If you are looking for an interesting mix of Harry Potter & The Last Airbender than the Wielder Series is definitely for you. Franca hasn’t reinvented the wheel here, those familiar with YA “school of magic” stories will find a lot of similar tropes: the inexperienced protagonist slowly coming to grips with her powers, themes of social inequality (the class bullies are rich and snobbish), a smorgasbord of teachers ranging from compassionate to austere, and an underlying mystery that pulls the story forwards.
That being said, despite the familiar setting, Franca’s writing is nothing short of excellent. The conversations between characters are smooth and believable, the world-building is incredibly detailed and smartly integrated into the story, and the action scenes, while rare, are frantic and fast-paced. It’s evident that Franca has a very clear picture in her head of how the world works and how the characters interact and she has managed to transcribe this perfectly. A dramatis personae, timeline, and more can be found at the end of the book for those who would like to immerse themselves even more completely in the history and culture.
There were only a very few small niggles that bothered me. I had difficulty identifying with the main characters, although this is of course a personal opinion as I am a man in my forties and not necessarily the primary target audience of the novel. In fact, my favourites by far were two secondary characters: Pearl, who had a great redemption arc throughout the book, and Malie, a talking sea serpent (!) who helps flesh out the main antagonist, Queen Kalessa. Hopefully we’ll get a spin-off series about Malie one day!
The other thing that put me off a little bit was the pacing. The plot took a while to get going, and occasionally went off on some tangents that slowed the main story to a crawl. Again, this is my personal opinion as I’m a big fan of fast-paced action-packed reads. At close to 580 pages (for the paperback version), it is maybe too long for YA and could be slimmed down.
One last (but important) point: the cover is fantastic! It’s the kind of cover that tells the reader a great deal about the story (it’s obviously going to be a fantasy book about magic and a female protagonist) and looks very professional. If this is available in bookshops, I’m sure the cover alone will draw more than one inquisitive reader to the book. Well done!
Well-written with great world-building and believable characters, I can easily recommend The Wielder Trials to anyone searching for some YA magic-based antics.