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*Aldwyn's Academy: A Companion Novel to A Practical Guide to Wizardry (Dungeons & Dragons)* by Nathan Meyer- young readers fantasy book review
Aldwyn's Academy: A Companion Novel to A Practical Guide to Wizardry (Dungeons & Dragons)
by Nathan Meyer
Grades 4-8 256 pages Mirrorstone September 2010 Hardcover    

Dorian Ravensmith wants to be a warrior like his father. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get to make that choice. His mother, the legendary Serissa, is a sorceress at the Royal Court, and she’s determined that Dorian will be a wizard like her. His mother has drilled him in the basic spells and elementary tools of wizards, but Dorian barely pays attention to Serissa’s nagging. She can make him go to Aldwyns Academy, but he doesn’t have to like it.

As much as Dorian would like to avoid going to the academy, it’s still preferable to what happens on the way there. Within site of Aldwyns, he and his mother are attacked by vicious dire wolves. Serissa’s powers are enough to hold off the beasts until Dorian attempts a protection spell of his own and nearly gets both of them killed. That’s just the sort of screw-up that defines Dorian, and one more reason he hates the idea of becoming a wizard.

Clearly he’s going to need a lot of help if he’s to make it through the courses at Aldwyns. His mother has seen to it that he’ll be assigned the most accomplished student as his mentor, Helene Miridori. She may be an exceptional wizard-in-training, but Helene is also rude, bossy and stuck-up. While her obnoxious personality is the first thing Dorian notices about Helene, he also picks up on something a lot more disturbing: Helene has a secret that she’s keeping from everyone.

Within minutes of his arrival at Aldwyns Academy, Dorian notices something else amiss, too. Dire wolves at the gates, banshees in the garden, and ghosts in the halls of that prestigious institution are all sure signs that something evil is at work. Dorian knows that magic is dangerous, especially when it’s wielded by dark forces with nefarious motives. He’s surrounded by strangers from every imaginable species, each of them equipped with spells and charms that easily cover who they really are and what they’re up to, so he can’t trust a soul.

Being his father’s son, though, Dorian has the heart of a warrior, and it often encourages him to take honorable if foolish actions. When he spots a shadowy figure creeping out of the school grounds late at night, Dorian gives chase with the idea that he might be able to solve the unnatural mysteries at Aldwyns. Instead he finds himself mired in a plot thick with dark magic that he must somehow defeat if Aldwyns Academy is to be saved.

A companion novel to A Practical Guide to Wizardry, Aldwyn's Academy gives us characters that remind us of ourselves and the people we know. They aren’t perfect or all-powerful; they’re barely able to weave a spell, in fact. Dorian, Helene and the other students have to tackle everyday problems and enemies with their wits more than their wands. Nathan Meyer has drawn a fresh and colorful backdrop for his cast and spun a compelling tale, but Aldwyn's Academy is really about the power that comes from deep inside each one of us.
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