Title: The Natural Order
Author: R.J. Vickers
Genre: Fantasy, Magic, Fiction, Young Adult
What It’s About: Tristian Fairholm is at the grave of his brother Malcom when a woman approaches him and asks him to come with her, claiming to know the strange accident that resulted in Malcom’s death and Tristian’s jailing for manslaughter. Stuck between choosing to return to prison for manslaughter or finding out what is wrong with him Tristian takes her offer and joins her on a flight with several other misfits–all of whom are criminals, except for Evelyn, a girl that they pick up on their last stop. Tristian feels instantly protective of Evelyn “Evie” when he sees her, though he is unsure why.
When they arrive in the island that they will now call home, it is foggy, and the place is not easily visible through the fog, but Tristian and the whole group make their way to the lakeshore, where Tristian gets mesmerized by the waters. There he sees a girl, who almost appears as if she’s a ghost, and pulls her onto shore. The girl, Amber, thanks him for helping her get to shore, and together they walk up to meet with the rest of the group that takes them to the clearing where they see longhouses. The woman, Ms. Merridy, tells them to take a walk through the doors of the longhouse, and Tristian enters down the stairs followed by Leila Swanson, who he befriended on the plane.
As soon as they pass the barrier where there is no sound, sound blossoms–and Tristian finds himself in the Lair. They are introduced to The Lair–the underground academy of magic for misfits–as well as their teachers, including the headmaster, Professor Drakewell. Then they get ushered into their bedroom-where the fourteen kids choose different beds, and Leila tells stories.
As time goes on, the fourteen kids take lessons from the different Professors about Magic. Surprisingly, it turns out that Tristian and Amber show a high aptitude for magic–seeing the swirls of magic and doing it upon their first or second try. The students get punishments and have to work them off with their professors, and also if they get hurt and have to go to the infirmary, one of the professors has them explain what their injuries were and how they got better. As the Thanksgiving holidays close in, the students decide to separate their quarters–Tristian and his group of friends want to find peace away from Zeke and his group of troublemakers, who are constantly antagonizing Leila.
Around the Thanksgiving holidays, the students take a test that requires them to be dropped off with a pack of goods, in the wilderness, and to find their way back to the Lair with magic. Tristian decides to use this test as an opportunity to escape and find his way back to his parents, because he wants to talk to them and get out of Juvie, but as he travels, he finds himself in the path of an avalanche that buries him and ultimately hurts him. When he comes to, he finds that he is back at The Lair, having been transported by the professors, and he watches as the students struggle finding their way back.
After the holiday, things go business as usual, but Tristian begins picking up on the fact that there is something more sinister happening. The Headmaster, Professor Drakewell, has approached Tristian and Amber about being chosen to be the two people who he would use for different missions, because of their natural affinity for magic, but he mentions to them to never open the door with the globe on it. Then Tristian overhears the teachers out in the garden talking about how someone broke into the greenhouse and made a mess–meaning that someone has been attacking the school.
For the second test, which also has to happen outdoors, they are given a map with the ability to lead them back to the Lair. Tristian tries once again to leave, but ultimately finds his way back to school again. Time goes by and finally Tristian and Leila figure out–with the help of Evie–that there are children there that have nothing to do with magic; that there has been some form of discontent between the teachers, specifically Merridy and Drakewell. At first Tristian and their group starts stocking up on magic marbles–that allow them to create magic–but when Tristian figures out that he does indeed have to go behind the door with the globe, he only takes so many marbles with him.
Ultimately, behind the door, he confronts Merridy and it turns out that she was planning on carrying out a environmental event–earthquake or tsunami–to kill humans so that the people with magic could live freely. Tristian is able to hold her off and ultimately she disappears without doing anything else to the globe, which is when they find out that the fourteen students are being trained in the magic they already have in order to take the place of the Professors at the school–these professors are upholding the laws of the ancient magicians in keeping hidden but also righting the balance when humans get it too out of whack.
As school winds down, some of the students decide to stay behind at The Lair or are forced to as they have no family members. Tristian on the other hand returns to his mom, to visit her, and realizes that he misses magic at The Lair, because it has become such an integral part of his life.
My Thoughts: Boring.
I honestly have had the hardest time reading this book. It was hard to keep my eyeballs opened to follow along the story-line. The plot had very little movement. There was a lot of descriptions of the location, and also a lot of information about what the students were taught, and what punishments they got, and how they worked them off. And then there was the argument that lead to the separation of the group into two smaller groups and protecting the dormitory farther down. There was very little action.
For a book that has been described as “Harry Potter-esque” it falls so, so , so short of the Harry Potter series that mentioning it as such is an insult to the Harry Potter series, in my opinion. While Harry Potter had a lot of twists and turns, surprises and the books moved forward not just on interactions with professors but also with other students, the Natural Order was just Tristian did this, had this class, got this punishment, saw this professor for his punishment, then he did this, had this class, got this punishment, got tons of homework to do and worked things off with this other teacher.
I will definitely NOT be reading the remainder of the series, as it was very bland, poorly written, and I don’t think the author even knows how to write a good story just yet.
If you are considering this book, please skip. Read Harley Merlin by Bella Forrest if you’re looking for a spin on Harry Potter, but avoid this book at all costs.