Review: The Secret Prince by Violet Haberdasher

From Goodreads: Knightley Academy is back in session, and Henry Grim is confident that nothing else can prevent him from earning his knighthood. But Henry and his friends quickly discover that their professors have made some troubling changes to the curriculum — an old classroom filled with forgotten weapons. It is the discovery of this classroom that prompts Henry and Valmont to become the unlikely leaders of a secret battle society. But disaster strikes as Henry, Adam and Frankie find themselves stuck as Partisan School servants. Yet something is rotten in Partisan Keep. And when Henry is discovered by a secret society of outlaws with a sinister purpose, he must come to terms with a great sacrifice that will take him away from everything he has ever known and wanted. The stakes get higher and tension mounts in the second installment of Violet Haberdasher’s fresh, fast-paced, and always surprising Knightley Academy books.

While I was a bit confused when I reviewed Knightley Academy I have since asked questions of the author about what what Harry Potter Inspired Fiction really is. Now that I understand this concept so much better I went into The Secret Prince armed with knowledge and was able to simply just fall in love with the story and the characters. Oh, and fall in love I did. The book starts off with amazingly intriguing prose:

In the pale gloom of the unusually cold January afternoon when our story starts, the roads are desolate but their emptiness is not due entirely to the dreadful weather.
As you have probably heard, or read, or suspected without quite knowing why, sinister things indeed were happening up north, and in those dark days, fearful rumors were more common than holiday cheer.

But where there is suspicion there is also doubt, and some people still pretended that nothing was the matter. After all, appearances have to be maintained, especially by those looked to as an example. “Let the superstitious servants worry!” the aristocracy scoffed from the comfort of their elegant town houses.

After all, it wasn’t as though there were proof to any rumor. pg2 of the ARC

The Secret Prince was quite honestly an adventure mystery. I loved every minute of reading this and I adore Henry and his ragtag group of friends. I greatly appreciated and enjoyed the love story side plot and that we as the reader get to know more about the Nordlands and what makes them so different from where Henry lives.

There is love, laughter, death and life decisions made that are forced upon our protagonists. We learn more about Henry and his history, we learn about his friends and what their home life is like, and it reads like a suitor to Harry Potter.

I cannot wait to read book three and see what Henry and crew come up with to combat all of the things they learned in this book. Fantastic reading.

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What is Harry Potter inspired fiction?

I asked Robyn Schneider to write a guest post for me on Harry Potter inspired fiction. I read her Knightly Academy over a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was however not easy for me to review, I had a hard time understanding how was I supposed to review something that had already been labeled as Harry Potter inspired, and what did that mean anyway? I wrote my review of Knightly and it wasn’t a very good one, Robyn got me on Facebook and explained a bit about the questions I had and it made me realize that her book is in fact a very unique world, and I did enjoy reading it and now I can’t wait for the next one!

If you haven’t read Knightly I suggest you do. The paperback is coming out very soon and will be priced at $5.99. Robyn is holding a fantastic contest for pre-orders.

Robyn on Harry Potter Inspired Fiction:

I’d read plenty of fantasy series before Harry Potter, but while those books captured my imagination, none of them encapsulated my teenage years the way Potter did: going to midnight release parties in my Hogwarts robes, staying up all night to read the latest installment, and discovering the rivalry between top colleges of which was most like Hogwarts.

Growing up with Harry Potter isn’t the sort of thing you can walk away from, especially when your dream is to become a fantasy novelist. Because, for my whole life, magic worked the way J.K. Rowling said it did, and I couldn’t bring myself to write it any other way.

But when the Hogwarts Express left without me in that final chapter of Deathly Hallows, I realized that my generation wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Harry Potter. We were desperate to keep the magic going, and so I decided to write a book that captured the spirit of growing up with the Potter phenomenon. We didn’t need another forgettable Harry Potter rip off, and I was determined that no one would wave a magic wand in my story. As Jo Rowling said in her 2008 commencement speech at Harvard University: “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.”

And while Harry Potter was the perfect hero to defeat Voldemort, I didn’t identify with him. I wished that Harry had known about Hogwarts his whole life, dreaming of one day attending the school, and had been enthralled by his classes once he arrived. I wished that his schoolboy rivalry with Draco had been resolved, and that Harry hadn’t needed any magical objects or incantations to defeat evil—that, as Rowling said, he had carried all the power he needed within himself. Because, to me, the true hero is one who chooses to take up arms against injustice, rather than one who is destined or prophesied to do so. And so, with these thoughts racing through my mind, I finally sat down to write my own book.

Knightley Academy is set in a wonderfully strange school filled with secret passageways and eccentric professors, best friends, horrible bullies, and a whole host of mysteries. It follows the misadventures of the first three commoners who train to become knights at an all boys’ school in dystopian Victorian England, with swordfights and chivalry–but no magic. The hero is the cleverest scholar in his year, hopeless at sports and destined for nothing. And yet…there is something undeniably Potterish about my storytelling.

It’s hard to explain what constitutes Harry Potter inspired fiction, and what is merely a calculated rip-off. No one labels fairy tale retellings as unoriginal—rather, they are inspired by a tale that everyone knows and grew up with—yet writing an English boarding school story with an air of mystery is immediately suspect. Middle grade books are rarely set at boarding schools full of teenagers—the setting lends itself more to introspective coming of age tales, to romance and betrayal and smoking contraband cigarettes by the lake.

Rarely, in a school setting, is the fate of the world at stake—especially when teenaged protagonists are most likely preoccupied with getting kissed by their lab partner or fitting in with the right crowd. Perhaps the crux of the comparison is in the idea of a rambling school story as the backdrop for a hero’s tale—a tale of the power of friendship against a gathering evil, where the young hero must grow up with peril lurking around every corner and make a great sacrifice in order to save everyone.

I wonder now if Knightley Academy truly is Harry Potter inspired fiction, or if I’m simply a writer who happens to be inspired by my childhood hero, Jo Rowling. Because my intended audience was never the ten year old who just finished the Percy Jackson series, but the teenager who was ten years old when she first read Harry Potter. I envisioned college students reading Knightley Academy out of a sense of nostalgia, remembering what it felt like before we knew whether Harry could defeat Voldemort. Knightley is meant to be passed around within a book-loving community, with fans speculating if the bullying Valmont is meant to be a parallel to Draco Malfoy, or if, in the end, he will turn out to be an ally. It’s meant to foster discussions of politics and intolerance, and it contains sly references to everyone from Jane Austen to J.M. Barrie

Maybe it isn’t original pen the tale of an orphan who goes off to boarding school where he makes friends and enemies, but I’m proud of what I’ve written, and of the world I’ve created, where Stonehenge was disassembled and the Crimean War never happened, where knighthood modernized and guns were banned and a socialist revolution went terribly wrong in the middle of the 1800s. Because the world of Knightley Academy is wholly original, even if the story does take place at a boarding school

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Review: Knightley Academy by Violet Haberdasher

From Goodreads: Henry Grim has never been in trouble for borrowing a sword from the headmaster’s private stores. He has never discovered a forbidden room in a foreign castle, or received a death threat over breakfast.

All Henry knows is life as an orphaned servant boy at the Midsummer School, bullied by the privileged sons of aristocracy. But all that changes when Henry is the first commoner to pass the entrance exam for the prestigious Knightley Academy, where he will be trained as a modern-day knight alongside the cleverest and bravest fourteen-year-olds in the country.

Henry and his roommates, two other students from decidedly un-Knightley backgrounds, are not exactly greeted with open arms by their classmates. In fact, it soon becomes apparent that someone is going to great lengths to sabotage the trio’s chances at becoming knights. But Henry soon learns that there is more at stake than his future at Knightley, and only he can sound the alarm. Is anyone going to believe a former servant on the brink of expulsion?

I saw Violet Haberdasher speak about her new book Knightley Academy during the Teen Author Carnival panel. She explained in great detail about Harry Potter inspired fiction but I really had no idea what to expect going into her novel. On an impromptu trip to Strand Books (which I didn’t find as awesome as the hype) I bought the last copy of the book.

I read it in a day and I am still having a bit of trouble disassociating this from the Harry Potter series. I could identify which characters were modeled after those in J.K. Rowling’s books and early on in the book I had figured out who had it in for the commoner boys.

Does this however make it uninteresting? To be honest I am not sure. I am really unsure of how to separate the two and when the author is up front with her intentions and it was very Potteresque. I feel a bit uneducated on how to judge a book that is inspired greatly on another book.

The book was a fun romp through a fun school. I have quite the penchant for boarding school stories and on that note Knightley greatly pleases. I however had to keep telling myself to stop comparing it to Potter. It had a great middle grade feel and as I am usually looking for originality, I am at a loss for how to judge this book or recommend it to you.

It was however almost like J. K. had sat down and written a Knightly tale of her own, I did enjoy the story line. As I figured out the perpetrator early on I am leaning towards giving it a solid three. A fun bit of brain candy, and if you like Potteresque story lines then you will love Violet Haberdasher’s Knightley Academy.

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