Violet Haberdasher's Knightley Academy
Book review by Ramona Davis
Look out Harry Potter. Meet Henry Grim.
Henry Grim is an orphan who has only ever known serving aristocratic boys at a privileged school in England called Midsummer School. He does menial chores like serving meals to the rude, spoiled rich boys of the school, cleaning blackboards, and helping the maids do dishes and make beds, just to have a place to lay his head at night and food in his stomach.
When Henry is caught stealing books from the library to feed his thirst for knowledge, an eccentric, old professor gives him lessons in private, secretly, instead of turning him in to the school's administrators.
When Professor Stratford encourages Henry to take an exam that will get him into the prestigious Knightley Academy, through a loophole that says any resident of the school can take the exam, Henry is worried that a commoner like himself won't make the grade. All of that changes when Henry takes the exam and passes - the first boy to do so in five years! Now he'll have the opportunity to train as a modern knight, among a new group of privileged students; a group he has only ever known to serve.
Once at Knightley Academy, Henry, along with friends he has met there that are as common as himself, becomes the victim of sabotage and hate that threatens to get the trio expelled. Enter one of Henry's rivals from Midsummer School, Valmont, and things only get worse for the group. Now they are subject to teasing and pranks that promise to do more than get the boys put out of school, but put their lives at risk. When Henry and his friends try to find out who is sabotaging them, Henry discovers secrets about Knightley's rival school, Partisan, that could start a war and break a treaty that was designed to keep peace in the land.
While Knightley Academy runs parallel to the Harry Potter series, it is definitely in a class by itself. It is defined not by the magic of a school like Hogwarts, but by the ideas of valor, honor and knighthood that one can truly relate to the era of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
You won't find potions class, necklaces that turn back time, or mystical creatures at Knightley Academy, but it is no less filled with adventure than the J.K Rowling books it can be compared to.
Though Haberdasher has worked a few social issues into this tale (different ethnicities and social classes working together and becoming friends; the positive way to deal with bullying), there is nothing heavy about her story line. This will not only appeal to adults, but will make young readers aware that even in fantasy, nothing is always perfect.
She also weaves fantasy and history together quite nicely without being over-the-top unbelievable, and her characters are easy to relate to and very likable, even the protagonists who also have demons of their own to face.
Knightley Academy is definitely one to add to the shelves of those looking for something to replace Harry Potter, as well as those that just aren't into magic. It is a work that is both entertaining and enjoyable to read, and contains just enough mystery to keep you guessing until the end.
Read more of Ramona's reviews.
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