- Age Range: 8 and up
- Grade Level: 3 and up
- Lexile Measure: 840L (What's this?)
- Series: Circle of Magic (Book 1)
- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: Troll Communications (September 15, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0816769362
- ISBN-13: 978-0816769360
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 25 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,287,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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School of Wizardry (Circle of Magic, Book 1) Paperback – September 15, 2000
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Top customer reviews
Of course at my current age (>30), I do find each individual book rather brief (they're ~120 pages each). If you're new to the series, you might find the relationships between the characters do not fully develop within each book, particularly the first. For that reason I would actually suggest reading the books in pairs (1+2, 3+4, 5+6), as I think there are some natural story arcs covered by each of these pairings.
The world created is interesting, with restrictions on magic users, such as their inability to lie or use swords without risking the loss of their powers. The main characters --- Randal, Lys, and later in the series Walter --- form a natural adventuring trio being a wizard, bard, and knight. I like their noble characters (i.e. their pride, honesty, friendship), and they are consistently written. I also enjoy how the feel of conjuring a spell is conveyed, and how Randal struggles with learning magic for quite a while (indeed, he is failing for most of the first book), but persists and grows because of his passion and efforts.
For parents, the world is a bit of a dark one, with the lack of a king for 20 years leading to greater crime and chaos, so there are incidents of bandits, demons, and battles with magic and swords where individuals are seriously hurt or even die. None of this is gory, and I'd say it's definitely tamer than most things out there (e.g. the Harry Potter books and movies), but I probably would not recommend this book for very young children (e.g. grades 1-2). There is also very little in the way of romance; it is more of an adventuring and personal growth story.
In the original printings, a couple paragraphs are in different fonts for no apparent reason. I do not know if there are any differences between the old and new printings besides the title changes and cover art. I personally prefer the older titles and art, but these are both minor issues, and will not significantly affect your enjoyment of these books.
Overall, I would definitely recommend reading the first two books, especially if you enjoy adventuring books and/or a medieval setting. However, if you do not enjoy the first two, then there is little point in reading the rest (book 5 is my personal favorite, but they are all pretty similar in terms of style and maturity level).
Randal is an ordinary squire in Doun until the day the wizard Madoc shows up. Without any clear reason why, Randal is attracted to the life of a wizard; a prophetic dream adds to this feeling. Madoc tries to warn him off, but Randal means it: He wants to be a wizard. Madoc finally takes him to the Schola, a wizards' school.
But learning magic and wizardry are not as easy as Randal thought. "Potential" does not mean that he will pass, and wizards are forbidden to kill, lie, or use a weapon. Randal finds it unbearably difficult to do even the most basic magic. He throws himself into his studies... but just as everything seems to be turning for the better, he finds himself face-to-face with a hideous threat.
Randal is the ideal hero for any kid who has struggled in school, not through lack of effort but from lack of understanding; he's smart, brave, gutsy, and sweet. He's supported by the enigmatic wanderer Madoc, his cheerful friend Nicholas, and the ragged musician Elys.
The older wizards are well-portrayed, being stern but kindly, strict but not rigid; the Schola is likewise, a place of great learning and magic, but also incredibly difficult to get through. Writing is very good as well; Doyle/Macdonald don't talk down to their readers, or dumb things down with the assumption that the kiddies can't handle anything more complex. They also put forth the neglected idea that just because you do badly at studies doesn't mean you're stupid, and that such things can be overcome more often than not.
Many authors can't pull off trying to tell a story in fragments of six, seven, eight small books. The end results are often poorly written and horribly characterized. Garth Nix can pull it off, and so can Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald. This book is both well-written and well-characterized, and I'm looking forward to the next one.