Conspiracies is the second book in the YA supernatural series Shadow Grail co-written by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill.
The first book in the series is called Legacies and I would strongly recommend you read that first! If you haven't, check out my review of it here, and avoid this review for inevitable spoilers of Legacies. Otherwise, read on -
When Spirit White arrived at Oakhurst Academy, still deep in mourning over the sudden death of her parents and sister, she knew the place was weird. Super-duper fancy, obviously soaked in wealth, highly competitive, and classes on how to use your magical abilities.
That's right! Magical abilities! But Spirit had none she could find. Yet despite that and the school's seemingly anti-friends policy, Spirit managed to make friends with some fellow students - Burke, Loch, Muirin, and Addie. And Spirit was the first to notice that students going missing overnight wasn't really normal - that the school's explanation for these things was odd.
Together they figured out that there was a Wild Hunt going on at the school - one in which magical beings went on a joy ride chasing and killing students - and that someone inside the school must be letting them in. The five of them were nearly killed themselves, but managed to stop the Hunt - hopefully for good.
But the person (or persons?) who allowed this to happen is still at large and Spirit isn't as at ease as her friends are. They've moved on to upcoming formal dances and getting back to their studies, happy to leave the remainder of the investigation up to Doctor Ambrosius, the headmaster. Spirit isn't so trusting - she's always found Doctor A just as strange as the rest - one minute senile, the next calculating.
Spirit seems to be proven right as new magical attacks begin to take place against the students. Waves of utter terror strike them frozen. Alumnus and security experts are called in to help protect Oakhurst Academy as they are now "at war" - yet whom they are fighting against is never revealed.
Their new "protectors" still don't put Spirit's mind at rest. None of it sits right with her. Her friends, however, are happy to let the adults step in. Is Sprit paranoid? She doesn't know - but she just hopes that she and her friends will stay alive long enough to graduate from Oakhurst Academy - goodness knows, many haven't...
Alrighty, so I was a fan of Legacies, the first book, and I was definitely in need of a bit of a recap of what happened in our first go-round as I had to jump directly into this sequel without a reread - again. It is both a good and bad thing to be this overloaded with new books! Happily, we are given a bit of a subtle (very subtle) overview of the events in Legacies.
I found Conspiracies to be excellent! Spirit's continued lack of magical abilities make her an outsider, even among her friends, and somehow this makes her all the more likable. There is this sense of Spirit being alone - in her suspicions, in her continued mourning for her family, in her lack of magic. She is smart and determined - with a sadness and insecurity that is dealt with in such a quiet, lovely way.
And the authors do such a great job of soaking Oakhurst Academy in mystery that you start to feel paranoid about everything! There is that I'm-being-watched feel at the school, and I even started to feel that Spirit's buds were off - and began questioning their motives as well. It's ominous, creepy, and never feels safe - Hogwarts this is not!
Conspiracies introduces us to a new student named Elizabeth and we are given a fascinating story with her - one that is utterly intriguing and brings extra layers to the mystery that veils Oakhurst. Another thing new in Conspiracies is a bit more overt romance hints - always a good thing! Yet there is such a question as to Burke and Loch's loyalties at times that you aren't sure what you want - do you want Spirit to end up with one of them, or are they gettin' a little jerky? But what if they are maybe being influenced by something? Oh, it's just crazy the level of paranoia that Eghill and Lackey bring to their own primary characters!
There are revelations that fascinated and delighted me and a very fast-paced, enjoyable tone that was also paced in a patient, sometimes slow way. As the tension steadily builds and the intrigue begins to speed up the plot more and more, I found myself becoming frustrated and maddened by the secondary characters - all of this in a good way, the kind of frustration you get when you're loving it, if you know what I mean.
And then - WOW! Some BIG secrets are uncovered late in Conspiracies that make the series darker, deeper, and all the more addictive!!! When you read it, you'll know what I mean. This is a very, very good paranormal series, and a great addition to the series! I am ready for the next Shadow Grail novel now, please!
***ALERT: Due to my continued bibliophile reading overdosing, I am still having 5 reviews a week through August. After that, I am absolutely returning to only 3 reviews a week in September and on. So, we'll just think of this as a summer special! Thanks for reading!!!