School of Deaths (The Scythe Wielder's Secret #1) by Christopher Mannino

Saturday, 12 March 2016

School of Deaths by Christopher Mannino

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I read the synopsis for School of Deaths I got very curious.
Could this potentially be a match to series such as Percy Jackson and Harry Potter but with a main female perspective? Loads of good things could be read in the Goodreads reviews. All things considered I'd much rather wield a scythe then a broom. who needs to fly when you can just slash your way wherever you wish to go right? Okay, so that is not entirely how it works out but my point is that it had me fantasizing up some truly awesome scenario's.

School of Deaths follows Suzie who is rapidly losing weight and eventually finds herself being transported against her will to the world of Deaths to attend . The issue is that she seems to be the only female Death to be admitted since the last one. A 'witch' who betrayed their entire world. Naturally there is a big prejudice against her.
"Suzie,” he said, “how has your first day been going, as a girl?”“I’ve been a girl all my life,” she replied."
 Not only does that make her a target but she is also plagued by strange visions and finds she may be involved in other strange occurrences. Luckily she manages to make some allies in Billy and Frank as she tries to uncover them.

The gate swung open and Suzie found herself in a well-lit open room. The ceiling was a dome, painted with a vivid fresco. Large Dragons, green and black, with glowing red eyes were painted on the left. On the right, Deaths wielded scythes. A character who must be Lovethar stood near the center, robed but with her hood down, pointing her scythe at the Deaths. Flames surrounded her.“The Great War,” said Billy, following her gaze. “You’ll learn about it in History class.

With the notion of Suzie being 13 I had prepared myself to read a book more targeted to middle grade. However, I soon found out that this was written without a specific target audience in mind and that quickly became frustrating. The characters are either entirely to naive or way to advanced in their actions and narrative for their age. Not only that but certain situations as well as language used, I found rather awkward. 

I am by no means a prude or bothered by foul language but it felt inappropriate and cringe worthy when reading. Even the sexism issue felt more like propaganda then a realistically portrayed scenario a young adult could learn from. I am not sure if this was done on purpose so younger teens could understand it however if that is the case then words used in other parts of the book are entirely inappropriate. It simply does not work for either middle grade or YA in my opinion.

I hereby present you with a passage from the book :
He glared at her, his dark face flushed with rage. "The damned bitch wants to stop the try-outs? Who told the slut to come onto the field?"

Or this my people, which is a direct quote out of the text book Suzy studies at this college which she is forced to read out loud in class:

Females are useless. They are lazy and spend their time distracting the true Deaths. They are to weak to wield a scythe, and too stupid to use them. A deficiency in arm muscles renders the female body unable to perform the responsibilities of a Death.

I mean, WHUT? that is not just sexism that sounds like hate propoganda.. You know, the stuff a certain someone *Hitler* *cough* would have shouted out during World War II.

Would it have happened at any time in history (ie. 14 hundreds or whatever?). Perhaps, but even so, I highly doubt that would be the way a classroom would have been taught. Surely they'd simply have refused females outright. Regardless, reading this simply comes across as a bit OTT to make a point.

So I will jump of my high horse now that I have made my major issues with the book (and therefore my lower rating) clear.

"“Here,” said Billy, popping his head in. He tossed her a backpack. “From a job in Mexico last year.”“This looks like a kid’s backpack,” said Suzie.“Everybody dies.”"

There are some good factors as well. I liked the Dragons! More Dragon action please... Where are they all?! The Reapings, again I wished there was more about this and the 'science' and reason behind them. Then there is the Boskery and the odd snacks.. the little things that usually bring alive a story..

Also, kuddo's to whoever created the cover. The artwork is pretty darn amazing. I found it resembling the cover work on Nice Dragons Finish Last and Sweep in Peace.. It seems this type of artwork might be making a come back.

All in all, what sounded so incredibly promising, fell rather flat in execution. When I look back at the other reviews I feel as though I read a completely different book as described by others. So with the risk of being completely on my own here, you have been warned picking this up.

Would I recommend it to anyone?
I doubt it. Perhaps if they where a die hard HP fan willing to read very loosely based fanfiction...

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