Top critical review
Cliché, not recommended, but not the worst thing I've ever read
January 22, 2020
I pre-ordered this book, hoping to love it, and finished it feeling rather let down. I was acutely aware that I was not the target audience, but thinking back to my fantasy-loving, 11-year-old self, I don't know that she would have liked it either. I found the prose uninspiring and cliché, the main character obtuse and unlikable, and the tropes both heavy-handed and obvious. The parallels to Harry Potter (hidden school for the special and talented; amazing, strangely-colored magical vessel to transport us to that school; four houses determined by superficial characteristics; protagonist with missing parents and strange talents; cheerful, emotional male sidekick) were not well-hidden. Furthermore, I found myself wondering how familiar the author actually is with "classical" music and its world, or if she instead enlisted the help of a few more-musical friends. The entire world felt clumsily grafted together from randomly-selected elements of reality and fantasy.
That said, I thought the book played well within the boundaries of the rules it had set forth. I found parts of it humorous. I especially appreciated how clear it was that not only the main character but everyone enrolled at the titular academy needed to work very, very hard: music in this universe is not a mystical endowment from the Muse but a skill to be learned and honed (unless you're talking about certain specialties, but that's another complaint). I absolutely loved the character of the headmistress, and certain other characters I found uninteresting, but believable.
I'm not sure I can recommend this book for a serious young musician, but a more casual one might love it - or you might love it! You don't have to pay attention to my opinion at all, if you like, and you certainly don't have to like the same things in a story that I do. That's the beauty of books. If you decide to buy it, I hope it gives you hours of happiness!