Title: Knightley Academy
Author: Violet Haberdasher
Series: Knightley Academy #1
Henry may only be a servant at the prestigious Midsummer School for Boys, but he’s not content to stay there for the rest of his life. So when a chance comes up to test for admittance to the prestigious Knightley Academy, he jumps at it. But not everyone is happy about the old class lines being broken down. Not everyone wants a commoner at the traditionally nobles-only Knightley Academy. And although Henry is in it for himself, he soon realizes he’s carrying much more than his own hopes and dreams.
I probably would’ve cared more about the overall class structure challenge part of the story (which is a large part) if the overall worldbuilding had been better. The focus stays on Henry and almost exclusively on the two schools he’s part of, as a servant and then a student. This was good for the schools, but not so great when trying to figure out how the world works. The Knights can function as detectives, policemen, and peacekeepers, but the only knight we ever see in action is just directing traffic at the train station. There’s no sense of the political landscape on the Knightley side, beyond the Knights themselves, but this becomes important when dealing with the neighboring country, the Nordlands. So I though the whole thing could’ve benefited from a bit more information on the rest of the setting. (I also didn’t buy that a treaty alone would convince multiple nations to basically disarm, but, well, I was reading a school story, so I let that one slide.)
The characters are well-done. I didn’t buy the ending twist about the ultimate villain, but I did appreciate how various characters—especially the unpleasant ones—were shown to be simply human. Even though the bullies can come across as rather one-dimensional in their defense of a system that mostly benefits them to the detriment of everyone else, they still aren’t entirely monsters. Henry does seem to blow off his earliest attempts to be friendly with the non-commoner students, which was a bit annoying, but understandable.
Overall this wasn’t a bad read, just one I thought could’ve used more worldbuilding to really ground the story in a country/place rather than just a building. I had trouble placing the existence of magic for a long time, since curses feature prominently in the beginning, but it appears this is more of an alternate-history than alternate-world. And despite the solid characters, not much grabbed me in the story overall. I rate this book Neutral.