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Harry Potter Fans, Meet Henry Grim

August 2, 2011

Knightley Academy
Violet Haberdasher
Aladdin 2010 469 pages $15.99 hardcover

The Secret Prince

Violet Haberdasher Aladdin 2011 503 pages $16.99
ARC provided by the author! Thanks, Violet!

Before I begin this review, I just need to say: Violet Haberdasher is an outstanding pen name. I met Ms. Haberdasher at the Book Expo. As I’d hoped, her books are a fun, light adventure, sort of in the spirit of Harry Potter, and sure to appeal to Harry fans.

In a world like ours, but set apart, an orphan boy is chosen to attend a prestigious school. His fortune turns from a downtrodden servant boy, to the focus of attention and hopes and dreams. His school provides challenging lessons, but some good friends. There’s a spoiled rich boy bullying him, teachers scorning him or supporting him, and an adventure bigger than he ever dreamed.

Yes, Violet Haberdasher’s books are rooted in some of the whimsical adventure, and humble-boy-turns-hero that made J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter famous. And will probably make this a fun read for people who enjoyed Harry Potter’s adventures. Henry Grim wants to learn and go to Knightley Academy, to learn to be a detective knight, or a medical knight or, just to learn. In his slightly steampunk world, there is no more war- knights keep the peace on the local level, and training for knighthood is reserved for the elite.

Henry, an orphaned serving boy who studies furtively late at night, sits the exam to get into Knightley Academy, and does so well the school breaks its tradition: they admit him, and two other students. Rohan and Adam are both ostracized for being different- dark skinned and Jewish, respectively. As outcasts, the three band together and try to survive their classes. But- someone’s clearly out to sabotage them. And it might have something to do with the unsteady political situation across the border in the Nordlands.

The adventure, continuing into The Secret Prince, is fun on many different levels. I love the friendships between Henry and his two misfit roommates; between them and the rambunctious Francesca, Frankie, the headmaster’s ward; and between them and their classmates, as they start to settle in to the school’s life. There’s a good dose of suspense- as Rohan, Henry and Adam are victims of sabotage, and as international plots unfold. There’s intrigue as well, focusing on the unease in the Nordlands, and a cultural clash that leads to rumors, and might lead to war.

These two books are a light read, and definitely fun. I enjoyed sort of sitting in on the Knightley classes, seeing what and how they learned. I’m a sucker for banter, and for well-written swordfights, of which these two books have plenty. I had my doubts about the way the international intrigue played out. The Nordlands are a rigid regime ruled by a despot who bans educating women, takes a dim view of Jews and encourages youth organizations and marching… while that does ratchet up the suspense, at times it gets laid on a little thick, in a way that makes the pacing feel off. It could be, though, that I’m nitpicking, as a reader a decade or two older than the books’ target audience of 12 and up.

Both were enjoyable, fast, reads. I’m curious to see if, and how the series develops because I enjoy Henry’s school adventures, more than the political setup. So I would read the series if it continued. Because, since we’ve got Harry Potter on the brain already, it’s fair to say that I didn’t start to love Harry Potter til it hit its stride with The Prisoner of Azkaban.
So I’m curious to see what happens to Henry Grim and friends next.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 2, 2011 8:09 am

    Sounds very Potter-ish, but it sure does sound interesting.

  2. August 2, 2011 10:53 am

    I’ve taken a liking to whimsy, but have yet to get a copy of the first book so… perhaps at that point I will read the series ^.^

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