Nightschool, Volumes 1 and 2
written by Svetlana Chmakova
Alex and her sister Sarah live in our world, but they are not human. They are weirn, like witches. Sarah is the Night Keeper at the Nightschool, where teenage demons, vampires, weirn, and more attend classes. Despite her powers, though, Alex doesn’t attend. A problem she won’t discuss keeps Alex cut off from her own kind and studying at home. When Sarah disappears—and Alex is the only one who can remember that she even existed—Alex must venture out into both the real world and the world of the Nightschool. But not knowing who to trust might get Alex into serious danger as a group of determined Hunters is circling ever closer to the students of the Nightschool.
The first two volumes of Chmakova’s urban fantasy are the beginning of a unique creation that should instantly capture the attention of paranormal fiction fans. Even by the end of the second volume, readers won’t be sure exactly who is a hero and who is a villain. It’s quite possible that none of the characters is really completely one or the other, which makes the story both more realistic and more exciting. One nice touch is that Chmakova doesn’t present or drop characters for no reason. Three characters who are introduced briefly in the first volume, and who seem simply to be comic fodder, are brought back in the second volume and prove important to Alex’s story. Alex herself is still an unknown by the end of volume two. She’s sweet and likeable, but readers are given plenty of hints that she hides a dark and extremely dangerous secret. Both the Hunters and the demons of the Nightschool seem to have reasons for their behavior, though readers aren’t given many of those reasons this early on in the series, so they are left intriguingly unsure of where Chmakova’s tale is heading.
Chmakova’s artistic abilities are in full view here as she effortlessly combines Eastern and Western comic art techniques into her own, original storytelling style. She creates characters who are all gracefully beautiful, but who stand out from each other at the same time. Using both horror and humor to tell her tale, she is careful to not muddy the two by blending them too much, so the scary scenes and action scenes are as heart-pounding as they should be and the comedic sections are laugh-out-loud funny. She can use manga elements like chibi to great effect, but her work doesn’t have the feel of trying to be any particular style. This originality makes her art ring true in the eyes of readers. One small weakness is a tendency to use emoticons in her text bubbles. This is unnecessary since her characters are more than capable of conveying emotion through their faces and bodies. But as her story builds, the emoticons begin to drop off and readers become too engaged in the tale to notice them anyway.
Libraries trying to keep up with the insatiable demand for paranormal fiction should buy this series immediately. With Chmakova’s talent and the strong binding and attractive covers that Yen Press added, this series should sell itself. The teen rating is appropriate, as there is no sex and only a little language and violence. The only problem is that readers will soon be clamoring for the next volumes!