Our own Christopher G. Nuttal reviews White Magic Academy.
Emily Martha Sorensen is quite good at writing books and webcomics that have a habit of subverting our expectations, often in ways that seem unpredictable in foresight and practically inevitable in hindsight. Indeed, Black Magic Academy is more of a fairy tale story than a plain and simple magic school story. It starts out as the former and shifts smoothly to the latter. White Magic Academy switches the setting to the titular academy and changes the main character from Mildred, a good witch in a family of wicked witches, to her death-enemy Rulisa, a good witch who really doesn’t want to be good.
Rulisa is … odd, by any reasonable definition. On one hand, she’s prickly, obnoxious, somewhat bigoted and misandrist and obsessed with proving herself (to the point where she’s prepared to provoke a feud between two schools to boost her status). On the other, she’s willing to risk everything for her friends and family (to the point that she gets expelled for doing a bad deed with good motivations), surprisingly brave and smart enough to question the fundamentals of her society. Mildred wanted to get out, although it took her some time to realise it; Rulisa really wants to fit in. And yet, she can’t.
The story starts with her being expelled from yet another school for destroying a priceless artefact (on the grounds that the magic used to make it could be a major threat to both her father and her fiancé). Word has gotten around and no other school for wicked witches will take her, forcing her to attend White Magic Academy instead. Humiliated, Rulisa swears she’ll make her new school the equal of her old one, a task she finds rather difficult when she discovers that the school is very different (and that Mildred is also a student there.) She learns, almost despite herself, and discovers that her tutors didn’t tell her everything. And then she finds herself targeted by assassins, sent by her old school.
In some ways, White Magic Academy is more traditional than Black Magic Academy. There is more of a focus on schooling and education, rather than leaving the school halfway through the story. In others, it explores aspects of their society that weren’t covered in the prequel. There’s a good reason why witches have the maturity of thirteen-year-old girls (including her father, who gives me the same sort of negative vibes as Fred and George Weasley), ranging from a willingness to act like hormonal idiots to carrying jokes and pranks well into ‘not funny’ territory. And being told they have to kill their death-enemies or risk being killed in turn. Rulisa grows up, a lot, as she realises just how much was left out of the books she was forced to read at her former school.
And where Black Magic Academy can be said to be about Mildred finding her place, White Magic Academy can be said to be about Rulisa growing into a mature young woman.
Overall, the book is light reading, but extremely fun. And clean – Rulisa is engaged to her boyfriend (their society practices betrothals, probably because of the lack of maturity), but they share nothing more than a few kisses throughout the story. I would recommend it to both young and old readers, without hesitation.
You can find Emily’s website here: http://www.emilymarthasorensen.com/