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Xavier: St Griswold College for Abandoned Boys Kindle Edition
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Xavier finds companionship in Ethan, a savvy student, and in Gabe, a boy who seems from another world. As their friendship grows, they become aware of the growing danger they face at school. They have little choice but to try to escape, although rumors of boys' bones in Mourn Forest suggest escape is impossible. During their adventures, the boys encounter demons, angels, and other odd characters.
Here is masterful writing that is almost perfect. Occasionally we run into pronoun confusion, but other than that, the description is clear and the writing flows. There are no wasted words as the author puts us adeptly within each scene. And we see and feel everything from Xavier's point of view. The boys are so believable in their behavior, such writing is a joy to read.
I loved everything about the story, except the surprise ending. It made me feel bushwhacked and dropped off a cliff. Some may like endings that aren't endings, but I believe there are better ways to convince the reader to buy the next book in a series.
The author is very creative in using new situations and new nemesis characters, loosely based on general religious and evil beings from multiple religions. This blend of new unknown with ancient beliefs and legends makes the book more interesting for older adults while aimed at middle school and high school kids. Some caution may be needed for sensitive kids, and most may require some explanation of the various evil and demonic creatures to prevent nightmares driven by misunderstanding the fictional but real to some dangers faced in this book. For most well read kids, the fears are similar to video games, and can be stopped or reset if too graphic.
I suppose that's because I spent most of my life as a journalist before I began writing mysteries. As a reporter covering crime, the occasional war, and disasters both natural and man-made, I have seen the darker side of the human experience. The result: I can relate more easily to a gritty detective novel than I can to a book about elves, dwarves with magical powers, witches, and warlocks.
That said, I found E.M. Cooper's "Xavier: St. Griswold College for Abandoned Boys" a good read despite the presence of angels and other fantastic beings.
The reason: It reads a lot like a gritty mystery.
The setting is grim, for example, and the protagonist is a reluctant hero. He doesn't know why he has been abandoned by his parents at the college - a sort of Hogwarts with a (very) dark side - and he's not sure why he often finds himself in trouble for breaking rules he didn't know even existed. Once he and two friends escape from the college they are pursued relentlessly by people who - for reasons he does not understand - desperately want them back at St. Griswold.
Cooper writes in a headlong style: The characters race through the book at full speed as they are being chased by not only people but also by some fairly fantastic beasts. Not all of the characters in the book are fully developed, but since this is designed to be the first book in a series that did not trouble me overmuch. The plot is straightforward although there is one twist at the end that I admit I did not see coming.
All in all, a good read especially for fantasy fans.
When Gabe appears at Griswold, the story truly begins and the pace quickens; a quarter of the way into the story and you won't want to stop reading. The interactions between Xavier and Gabe are entertaining, and often funny, which is a nice contrast to the dark tone and atmosphere of Griswold. Gabe is not what you would expect, which is a good thing as predictability is boring.
The second half of the book is where it excels. Tense and intriguing, it flows fast as Xavier tries to make sense of what is happening at Griswold and to himself. Here, the author begins the setup for the conclusion, and sets the stage for the second book.
Without posting spoilers, I will say that the ending is a good one, and achieves what the first book in a series should achieve: it makes you anxious for the next one!
Xavier is a fine book, especially so for the young adult crowd. At times, I imagined the book having a supernatural feel to it, as if it would make a great graphic novel. It is well-written with believable and fully developed characters, and a plot that moves well. Recommend highly, especially for boys!