is to join the elite Rescue and Evacuation team (just like his mother) and help in the Great War. This leads him to the
Feb 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
*i got an arc of this book from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review*
2.5 stars
I enjoyed this book but the pacing was really slow. There were times where I got so bored to the point that I had to stop reading. I loved that the author wanted to put in feminism in it but I found that what was in the book not feminism. The women were all good and stuff but they weren't working together-instead some hated each other. One would call another a bitch which should not happen. I
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Tom Miller grew up in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He graduated from Harvard University and went on to earn an MFA in creative writing from the University of Notre Dame and an MD from the University of Pittsburgh. While writing The Philosopher's Flight, he worked as a travel guidebook writer, EMT, and college English instructor. He's now an emergency room doctor in Madison, Wisconsin. The Philosopher's F ...more

Other books in the series

The Philosophers Series (2 books)
  • The Philosopher's War (The Philosophers Series, #2)

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