Minor Spoliers Ahead
Henry Grim is a servant boy at the Midsummer School—until he passes the elite Knightley Academy exam and suddenly finds himself one of the first commoners at the Academy, studying alongside the cleverest and bravest—and most arrogant—young aristocrats in the country. They thwart Henry’s efforts to become a full-fledged Knight of the Realm, but he and two commoner classmates are determined to succeed. In the process, the boys uncover a conspiracy that violates the Hundred Years’ Peace treaty—and could lead to war! Can Henry manage to save his school and country from their enemies—and continue to study at the Academy?
This is for young readers and the first thing I’ve noticed is that it’s trying a little too hard to fit into the Harry Potter model of success. Downtrodden main character taken to a wonderful new place, check. Rich classmates who hate him, check. Evil teacher, check. Friendly member of the staff who doesn’t really help beyond moral support, check. The problem being that it doesn’t really work.
The main character, Henry Grim, is humble, smart, and hardworking. While these are great traits, he just doesn’t have the staying power to really hold being the main focus. There is his Jewish classmate Adam who serves as the comic relief, and the adopted son of a Duke who happens to be Indian who serves as the conscience of the group. Like I said before, they are fine characters, but they don’t really hold on their own. The best character in the series is Frankie, the delinquent daughter of the headmaster who befriends the trio, and is constantly getting in kicked out of finishing schools.
It’s not a bad read, it’s not amazing. My main gripes with it are that it feels like it was forced into the Harry Potter mold and it just kind of ends. I reread the last chapter a couple of times and it’s almost like the author realized she was close to her word limit and just started tying up loose ends. A series about Frankie being the first girl to attend the academy would have been better for the marketing and reading.