Four magical schools: Vita Nostra, A College of Magics, Poppy War, Red Sister

I admit it freely and without shame: I love magical schools. Hogwarts may be the best known, but it’s not the first, nor did it exhaust the theme. That said, such an institution is no guarantee of a good story. Having realized that over two years I’d read four books where a girl attends and learns the mysteries of a magical school, I thought I’d compare.

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The Gone World (Tom Sweterlitsch); Recursion (Blake Crouch); The Light Brigade (Kameron Hurley)

I’ve found that when it comes to science fiction, I have a soft spot for time travel. Although the concept is, of course, fundamentally hokey, I enjoy a clever take on it that subverts your expectations about what the causes or consequences of it could be. These three novels, all released in the last two years, achieve that with varying levels of success — but still have trouble tying up every loose end, which really is the duty undertaken by a novelist undertaking an intricately plotted mind-bender.

I read them in the order listed, and of the three, I think The Gone World is the best of them, with Recursion a close second, and The Light Brigade trailing rather far behind them. I’ll try to avoid major spoilers, but part of the trouble of each is its ending, so I must speak in general terms about that.

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