Aldwyns Academy is a YA/middlegrade companion novel to A Practical Guide to Wizardry, from the Dungeons & Dragons series of books, written by Nathan Meyer.
Dorian Ravensmith has no interest in being a wizard, though his mother is a well-known one. He'd rather be a warrior, like his father. Especially since he hates trying to focus and study, which is required of wizards. But his mother is insistent and puts her reputation on the line to get him into the prestigious, world-famous Aldwyns Academy for Wizardry.
Before sulky Dorian and his stubborn Mom even reach the gates of Aldwyns, dire wolves attack them. And in the midst of panic and fear, Dorian attempts a bit of magic and ruins a spell of his mother's, causing more harm than good. When Lowadar, the headmaster of school, comes to their rescue, this dangerous inadequacy of Dorian's does not enchant Lowadar, and his Mom has to fight to keep his spot at Aldwyns. So, when Dorian meets his stubborn second-year mentor, Helene, and learns of the mysterious occurrences at the school of late (ghosts, banshees, spying, missing students and whispering professors) - he sees a way to get himself back in Lowadar's good graces (even if he doesn't want to be at Aldwyns, it rankles him that the headmaster doesn't think he's good enough). He happens to see Helene sneaking out that very same night and decides to follow and help clear up the issues with Aldwyns, thinking that could make him a hero.
But Dorian doesn't realize what he's about to face, nor the magic required to face it properly...
Aldwyns Academy has a magical, otherworldly start, but with how fast the action of the story takes off, it is a bit confusing. And though I love detailed fantasy novels, some of the exposition feels almost like quotes from the practical guide Aldwyns Academy is a companion to, causing the book to lack an easy, smooth narrative flow.
The variety of creatures, elves, wizards, half-orks, banshees, hobgoblins and the like create a favorable atmosphere of fantasy and adventure to younger readers, I'm sure... yet, for me personally, it seemed to not have that factor of sink-your-teeth-into-it entertainment and escapism for me as an older reader, with its sometimes murky storytelling.
However, Aldwyns Academy is in no way a bad book - and as I got farther into it, there is an air of creepiness that does begin to sink in. The themes of family issues and friendship bring a slightly more grounded quality to it, and the action/adventure of the story has a feel of a videogame - not very approachable to me, but highly interesting and fun, I'm sure, for other readers.
I in no way wish to be harsh, because Aldwyns Academy has its merits as a frenetic journey of magic and danger. It is only in my individual opinion that it was more of a mishmash of spells and beings that forgot to let us learn with Dorian instead of be a befuddled observer that may end up finding these numerous, quickly mentioned details to be tedious. For me, I would've liked to have seen more character development and a restrained hand when it comes the plot, pacing, and direction the novel took. But, again, this is just me. I never, ever, want to dissuade you from reading a book!!! Read it for yourself!
Though Aldwyns Academy did sometimes come across as a pale comparison to Hogwarts in my Harry-Potter-lovin' opinion, the author did successfully create vivid visualizations of almost everything he wrote, including the gross stuff.
When it comes to the companion novels to the practical guides in the Dungeons & Dragons series, Nocturne and Monster Slayers (click on the titles to read my reviews) were more enjoyable. But Aldwyns Academy is an entertaining, if overstuffed and maybe flawed, fantasy romp that will be delightful to many.