Legacies (The Shadow Grail #1)
Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
Every once and a while the fine folks at Tor will send me a title which doesn’t quite jive with my demographic. This time around I decided to give one of those titles a chance. Legacies is the start of a new YA series by collaborates Rosemary Edghill and Mercedes Lackey, who previously worked together on the Bedlam’s Bard Series over at Baen. The series opens with heroine Spirit recovering in the hospital after a car accident which left her as the only surviving member of her family. It isn’t too long before she finds out that her parents, themselves orphans, were once wards of the mysterious Oakhurst Academy and, now that she too is an orphan, Spirit has been charged to their care. Of course, Oakhurst isn’t your everyday orphanage, the students there all have magical powers and, in addition to their everyday schooling, must learn to control their powers in order to survive in the world. As if being an orphan and being confronted with the reality of magic isn’t enough Spirit, and the friends she makes at Oakhurst, but face a unknown threat that has been praying on the students of Oakhurst.
Unfortunately for Spirit, Legacies suffers from a surplus of neat ideas that never really bear too much fruit. While the mystery elements of the novel work well enough the world that the characters inhabit never manages to feel real. The characters themselves consistently manage to feel a bit flat with the rebellious teen (Muirin), the prim and proper young lady (Adeladie), the honorable jock (Burke), and the affable and near unflappable teen (Lachlan) never manage to really do anything to define themselves as individuals. Part of the problem is that the narration stays locked from Spirit’s point of view and we never get inside the thoughts of the supporting cast. Indeed some of the more interesting moments come when we leave Spirit’s perspective behind and are introduced to the novel’s threat. The authors also do their supporting cast a bit of a disservice by introducing a bit-character with a backstory and personality more interesting then the rest of the teens; namely a teen who has been “gifted” with clairvoyance since a very young age and irreparably changed by the process. A character who the main cast use and discard in their righteous quest to solve the threat to the student body.
In a school full of magic users the only person without an obvious magic gift is Spirit. It seems a bit of an odd decision and one that hints at a lot of interesting ideas, particularly in how Spirit’s “lack of magic” is revealed, but one that is never explored in depth. It does, late in the novel, allow for some cogent observations on Spirit’s part on how the training the students are receiving set them in often vicious competition with one another. What Spirits lack of a gift means for the reader is that despite being set in a school of magic users we witness very little actual magic. For me this deprives the novel one of the “magic school” genre’s greatest treasures: the sense of wonder and excitement as we, along with the main character, learn more about magic. Like I said, I found it an odd choice and one I’m uncertain I agree with.
As the cover boldly proclaims this as book one of the Shadow Grail there is a bunch of groundwork laid for exploring a greater threat then the abductions that make up the majority of Legacies‘ plot. The problem here is that all this groundwork, through hints and unanswered questions, all seemed more interesting to me than any other part of the novel. Upon arriving at the school the headmaster mentions nebulous threats and dangers that exist in the real world but the nature of those threats is never revealed or even hinted at beyond the ill-defined danger. Bizarre changes in disposition and personality in the aforementioned headmaster are readily observable but left wholly ignored. There are even hints regarding the accident that killed Spirit’s parents, something mentioned several times throughout the novel but never explored. Curiously there is even something of a tangent on parkour early in the novel but in a novel that rapidly moves to a rural environment its inclusion seems a bit strange.
In the end I felt that Legacies was more notable for what it failed to do rather than what it managed to accomplish. There are enough hints at something interesting and wondrous that the derivative plot and occasionally stiff “teen” dialogue feel more disappointing then I suspect they rightly deserve. On the other hand their is a blessed lack of vampires and the romance elements are subdued and never overshadow the plot. For all its failings the hint of the greater threat beyond what is seen here, the possibility of a greater overarching story, have me interested in what will happen next in the series. I won’t be rushing out and grabbing a sequel mind you but Legacies was a breezy read and I’d give the series another shot with the hope that there is more world building and character development then the very little seen here.