School of Deaths

The first book in The Scythe Wielder’s Secret series, School of Deaths is the spiritual successor of young adult fantasy books like Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. At the same time, the book is also its own thing, subverting the tropes you’ve come to expect in YA fiction and fantasy as a whole.

School of Deaths starts off strong in the normal world. Far better than most fantasies which begin in everyday normal life. There’s an instant connection with Susan Sarnio that doesn’t involve making us feel sorry for her. While the similarities to Harry Potter are immense, the reader isn’t bombarded with how bad the main character’s life is right off the bat. One of the ways this tries to separate itself from tropes is by giving Suzie Sarnio a relatively good life. Once we enter the magical world of the deaths, things start to slow down a bit too much. Honestly these chapters blended together.

It’s after the reader learns about Lovethar that the comparisons to Harry Potter continue full force. That being said, this is not a carbon copy of Rowling’s famous boy wizard. Unlike Harry Potter, Susan is hated in the magical world of the deaths. She is by no means the girl who lived or anyone famous. In fact, most people would call her infamous due to gender constraints.

The apparent and sometimes over-the-top sexism from the characters makes Susan that much more compelling as she has to literally start from the bottom because of the deaths’ biases against woman. That being said, the thing which doesn’t make sense is why almost all the students at the college hate Susan. Professors are understandable as they have the knowledge of the world, but most of these children are from the world of the living. Did they suddenly become more sexist because they were taken to the land of the deaths? It’s one of those things that doesn’t bother you in the moment, but upon closer inspection, yanks you out of the story.

All in all, School of Deaths is a great start to a YA fantasy. While some parts in the middle sagged a bit and Harry Potter comparisons were aplenty, the fact that this story stands on its own ground and subverts many of the tropes found in YA fantasy novels is a plus in its favor.

4.5/5 Stars

Snape’s Diaries

Going into this I thought the series was complete, but the end of episode four gave no closure to the series. In fact that’s when it started to get good. Not that the first three episodes were bad. They were okay, just not on the level I’ve come accustomed to when listening to a misfit’s audio production.

The acting, while not bad, I would imagine different takes could’ve been used. To put it simply, the actors didn’t match each other’s emotions. Yes I am aware that most online audio dramas don’t have people in the same room, feeding off each others performances. However, since there are many online audio dramas that have scenes and sometimes entire episodes where I suspend my disbelief and actually think they are in the same room. Those happen enough times that I can safely say that those instances are not flukes, but good choice of takes compiled together to form the illusion that these people are in the same room.

Episodes one and two were the setup episodes, but I don’t think many non-Harry Potter fans (whether that be the books or the movies) would be listening to this series. Then I read the release year on itunes: 2008. All that backstory was necessary, because the last Harry Potter movie hadn’t come out yet. And since quite a few people only watch the movies, they would have no idea that Snape loved Lily Evans/Potter. I felt the writer handled their relationship in a unique way that added to the Harry Potter universe, rather than crowbarring a story into the wizarding world of J.K. Rowling.