The first book an fantasy series which follows sisters Aurie and Pi in a school of magic. However, it can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Publisher: Black Moon Books
Page count: 316 at GoodReads

The story is set in an American city of Invictus which is famous for the Hundred Halls of magic. Each Hall takes only teenaged initiates; they must all pass tests (called the Merlins) where they compete against each other and the tests must be passed before their 21st birthday. The Halls are like American collages; it’s expensive to go there but they also provide room and board. In fact, if you get in, the first year students are forbidden to go out of the Halls, at least on their own. The reputation of each Hall vary. The most exclusive of them is the aptly named Coterie where all students are expected to come from rich families who have members already in that Hall. Also, the students must have patrons to support them during the second year and beyond.

Aurie and Pi (Aurelia and Pythia) are orphans; their parents died in a magical accident seven years ago. They’ve drifted from one foster home to another and are now living together in a very poor part of the city. Aurie carries a lot of guilt from the accident and has tried to take care of her younger sister as best she can. This makes Pi think of her older sister as bit of a domineering pain-in-the-neck. But they clearly love and support each other. Aurie is very responsible and studious but also caring and a creative thinker. She works as a volunteer at the local hospital, caring for children who have very serious magical diseases. However, she’s dismissed from that job because of the actions of an arrogant girl. Oh and the sisters aren’t white.

Aurie wants to get in the Halls at the same time as Pi, so that she knows Pi will be taken care of. Also, they both work to get the money. This is the last year Aurie can take the trials, just before her 21st birthday. She’s studied hard and is sure she’ll make it. However, that arrogant girl who got her dismissed, is also in the trials and makes life really hard for Aurie.

Meanwhile, Pi wants to get into Coterie. She wants it so much that she contacted a Corterie patron and almost forced him to give her a mission. That mission is to summon a demon and find out where the Rod of Dominion is. So, Pi does that. In order to summon a demon lord, she sells her soul to a city fae for three years. And the trouble just starts from there.

The story is very exciting with some twists, too. Pi is more reckless than her sister and pushes her powers and knowledge often to the limit, sometimes dangerously so. They both attract enemies just by being lower class orphan (non-white) girls trying to better their lives. Personally, I sometimes found the hostility from some of the other students a bit much; surely a teacher should have intervened, unless they are deliberately teaching the students to form exclusive cliques and become bullies. Maybe they are, at least in the Coterie.

The magic system isn’t explained much. The sisters use hand gestures and words and require a lot of concentration to do magic. Aurie also writes truth magic. It’s powered by something called faez which apparently those with magical ability create. However, demons are also called faez demons and some places also seem to generate it.

However, the story was mostly exciting and I loved the gaming store where Pi works. It’s owner, Hemistad, is man with many secrets and having side characters playing Magic and role playing games on the side was great. I also loved the sisters. We get alternating view points from them.