I continue covering Halloween-y books in my own little unofficial countdown to the best holiday of all. Today I take a quick look at the second volume Svetlana Chmakova's Nightschool.
Alex's sister has disappeared and she is forced to enroll in the "Nightschool," i.e. a training ground for those with supernatural powers, in order to gain access and opportunity she needs to investigate what happened to Sarah. This is a very strong volume, particularly in Chmakova's portrait of the school as a fully-developed society entirely onto itself. From the first moment she's detected on the grounds, Alex makes quite an impression upon both faculty and students. Not necessarily a "good" impression, although she certainly is good at making waves. There is a great sequence where Alex knocks the socks off a cranky professor with her surprisingly skilled use of her astral projection. Equally important is her impressive ability at alienating the stuck-up student body through the power of snark. (Her response to crossing paths with the "queen bee" of the school is hilariously mouthy and on point). The further she wades into these waters, though, the more dangerous her mission becomes since she has become a person of interest to some very angry hungers (who she had a terrible run-in with in volume 1) who have connections inside the school.
The darker elements of the first volume have receded slightly to the background, along with the hunter storyline. My one critique of this volume is that there a few too many characters to keep track of, particularly in the number of hunter characters. I found my attention wandering when the focus is upon their various conflicts with other figures from this night-world that don't appear to directly involve Alex. In general, their (small) part of this volume simply lacks the sheer entertainment factor of her story. This problem will probably be solved when Alex comes face to face with the hunters once again, and come to terms with the possibly irreparable damage she caused three of their members back in the first volume.
In spite of my issues with the hunter aspect of the narrative, as a whole this is a particularly enjoyable take on the instruction for supernaturally-inclined teenagers. One reason the book works so well is that Chmakova never seems to forget that her main characters are in fact teenagers and, therefore, act as such. Witty dialogue, interesting characterization, and the creator's distinct take on shojo style all make this work an excellent example of how Japanese manga has inspired North-American comic book creators to develop compelling entertainment for teenage readers.
Review copy provided by Yen Press.