I stared out the backseat window of the car as my parents drove me to Pendragon University.
I discovered a new book and instantly loved the title: Pendragon University. The author is also known as JenKristo on deviantArt, where I’ve mostly known her Transformers fan fiction writings. When I read the summary on the deviantArt Artist Comment that she had included, I wasn’t sure whether I’d like it or not simply because it featured a human teen in a school of supernatural teens, and when I’d read stories with a similar premise before, they sounded a lot like each other or not very well written. And everyone who browses a book to read wants to be engaged by the story, which means the writing has to be good, if not great. I am extremely happy to say that I found both the story of Pendragon University and the writing to be great. In fact, if I hadn’t known it was her first novel, I would have begun looking for her other books to read them, as well.
The third line reeled me into the story like a fish on a hook:
My sketchbook was on my lap, and I doodled on it unconsciously.
Because I draw and I write, was instantly interested in someone who was doing one of the same things that I do, and wanted to see what was next. The character doing the doodling was Darcy Hill, who turned out to be the protagonist. Darcy applied to a number of colleges, along with Pendragon University, when a pamphlet about their art department came in the mail. She has trouble with her grades in school, but is a marvelous artist – and to her surprise, she is accepted by the university. To add further mystery to the whole process, there is very little information about it aside from the fact that about three percent of all applicants are accepted while the rest are turned away. Most curious!
Within her first day of being at Pendragon University, Darcy is repeatedly asked what she is and her response, “an art major”, only seems to draw amusement. She eventually discovers that she has been accepted to an “inhuman university” – a university for paranormal individuals. The reason for her acceptance to the university, as a human, seems to be connected to Ulrich, a boy that she had encountered on her first day and that she met again in the fitness room. When she recognized the music he was listening to, he left and moments later the song came on over the speakers in the ceiling but he didn’t return. When she tries asking about him, she is not answered.
Darcy quickly learns the dangers of this new world when she runs into a werewolf that’s a member of the Lycan Guild, an anti-vampire pack (sort of like in the Underworld movies) and are going to kill Darcy, except a black shape appears and kills some of the Lycan werewolves, which drives off the rest, thus rescuing her.
This next part was really wild – suddenly we are in Spain of 1498, where a person is created: Pendragon. Pendragon’s first memory is of some young priests and a woman, who are making life from nothing. The woman becomes his mother; she gave him the body of a young man but he has the mind of a child. The woman puts pearls in his mouth and a dead grackle, a bird, on his back. As the pearls melt, the bird is absorbed, leaving two black marks until there is pain and two wings burst from his shoulders. In this snippet of Pendragon’s history, there wasn’t too much, and there wasn’t too little. It was one of those perfect little miniature cliffhangers that leave you wondering just what the heck happens to the character before you’re redirected to the rest of the story and must force yourself to be patient.
Pendragon is the architect who made the school buildings for Pendragon University, as well as Wyvern City and the various statues found in the school grounds. According to what we are told in the early stages of the story, he disappeared a couple of years previously, and all of the staff talk about him in the historical sense. Not a single one will tell the students if they have any clue as to what might have happened to him.
At this point in the story, it seems that all Darcy has to do is survive her time at the school, and possibly find out who Ulrich is and what it is that keeps saving her. Of course, it’s always the easy goals that hide the harder ones from sight.
Ms. Smallwood’s story had just the right bits of this and that to make a story that is completely seamless and refreshingly original, and I could not help but be inspired by her imagination at the same time I was busy admiring what she’d done with it. And while there was some romance in the story, it was not the main focus, and was written in a beautifully subtle way that I could completely believe.
I would like to give Ms. Kaitlin Smallwood a standing ovation, but I’m not sure how many others have read her wonderful book, and I can’t clone myself, so I shall just have to settle for applause. You have a wonderfully creative mind, Ms. Smallwood, and I look forward to your future publications: both your fantasy titles and your fan fiction ones. In the meantime, I shall just admire Pendragon University and its art.
Special thanks to my Aunt for buying this book for me, before it even occurred to me to start either doing my not-so-subtle-indirect asking, or just asking plainly. You’re the best, A.K.
And special thanks to my elder sister, Z, for assisting me with the editing of this reivew so that it could look as nice as possible.
If you enjoyed the Harry Potter books, or the Keys to the Kingdon series by Garth Nix, you will love this story, too. And the link to the Amazon page can be found by clicking on the cover at the top of this post.