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Magic. Romance. War. Perfect for fans of Throne of Glass, Falling Kingdoms, and Tamora Pierce.

Before the age of seventeen, the young men and women of Jerar are given a choice —pursue a trade or enroll in a trial year in one of the realm’s three war schools to study as a soldier, knight, or mage…

For fifteen-year-old Ryiah, the choice has always been easy. Become a mage and train in Combat, the most prestigious faction of magic.

Yet when she arrives, Ry finds herself competing against friend and foe for one of the exalted apprenticeships. Everyone is rooting for her to fail—first and foremost among them is Prince Darren, the school prodigy who has done nothing but make life miserable since she arrived.

Will Ry survive, or will her dream go down in flames?

276 pages, Paperback

First published August 11, 2014

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About the author

Rachel E. Carter

9 books3,494 followers
Rachel E. Carter is the USA Today bestselling author of The Black Mage, a YA fantasy series about magic, love, and war -with future projects to come. She hoards coffee and has a weakness for villains and Mr. Darcy love interests.

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5 stars
7,277 (33%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,745 reviews
August 29, 2020
Speedy trial review -

- Wonderfully likeable lead heroine who truly grows as a character as the novel progresses.
- The relationship between Ryiah and Darren is absolutely mesmerizing.
- Very original take on the concept of magic.
- Duels between the students are particularly exciting.
- Much sharp dialogue throughout.

- Narrow focus on the events at the Academy prevents this story from reaching a truly epic scale.
- World needed more building.

Four-and-a-half out of five stars
Its setting at a school of magic will inevitably lead to comparisons to Harry Potter, but the brilliant "First Year" novel actually has more in common with The Karate Kid. It's a moving and inspirational tale of a student who fights impossible odds and learns to believe in herself rather than trying to make others believe in her!

Much-Wordier Review

For her entire 15 years on the world of Jerar, Ryiah has had but one dream. To become a mage in the art of Combat Magic. But the day she and her twin brother Alex reach the magical Academy, Ryiah receives her wake-up call. Over a hundred hopeful students have shown up, but only fifteen will graduate the first year and move on to become apprentices in their magical studies. And many of the students have already received private tutoring and are far more skilled in magic than Ryiah is. Despite these seemingly insurmountable odds, Ryiah refuses to give up. Rather, every day after her teachers are done pushing her, she pushes herself even harder, learning all she can to become all she can. But standing in her way is the brooding young man who stands at the top of the class. The arrogant Prince Darren, who infuriates Ryiah with his constant condescension, but also intrigues her as well. Soon Ryiah comes to question if Darren will not only steal her apprenticeship, will he steal her heart as well...

Before I start talking about the book, I want to take a moment to discuss the cover, or more specifically, the tagline on the cover:
"Magic just got a whole lot harder."
I must confess that before I began the book, it struck me that the idea of magic being difficult was a rather unusual one to use as a hook. I mean, it's certainly not a bad tagline, but I thought it lacked the "oomph" of "In space, no one can hear you scream", or "Be afraid, be very afraid", or my personal favorite, from Vanilla Ice's motion picture debut, "When a girl has a heart of stone, there's only one way to melt it. Just add Ice."
You thought I made that last one up, didn't you?!? Actually, a more accurate tagline for the Vanilla Ice romance movie would have been:
"It's like Romeo and Juliet...if Shakespeare really hated his audience!"

But after reading the book, I fully understand exactly why that tagline was used now. Because in Rachel E. Carter's fantasy realm, magic IS difficult! It's not simply a matter of waving a wand. It's not something that people are just born with and able to use with expertise right away. Magic demands sacrifice, toil, and dedication. The book takes a very unconventional approach to the concept of magic, and because of that, lead heroine Ryiah is very unconventional as well. Ryiah isn't destined to be a hero like so many other protagonists in these kinds of stories (like a certain boy who lived). She's not the best or the strongest or even the nicest person we meet. No, Ryiah has to fight and sweat and claw very step of the way just to try to make it to the end of her first year at the Academy. And that's exactly why she is so fascinating to read about. Because we're not just watching her struggle, we're watching her grow! And as she becomes more skilled and more confident throughout the story, it feels like a completely natural progression of her character, rather than simple plot convenience.

In addition to watching Ryiah grow as a character, we watch her relationships grow as well. Her friendship with Ella grows stronger as they help each other train, even though they're competing for the same prize. Her twin brother Alex is very protective of her, but as Ryiah becomes stronger and bolder, he begins to accept that she can take care of herself. And of course, the relationship in this book that all its readers are talking about, the one between Ryiah and one of her biggest opponents at the Academy, the seemingly arrogant and ruthless Prince Darren. At first, Darren does not impress at all. He's condescending and downright cruel to Ryiah. But in this rivalry, Rachel E. Carter proves her strength as a writer, because as the relationship between the two foes develops, Carter does one of the greatest jobs of "show, don't tell" I've ever seen! As the book is told entirely from Ryiah's perspective, we're never made privy to Darren's thoughts. Yet, while Ryiah goes through the story thinking the Prince looks down on her, it's made clear to the reader how much Darren truly respects the young girl. We can see how impressed he is with all the additional effort Ryiah is putting in to hone her magical abilities, even if he will never actually tell her that. Even in moments where Darren seems to be trying to sabotage Ryiah's efforts, it's apparent to us (if not to Ryiah) that he's doing it because he believes that adversity builds character. In a book brimming with sharp dialogue, it's this tough-love relationship that leads to my favorite quote in the story, when Darren tells Ryiah, "If I had listened to everything the courtiers sang, I never would have gotten to where I am today. The people who tell you what you want to hear are the most dangerous enemies you'll ever meet."

I also loved the principles of magic Ms. Carter applied throughout the tale. Learning about magic is a lot more than just memorizing spells. Students are required to apply mathematics, geography, and history just so they have a proper foundation. The study of magic is divided into three different factions, namely Combat, Restoration, and Alchemy. Students are forced to perform rigorous exercise so that they are able to act quickly and cast spells in high-pressure situations. And when those spells are cast, Ms. Carter's imagination really goes wild! Fighters conjure up swords during a duel. Runners create holes in the ground to trip up their competition. Many times you expect the rules of magic to go one way, and Rachel E. Carter takes them in a new direction instead, much like this variation on the the old "pull out the tablecloth magic trick"...
Don't say it don't say it don't say it...
"That's one way to turn the tables!!!"
I said it...I'm so ashamed! I swear, I could hear you all groan at that one, even those of you who are overseas!

However, as much as I enjoyed the book, I couldn't quite give it a perfect score. That's because while the characters and relationships certainly progress throughout the novel, I didn't feel the same about the overall story. After the first chapter alludes to a world teeming with threats, the rest of the book is then focused entirely on the events at the Academy. I never once felt like Ryiah or the other students were in any real danger. There was no larger villain or some greater purpose. That's not to say I was ever bored while reading about Ryiah and the others, but in a book where people can conjure up weapons to hurl at each other, it just seemed like a wasted opportunity to never take the story to a grander lever. Also, I would have liked to have known more about the world of Jerar as well. Again, the first chapter alludes to a world where the Crown needs an army filled with soldiers and warrior mages, but once Ryiah and Alex reach the Academy, the world-building pretty much stops. Some more backstory would have help add depth to the story as well. Why was Ryiah so obsessed with becoming an apprentice in Combat magic in the first place? Why did Alex choose Restoration when he already had an advantage in Alchemy? Did Priscilla (Ryiah's greatest rival) really train tirelessly in both physical combat and magical abilities just to impress the Prince, or does she have some larger ambition that drives her? Since this is only the first book in a four-book series, I'm sure there is more world-building to come, but I still felt that I was left with too many unanswered questions by the time I reached the last page.

Still, even with my minor quibbles, I highly recommend this book to everyone. With a strong heroine, a fascinating relationship, and a unique look of one of the fantasy genre's most-used elements, there's enough magic in this book to make even Severus Snape put on a happy face.
Snape says, "This IS my happy face!"
Profile Image for Rachel E. Carter.
Author 9 books3,494 followers
May 2, 2018
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*** PLEASE NOTE: The ebook editions of this series are only available through Amazon, however you can still purchase the paperback/hardcover/audiobook versions at all retailers. If you would like to continue reading the series as ebook, you can purchase the book/s on Amazon and either: 1) install the Kindle app on your e-reader, or 2) EMAIL RACHEL (rachelcarterauthor@gmail.com) a copy of your receipt and she’ll send you the ebook edition/s you need for your preferred non-Kindle device (ie iBook, KOBO, Nook reader, etc).
Profile Image for Cece ❀Rants, Raves &Reviews❀.
250 reviews928 followers
September 24, 2022
“Fifteen of us would become mages. The rest would be a courtier's joke till the shame was finally forgotten.”
No pressure hahah

Meet Ryiah: Lowborn, everyday commoner who will stop at nothing for her place at the Academy
I am 110% sure I pronounce this wrong in my head

Darren: entitled prince...and our adversary/love interest.

Together they make an epic story full of conflict, battles, betrayals, and general comedy.

She works for an entire year and devotes all her time to studying magic and honing her physical skills on top of regular homework
“What had I told my parents before we left home? I would join Combat or die trying. A fine choice of words. What had been meant as a melodramatic proclamation was now to be my intended irony”

Hundreds of students with magic potential gather at the Academy and must undergo brutal physical, educational and magical tests to even get the HONOR of joining the school.
“I told Barclae I'd cut this flock by five!" he roared. "And yet you have all remained to spite me… Apparently your lot has a backbone. I intend to break it."

Needless to say its hardcore.

Every day she faces riskier tasks, learns about different weapons and gets beat up with each one
“Today there was only one rule: don't ask for help. There would be no healers. ”

First Years are basically pond scum at the Academy. Its like a Seals camp! But for an entire year. With magic. And the hazing, oh lordy the hazing!

Friendships, betrayals, challenges, failures, EVERYTHING (with magic)
“The people that tell you what you want to hear are the most dangerous enemies you'll ever meet.”

And of course some hilarious narration from our girl
“Unfortunately, it was much easier to point out the problem than come up with a solution.”

Also kinda reckless... “I lunged at Ray with everything I had. It was a mistake. "

Not only does the main character have interests besides love, she also has friends . And these friends actually play an important role in the story! They aren't just ornaments for decorations but have their own personalities and plots!

What a wild time.
“He didn't look away. "You will thank me one day for not filling your head with false compliments. Adversity teaches one more than flattery ever will.”

Ry and Darren never actually have a real relationship but they constantly bantering with each other in between the whole killing and/or helping each other
“For the love of—" Darren slammed his fist against the wall and glared down at me. "I guess I should congratulate myself," he declared, "on helping the world's biggest idiot!”

Awww young love. How I envy you.
“I am going to do something against my better judgment," he said softly. He reached down to put one hand against my waist and the other underneath my chin. "You can scream obscenities at me after."
And then he kissed me.”

So I'd definitely recommend if ya enjoy Magical Boarding Schools. And even if ya don't, this book pulled it off with interesting characters, and different teachers were hilarious. Such a compelling story. I totally recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy, characters who fight, and lots of snark and humor
Profile Image for Inge.
347 reviews885 followers
January 15, 2018
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What a wonderful debut. And this has nothing to do with the fact that I got a copy in exchange for a review, or that the author and I have bonded over our mutual love for Nickelback (I said don’t judge), or that I have a weakness for magical boarding schools. It was just really good.

It takes place in the Academy, where over one hundred students with different levels of magical potential go to compete over fifteen revered robes. Five for Alchemy, five for Restoration (or Healing), and five for Combat, the most popular faction. Ryiah and Alex, twins from a lowborn family, battle it out against students from all over the area, including those born with more noble blood, who’ve had a lot of practise before they came to the Academy. There’s also the matter of that pesky prince Darren, who’s a condescending jerk, but who won’t stop playing loops inside Ryiah’s brain. It’s about to be a tough year for sure.

There were many positive aspects in this book. For starters, I like that, even though it’s a magical boarding school, it doesn’t have a Harry Potter feeling to it. Even more so, it doesn’t try to have one, which is refreshing. It’s a lot more physical – we see Ryiah and the others during a lot of Combat sessions, so she’s training her magic and her fighting abilities the entire time.

Which brings me to the next issue, which is Ryiah’s improvements. In the beginning, she is one of the worst scoring students, but she’s determined to get one of those robes, so she trains, and she trains hard. She’s not one of those special snowflakes who suddenly develops amazing abilities overnight. This girl takes an entire year to devote all of her free time to studying, catching up on homework, and honing her physical skills. How the girl manages to do all of that without dropping dead is beyond me, but I really appreciated the fact that she improved by actually working for it.
"The worst thing wealth does is give those that have it a false sense of security," Piers concluded loudly, addressing the entire group as he motioned for us to dismiss. "You stop trying as hard, and there's always another that will gladly take your place."

There’s also the matter of the budding “romance”. It’s clear from the very get-go that prince Darren is supposed to be the love interest, only he’s not exactly likeable. He’s exactly what everyone expects a royal to be – arrogant, condescending, and entirely too skilled for his own good. He’s constantly demeaning Ryiah and showing her off. An absolute asshat. And yet there is something alluring about him – the typical tall, dark, handsome, mysterious man, who decides to help Ryiah every now and then, because he sees potential in her. While everyone else is wondering what the heck this girl is still doing at the Academy, there’s the best student of the year who has faith in her abilities. And that’s enough to make this reader swoon. That may or may not have something to do with the fact that I’m a total sucker for love/hate relationships.

Last but not least, the main character has friends. I know, right? How odd. She has a love interest and friends and other interests beside this love interest (granted, it’s not like they’re in a relationship or anything, but, you know, it’s worth mentioning). And these friends actually play an important part in the story! They’re not just there for decoration, or for saying the right thing at the right time. They have their own personalities and their own plots, and you can love them for a whole different set of reasons.

The only criticism I can offer is that it sometimes got a little repetitive. I love that there was so much focus on Ryiah’s determination to improve, but there were a lot of training scenes and fight scenes and battle scenes. I would’ve liked a little more variation in between. For instance, the winter solstice ball could’ve been a really nice break from their hectic schedules where they had fun together, instead of using it as an excuse to introduce us to a different future love interest (and have Ryiah fight some more).

Other than that, I really enjoyed this book. The main character wasn’t a wimp – she was realistically flawed and great – and the tension – the tension! – was divine. Definitely worth picking up if you’ve got a few hours to spare. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Profile Image for Clara.
132 reviews171 followers
March 24, 2017

This was so unexpected, but God did I love this book !! This book right here was such a pleasant surprise that managed to prevent me from getting into a reading slump after several failed attempts at reading other books ^_^

The story :
This is the first installment in a YA fantasy series.
This first book takes place entirely at the Academy , a school where teenagers who have magic enroll to become mages who are divided into 3 factions : Alchemy (potions), Restoration (healing) and Combat (fighting). Book 1 focuses solely on their first-year as they have to study and learn to use their magic in order to be, at the end of the year, part of the fifteen chosen ones allowed to continue on at the Academy for the second year as Apprentice Mages. We’re following 15-year old lowborn Ryiah as she starts her first-year at the Academy alongside her twin brother, Alex. She’s soon going to realize that the competition is strong and lots of students are much better than her, including the non-heir Prince of the Realm, Darren, who is set on showing her she doesn’t belong here. She will have to work hard and fight to find her place and realize her dream of becoming a Combat Mage.

The world-building and plot :
Actually, this book lacked world-building outside of the Academy’s walls, as we were completely clueless to the world the story was set in. But surprisingly, it didn’t bother me at all. We were only focused on the Academy itself and the mages : their organization, the different factions and how to train to become a mage. The fantasy elements of the story (the mages and the magic) totally had me engrossed and fascinated, it was very well explained and quite unique.
As for the plot, there was not much of it either : what I mean is that we’re only following the first-year at the Academy, how Ryiah works hard to keep up with the rest of the other students. With that, it reminded me a lot of Harry Potter because of the atmosphere at the Academy that is quite similar to that at Hogwarts. But despite the fact that there’s not real intrigue, the story was still very fast-paced, I was never bored one bit, and I just flew through it without being able to put it down. It was still full of badass fights with weapons as well as magic, so entertaining, thrilling and exciting, reminding me this time of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire because of the competition between the students and the different trials they have to pass to not be eliminated.

The characters :
They were definitely part of what made me love this book SO much alongside the fantasy elements.
Let’s first talk about Ryiah, who was the highlight of the book for me ! I think I have never read a YA fantasy book in which it was so easy to relate to the MC ! Ryiah was such a wonderful character : she was sweet, brave, hard-working, so strong-willed and easy-going. But mostly, she was no special snowflake as we always encounter in YA fantasy : Ryiah was actually just an average and lowborn girl enrolling in the Academy to have a chance to realize her dream of becoming a Combat Mage. And THAT was really refreshing and made her even more likable because nothing is handed to her, she doesn’t have special abilities and is not stronger than everyone else : she has to work and study very hard to keep up and not be the weakest. Throughout the entire year, she struggles but I loved that she never gave up, especially with the better ones trying to discourage her, she would always get back on her feet and train even harder, not hesitating to ask help from friends.
"You really think the way to charm me into helping you is by insult?" Darren was no longer frowning, and I had the distinct impression he was enjoying the debate. I glared. "Would you prefer me to lie like every one of your blindsided subjects?" He didn’t bother to hide his grin. "It would be a nice change.” "Fine." I put my hands on my hips and said in my most sickly sweet impression of Priscilla: "O, valiant Darren, brave ruler among men, please help this humble first-year learn…" Darren raised a brow when I had finished. "I was wrong. Humility does not suit you." I glowered.

Darren, non-heir Prince, was my second favorite character after Ryiah ! He was such an intriguing character : he was cold, arrogant, aloof, rude, harsh but badass and smart (he was after all the best of the students at the Academy). He was definitely not your typical perfect and charming love interest but I loved that he never went easy on Ryiah. He would always push her, getting a rise out of her, being straightforward with her and not being sorry for it. But deep down, we could glimpse that he could be nice behind all that, that through his interactions with Ryiah, he was staring to soften and trying to help her without seeming to, that him pushing her buttons was his way of helping her work harder and understand her mistakes.
"You will thank me one day for not filling your head with false compliments. Adversity teaches one more than flattery ever will."

Ryiah and Darren definitely had a complex and intricate relationship between hatred and friendship. I thought it was very subtle and well-done, creating a very slow-burn connection that never felt too obvious or forced and this was such a change from the typical romance we come across in most YA fantasy books.

"I guess I never expected you to last this long," he admitted, "but you aren't nearly as hapless as I expected you to be." "Am I supposed to take that as a compliment?" I asked, affronted. He smiled wolfishly. "Interpret it however you like."

I really liked the trio formed by Ryiah, Alex and Ella which reminded me once again of our famous trio form Harry Potter. I liked the dynamic of their exchanges and the witty banter between Alex and Ella, bringing a light touch to the story.
"Ella, my flower, my sweet, that comment was for my dear sister alone. You smell as enchanting as—" "Save your prose, pretty boy," Ella cut Alex off, laughing. "We've got enough to worry about without your attempts at romance tonight."

Overall, this was an amazing first installment with well-developed and complex characters, great fantasy elements, a subtle and swoon-worthy romance that left me on the edge of my seat and some Harry potter vibes ! So, looking for a new YA fantasy series to start ? Go ahead and try this one out !
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,025 reviews1,045 followers
October 9, 2015

My promised honest review of this book First Year The Black Mage 1 (not that I recall making a dishonest review, lol).

One of the key elements of any brilliantly successful literary piece is a catchy and interesting beginning and this book has something beyond that. The start was breathtaking and it cured me of my illness (as I wasn’t feeling well when I started reading this). The effect was as good as that of a steaming bowl of savory chicken soup^^

For the healing power of the story’s introduction alone, I already want to express my gratitude to the author. Thank you. ^^ However, we all know that a good beginning isn’t going to do the entire trick of getting the reader to keep up and continue reading. Are the characters well depicted? Are the next scenes eventful enough to sustain readers’ attention? Is the writing captivating? Well my answers are YES, YES and YES!

I have met really great characters in the story. Ryiah (such an interesting name but how do you pronounce it?) the heroine, is incredible! If she were in front of me, I would give her a hundred rounds of applause and the fiercest congratulatory handshake.

Her qualities are admirable- her determination and persistence immeasurable. She is one of the most stubborn female characters I’ve known who just doesn’t know how to give up despite the endless doses of failures she took in. We also have the same exceptional talent- the ability to sleep within seconds of hitting the pillow. Lol. Other characters are just as compelling including Alex, Ella, Clayton (who I found quite amusing) and *ahem, ahem, Darren- those ebony eyes…

Those gripping scenes with him and Ry are just…

The plot is adventurous and exciting. Events are filled with action, display of magic, competition and series of tests that make your heart beat faster than a bullet train.

Fantasies with distant past settings usually use language that will either give you a nosebleed or a migraine, but the author used simple and yet beautiful writing language that was comfortable and easy to read. I enjoyed this book from first page to last.

Profile Image for Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net.
242 reviews551 followers
March 28, 2017
I think my own expectations might have been a bit high here. This was one of those books where I saw a lot of my friends giving it glowing reviews, knew next to nothing about the it besides that people seemed to be enjoying it, and picked it up on a whim when I needed something to read on my Kindle. Had I known that it was going to center itself around the YA Competition-trope, I probably would have passed on this book all together.

It's nothing against that particular premise. I understand that many people enjoy it and if you do, you'll probably love it here, but I've kind of outgrown it. It all just becomes sort of repetitive. Like, if you've read a competition plot once or twice, you've sort of read them all. It's not like you don't know how it's going to end, right? If you're going to center a plot around a competition, you've got to throw some wrenches in the gears to spice things up. Unfortunately, this one lacks surprise and is fairly straightforward from start to finish.

The magic battles and training is certainly entertaining. How could it not be? Characters are hurling conjured weapons at each other and tearing great rents in the earth as they try and get ahead of each other. It's entertaining for sure, but I really wanted more information about the world, and how exactly the magic system works. For example, the entire premise of this book centers around the first-year students at this Academy for Mages, vying for 15 spots at the end of the year so they can go on to become actual mages.

It's never explained what happens if they fail and have to leave. Does their magic just disappear? Why can't those individuals go on to try and hone their powers on their own? What makes the academy so necessary? It's not like Ryiah was really taught anything by her teachers. In fact, the majority of learning she does in this book is because of hints other students, like Darren, give her.

As far as the love interest/romantic storyline goes: I think teenagers will love this. That being said, it was way too angst-filled for me. As much as I like my plots to surprise me, I like it when romances are straightforward and characters say what they mean and mean what they say. Ryiah and Darren's entire relationship is based off of miscommunication and misunderstanding each other. Not to mention, Darren is insufferably arrogant and rude for the majority of the story. He's also the Gary Sue to Ryiah's exceedingly average characterization. He's good looking, he's royalty, and he is absolutely best in his class at magic?

I just wanted a bit more from this. I still think it's a fun story, and definitely not a bad read. Teenagers are sure to enjoy this. Don't let my own disappointment put you off reading it!

★★★ = 3 out of 5 stars

See this review and more like it on my blog: Book Bastion
Profile Image for Melissa.
356 reviews625 followers
February 22, 2017
Apprentice Book 2 review
Candidate Book 3 review
Last Stand Book 4 review

The greatest magic tends to hide behind the most unexpected places.

Set in a realm where magic overflows. Found in every corner, in every household, in every child.
What will make you different from those who have come before you?

Ryiah: A lowborn commoner

"If I weren't struggling, if I weren't keeled over in agony, if my muscles weren't screaming at the end of a long day...then I wasn't trying hard enough."

A resilient fighter destined for grandness for her refusal to surrender. For strength is not that which comes easy, but that which arrives with continuous struggle.

Darren:An entitled Prince

“You will thank me one day for not filling your head with false compliments. Adversity teaches one more than flattery ever will.”

A mysterious and guileful heir with unfathomable power.
Together, they make for an epic story.

Filled with hardship and trials, battles and conflict. Bouts of bravery with hints of defiance all woven together to create an intense, edge of your seat, tension filled ride.

Just one question. Are you ready?


First of all lets clap it out...

No, no. I mean really clap it out!

Not once was I ever captivated reading a R2R as I was here. This story was greatly told with amazing characters that had you rooting for them from the start. A compelling tale that had me so anxious I was hooked. Simply amazing Rachel.
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,032 reviews1,423 followers
April 30, 2020
First Read: March 2017, Rating: 4/5 stars
Second Read: February 2020, Rating: 4/5 stars

This is the first full instalment in the Black Mage series.

I knew I was going to love this book as I am absolute trash for magical boarding school settings. One thing I find with this setting, however, is that I often find the books move away from this initial focus on the magical studies, and on to another form of intrigue. I always find myself wanting to pause the books in their early stages and and for them to continue to revolve around the magical studies the students undertake. I want to live their studies with them and immerse myself in this fantastic setting. And this book does just that.

Ryiah and Alex, twins from a lowborn family, are entering into their first year of training to become magical mages. They have to compete against over 100 other gifted individuals to gain the coveted fifteen places reserved for second year students. Their lowborn background mean the pair have entered with a severe disadvantage against their highborn classmates. Alex's charm makes him instantly popular with the school's female population, but Ryiah has trouble forming her own bonds, even managing to attract the wrath of the prince and his betrothed on the very first day. Will the pair survive the year? And if they do, what form will their futures take when they are battling such terrible odds for a chance at an apprentice's position?

This acted as a great initial insight into this fantastical world and I am excited to see where the academy students will take us next. Ryiah's insight was the perfect invitation for the reader to enter into the magical setting, as she is also a newcomer to this realm. Her brother's easy charm made him instantly as likeable and it wasn't hard to find myself siding with the duo, in the multitudes of plights that befell them during their tumultuous first year.

Their struggles with studies, tutors and friendships were all relatable and the added magical training added a unique twist to the proceedings. The second book promises more of the same and I am excited to see what follows.
Profile Image for Hilly.
701 reviews1,261 followers
July 11, 2018
This book was kinda meh, and unfortunately I couldn't appreciate it the way I thought I would.
I'm sorry, I really wanted to like it.
The story is at least a bit entertaining, thank you god, because I don't think I would have finished reading it if it were boring too.
Flaws. Flaws everywhere. I had to have a list of negative points on my phone while reading because I feared I was going to forget a big part of them.
Now, I understand this is a debut and that it's not popular, but it was worth rereading and checking the repetitions, the spelling of words and sentences. I found a lot of misprints. And they vexed me a bit.
Apart from this, I'm going to divide the other points in four different categories:

1. World-building
Seriously. I have no idea where the story takes place. Jerar? What the hell is it? A region? A reign? And where is it positioned? Where is the map? Some fantasy books don't need the map, I know, but it is because the author explained it so well that you don't absolutely need it. This was not one of those cases.
And this leads me to a second thing: explanations are absent. Why do these children go to this school? I couldn't understand it. The external world is completely absent. And it could have been okay with a good description that here is... lacking.
I also don't know how the hell the magic works in this novel. And this leads me again to another thing that is the development of the main character's magic. One day she doesn't really even know if she has it, the next day she can use it only because . Hmm... what? Why did you even get in the first place to that school of magic?

2. Narration and style
This was the thing that annoyed me the most after the situation with the world-building. Well, on second thought, we can say they are on the same level.
The narration is too rushed. I couldn't understand how things developed and worked in the story because of this. At this school there are different lessons everyday, but we get to participate only in five or six. The theory lessons were only mentioned, the weeks of Restoration and Alchemy were only mentioned (and the week of Combat was reduced to only one lesson), some lessons with Piers and the other master (I honestly can't remember his name...) were largely described and the other ones only mentioned.
It was always "that evening" suddenly after the beginning of the morning, or even worse "two/three months later". There's time missing, you know! How am I supposed to understand how the main character is gaining powers?
I would have liked, for example, a sort of introduction of the school by the masters when Alex and Ryiah arrive and enter the door of the Academy, but somehow they are late and they missed it all (if there has even been it, I don't know). Grrr.
But there is also a contrast with what I said above when the masters actually talk and explain: the dialogues are so long they begin to get a lot boring. I was tempted to skip those parts, but I didn't do it (50 point to griffyndor and me for this).

3. Characters
First of all, I couldn't connect with any of the characters.
They are plain and boring. They're never described well. They are just so annoying.

My checklist
Ryiah: annoying ✔️
Alex: annoying ✔️
Ella: boring ✔️ She's Ryiah's best friend in less than five second (yeah, actually we don't need to know a person to be his/her best friend, right?).
Darren: just so damn annoying ! ✔️ He has some serious issues *sings Hot and Cold by Katy Perry*
Priscilla: usual bitch stereotype, annoying ✔️
The others: ...who are the others? ✔️

I usually like at least the love story in a ya, and in fact in this book it is a half one level over the characters. The fact is that I waited for something to happen for more than half the book... and nothing happened. Silly me.

4. Events
Like I said before, a lot of important things were skipped in the narration; but some really unnecessary episodes were introduced too. The beginning, for example, doesn't make any sense: the story begins in medias res in a really bad way, because we can't understand what the hell is happening and where the hell these two are headed. I know the "Jared part" was necessary to introduce the fact that Ryiah can cast magic only if she's in pain, but I think that this part could have been deleted or narrated in a different way. It takes a good 15% of the book and it is unrelevant for the rest of the story.
The ending. Oh my goodness. I wanted to give this book three not full stars, but anyway, they always are three stars, and then the ending happened. It ruined everything.
The last exam was like a dance recital. Parents and people watched the kids' performances. Ehm, whaaaat? ...no. Nope.

It's too convenient for me. I can't accept it.

With all these flaws I forgot the good points. Of course. I knew it was gonna happen

Maybe I'll read the next one, maybe not. We'll see.
What I'd really want to do is to reread Hex Hall. I really miss it right now.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,460 reviews9,613 followers
August 16, 2015

OMG! I didn't know what to expect going into this book. I try not to read some of the same kind of genres one after the other in case I get too biased and at first I thought I might have made a mistake starting this one right away. I WAS WRONG! I loved this book so much!

I absolutely love the characters... well...I can't stand stupid Priscilla.. she can suck it! But Ryiah, her brother Alex, her new friend Ella and even old grumpy Darren. I love some of the secondary characters as well.

Ryiah goes into the academy with her brother Alex in training for combat mages. She's a little worried because she doesn't really do so well with magic. I mean she only got it to work on the way there by an unfortunate turn of events! Anyhoo... they not only have classes in magic, they have to learn combat and do studies. It seemed like a tough arse boot-camp for mages to me. And I am so proud of Ryiah, she works so very hard to get as far as she does!

There is a test at the end of that years training to see who the 15 mage apprentices are going to be. They have to do some major fighting against one another. Annnnndddddd...... there is a surprise 16th mage added to the group by the black mage himself and what he says goes!

I look forward to reading more on this continuing adventure. Did I mention that I loved it!!

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Profile Image for Ash.
382 reviews39 followers
February 3, 2017
first read: March 18, 2015
first reread: July 1, 2015
second reread: February 1 - ?, 2017

I'd seen fire when he touched me, and he made me want to burn.

JULY 2015: rereading this already....because....I can :) and I also just bought paperbacks for this and book two....again, because I could. Also, I needed a little Darren in my life.

*sigh* Its over.....and sadly, book two won't actually be in my possession until Friday.

I have to say, I loved this just as much as I did the first time around. The author seriously knows how to weave words. I have pretty much been wanting to reread this book since....I finished the second one, four months ago. I still have a ways to wait for books three and four, but that's okay! It just means I'll have to force myself to reread these again at the end of the year.....such a chore...rereading amazing books.

My last review still stands. Sometimes rereading a book can make you love a book even more the first time, or it can do the opposite and make you realize that it wasn't all that great. Definitely the former here. I love this book! I love the characters...except for the ones I hate........Priscilla and the rest of the inner circle of douchebags that I mentioned in the first review...but not Darren...I can't hate him. I am really looking forward to rereading Apprentice, and then eventually getting to read the remaining books in the series as they come out.


MARCH 2015: gosh...all my reviews are starting to sound the same....haha. Another amazing book finished for the year. it's only March but it's turning into a great year for great books to be read.

I really enjoyed this. Twins seem to be a new thing for me....male and female twins. I loved that they were so different, in everything. They weren't joined at the hip which people seem to think is only appropriate for twins. The concept was awesome and I loved that Ry wasn't really good at anything at first. The way that Rachel wrote her character as she matured and learned all these skills that she needed to know were great. She didn't just get good overnight. She stayed up late doing her work and wasn't just sitting around idle. she practiced and she had help from not just her friend, but from the bad boy prince who of course, excelled at everything and was about as cliche has they come [...that's sad in a good way, I always fall for them the hardest!] it was a great story and there were things that I thought, were very awesome and creative :)

I highly recommend it to everyone. even if there was one thing in books they don't like...I'm sure they could find 5 things they did like.

ALSO...NO LOVE TRIANGLE. ...lol. I know people get really pissed about that kind of thing...it doesn't bug me but yeah.....no triangles.......or squares......there's an inner circle of douche bags, but no triangles.

come find me: IG: ash.reads
Profile Image for Ashley S..
223 reviews41 followers
June 8, 2020
Imagine an Urban Fantasy Divergent that ends right before the Abnegation war.

That's exactly what First Year is. It's the story of Ryiah's day-to-day training and her relationships with her friends, potential love interest, and stereotypical nemesis. But without a climax at the end.

This installment follows Ryiah as she competes with over 100 students to become one of the 15 apprentices who will graduate onto the second year of The Academy. Unlike the high-born, Ryiah is a commoner whose parents couldn't pay for extensive tutoring and preparation, which initially puts her at a disadvantage among them. Like Tris, Ryiah isn't one the best fighters in the beginning, but fights to become one of the best.

While we get to see the underdog, Ryiah, transform into an exemplary fighter even among formidable competitors, we don't have the satisfaction of seeing her new abilities put to use. There are no mysteries or crimes to be solved, no villains or enemies to fight. The world-building outside of The Academy is also virtually non-existent, but I suppose this is understandable because First Year is told in Ryiah's POV and her world at the moment revolves around the Academy and passing her final test.

Despite the lack of mystery, world-building, and romance (the synopsis is very misleading - Prince Darren's relationship with Ryiah is almost absent), I surprisingly enjoyed reading First Year. Plus, I'm thrilled that there's no insta-love! (Finally.)

“The people that tell you what you want to hear are the most dangerous enemies you'll ever meet.”

I will continue this series because I expect more plot development, world-building, and a slow-burn romance in the next book.

Still, I'm confused by the 5 star ratings flooding the first page of GR's review section of First Year. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed this one, but it wasn't in any way outstanding. However, I'm anticipating that the second book will be much better - if Carter can entertain me with an unsubstantial(ish) story, I'm almost certain that I'll love the next books she writes following Ryiah's training and emergence into the outside world of The Academy.
Profile Image for Norah Una Sumner.
851 reviews447 followers
February 10, 2017
Such an interesting book!

I really liked Ry and the fact that she worked so hard to improve her magic abilities/fighting technique and never gave up-she’s not automatically good at everything.I also liked her brother Alex – he’s a very charming and sometimes a bit goofy character.I definitely want him to end up with Ella,Ry’s best friend.And there’s Darren…a mystery I want to solve.He’s a very complex character and also very two-faced – he says one thing and then does the other.However,his intentions do seem honest and I believe that he will develop,as well as Ry,as a character throughout next three books.The action is definitely great,the romance is intriguing – even though we only got a glimpse of it,and the writing is excellent.The story is very fast-paced,which I liked…a lot. However,the lacking of world-building kind of bugged me.I hope that we’ll find out more about Ry’s world in the sequel.I’m excited to read the next book.


You can read this review on BookishFever.
Profile Image for Katerina  Kondrenko.
498 reviews828 followers
November 14, 2016
4 out of 10

Ревью в моем блоге/This review on my blog
Living A Thousand Lives
(please use Chrome/Yandex browser or Android/IOS to see the page; otherwise, spoiler-tags I use to make my post compact may not work)

Anthem Lights – Unlove You
Aidan Hawken – Walking Blind
Reamonn – Faith

Genre: high-fantasy, YA
Stuff: magic, academy, nobles vs. commoners
Fail: romance, plot, manner of telling
WOW: first 10%
POV: 1st person, female
Love-Geometry: medium

“The people that tell you what you want to hear are the most dangerous enemies you'll ever meet.”

Well, I'm disappointed. This book is Red Queen + Air Awakens + Harry Potter + House of Night + Carry , but not in a good way. Even House of Night has more intrigue than First Year which is lacking subplots, mysteries and stuff.

We have a world (actually, we don't; all we have is a road to an academy and the academy itself) with magic, wars and kingdoms. Our MC Ryiah wants to be a combat mage, but a) she's not sure whether she has power or not, b) only 15 first-years will become apprentices. So Ry's chances are pretty bad, but she and her twin Alex (who looks nothing like her, AT ALL) come to the local Hogwarts and brace themselves for anything. But they weren't ready for a prince to be there too, 'cause royals can't learn magic on a serious level, it's a law. Though, Darren isn't a heir, thus he does as he pleases and all.

The first 10% of the novel were awesome: full of tension, action and drive. But after MC came to the school, my excitement died out. The wording is okay, but the manner of telling is far from perfect. Endless training, army-like atmosphere and a typical high-school tropes seemed dragging and boring. Ryiah goes to classes, tries hard, almost never sleeps and so on. The only plot goal is MC getting her place as an apprentice. THE ONLY. And since there are a few more book is this series, readers already know that she will get it n matter what. How engaging is it, huh?

Well, there's a subtle romance as well. And it's meh. Only once I felt chemistry between Darren and Ry, but it didn't help my confusion. These two has no instalove, but their feeling are weird and still all of a sudden. At least from the prince's side. Also, Darren has a girlfriend whom he doesn't love, but she isn't aware of it and comes for his sake to the academy. Funny thing is, the younger prince has a privilege of choosing his future bride, but he lets this delusional wench to follow him everywhere and treat Ry as garbage just because Priscilla is jealous. Moreover, he himself treats Ryiah as garbage and explains it by not wanting his GF to hurt his secret sweetheart. Excuse me? What about breaking up with a girl you don't wanna be with and stand up for a girl you are rooting for? Just command Priscilla to leave Ryiah alone! It looked as if Priscilla was a prince with balls while Darren was a shy maiden with no will. Bluck!

The other characters weren't better. They all and MCs are yet another set of cliched heroes: a talented MC with a hidden power, a sexy and dark boy with a great gift, a funny and flirty brother, a calm and wise friend, a beautiful and hysterical bitch, a nice and sweet older guy for a love triangle, a nasty teacher (who'll turn our being a good one, I swear), a good and kind mage (who'll turn out to be a fucking fuck, I swear), a mass of faceless meh. You know how all these people would interact, you've already read it a million times or more.

And still, I'm going to continue with the series to check whether it gets better and whether the author will step away from a well-known and plain path and offer us something new. Also I wanna see how Ryiah and Darren's romance will work in the future. I don't ship these guys, but I enjoyed their kiss and won't mind to have a few more: one or two or sex six.

The Black Mage (Черный маг):
— Non-Heir (Ненаследный принц) #0.5/4
First Year (Первогодка) #1/4
Apprentice (Подмастерье) #2/4
— Candidate (Кандидат) #3/4
— Last Stand (Последний рубеж) #4/4
Profile Image for alittlelifeofmel.
884 reviews343 followers
January 13, 2021
This was a very pleasant surprise!! I really loved this book! It had a very Harry Potter/Iron Trials feel to it but honestly I liked aspects of this story so much more!!
I loved Ryiah! I love that she is tough and strong willed, but also I love that she can be weak and has her moments where she lets her guard down. She pushes herself to the limit but also breaks. I love that she is extremely human and very easy to relate to.
Her brother is hilarious to me. Always flirting and all that, I really love that the author made him into a ladies man! I also see some romance brewing between him and Ella!
Darren is a character that I am mixed on. I mean he's an ass to start with, really just an unpleasant human in the beginning. But then he gets... better? I mean he stays an ass until the last 2.5 seconds when he smiles but like I love him. I don't particularly like that he's betrothed to Priscilla (who is a living nightmare, the sooner her character dies off, the better!!) but I mean eventually Darren will confess his undying love to Ryiah and all will be right in the world.
I loved the world building, the story, the characters, the writing, just everything!! I really recommend this book!!

Since I have absolutely no way to access the second book (since the library website I got it from was a free trial that expired) unless some kind soul buys me the paperback for my birthday, I am currently stuck :/

P.S: "You can scream obscenities at me after." - the best way to start a kiss with me for future reference to all those interested and concerned.
Profile Image for Katerina.
422 reviews16.8k followers
June 2, 2015
"Still can't make up your mind about me,can you,Ryiah?"
My sweet dear Darren,I know I couldn't!I wanted to punch your smug face and kiss you at the same time!!You are frustrating and secretive and arrogant and you desperately try to hide that deep inside you are kind!!Those are the reasons I fell for you!!

Wow,just wow!!I did not expect the First Year to be so so good!!I finished it within hours,I wanted so badly to find a portal that would lead me to Jerar and the Academy!!I really liked the friendship between Ry,Alex and Ella,they reminded me of Harry,Ron and Hermione!Ry is one of the heroines you are obliged to like;she is flawed in a very realistic,non-irritating way,I loved her passion and devotion to get what she wanted!The structure of the Academy was well-built,I enjoyed the lessons and the final trials were mindblowing!!I was so anxious I almost skipped the pages to find out the outcome!!I'm such a sucker for books that take place in academies (or courts) where the heroes have to survive in a very competitive environment and struggle to show their potential so I was more than satisfied!!And oh God I really wanted to kill Priscilla,that wench must get what she deserves!!Right Rachel??
All in all,I loved every single thing about the first book of the Black Mage,I can't wait to read the next one!!
Profile Image for Teryna90.
201 reviews49 followers
February 16, 2016

☺ Since I was a child I've always loved fantastic stories. The ones capable of making you dream and fly with your imagination. I grew up loving Marvel, anime like Dragonball (and there is a fighting scene in this book that just reminded me of Goku's Kamehameha - yeah I googled it, since in italian it's "Onda energetica", much easier to remember), and all the wicked stories, movies, cartoons, books, manga and so on. All this preamble to say that I could not not enjoy this book since it embraces all the fantastic things I love . There are a lot of flaws I must say but I think I'm capable of recognizing potential, and I must say I think this author will only improve. This series is going to surprise us!


There are so many analogies with Harry Potter (since I've only started reading Harry Potter months ago at the beautiful age of 24, it's inevitable that many things are pretty vivid in my mind) but I must say that that didn't bother me one bit. It's about a magic school! I don't mind analogies or any kind of work inspired by others. As an art historian I know that there would have never been a Michelangelo without Donatello's influence and so on. I know it's a bit off but that's just how things work, past inspires the present ^^.

After this brief parenthesis let me say that I enjoyed this book more than I actually expected. I was captivated by the style right away. The dialogues are this' author's forte. She loves to write dialogues and we love reading them. The world building isn't much developed and there are many uncleared things: does everybody have magic? Why are five warriors, five healers and five alchemists needed? The one that they are bound to protect is a reign threatened by others?

❣ These are just some of the questions... but not knowing didn't bother me nor did it change the enjoyment I was attempting while reading. We have one POV and it's the main heroine's point of view, she is giving us a view of her world, her struggles, her hopes. We shouldn't be expecting everything to be cleared out soon in book one just because that's how many author's work. This is FIRST YEAR so of course it would be centered on school experiences. Ryah's is in for Combat so why should we expect anything else when we already know that that's the main theme? The fighting parts were really incredible and the last fighting scene, with the loss, was kind of unexpected, I liked that ^^.

♣ I know Rachel E. Carter will clear out all the the misinterpreted parts and will bring us out of the Academy sooner or later. We will just have to wait.

P.S. Great Debut and can't wait to read the sequel!

Okay post scriptum's must always go at the end of the text... but I'm going to change the good old latinism rules.

♣ I'm not going to write down the plot again... the author has done a great job so you can read it there but I'm going to say that this book is capable of getting you hooked from page one to the end. For those capable of seeing beyond the flaws (world building and not many informations) you'll find yourself catapulted in a never ending learning experience. You'll find yourself struggling with Ry and her friends. You'll feel the power of magic run through your veins. And you'll also experience some feels!!!

'You can scream obscenities <br /> at me after'<br />And then he kissed me


◆Kick ass main Heroine ✔
◆Main heroine can hold her own in a fight ✔
◆Cool best friend ✔
◆A lot of magic ✔
◆Two of my fav characters slowly falling for eachother ✔
(I loved Ella and Alex sooo much and can't wait for their love story to develop)
◆Skilling tests ✔
◆A lot of fighting ✔
◆Kiss scene ✔
◆Great dialogues ✔
◆A lot of feels ✔
◆A prince, and what a black prince ✔
◆The bad guy turns out to be not so bad ✔
◆Cool teachers ✔
◆Female Rival that I just want to beat up ✔
◆Real friendship ✔
(Even if sudden, we all know that it's during hard times that you find yourself opening up. I remember my first day in the States, I started talking to this girl on the bus in a weird way (since I didn't know a single word in english other than nein, that I learned to be the german way to say NO, so I was going around telling people nine -> 9 when I wanted to say NO... that was funny if I think about it!) and we soon became best friends... So I do believe in occasional friendship that turns out into real friendship.
◆Nice, adorable and pretty hot brother ✔
◆Odi et Amo relationship ✔

And I could go on on and on. I'll just say that I was pleasantly surprised and that I can't wait to get my hands on book two! I need more of Darren and Ry, their sparkling attraction got me hooked!
Profile Image for Izza Mae (books&teacups).
146 reviews51 followers
April 25, 2019
A few years ago I would have loved this book. But after reading so many fantasy books, the concept of this book was a bit boring. Don't get me wrong, it did entertain me, but not in the same level that I get when reading my favorite books.

I did like the fact that the lead character is not some special snowflake who gets what she wants all the time. No! Ryiah had to work twice as hard to get what she wanted because she is a lowborn (and this is the collective term they use for someone who is not in the nobility, which is a bit condescending if you ask me), and her power and stamina is low.

The relationship between Ryiah and Darren seemed forced. There is that friendship-rivalry-enemy-attraction kind of thing between them but there is something fundamentally missing. The foundation of their relationship is rocky and not developed well. Hopefully it will be developed on the next book.

What I did like about this book is the relationship between the twins: Alex and Ryiah. I just love their banter and the overprotective part of Alex that he summons whenever something bad happened to Ryiah.

To summarize the book, it is like a high school setting-fantasy series, complete with rivalries, exams, attractions, table groups, self-doubts, friendships, and, of course, bullies. There are always the bullies in every high school drama. But it is a high school drama with magic in it. And that's about it!

I don't know whether I would recommend reading this, but if you want to have a light read about fantasy then you could probably try this.

EDIT: 4/26/19

I was hoping that I would get through this series and that it would develop into something more, but after reading some chapters of the second book I decided to let go of this series. I'm not even going to add it in my "Read" list then DNF it.
Profile Image for Fatima.
133 reviews41 followers
October 30, 2017
"If you want to succeed here, you had best master your fears early on because sight is the least of your worries. There are two much more uncontrollable detractors of focus, pain and emotion, which will require much more effort to control."
Master Cedric cleared his throat: "As I see it, there are many of you who will fail. The Academy is not meant for everyone. Today's exercise is usually a strong indicator of how the year will end. Thus, if you did not perform well today, keep in mind you will most likely continue to struggle throughout the rest of your study."

I know I said before after reading Hex Hall that People stop trying to make another Harry Potter because there is only and ONLY ONE HP…. But damn…. Harry Potter is still my first love but this series may give it a run for it’s money…
Fast paced books are always a gamble…they’re either too awesome or too awful… This was the Awesome kind..
This story revolves around a girl named Ryiah and her twin brother, Alex-bith of whom are mages and have set out to join the academy… There are three factions: Restoration or healing…. Alchemy and Combat..
Alex chooses restoration and Ry chooses Combat but there is one problem Ryiah has no control over her magic… the only reason she’s even sure that she has it is because her twin does.
There is another surprise waiting in the academy… A prince.
Members of the royal family aren’t allowed to attend the mages academy because having a mage king would upset the peace…
But Darren our prince the ‘non-heir’ is allowed to attend because he is second in line and will not inherit his father’s throne…
The mages start out with 122 first years and at the end there are only supposed to be 15… five for each faction….
The book was an epic cross between Harry Potter and Divergent… It has the best of both worlds…!!!s
Lets talk about the couples….
We have Alex and Ella… Ella is a highborn girl who hates the other highborns and is Ry’s best friend… Alex is the heartbreaker back home… According to Ryiah… he has a mile long list of girls with broken hearts back home… And Ella is the only girl at the academy who seems immune to his charm…
Then we have Ryiah and Darren….
"You should never trust a wolf in sheep's clothing," Darren said faintly. His eyes burned, scalding my flesh as if he had torched me with flame. "Because the only thing the wolf will ever want to do is break you." He reached down to catch a strand of my hair that had somehow fallen loose, twirling it with his finger and watching me the way a hunter regarded its prey. "Is that what you want me to do?" he murmured. "Do you want me to break you?"
What was wrong with me? I snapped free of the tempered fantasy to glare up at the manipulative young man in front of me. "I don't know what lines you feed the ladies at court," I told him angrily, "but they won't work on me."
He laughed softly. "Are you sure?"
I opened my mouth to protest, and Darren stepped aside. "Rest assured you are not one of my conquests, Ryiah."
I choked indignantly. "I would never!"

Do you want me to break you?
Do I even need to say more??? But I will nonetheless.. The song Hot n Cold by Katy Perry comes to mind….. We have sometimes and I emphasize on Sometimes the nice Darren and other times i.e. most of the times the rude boy prince who thinks that every one is beneath him…
Profile Image for Marissa.
212 reviews177 followers
January 8, 2021
First Year by Rachel E. Carter is a high fantasy novel following a fifteen year-old girl named Ryiah. Ry wants to become a Combat mage and enroll in the Academy so she can train to become one. Sounds easy, right? Well first she has to get through her first year a.k.a., the trial year. She makes friends and foes along the way.

"'You will thank me one day for not filling your head with false compliment. Adversity teaches one more than flattery ever will.'"

Let me just say that this book has made it's way onto my favorites list and I absolutely love and adore this book. First Year is set at the Academy, where people go to train and become mages. There are three factions, Restoration, Alchemy, and Combat. Combat being the most prestigious faction of magic. I love this world and it's magic system.

Ryiah is our ambitious, reckless, and hot-headed protagonist and she is amazing. She will go through anything to achieve her goal, no matter how hard it is. Ry and her twin brother, Alex, have an amazing brother-sister relationship, and Ry also has an amazing friendship with another girl named Ella. Among the first year students is Prince Darren. Darren is one of those characters, who, despite being an ass most of the time, you just can't help but fall in love with. I love Darren and he is one of the few assholes in books I, for some reason, have no problem with. There is a romance in this book, but it does not take over the actual plot of the book, which I love. Also, so many people want to make sure Ryiah fails and make her life miserable. There are so many obstacles that Ry must face and overcome in her first year. Sometimes, it's even a life-or-death situation. Ry has to survive her first year or all of her dreams will go down in flames and her hard work will be for nothing.

First Year, for me, is one of those unforgettable books that took me by surprise. Like I said before, I love and adore this book and has become one of my absolute favorites. I would recommend everyone to read this book.
Profile Image for Naomi &#x1f428;.
89 reviews14 followers
October 26, 2015
Wow - this was awesome!!! I loved it - terrific characters and story that kept me turning the pages :) Onto Apprentice!!I'm addicted...
Profile Image for Brittain *Needs a Nap and a Drink*.
373 reviews444 followers
February 20, 2015

I've been a raging bitch a bit grumpy lately.

I recognize and accept that I've been on a warpath and probably been too critical of some things. Studying for standardized testing will do that to even the most well adjusted people. And I'm not claiming to be well adjusted. However, a good book should be able to get the surliest/most sleep deprived/most strung out reader and get them to relax and enjoy the story.

The Black Mage: First Year by Rachel E. Carter was able to do that.

I love the cover. The emphasis on red/orange against the black is visually pleasing and this is once again one of those rare covers that actually relates to the book. It doesn't feel like a photoshopped photo-manipulation that was pieced together just to have a cover. It is deliberate and well composed. The negative space is not just empty but has dimension to it. And I really want Ryiah's boots. Just sayin'.

Ryiah and her twin brother, Alex, have decided to not take the easy way out. The advent of their magic has compelled them on a tortuous road, trying to acquire one of the 15 apprenticeships available to study at the war schools that year. This is not Harry Potter where nobody drops out and nobody gets held back. (I mean, Crabbe and Goyle made it through.) It is a dangerous journey just getting to the school, nevermind surviving the training and later, the tests.

There is backstabbing, elitism and competition to deal with and that is even before the training begins. Ryiah struggles, her magic not as strong as her brothers and she only makes it worse for herself when she picks the most challenging faction, Combat. There is extensive physical training and then hours of meditation and studying on top of that. Ryiah can barely keep up to begin with but her instructors do not seem to have much faith in her and refuse to help her improve. Then there is the prince...

Darren is the second-in-line to the throne and the first prince to ever attend the Academy to compete for the apprenticeships. He is snobbery at its finest but he deserves it. Darren is incredibly strong and powerful, showing both his physical and magical prowess easily. A chance encounter brings Darren and Ryiah together and they forge a tenuous friendships based off of not ratting each other out. Everybody here is striving for one thing though and it is never a good idea to make friends if you are hoping for their ultimate failure.

Great things:

1) Loved Ryiah. She was tough as nails but not inhumanly so. She had her weaknesses and thank God, she actually wasn't good at something. I hate it when characters immediately thrive and are obviously the best at something right away because that's not how life is. Especially for a lowborn girl who has only just discovered her powers.

2) Alex. Why can't he be my big brother? I'll trade! My brother is absolutely useless when it comes to being protective. Alex is perfect at it. He lets his sister fight her own battles but when it comes to the point where it is being taken too far, he steps in.

Brothers, please learn how to do this. Your sisters are strong and can do whatever they want but every once in a while, it is nice for you to show you care by standing up for them.

3) The school. Let's put this in perspective, shall we? This is a single school for all the kids in the country. Anybody can come and try if they have magic and want to attempt it. Only 122 show up. Out of the entire country. And not everybody succeeds. This isn't a school where everybody gets a diploma, a job, a trophy and a puppy at the end of the year. If you aren't strong enough, you don't cut it.

4) The teachers. No sugar coating. No bullshit. You either got it or you don't and they aren't going to pull their punches at all.

5) It's not just a romance. Sure, there is some young love going on but that's not what the goal of this book is at all. There's character growth and development of skills. They learn things about themselves and hold themselves accountable for a grueling work schedule. They work hard and don't necessarily get rewarded for it. That's how real life is and this book works well with that.

I wish the world building had been a bit...more so. I missed the aspect of knowing what was going on in the outside world. I wanted to know more about the royal family and the politics of the country. I wanted a map and a sense of a full world in this book.

But other than that, I adored this book. I'm looking forward to the rest of the series!

Tara Belle Talking Review
Profile Image for Tomoe Hotaru.
248 reviews850 followers
April 6, 2017
02 Mar. '17
goodreads | more reviews

this book was originally available on wattpad

I'm usually much more forgiving and am lenient in my standards when reviewing stories off wattpad or other similar community websites containing first drafts or otherwise unedited "amateur" work. This book has, however, been published (whether self- or traditionally published does not matter) so therefore I assume it has undergone multiple beta- and alpha readers and editing processes -- and if it hasn't, then it should have. I have no more reason to be lenient.


I read this in two sittings. Once during a 7-hour flight, and again during the flight back. I found it was a very, very easy read. Much like the candy offered by the flight attendants as I entered the plane. It doesn't really fill my stomach, but at least I have something to chew on that doesn't make me sick.

To me, this book has two main grounds for failure. The first, and which I consider its major pitfall, is that there is no urgency or even a sense of importance that gives the plot credence.
Ryiah enters a boarding school with her twin brother in order to train her magic and hopefully become one of the 15 (or so? I can't remember) chosen apprentices out of so many hundred students.

But why does she want to become an apprentice so badly?

What are the consequences if she fails?

Why should we even care whether or not she becomes an apprentice?

The answers to the above questions are:
-God knows -Nothing, and -We don't;
giving the underlying plot no purpose at all. There is no driving force, no compelling motivation, no shits given.

Considering the sheer lack of any tension or consequence to the outcome of her traineeship, the success of this story and our engagement upon it heavily relies on how much we like and care about Ryiah. While she didn't stand out or impress me, fortunately she was not unlikable or annoying, either.
As a result, I simply did not care and I continued reading for the simple reason of having watched all the in-flight entertainment movies available (and this I shit you not; that's how often I have to travel for work).

Furthermore, we all already know - without even reading the book - that Ryiah is of course going to be chosen as one of the apprentices. Therefore it isn't so much the mystery of will-she-won't-she that keeps us engaged, but the journey of getting there.

If you like minutae of her daily classes and social interactions, then you'll be kept entertained. But beyond that -- if you're looking for world building, more meaningful sources of tension and conflict, or anything remotely more consequential in the grander scheme of things, then you'd be disappointed.

And this is exactly what I found to be the book's second pitfall. It simply does not stand out from the rest of the dredge.

First Year is not what I would call groundbreaking, unique, or even refreshing. You've probably already read this story when your high school friend gave you a copy on her floppy disk. Or maybe you've even tried writing one yourself when you were sixteen and had just finished watching Harry Potter.

It could have gone with a thorough edit -- not only to fix those pesky grammar and spelling mistakes, but also to cut off a lot of the fat.

I guess the two-star is for an unremarkable kind of read, more than any active dislike on my part. But if you're looking for a guilty-pleasure sort of light reading, then you might just enjoy this one.
Profile Image for Sylvia Mercedes.
Author 38 books1,430 followers
March 15, 2019
Well, that was a ton of fun!

Honestly, I zipped through this book so fast, it made my head spin. But it was just that enjoyable of a story with such a great pace, the pages flew by in a breeze!

I REALLY appreciated how Rachel E. Carter handled her magic. Magic doesn't come easily to people in this world. They have to WORK for it. There are specific RULES for how it works, and the magic itself takes a physical toll. It was all very well thought out!

As a result of this well-thought-out magic system, the setting of the Academy and training in magic was that much more believable. I enjoyed observing Ry in her classes as she learns the ins and outs of magic--often the hard way! There was a sense of reality to this fantasy world that was engrossing.

Ry herself. I kind of waffled between loving and hating her, but ultimately ended up loving her. She struck me as a bit whiny at first, but as I read more about her, I realized that, you know, she's no more whiny than I would be under those circumstances! Magic doesn't come easily to her, so she has to work HARD. She spends much of the story sleep-deprived and exhausted, constantly afraid of failing . . . how relatable is that? Anyone who's been challenged in an academic setting knows those feelings, that sense of dread, that sense of inevitability. But I loved how, even when she was completely in over her head, she never, never, never gave up. So ultimately I loved her and look forward to seeing how her story continues.

Also, let me just say, I thoroughly appreciated that Ry WASN'T a "super special" like so many heroines in this genre turn out to be. She's middle of the pack, sometimes back of the pack. She starts out thinking she will somehow make herself stand out, but ultimately stands out in all the wrong ways! It's so humiliating . . . and again, I related on a personal level! But she doesn't let her lack of super-specialness get her down, at least not for long.

Darren was . . . intriguing. Moody and broody, but not two dimensional in his moody-brooding. We didn't get a lot of development of his character, in this first book, but what I saw leaves me curious to see where he'll go as a person. And I have to say . . . some of his scenes with Ry definitely worked on a swoony level!
Profile Image for Cee (The Mistress Case).
253 reviews161 followers
April 14, 2015
I know what you're thinking. "Cee, why did it take you so long to finally read this?" I have no answer.

The central characters are well-written and I was able to get a grasp on their personalities. I found myself liking everyone, even the school instructors and Ryiah’s nemeses.

I’m not about to do a characterization on everyone, but I will discuss the protagonist.

Ryiah is one hell of a tough cookie. I LOVE how bold, determined, fierce, tough, and strong headed she is. Even her recklessness and desperation is a contribution to how much I love her. She never gives up even when the odds are against her. If she goes down, she’s going to go down swinging.

I genuinely mean this: Ryiah is a breath of fresh air and she is a total kick ass girl for me.

I don’t remember ever wanting to support a character so much and never once was I against her judgment or lost faith in her. Her endurance and stubbornness will take her far and I’ll be with her every step of the way.

Darren, that poor boy, redeemed himself by believing in Ryiah when she was losing faith in herself. Still, you're an asshole, good sir. I'm waiting for that love triangle in book 2.

And can we talk about Alexander’s confrontation with Darren and his crew? Alex gained my 100% respect after this.

“You spineless predator. All you do is prey on the weak! You think you are the next Black Mage. All I see is someone too insecure to let anyone with potential try! You think you can bully everyone into leaving. Well, guess what, my sister Ryiah is staying and so will anyone else you victimize, if I have anything to do with it!”

I dread the harsh training the students went through in this book. What a torture. Amazing job, Rachael!

Ryiah’s trial and battle at the end was extremely intense and fantastically well-written. I was cheering her on all the way. The action is awesome.

In the paperback copy I purchased, there are a few omitted words here and there but no big deal. I love the feel of the book and I kept rubbing the cover xP

Thank you, Rachael, for writing this series.
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