Brimming with new ideas for magical research, Emily returns to Whitehall School for her Second Year, only to discover that things are going to be different. Her friends have become sports-mad fanatics, her new roommates are strangers to her, her new classes are far harder and one of the teachers seems to actively dislike her. As she returns to the comforting routine of the only place she considers home, she finds that Second Year will be far harder than the first.
But as the students settle in to continue their studies, it rapidly becomes clear that all is far from well at Whitehall. There’s a murderer running loose in the school. A murderer who may be a newborn necromancer. And then there’s the spy watching Emily from the shadows, waiting for her to make one tiny, but fatal mistake …
As the darkness falls on Whitehall, Emily may be their salvation…or the person who damns them all.
I have to say that, so far, I prefer the instalments of this series where Emily is continuing her character development at Whitehall. In this instalment Emily is back in Whitehall just in time for a nice murder mystery so the book does indeed get off to a good start. The book starts off with Emily being forced to share room with two new roommates instead of with her friends by a not so likable new teacher at the school. Also, one of the roommates are, well, not exactly human. Fairly soon some disgusting stuff hits the magical fan when a murder is discovered and from there the body count rises rapidly while Emily and the teachers tries to figure out what is happening.
This book is pretty much a standalone episode in the series in that it has a well-defined start, middle and end and focuses on a single event, the murder mystery, a bit like a Hercule Poirot TV-episode. It of course follows the previous book time wise and story wise and events and their effects in previous books are present in this book as I am sure that some of the events in this book will indeed have some impact in later books. Still, this book feels more standalone than many books in a series and it is not moving some “grand scheme” or story arc ahead as much as some books do. Personally I am quite happy with this. I do not like book series that ends up feeling like one big series of cliffhangers.
As usual Emily have to deal with a wee bit of politics, a lot of interpersonal relations and, of course, the bad guys…or should I perhaps say the bad things? Actually it is perhaps a bit of both but I wont spoil the book by going into details. As the book focuses primarily on the murder mystery, the latter which also disrupts the entire school and the studies for everyone, the actual character development, at least in terms of Emily’s advancements in magic skills, are not so prominent in this book. Again I do not mind at all. If nothing else it makes the good stuff last longer. Having said that I am a bit split on the issue of a few of her ideas which are considered “too dangerous” by her teachers. I still would have liked Emily to surprise her environment with some impressive magic at some point. That is a very minor gripe though.
Completely unsurprising the book is as well written as usual. The characters are well done, the atmosphere is excellent and the story is a good one. Having read several of Mr. Nuttall’s books by now I am indeed impressed by his ability to write such diverse (fantasy, sci-fi, military etc…) stories with the same excellence. Most good authors I know tend to stay in one genre or at least I only like their books in one genre.
Again, I am looking forward to the next installment in the series.