Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy

Ursu, Anne. The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy
October 12th 2021 by Walden Pond Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Marya Lupu lives with her family in a vaguely Medieval, Eastern European area called  Illyria that is beset by The Dread, which can be subdued by sorcerers. Her older brother Luka is to be interviewed for selection for the school where sorcerers are trained, and this could mean financial security and social betterment for the entire family. Marya is a bit hoydenish (given the setting, this seems like a good adjective, but one that has hopefully gone the way of "tomboy"), and her mother is constantly appalled at her "unladylike" behavior. Marya and Luka are often at odds, and he puts her beautiful new dress for the occasion in the hen house, where it is ruined. When the official arrives, the family goat comes into the house through a door that Marya left open, and chaos ensues. Not only does her brother NOT get into the school (although he does not seemed surprised by this), but the family gets a letter that Marya is to report to a school for "troubled" girls, Dragomir Academy. At Rose Hall, Marya and the other girls are forbidden to talk about their pasts, and everything about the school is very suspicious. After having a few epiphanies about the founder of the school and other students, Marya finds herself in the "sanitarium", and is told she has "mountain madness". She claims that she doesn't, but the teachers try to gaslight her into believing that something is wrong with her. Will she be able to determine the link between the girls and the magic of the realm, and how it might affect the approaching Dread?
Strengths: Fans of Ursu's Breadcrumbs and The Lost Girl will enjoy this boarding school story set in a more historical time period. Marya is a spunky character who is ill treated by her family, although it is nice to see that her brother regrets how he treated her. I also enjoyed her neighbor, Madame Bandu, who was a master weaver and saw how Marya's family treated her, and offered to have her babysit her two young sons so Marya could get out of the house. Madame Bandu also is looking into having Marya as an apprentice, and when she is sent to Dragomir, writes her letters. The fact that Marya knows secret weavers' symbols helps her find out more about her school. 
Weaknesses: This is similar to books like Levine's The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Hale's The Princess Academy, and Pierce's Tortall books, but with less action. It does seem like there will be more books in the series, so perhaps those will take a more interesting direction. 
What I really think: Not sure if the Illyrian setting is a shout out to Lloyd Alexander's Vesper Holly books, the first of which is The Illyrian Adventure (set in 1872). This is getting a lot of love for the girl power themes, but there was surprisingly little that the girls were able to accomplish-- it was a lot of setting the scene with society limiting the girls' chances, and not as much of them being able to show their own power. I may wait until the second book to see how the story progresses, especially since I have a lot of books similar in setting and topic. 

Six-Word Memoirs. A Terrible, Horrible, No Good Year: Hundreds of Stories on the Pandemic 
October 15th 2021 by Six-Word Memoirs
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In a recent language arts department meeting (which I attend because there is no better department meeting for me to attend), we all wrote our own six word memoirs, so I investigated this to see if it would be of any help to the teachers. This was fine-- lots of different people from various places and walks of life are included, and the memoirs also cover lots of different topics. I can see having some of these books (there are ten so far) in the classroom if this is an assignment. It might also be interesting as a historical document about the pandemic. 

Any reservations about this title are based on my own preferences and are not reflective on the quality of the book. I'm not necessarily a huge fan of the format (my own memoir is only five words: Read books. Annoyed people. Died.), and I also don't feel that the pandemic was really that unusual a circumstance. My feeling about life is that it is one long succession of various horrible things happening that we all must survive. Or not. The pandemic just spread more horrible things around to more people than usual. I'll purchase if teachers want me to. 

1 comment:

  1. I've had Ursu on my mental TBR for a while. I will try to read this when there is time.