In the wake of the accident that killed her family, Spirit White is sent to Oakhurst Academy, a combination school and orphanage in the middle of Montana. There she learns that she is a legacy – not only to the school, which her parents also attended, but to magic.
All the students at Oakhurst have magical powers, and although Spirit’s power hasn’t manifested itself yet, the administrators insist she has one. Spirit isn’t sure she cares. Devastated by the loss of her family, she finds comfort with a group of friends: Burke Hallows, Lachlan Spears, Muirin Shae, and Adelaide Lake.
But something strange is going on at Oakhurst. Students start disappearing under mysterious circumstances, and the school seems to be trying to cover it up. Spirit and her friends must find out what’s happening – before one of them becomes the next victim…
Legacies is a YA fantasy, written by a well-oiled team. Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edgehill have written nine adult novels together in the Elves on the Road universe, all published by Baen. I’ve enjoyed all of those, so I was curious to see what they would make of a YA story. It’s a Lackey novel, so I was always going to read it, but I was glad I read it as it was an entertaining story and I flew through it. Legacies is a classic magical boarding school story, though more X-men’s Xavier Institute than Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. I love these kinds of stories, where we get to explore the world with the protagonist and learn alongside them.
I liked Spirit. She’s resilient, without just bouncing back from such a crushing loss as if it were no more than a misplaced notebook. I loved that first scene in the hospital with Neil, the med student/orderly, as I found it strangely realistic, both Spirit’s depressed moping and Neil’s kick in the behind. The story was filled with this kind of small details, such as Muirin needing to be needled into taking responsibility at the scrying or Spirit’s needing to be reminded of her family to be shocked back into action in the final showdown of this book. However, despite not just ‘getting over’ her loss, Spirit does try and rebuild her life, even when this rebuilding doesn’t come easily. Reading about Spirit’s settling in at Oakhurst and forming friendships with her little cabal was a pleasure. I especially liked the descriptions of how the kids would try and get around all the restrictions and monitoring of their internet, email and IM use. I thought Muirin and Spirit’s use of Orwellian 1984 lingo was brilliant!
Legacies definitely read as the first in a series. There is lots of introduction of the characters and setup of the world, though there is a lot which remains unclear; the premise of the grand war is still shrouded in mystery and it isn’t even clear whether Dr. Ambrosius and the rest of the staff are good guys or part of the problem. Lackey and Edgehill also build up a definite triangle between Loch, Spirit and Burke, to be further elaborated upon in the next books, one presumes. Personally, I’m rooting for Burke to get our girl, as I love his steady dependability and his unfailing sense of fair play.
Unfortunately, the book contains lots of annoying loose ends too, such as Dr. Ambrosius’ weird personality switches, which are mentioned a few times, but never explained. Or the real cause of Spirit’s accident and how exactly are Spirit’s parents connected to Oakhurst? What happens to Nick and Edgar; do they come back or are they out of school forever? While some of these issues will no doubt be addressed in coming novels, I would have preferred if at least the minor ones, such as the last one, would have been wrapped up in this book, instead of just being left by the wayside. Because I fear that some of these loose ends will never be tied up and while I don’t mind ambiguous endings when they are deliberate, that doesn’t always seem the case here.
Despite the loose ends, Legacies truly is a fun read, a story you can breeze through in a sitting and not regret the time spent on it. I’d recommend it to younger readers, Lackey fans and readers who like books in this sort of boarding school setting or ‘education of the hero’-type novels.