So, sometimes works in the Fantasy genre are based on popular tropes. I'd go as far as to say that most are. The thing about any trope is that it became a trope because it's entertaining. So yes, Pam Uphoff's Directorate School is, at its heart, based on a trope: It's a boarding school for kids. And yes, J.K. Rowling used it too. Rowling has sold only God knows how many millions of books though and that's because it's a good trope. It works. And Directorate School is a good book. I like the whole "Let's go to school and save the world in my spare time" thing. Who didn't think their problems were world ending as a teenager? Of course, in this book they're probably right, but why nitpick?
The Directorate Series, so I have been told, is a continuation of the Wine of the Gods series, which started with Outcasts and Gods. I have to confess that I have not read as many of the books in the series as I would like to. I'm working on it. I damn sure plan to own them all at some point.
Despite the fact that Directorate School is a follow on to an earlier series, I had no problem whatsoever understanding what was going on. There was less heavy world building than I've seen in other books to be sure, but I liked that. The fact that we missed the lecture on the middle name of the emperor's sister's, cousin's, cat's, dog's, pet goldfish's little brother is a good thing. It kept things moving and the book has multiple sequels, so it's not like she had to squeeze it all in. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed John Ringo's The Last Centurion and I'm a David Weber fan (and sometimes I'd like to see a Weber of words meaning a huge infodump the same way people refer to a Weber of missiles) so it's not like I don't enjoy some background. I just don't think it always needs to be there and Heinleining in details works.
The upshot of avoiding needless exposition is that we get additional action. Directorate School cooks with grease. There is always something going on. Whether it's schoolyard battles in the dojo or actual combat, something is happening. And there is the usual teenage thing going on in the background. I can't believe how grateful I was that I didn't have to save the world right before that big math test. I mean, I didn't KNOW how grateful I was, but I was totally grateful. Seriously, these kids do great.
And that's part of what works about Directorate School. The kids are just that: kids. They do things that every kid does and they sweat about it. When Magic class finals roll around, they start to sweat. When school starts and they have to face off in Martial Arts class to decide who's best things get interesting. There are high school style cliques. One of them causes the problem that pushes the plot. It all makes sense.
Our heroes end up involved in things that should be well above their pay grade as cadets. They rock it out anyway because they're the heroes. Seriously, it's a bit surprising in one respect. Magic is an integral part of the world that Uphoff has created but our characters are in their first year at the Directorate School and don't know how to use their magic yet. I can't wait till the next book when they learn how to because it is on like a neck-bone. These kids are bad asses now. When they have all of their tools, look out. I mean that. I can't wait to see it. Uphoff intentionally disadvantaged her main characters this time around but when it's go time and they actually learn what they're doing it's going to be scary. It's weird how they're all going into separate specialties too. It's almost like they're going to need multiple talents to overcome problems in future books and she's working to make that believable now. Hmmm...
A lot of these kids are important kids. Don't get me wrong. Those of you out there who hate any mention of The One are going to be okay here. There is one kid who seems to be more powerful than the rest, but for the most part note of them seem to be prophesied or anything. They're just kids doing what they need to do because they're stuck at ground zero of a terrible event. I would hope that I'd be able to do the same if I were in their position. And, upon more mature consideration, it may be two of the kids that seem more powerful than everyone else. So, either there is no Chosen One, or there is and he hasn't been born yet. I haven't read any of the sequels yet, so there is a ninety plus percent chance that I'm talking out of my third point of contact but hmmmm...
Probably my only complaint about Directorate School is that it's too short. I mean, I know there are like elebenty bajillion sequels or something and that's awesome but what happens here could have been more detailed. I know one particular occurrence that I would have liked to have seen that happened off-screen. I was a bit frustrated by that. I'm sure Uphoff had her reasons but some things are better shown than told. It kinda irked me a bit. It didn't ruin the story. It was definitely believable. It just happened where we couldn't see it. Then the big reveal hits and I was left feeling a bit cheated.
The story is a good one overall though. I plan on picking up a copy of the next book as soon as possible. Uphoff can really write. Her worlds live and breathe. Her characters are entertaining and have believable motivations. People underestimate that. The fact remains that a character only makes sense if the reason that they're doing what they're doing for an at least semi-logical reason (semi because some emotional motivations don't make strict logical sense even if they are understandable) and Uphoff nails that. In reading Directorate School I never stop to wonder why someone would bother.
Bottom Line: 4.5 out of 5 School Books
Self Published, 2016