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Archimancy by J.A. White
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Archimancy: 10/18/19


Archimancy by J.A. White is the start of the middle grade Shadow School series. The book opens on the first day of a new school year as Cordelia Liu, recently moved to Vermont from California, is trying to find her classes in a school that could be a cousin of the Winchester Mystery House.

In P.E. on her first day, Cordelia encounters a crying boy clad in pajamas. She tries to help him and realizes that she can see right through him. He is her first ghost, one of many she will come to learn are haunting the school.

The school is built on the concept of archimancy — just as Hill House and Brunhilde tower (in The Phantom Tower by Keir Graff (2018). It isn't though, like the Winchester house, despite initial appearances. That home was built to appease ghosts, the other buildings were constructed to encourage hauntings — to literally trap ghosts.

The book has three distinct parts: the discovery of the ghosts, the attempts to help the ghosts, and the fight to defeat the poltergeists who are feeding off the ghosts. The unraveling of the narration reminds me a bit of the Netflix adaptation of The Haunting of Hill House, though told in a linear fashion.

Also like my other examples, Archimancy fits on the road narrative spectrum, even though it is almost entirely held within the confines of the Shadow School.

Cordelia and her two friends, Benji and Agnes, are marginalized travelers (66). They are students and they can only do their investigating during school hours or with permission from adults (parents, teachers, administrators). Their agency, is thus, limited.

The destination like my other examples is uhoria (CC). It's uhoria for two reasons. The first is the history of the school, the Shadow family, and the school's construction. Understanding these things from the past is what makes solving the current problem possible for Cordelia, Benji, and Agnes.

But there is also the paranormal aspect — the ghosts. Ghosts as I've stated before are one way for a destination "out of time" to be possible. Each of the ghosts at Shadow School are reliving bubbles of time, their last goals in life that have carried over to death.

Finally there is the route taken. The structure of the school combined with the dangers posed by being there after dark makes it a maze (CC) It's not a labyrinth because death is a genuine possibility; a previous janitor has died at the school.

Put all together, Archimancy is the tale of marginalized travelers going to uhoria via the maze.

The Shadow School series currently sold as a three book deal, but no dates for the second and third books have been posted yet. I intend to continue reading the series as books are released.

Five stars

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