Sunday, September 15, 2013

Nightschool: The Weirn Books (OEL manga, vol. 1) by Svetlana Chmakova

Nightschool: The Weirn Books is a fantasy series that includes vampires and witches. It's published by Yen Press.

Synopsis:

Although daytime students don't know it, at night a certain high school becomes the Nightschool, a place where witches and vampires learn all the usual subjects, plus spell casting and more. Sarah Treveney is the school's new Night Keeper. I'm not entirely sure what this job entails, but it puts her into contact with everyone from Mr. Roi, one of the Nightschool's most powerful (and hottest) teachers, to Ronee, who seems to be queen of the Nightschool students.

Alex is Sarah's younger sister. She insists on being home schooled, because of something serious that happened in the past that has yet to be revealed. She, like Sarah and many of the Nightschool's students, is a weirn, a kind of witch. While Sarah is at work, Alex decides to study outside, which unfortunately puts her in the path of a group of patrolling Hunters.

Review:

I found the first and second volumes of this series at a used bookstore and snatched them up. Although I never fell in love with Chmakova's Dramacon the way some others did, I liked it well enough. I enjoy fantasy and was interested in seeing how well she'd handle a switch to a new genre.

Although I didn't hate this volume, I was a bit disappointed in it. There was just too much going on, too many characters being introduced. I'm going to guess that Alex is the series' main character, since she's on the cover and got several pages all to herself. However, it's difficult to tell which of the many, many characters who popped up throughout the volume will play a larger role later. I couldn't even tell you much about most of them, since they appeared and disappeared so quickly.

I felt much the same way when it came to the details of what was going on and how the world worked. Alex is a weirn, which is...something. The back of the book tells me it's a “particular breed of witches.” All I know is that Alex can do magic, and she's got a being called Astral who follows her around. There are two groups, the Hunters and supernatural beings, some of whom attend or teach at the Nightschool. I'm pretty sure neither group is supposed to be considered villainous. The Hunters kill supernatural beings who've gone bad, and the Nightschool people attend/teach classes on the grounds of what, during the day, is a regular school. Normal humans don't appear to be aware of the Nightschool. Alex, for some mysterious reason, is home schooled and is potentially dangerous, although I'm not sure how aware of this she is.

All of this might turn out interesting, but, at the moment, it's just a jumble of vague information. With fantasy, it can be difficult to balance world-building and character development without letting one or both slide, and I think Chmakova may have bitten off more than she could chew. It was worrisome to learn that the series is only four volumes long. Here's hoping the story becomes more focused in volume 2.

Extras:

Four pages are in full-color. Also, there are some author comments at the end.

Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
  • Vampire Knight (manga) by Matsuri Hino; Vampire Knight (anime TV series) - Chmakova's nightschool vs. dayschool thing reminded me a lot of this series, which has a similar setup. Human students attend the school during the day. At night, vampires attend. In an effort to maintain order, the two groups are generally not permitted to mix. Fans of love triangles may want to give this series a try. I have written about the anime and the first volume of the manga.
  • Marked (book) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast - I think there's a graphic novel version of this series, although I haven't heard good things about it. Then again, this series hasn't always been well-received either. I liked this first book enough to read on, although I eventually quit the series because I couldn't stand the heroine and her army of boyfriends-in-waiting. I added it to this list because there's a school for supernatural teens that has something mysterious and dangerous going on on its grounds. I have written about this book.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer (live action TV series) - The Hunters made me think of this TV show. Those who'd like a mix of supernatural action and humor should give it a try.
  • Sorcerers & Secretaries (OEL manga) by Amy Kim Canter - I think I own both volumes of this series, although I've only flipped through them so far. It has touches of fantasy, but I think it's more a contemporary-set romance about two people who are still trying to figure their lives out. Those who'd like to try more OEL manga might want to check it out.

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