The Mystwick School Of Musicraft by Jessica Khoury
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Available Through The Book Depository: The Mystwick School Of Musicraft
Cover Design: Federica Frenna
Summary: Amelia Jones always dreamed of attending the Mystwick School of Musicraft, where the world’s most promising musicians learn to create magic. So when Amelia botches her audition, she thinks her dream has met an abrupt and humiliating end—until the school agrees to give her a trial period.
Amelia is determined to prove herself, vowing to do whatever it takes to become the perfect musician. Even if it means pretending to be someone she isn’t. Meanwhile, a mysterious storm is brewing that no one, not even the maestros at Mystwick, is prepared to contain. Can Amelia find the courage to be true to herself in time to save her beloved school from certain destruction?
My Rating: ★★★★☆
*Received an unsolicited ARC from the publisher*
My Thoughts: The Mystwick School Of Musicraft is a charming middle grade that follows Amelia Jones when she attends her dream school of Mystwick to continue learning about creating magic through music! Khoury’s novel layers an intriguing magic system, delightful cast of characters, adventure, mystery, and ultimately delivers a vibrant character-driven tale!
I was not expecting to get an ARC of this in the mail, so when I did I was thrilled! I adore Khoury’s writing and the way she creates such unique worlds and memorable characters (such as those in The Forbidden Wish). Hers were some of the earlier YA Books I’d read before becoming a blogger and I was excited to have a chance to read Mystwick, her middle grade debut!
Allowing the story to be told from Amelia’s 1st person POV, you could sense with each page her unique voice/energy that presented a wonder, comedic tone, and fun delivery to such a fascinating story! Her vibrancy as a character shines through, bringing the story to life and you can’t help but want to keep turning the page (I mean not only does the book have such amazing chapter titles, but it also starts with her trying to charm a chicken!!).
On the day of her exam to get into Mystwick (a school for students who want to continue learning how to create magic through music), Amelia knows she still needs a bit of practice, but she quickly makes a new friend at auditions, Jai Kapoor! Loved how their friendship was really developed throughout the book.
Amelia’s audition doesn’t go as planned and her dreams to attend the magical school, start to feel further away! However, due to a mix up she’s given a trial period allowing her to stay. What I really appreciated about the story was how Khoury delivered a tale of growth as we see Amelia overcome this internal conflict, giving it her all to prove that she does belong! Even as she struggles to catch up with the more advanced students, while also keeping her “trial period” situation a secret, she still can’t help but feel even more distant.
Knowing that her (now deceased) mother attended many years ago, she continues to pursue her dream and it gives her the inspiration/motivation to continue to try and boost both her courage and confidence. It also was very interesting to explore the dynamic between Amelia, her grandmother (who’s now her guardian) and why Mystwick is such a tough topic between the 2 of them!
Also one of the even more intriguing parts of this novel was the element of mystery and how it seamlessly wove into the story as a whole.
If you love magical boarding school books, I recommend checking this one out. There’s always something fun to learn about or explore on the Mystwick campus. It also allowed for a lot of time to be spent with the world-building, character development, friendship, and overall magical atmosphere that beautifully weaves itself into our world.
For a standalone, there’s such a deep connection that I felt with the setting (maybe it was because I took my time to read it), but either way it feels incredibly expansive and tied to our world where there’s so much care and development put into it! If you love detailed magic systems, the world of Mystwick is great, there’s lots of explanation as to the different types of magic and instruments, musicians around the world, how the rules of Mystwick make the magic system feel so grand and much more!
Here were a couple of additional details that I wanted to highlight: Novices vs. Maestros, the colors that symbolize different types of magic, Spellstones (a store for magical music sheets), and how magicians can use magic for all sorts of things: Weather, nature, and almost anything else you can think of! *There’s also a sense of limitations to the magic which was explored as well. Also there’s some left unsaid when it comes to some of the magic, which leaves a lot to the imagination which I really appreciated.
A big focus of the plot not only follows Amelia’s daily school life at Mystwick (classes, practicing, trying to fit in with the students, including her roommate Hamako Bradshaw aka Darby), but also her attempts to solve a mystery as to who could be trying to sabotage her chances at staying! The different pockets of mystery become such big parts of the story that unravel throughout the book. It offers a lot to not only the story, but also the characters and their development.
The Mystwick school had a sense of legacy to it that was indescribable. Maybe it was the knowledge of the instructors, the structure to the rules that were laid out, the campus traditions and well-established buildings or perhaps it was the bits and pieces of knowledge we learn through Amelia over the course of the story. There’s an internal skill and strength that Amelia discovers is essential to her growth as a musician and I appreciated the slow progress of that journey.
There’s also a friend trio (what I thought was originally going to be a duo) which really grew on me throughout the book: Amelia, Jai, & Darby! Their dynamic and wacky adventures were so much fun to follow! There was also a good amount of page-time given for Amelia to interact more with other students of the campus–it was those kinds of moments that made Mystwick come to life.
However one of my personal gripes is that Amelia, Jai, & Darby’s friendship felt like it could have been a bigger part of the story too–it breaks off for a little, when a bit of drama/conflict happens throughout the book. I felt it would have shined much better if their friendship was given more page time to develop! But I also appreciated how this is a story about personal growth, hence a lot of internal page time/development with Amelia.
Family (legacy even), friendship, and personal growth were all big themes of this story and really shined through. Khoury really cemented those themes into the story and alongside the plot, were such shining moments of the book.
There’s also such a diverse cast (characters from around the world that attend Mystwick), even a side character mentioned to have a wheelchair. Overall you sense how inclusive the world is, with characters from different backgrounds, ages–even getting small glimpses as to how magic operates outside the US which was great!
There’s even illustrated pages throughout the novel, done by Federica Frenna (who also designed the cover) and it just adds a little something special to the already magical story!
Again while it seems that the story wraps up in a great way for a standalone with all the major plot threads tied up, there’s somethings left unsaid and some new threads included for a possible sequel? I’m not sure if that’s a plan, but I would ABSOLUTELY love another book set in this magical world! It really comes to life and once I reached that last page, I was sad to be leaving the wonderful world of Mystwick!
Also, I’ve heard the audiobook is fantastic! I’ve read that it even includes original compositions and orchestral music throughout the audio! I’m hoping to give it a listen!
The Mystwick School Of Musicraft is a charming middle grade fantasy which blends a character-driven tale with mystery, humor, and a delightful magic system sure to captivate! There’s a lot of depth to the world, its characters, alongside a tale about finding the confidence within yourself. This is a middle grade you don’t want to miss!