Review: The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin

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L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright once described her Rachel Griffin books as Fringe meets Narnia in Hogwarts. I don’t see the Fringe, but the Harry Potter is easier to see. I’ve finally gotten to The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin.

The plot is ….

Rachel Griffin wants to know everything. As a freshman at Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts, she has been granted to opportunity to study both mundane and magical subjects. But even her perfect recollection of every book she has ever read does not help her when she finds a strange statue in the forest-a statue of a woman with wings. Nowhere-neither in the arcane tomes of the Wise, nor in the dictionary and encyclopedia of the non-magic-using Unwary-can she find mention of such a creature. What could it be? And why are the statue’s wings missing when she returns?

 

When someone tries to kill a fellow student, Rachel soon realizes that, in the same way her World of the Wise hides from mundane folk, there is another, more secret world hiding from everyone-which her perfect recall allows her to remember. Her need to know everything drives her to investigate. Rushing forward where others fear to tread, Rachel finds herself beset by wraiths, magical pranks, homework, a Raven said to bring the doom of worlds, love’s first blush, and at least one fire-breathing teacher. Curiosity might kill a cat, but nothing stops Rachel Griffin!

Imagine the end of Harry Potter. You remember: the school is under full assault by the forces of darkness, things are blowing up, students are fighting, and great beasts are tramping around the campus?

Now imagine if that was book ONE, and that it was even MORE epic.

Yes, I mean that. We’ve got a dragon and hordes of the possessed out to slaughter the school. There’s even an evil math tutor (NOT named Moriarty). I had expected a few lines from Maleficent, but not this must. Heh.

There is no Hogwarts, but Roanoke Academy, in New York. Roanoke wasn’t lost, just misplaced for a while. Muggles are replaced by “the unwary.” If you wondered how the non-magical world looks, this gives you a great look at that, AS WELL AS establishes an overarching storyline. And trust me, this makes Voldemort look like Billy Crystal from Monsters University. And this time, our lead is 13 year old Rachel Griffin. She’s English royalty in America, and her classmates are from all over the world.

And yes, that paragraph alone puts it had and shoulders above the next nearest competitor, which treated America as a nonexistent land.

One of Rachel’s many new acquaintances is Sigfried Smith; who is a Dickens character, with the psychology that should come with it. (Oliver Twist is less fiction and more fantasy, orphans in the system aren’t that cute.) WARNING: Siggy is an acquired taste, but he grows on you, honest. Of course, we also have the magical princess of magical Australia.

Then we’re off to the races.

It’s all too easy to compare it to Harry Potter. It’s not fair…to Harry Potter. While I enjoyed it, the world of Harry Potter was so narrow and confined, you never really got the sense of the larger world. What did it look like? What would it look like?

Also with the books of Rachel Griffin, we get the perspective of someone who lives in the world of magic, excluding the Stranger in a Strange Land that we have in almost any other fantasy world. While Rowling relied on the tried and true “Alice in Wonderland” variety of dropping an outsider into a new world, make them the primary narrator — making information dumps to explain things both the narrator and to the audience, Lamplighter has made a complete world, while penning a narration that encompasses every question one might have about how things work. We haven’t gotten to the economic system yet, but I suspect that that’s coming.

Another achievement of Jagi here is having a full cast of characters. Unlike Harry Potter, who adopts the first two people he meets as friends, to the near exclusion of all others (let’s face it, Neville Longbottom was a punching bag until he became a sword swinging badass out of nowhere), Rachel gathers friends and acquaintances all over the place. There are mean girls, certainly, but nothing fits into the nice, neat little boxes that Rowling jammed her characters into.

There is no one house of “obviously villainy” here, despite obvious hints about it. Sure, there are ominous characters. There’s a Victor von Dread, who I expect to talk in all caps about Latveria. There’s a Salome Iscariot, who I am still very wary about, and will be until the series if over.

The characters are vividly drawn, and deeper than you’d expect. And the world is going to get very, very creepy.

It has been said more than once about Narnia that they were “too good to be wasted on Children.” The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin. might be one of them.

The short version is that this book is awesome, and you need to buy it and read it today. Just click here. You won’t regret it.

Declan Finn is a self-professed crazy person and author — but then, he repeats himself. He is also a Dragon Award nominated author for his “Catholic Vampire romance novels.“.  Most of his various and sundry ramblings can be found on his personal website. As well as all the other strange things he does. He is also in the habit of talking about himself in the third person when writing biographies on other people’s websites.

The Prude and The Trollop

Occasionally, I come upon a review (there has been more than one) of The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin where the reader threw the book across the room and stopped reading at the scene in Chapter Four where crazy orphan boy Sigfried Smith encounters a young woman deliberately wearing too-tight clothing to flaunt her curves and uses the word (brace yourselves, my dear readers) trollop.

These reviewers universally agree: clearly the author (not the character, mind you) must be a disapproving prude out to slut-shame all well-endowed girls.

This is obvious, because the “trollop’s” name is Salome Iscariot–which no author in their right mind would give to a character who was not a villainess. So don’t read her book. Because, you know, evil.

Except…

Salome Iscariot is not a villain.

So, to put to bed any rumors that Salome Iscariot is not adored by her author, here is an excerpt from the soon-to-be-released Third Book of Unexpected Enlightenment: Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland.

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Valerie Hunt and her best friend, Salome Iscariot 

From: Rachel and the Many-Speldored Dreamland

Chapter Twenty-Eight:
Though the World May Burn

“Eeevil! I told you he was evil!” Salome arched her back into a bridge atop a table in the Storm King Café and raised one leg, pointing her toe toward the ceiling. Her skirt slipped down revealing her black-tights-clad thigh. She pursed her deep red lips. “Vladimir Von Dread is sooo evil! Not that I object to him anymore, mind you. He’s actually kind of cool, not to mention brain-stunningly gorgeous, but…conqueror of sixty-five worlds! Totally eeeeevil!”

Siggy’s eyes grew huge, fixed on the shapeliness of her inner thigh. A happy dreamy look came over his face. Then, yanking his gaze away, he grabbed a fork off the table and stuck it into his own thigh until he grunted with discomfort.

“Um, Miss Iscariot,” Siggy raised his palm to form blinders, blocking his view of the young lady. “I don’t mean to sound critical, but this may not be the best place for a display of modern dance. Right, Lucky?”

“I don’t know,” Lucky cocked his head to one side and then the other, “maybe it’s a mating dance. You should bite her on the back of her neck and drag her off to the harem cave. Do you have the hot volcanic sands ready for the eggs?”

“Lucky,” Sigfried replied sternly, “I have explained to you about no harems.” He leaned over and put his arm around Valerie, who rolled her eyes. “Miss Iscariot may be eye-burningly attractive, but I am a one-woman man.”

“I am with Mr. Smith, Miss Iscariot. Perhaps this is not the best venue to appear so unclad,” murmured the Princess, who sat at the same table as Siggy, sipping her tea. Her Tasmanian tiger sat regally beside her.

“Oh you people. You’re such prudes.” Salome flipped her legs over her head and landed lightly on her feet on the floor. She spread her arms. “Ta-da!”

She adjusted her skirt with lackadaisical slowness. The older boys at the far table were not as chivalrous as Sigfried and watched the whole thing with prurient interest. She turned and gave them a languid, smoky glance over her shoulder.

“Does your boyfriend mind you doing that?” Rachel asked, thinking with pleasure of the moment, during the Knight’s dueling period, when she had bested Salome’s boyfriend, the handsome and arrogant Ethan Warhol.

“What can he do about it?” Salome shrugged her shoulders in a fashion pleasing to the upperclassman boys. “If he wants the gorgeous lusciousness that is me,” she made a cute, cheerful gesture, ending with both her hands—and her flaming pink and fire-truck red nails—pointing at her face, “my entourage of lust-maddened boy-toys is part of the package.”

!Rachel and the Many Splendored Dreamland art

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Three Day’s Only! The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin on sale now!

In honor of the release of the revised ebook for The Raven, The Elf, and Rachel, the first Book of Unexpected Enlightenment, The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin is

ON SALE NOW!

Only 99 cents on July 3rd, 4th, and 5th.

! Rachel Griffin Cover

For those who would rather just enjoy the fun, here is the website for Roanoke Academy of Sorcerous Arts. (Warning, it makes noise when you first get there.)

And for those who wonder whether Hogwarts will be getting its own website, check out The Setup Wizard — the diary of the Hogwarts IT guy.