Book One of the Holders series
By Julianna Scott
Available now from Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot)
Becca's younger brother Ryland hears voices. She doesn't believe he's crazy and has spent a great deal of time and effort protecting him from being committed. When another offer comes from a special school she's prepared to ignore it. But St. Brigid's is a school for other gifted people, known as Holders. Becca decides to let her brother go, as long as she can also attend in order to protect him. The only catch is that the headmaster Jocelyn is the father who abandoned Becca and Ryland when they were babies.
I enjoyed how debut author Julianna Scott developed the magic system of her world. The Holders are not all powerful and often have one, small ability. All Holders have a weakness and none can control their magic without training. I enjoyed how well thought out the magic was, although I felt THE HOLDERS slowed down a bit too much at times in order to explain how everything worked. There is, of course, a chosen one and there's little surprise who that chosen one is.
THE HOLDERS feels very much like the first book in the series. There is a lot of set up and not much action until the climax. There's no chance of the Big Bad making even a brief appearance and his only minion on the scene is fairly minor. That doesn't mean the action at the end isn't suitably exciting, but some might be disappointed that very little of THE HOLDERS is driven by magical hijinks. Most of the conflict stems from Becca's relationship with her father and her growing attraction Alex, one of the teachers at St. Brigid's.
I'll admit that I was slightly uncomfortable with the central romance. Alex isn't that much older than Becca, but it's a significant set of years. Plus, he's very much her teacher. Becca's currently between college and high school and can thus focus on learning about magic and Alex is the one to teach her. I don't feel that Becca was manipulated into the relationship or that she's too immature for it, but I definitely wasn't into it.
I was absorbed by THE HOLDERS when I read it. I'll always love detailed magic systems and magic schools. I can forgive any number of faults for those qualities, and Scott's writing is more than adequate. There are a couple of scenes where the sensory description if off-the-charts amazing, most notably when Alex is using his power. I'm sure to be back for book two.