Creator: Svetlana Chmakova
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: October 2009
Synopsis: “Schools may lock up for the night, but class is in session for an entirely different set of students. In the Nightschool, vampires, werewolves, and weirns learn the fundamentals of everything from calculus to spell casting. Alex is a young weirn whose education has always been handled through home schooling, but circumstances seem to be drawing her closer to the Nightschool. Will Alex manage to weather the dark forces gathering?”
Alex begins her quest to discover what happened to her sister, a staff member at the city’s secret night school, who mysteriously vanished leaving not even a memory behind in the minds of most. Her sister’s place of employment is the first stop, but to wander the school halls, Alex must first become a student.
Thus began my favourite part of this volume – the continued exploration of the night-school, a conglomeration of magical attributes that while not entirely new to the genre are still chockfull of potential for fun surprises. I like that there were several aspects of the story that seemed to fall almost too conveniently into place during this period but their convenience was never lost on the characters themselves. Waltz into a supernatural school, request enrolment and bam you’re in? Pretty handy for someone who only wants an inside peek, but Alex isn’t going to complain that a stressed out staff proves a bonus for her.
This process of becoming a student in the school proved some of the volume’s most entertaining portions, pairing Alex up with a handful of other newcomers as they traverse the school for the first time. Throw in a busy first day of classes that win Alex some awesome points for skill and sass and you have a perfect opportunity to explore different characters, check out what will likely be a continuously important locale and slip in some important plot implications all while incorporating some good laughs. Alex will undoubtedly garner empathy from readers as a seemingly nervous student on her first day but her overwhelming confidence and ability in the face of classes lacking in a challenge are fun in their brashness as empathy swiftly turns to a teacher momentarily losing face in front of her students.
Sharing equal time in the book however are the darker moments of the series, a continuing plot full of a cast of characters struggling with their individual difficulties. From the young prophet kept on drugs to keep stable and the stretched-thin leader who holds together the band of hunters protecting her, there’s an entire other side of the story then what Alex inhabits and it’s just as ripe with entrancing potential. Their current predicament, one that unknowingly has the group seeking vengeance against Alex for an act she isn’t even aware she committed, makes for scenes with consistently darker feelings than those involving Alex but the un-ignorable connection between all the events will leave readers even more eager to see the two sides overlap again in later instalments.
That said, not everything with the hunters is blood-soaked and tense as the group is given their own time to shine as individuals with different sides of their personalities. A scene where one attempts to describe manhwa to the stoic leader is well worth a chuckle and a brief but energetic sparring match offers both some good character interaction and a chance to show-off Svetlana’s skill with a physical fight scene (not to dispute the coolness factor of her supernatural entanglements).
It’s also nice that there’s an obvious attention to keeping the majority of the characters neutral in that you don’t immediately pin them as either the generic good guy or bad guy. There’s definitely some other characters leaning more in some directions than others but their moments are saved for brief interludes between everyone else to up the suspense.
Ultimately I enjoyed this second volume of Nightschool even more than I did the first, as the creator takes this new world already full of intriguing potential and fleshing it out with vibrant results. The characters are refreshingly complex, their interactions credible, and the plot’s linearity reads well while also weaving in a lot of foreshadowing with the promise of greater things brewing in the background. It also doesn’t hurt that the quality content is wrapped neatly in quality packaging as Yen Press continues to impress with a larger cut size, multiple full colour pages and sharp interior printing – all for prices on-par with other publishers.
I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here as Svetlana delivers another high-entertainment story that I believe can appeal to readers both new and old to her work. Nightschool is one of my most anticipated current releases and I recommend any reader give it a well-deserved go.
Review written July 5, 2009 by Lissa Pattillo
Book borrowed from Halifax Regional Public Libraries