January 7, 2013

Book Review: The Academy by Emmaline Andrews

At First Sight: For many years, Kristina Jameson has enjoyed her life in the company of her sickly twin brother Kristopher, helping him with his studies and encouraging him to practice his violin, happy to remain off their father's radar.

But now that Kristopher is healthy again, their father Admiral Jameson wants him to go to the Royal Academy, excel in all his classes and promptly join the Space Corps upon graduation. To Kristopher this is like a death sentence, but for Kristina there is nothing she would like more.

Oh, she knows that as a female she has no chance of getting into the Corps, but she would love to learn to fly and navigate, and get out of from under her father's thumb once and for all. In a split second, Kristina convinces Kristopher to let her take his place at the Academy (while he goes off and tries to get into a prestigious orchestra).

It reeks of a bad plan, and no one is more surprised than Kris when she fools the headmaster and gets admitted but, as she realizes, that's only the beginning of her troubles. On the first day she caught the school's bully in a compromising situation, she's too small and not very strong and her roommate, North, keeps having to come to her rescue. 

Second Glance: *deep sigh* I so wanted to like the Academy!! It was as if someone had wanted to make a book and make sure I would be all over it as it combined three of my ALL TIME FAVORITE tropes: a) Girl has to disguise as a boy, b) Space Academy, c) Boarding school. Yet, The Academy never quite works.

At the beginning we are quickly explained some of the rules of the world where the story takes place, but the explanation was a bit flimsy, and only trotted out when it served to remind us really-big-trouble Kris would get into if she got caught, but it was never really explored.

Kris is an awkward narrator and we are constantly told she's very 'modest', that in her hometown people just Don't Do That (like kissing before your married, piercing your ears, and a whole host of other things), and it quite frankly just sounds like whining after a while. She'seems like a very naive person - to the point that almost every other character she interacts with comments on it - and even her speech patterns are awkward because they are so formal and her sensibilities so victorian and then she just lets out a word of expression that is jarringly modern.

North was nice but he's also kind of too perfect, he fits his role of savior/love interest to a T and that makes him seem bland and cartoonish more often than not. That is, in fact the big problem with the book: everyone is both bland and cartoonish at the same time, particularly the villains of the story.

Bottom Line: The Academy was like a big, epic fanfic, I'm sad to say. It just lacked certain amount of polish to seem like truly profesional work. The idea of it is terrific - like I said, it appeals to some of my favorite plots and devices - but I didn't care for the execution. Did my soul die a little each time I read the book? Not at all, it was engaging, even if it irritated me from time to time, but I've seen these tropes been done successfully quite often, and this wasn't it.

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