I’ve been a fan of Anne Ursu since reading her first fantasy for young adults, The Shadow Thieves, some years ago. I love her simple but elegant style, that never talks down to kids. I hadn’t known, until the arrival of The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy, that she is a local writer, currently teaching at Hamline University.
In the land of Dragomir, there is a dire need for sorcerers to fight the Dread, remnants of spells left behind by the war with the neighboring kingdom’s witches two hundred years ago. All boys with the slightest inclination toward magic are given vast wealth and scrupulous training. For the girls, though, it is an entirely different matter. After Marya’s brother is tested for magical potential, she receives a letter consigning her to the Dragomir Academy for Troubled Girls.
This is a story that has been told before–a girl coming of age in a place where men are the only people who are trusted with magic–but it’s rarely been so well-told for a younger audience. (For a grown-up version, see The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow.) Marya is both resourceful and naïve, willing to question what she is told but still prone to believing the adults in authority. She has many things to be angry about, but never resorts to sulking about the unfairness. As Marya sorts through the things about herself that she needs to change and the things about the world that cause her problems but are not actually her fault, the young (or older) reader might recognize something of her in themselves.