My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Initial reaction: My second read from Jeff Hirsch in “Magisterium” definitely lacked a bit of finesse and progression. I had a hard time caring about the characters and the plot often had rough transitions that made it a more difficult read than it had to be. It’s a shame because there were many good ideas here, just not executed anywhere near what they could’ve been. It was a significant disappointment for me.
“Magisterium” had the potential to be an awesome book, but for the most part, I don’t think Jeff Hirsch improved upon many basic narrative problems that plagued his first novel “The Eleventh Plague” (no pun intended). This book had an apt and fitting premise to its aim, but still suffered from a noticeable lack of character intimacy, stakes, worldbuilding, and overall plot pacing. I was surprised by how lifeless this work was in spurts. It disappointed me in so many ways, and I consider myself a fan of dystopian type fantastical works. This work lends more toward the fantasy, though it begins with a dystopian leaning.
For the life of me, despite being able to follow Glenn through much of this novel in her experiences, I couldn’t stand her character for her insufferable, irresponsible decisions, and these are despite her respective age and experiences. Nor could I identify with much of the cast here. We meet Glenn as she’s wanting to graduate early from school, fends off some advances with her best friend Kevin, is growing distant from her scientist father, and wrestles with memories/disdain of her lost mother. Things take an immense change when her father makes a connection with an important bracelet and hints that it may be a link to Glenn’s mother and that the entire realm Glenn knows is a lie. So what does Glenn do?
She turns her father to the oppressive authorities. Because apparently she thinks he’s crazy and doesn’t realize she could sabotage all that he’s worked for, and just doesn’t trust in what he’s doing. For no reason. And then she has the gall to be surprised when the authorities turn against her and Kevin as well, though Kevin’s father works for this authority.
I kinda knew by that point the book and I weren’t going to get along because while there were quite a few conflicts in this book, there was very little to no sense or reasonation with some significant events. The violence in this is a bit over the top and fails to bear any kind of weight to it, which bothered me. The characters are fairly non-dimensional and the plot suffers from jagged presentation. I wish I could say that it improved over the course of the story. There were moments I thought it would, and even the ending of the novel has a bit of coming together that really set itself apart from the times this book dragged its feet, particularly when Glenn steps up to the plate to use her newfound power to fight against those who wish to harm her and those she cares about. But in the end, it wasn’t enough to redeem it for me. It felt like an action movie with very little heart and with a cast that made it hard to care in certain segments of the plot.
Great ideas, but very poor execution. I’m still hoping that Hirsch’s next work brings more to the table, because he has an interesting style narrative when it works.
Overall score: 1.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Scholastic.