Title: A Handful of Ashes
Author: Garth Nix
In: To Hold the Bridge (Garth Nix) & Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron (Jonathan Strahan)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Australian authors, Fantasy
Format: Short story
Publisher: Hot Key Books
5th sentence, 74th page: Raised in the college, she regarded the involvement of any of the university authorities as a very last resort, and the Chancellor… well, the less he had to do with the College, the better.
Mari and Francesca are sizars – poor students allowed to study witchcraft at Ermine College in return for menial work. Despite the few hours they can dedicate to reading and learning, they are both talented at magic, and determined to graduate. When some of their wealthier schoolmates invoke powerful magic laws to humiliate them, they unleash more than they bargained for. Can the sizars save the college? The future of Ermine College is at stake!
Caste systems and the different tiers which we find ourselves in based on our socio-economic status have always been something that fascinate me. And, it obviously fascinates so many other people – after all, there are a lot of stories which use this as one of their themes. And, as always, Garth Nix takes this difference in people’s standing and writes an incredible story about it.
We all have had to go to school and study, in some format or another, and I loved the setting of the academy in A Handful of Ashes. The role of the sizars is no more than a servant with educational privileges, and the ways in which they are ridiculed by the other members of the school is cruel. Yet, it is the returning of the ancient rules that really bring havoc upon the College. It is a great reminder that you should always look to the future, not continue to reflect on the past. After all, there is nothing we can do to change it, and bringing it back can certainly call forth many dangers.
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