Stones to Ashes (Alchemists Academy #1)
My rating: Fantasy
by Kailin Gow
Wirt has spent his life being shuffled between foster homes and getting into trouble at school. Indeed, Stone to Ashes opens with him running away from some boys who want to beat him to a bloody pulp. Fortunately for Wirt, it turns out that he has latent magical powers, and he manages to teleport out of trouble, winding up at a magical school in the middle of nowhere (quite literally between universes).
The author is very conscious of the Harry Potter legacy of magical schools, and I smiled when Wirt compared the Alchemists' Academy to J.K.Rowling's series. The comparison is inevitable, with similarities ranging from transformation classes, a quest to seek a missing magical artefact, and staff members gone bad. But in the Alchemists' Academy, there are fewer obvious good guys, and it's not at all clear that the school wasn't established for some nefarious purpose in the first place. (I hope we'll find out more, later in the series.)
I would have liked to see more of Wirt's interactions with his peers at the school, especially given his troubled past and tendency to make enemies. Instead, we were only shown his quick friendships with a small number of other students. However, this was an enjoyable read, and I'm looking forwards to the next installment.