The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin
by L. Jagi Lamplighter
Dark Quest Books, 2013
A Review by
Colleen R. Cahill
Often when a reader finishes a Harry Potter book, their first question is “What next?” The real problem comes at the end of the series and there are many lists of what to read after the Potter books. With the release of The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin by L. Jagi Lamplighter from Dark Quest these lists just got a bit longer with a very intriguing work.
We enter a world that is similar to ours, but with some dramatic differences, such as New York city tourist spots including the “Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building” and “the gilded temple of Apollo on Fifth Avenue”. Definitely not the city I know. The main character, Rachel Griffin, is a talented thirteen year old who just started at Roanoke Academy on the Hudson River, the only school that teaches all seven branches of magic. Not that the Academy is generally known to the “Unwary” or those that don’t know magic or wizards exist. Rachel has been accepted a year early to the Academy because of her exceptional abilities and part of this comes from her prefect memory. Not only can Rachel recall all she has seen and heard, she can replay memories to examine them in detail, looking for things she might have missed at first glance. She will need this special ability, as her life just got very busy. On her first day at the Academy she “made friends, spied out an imposter, witnessed a murder attempt, bonded with her familiar, considered a possibility of a world beyond her world, met a helpful boy who might possibly be evil, learned the name of the clandestine organization for which her father worked, discovered one of her new friends could visit other worlds in visions” and “talked to a dragon.” Woo!
Rachel also discovers that not everything in school is light and joy. As the daughter of an English Duke, Rachel was previously tutored at home and led a somewhat sheltered life. She now gets to discover things like school cliques and is even is a target for bullying. And while she might have a perfect memory, her magically abilities are good but not the best. Perhaps Rachel’s greatest disappointment is she was placed in Dare Hall, a tradition with her family. This is for those studying musical magic, but she would rather be in Dee Hall with the researchers and scholars.
It’s obvious to see where this book is like the Harry Potter stories, with its magical school, flying brooms and old evil returning, but this work is special because of its differences. Roanoke Academy has an international student body, with members from all over the planet. Rachel’s noble pedigree and loving family are in direct contrast to Harry Potter’s home life plus she is not a household name in the world of the Wise. It’s the differences between these works that fascinates me the most in this page-turning book. Oh, and another similarity is this is the first in a series and I am really looking forward to the next volume.
So if you are craving a magical school adventure, you can’t go wrong with The Unexpected Enlightenment of Rachel Griffin.