This time, I am going to explicitly and shamefully show how much of a fan I am of R. Lee Smith’s books. Besides the fact that I have all her books, and all read a few times until expiration, I always wait for the next masterpiece like I wait for sales at fashion houses.
Here we go, my review for “The Scholomance”, but but first things first and that is a fair warning. This is not your regular fairy tale where it’s all sunshine and rainbows. It’s much, much worse and absolute wickedly delightful at the same time.
It’s dark. It’s nasty. It makes you cringe sometimes (I didn’t but I’m wired differently so the basic rules don’t apply to me). My mother would probably drag me to the priest just for reading this book and liking it so damn much, even my kindle is tired of how many times it was read.
Sorry, I stand corrected, better make that a monastery, to become a nun or perhaps a mental hospital for cases without cure, rather than just to a priest.
As a side note, have always wondered how did the original word from Romanian, “Solomonanță” to be exact turned into Scholomance. No joke. I actually always did, ever since toddler me learned her letters and found her love for everything myth legend and ancient. In Romanian we call it “Solomonanță” or “Școala de solomonărie” which means well… basically “Solomonanță” or “School of .. well solomonărie.” As far as I know we don’t always have a direct translation from or to other languages for some words or terms belonging to the legend/myth category. Do note though, that it resembles the name of Solomon extremely much. So basically, a “solomonar” is a wizard. Closest thing I can think of, that is (be assured, I’m not writing crap; I’m a whiz at myths and legends and ancient history, to the sheer exasperation of every kin I have). And since my ancestor made up the therm, it’s more like a wizard who controls rain and clouds. And possibly hail… and storms. Or to be precise the dragons of the storms. What can I say? Romanians. We’re inventive as hell when superstitious stuff is involved. Especially in Transylvania.
Scratch that, make it the entire Balkan area.
As a native, I can honestly say that some of the translations from English to Romanian and vice versa made me laugh so hard I spilled coffee on my newly laundered T shirt (nothing new here; last time I spilled tea on my laptop and I knew exactly where my salary went afterwards). “The Dancing Goat” is not “La Dansul Capra,” but “La Capra Dansatoare” or “La Capra Dansândă” (don’t get me started on the pronunciation because that’s a whole new can of worms). “Dansul” is the noun and it’s articulated as in “the dance”. And for people who might get the weird idea to drop by sometimes, Hermannstadt is Sibiu in Romanian. Love the city. That and Brasov, which are old style and awesome (Just don’t wear high heels on the cubic stone paved streets in the old centers). But no matter, I always prance like an egocentric, well… pony when I find Romanian bits thrown in while reading English books.
Now, on to the good stuff.
The book itself was… um epic? To say the least? For lack of a better word that transcends epic, I’ll leave it at that. Well, it’s no secret that I do have some weird tastes as far as books are concerned. If it’s gory, catchy and gritty I eat it like the Belgian chocolate stolen good-naturedly from my aunt’s cupboard. Even if R. Lee Smith was not one of my top 5 favorite authors of all time, I knew just by reading the blurb of this book that i would love it to heaven and back.
Make that to hell and back.
It had… everything? Yep, it did and then some on top of that. The descriptions skyrocketed, the whole world scene was mind blowing in the sense that beyond the fact that it was original, the sheer descriptions and plot gave it a whole new category of awesomeness. Mara was more than I expected. Even if she was not the conventional heroine, I loved her from the very beginning. The way this book was written it made me relate to her so badly that by the second half, I was already wholeheartedly supporting her, cheering for her, willing to ignore all of her transgressions and honestly not minding if she killed half the people inside that mountain. Not hard to think that considering that humans and demons alike were not exactly lovable creatures. More like, put them all in a fictional pit inside the reader’s head and watch them suffer.
Of all the demons teaching at that school, nicely called Scholomance, I liked Horuseps the most. So much, that I would not have minded a lot of things. He was charming, sly, cunning and had quite a silver tongue. Shortly, just how I like them. Of course most of the creatures there had an agenda, but well, what’s a good book without some plot twists good enough to launch your imagination into the stratosphere, right? And what decent demon does not have an agenda or an ulterior motive?
Let’s move on to the good stuff. The sex scenes were…. well, I’d say a few choice words and insert a few gifs over here, but I don’t want to be banned. Just kidding.
Kazuul was a bit of my guilty pleasure to read about. And Mara’s first meeting with him was equally memorable. Beware, excerpt follows:
He closed his eyes and opened them again. It was not quite a blink. His smile never shifted, but his eyes glowed brighter. “I tired of that game,” he told her. “Perhaps too soon. Thy manner is much changed from those I once knew…the world has moved on, and thou art new-come to it, I think. How many years hast thou?”
“I do not lie with children, no matter how prettily they do beseech me at my bedside.”
“After centuries of retirement, you’d be robbing the cradle even if I said ‘a hundred,’” Mara countered. “So what difference does it make?”
He uttered a low, noncommittal sound and eyed her again, unabashed in his scrutiny. “And how art thou called, thee of so many years?”
“You’re the Master here. You can call me what you like.”
I did not expect the ending. I kid you not. I suspected some of the things, but still loved every second of the ending. So much, that not surprisingly, It made me read the book 4 times and cut my sleep short. They did remain together even after Mara found what she has been looking for, but that together i think was bittersweet. Another fair warning here… if you want meaningful romance and feelings and drama and well, cheesy stuff thrown all over the place, this book is not it. There are some passages i am well aware that some of you (the majority of you, since well, you are normal human beings no doubt, and not mentally twisted like me) will absolutely, utterly and completely abhor this book from the bottom of your hearts. I am not sure if i should call it inter species sex? Um somewhere around that concept. Kind of complicated to classify.
So far, we have sex…. and blood… and torture… and magic… and blood and sex…. and some demons…. and sex… did i mention the sex? Now, don’t take it like that. Sure, there are some sex scenes (quite well written actually although it doesn’t quite classify as um, normal sex. but this book has a plot. a very good plot with mystery, fights, detective work and, probably a happy ending. Sort of. The main people didn’t die…. horribly, but that doesn’t mean a pink wedding. God, but i loved the fantasy elements and the descriptions. I don’t think i had a moment where i said : “hmm, this is quite dull” or “hmm now it’s getting boring”. So if you like smart ass demons, sassy main character who nevertheless has quite realistic feelings and reactions and whom i assure you, you won’t feel the need to bitch slap every 2 minutes. Still loved it. I read all the book R Lee Smith has written and i actually almost build a golden shrine complete with black diamonds for each one of them. And this comes from somebody who has read a few thousand books in her lifetime. Did you know you can like stretch the skin of somebody using magic so you could get very creative during sex? I did not. But now i do.
On the subject of the legend behind the book, I found surprisingly few things aside from what I wrote in the beginning about the name of the school itself. The only noteworthy piece I did scavenge was written by a certain Emily Gerard in her article some while back (19th century?) and who offered a paragraph or so of description in “Transylvanian Superstitions”:
- “As I am on the subject of thunderstorms, I may as well here mention the Scholomance, or school supposed to exist somewhere in the heart of the mountains, and where all the secrets of nature, the language of animals, and all imaginable magic spells and charms are taught by the devil in person. Only ten scholars are admitted at a time, and when the course of learning has expired and nine of them are released to return to their homes, the tenth scholar is detained by the devil as payment, and mounted upon an zmeju (dragon) he becomes henceforward the devil’s aide-de-camp, and assists him in ‘making the weather,’ that is, in preparing thunderbolts. A small lake, immeasurably deep, lying high up among the mountains south of Hermanstadt [sic], is supposed to be the cauldron where is brewed the thunder, and in fair weather the dragon sleeps beneath the waters.
And for the love of every God in every pantheon, if you’re an innocent person and you like vanilla stuff, red confetti hearts and pink fluffy unicorns (dancing on rainbows only optional), DO NOT read this book.
If your heart is as dark as mine, then please, I’ll even be happy to give you the mobi (or epub if you have a nook) for you to read it to your heart’s desire. We, of the dark side (that also like cookies) must stay together.