by Svetlana Chmakova
published by Yen Press; $10.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Alex Treveney has just enrolled to be a student at Nightschool #13W, but her interests are less academic and more personal. Her older sister Sarah was the Night Keeper for the school and has recently disappeared. Worse, no one but Alex seems to have any memory of Sarah at all. The only way Alex could get access to the school, and look for her sister was by becoming a student. However, Sarah’s disappearance is connected to larger events going on in the supernatural world, a world that Alex only has limited knowledge of. Her education is going to be much greater than she realizes.
Volume two of Nightschool is more focused and character-driven than volume one. Thankfully, with all the major world-building out of the way, the story’s pace has slowed. We’re still introduced to a few new characters, but they arise more naturally out of the story’s context. Also, we see how the various narrative strands introduced in volume one fit together and are really facets of the grand narrative of the series. With this volume, the reader no longer feels overwhelmed by information.
As the volume summary illustrates, Alex is the central character of the series. Her story takes up the bulk of volume two. Not surprisingly, she is the most developed character we’ve met so far.
Alex is a young teen now forced to fend for herself. She’s at that age when she is trying to define herself and discovering new things about herself at the same time. Thus, she is both self-assured and filled with doubts. We are given hints that she has tremendous abilities; apparently, even she isn’t aware of the extent of her powers. For example, I love the incident in the astral training class. It sums up Alex in one scene, beautifully illustrating the depth of her relationship with her sister, her arrogance, her doubts, and her potential. The flashback and the pages that follow are particularly moving.
The other major storyline in this volume focuses on the group of witches known as the hunters. They are recovering from their encounters in volume one and trying to understand everything that happened in the cemetery. There are two great mysteries that need to be solved. In case they don’t have enough on their plates, they are also having problems with the werewolf clan. Unfortunately, the ensemble is too large for there to be much character development in this storyline. We do discover that several of the hunters are students at the school Alex enrolled in. Hopefully, as they interact with Alex more they will become more fleshed out.
Svetlana’s artwork continues to delight. The color pages are a nice bonus; I wish there were more of them. Her page layouts are exceptional. The page design is clean and makes for easy, quick reading. The splash pages perfectly capture a moment. Svetlana does a great job creating an urban fantasy environment. The common reality we are all live in serves as the foundation for the visual look. She layers the supernatural elements on top of this framework. Her restrain in adding magical elements is refreshing and makes the world more believable.
Volume two of Nightschool shows improvement over the previous volume. The slower pace allows the plot and characters the room they need to blossom. Readers will find this volume much easier to follow and thus more satisfying. Also, we’re finally given the time needed to connect with Alex. However, just as we’ve settled in and become captivated by the story, the book ends. There’s a wonderful cliffhanger that leaves you craving more. Svetlana has found her rhythm with volume two, and the rest of the series promises to be an engaging read. I look forward to volume three to see how the story and Svetlana continue to develop.