18 September 2010


Locus Focus: Take Nineteen!

For someone whose whole life used to be schools, I've been having an unusually hard time finding additional School Settings to fill up my September. I actually feared I'd have to be "Janian" today, feature Thornfield Hall (for the sake of featuring something), and then have to explain why I didn't just write about Lowood Institution. (Really, if you had to choose between Thornfield and Lowood . . . ? . . . See what I mean?)

But then I picked up another book I thought I'd read for that article I was asked to do. And it happened to have a school in it. A really fantastic school. A school worth writing about . . .

Keep reading and judge my great luck for yourselves. ;-)

Sword & Cross Reform School
by Lauren Kate

Sword & Cross looked like it had been plopped down and abandoned in the middle of a swamp. Weeping willows dangled to the ground, kudzu grew along the walls in sheets, and every third step they took squished.

And it wasn't just the way the place looked. Every humid breath Luce took stuck in her lungs. Just breathing at Sword & Cross made her feel like she was sinking into quicksand.

"Apparently the architects got in a huge standoff over how to retrofit the old military academy buildings. The upshot is we ended up with half penitentiary, half medieval torture zone. And no gardener," Arriane said, kicking some slime off her combat boots. "Gross. Oh, and there's the cemetery."

This is the first Locus Focus I've ever done featuring a book I have yet to finish. It's that good. (The setting, not necessarily the book.)

We first see Sword & Cross Reform School through the eyes of new boarder Luce Price, who is there because of a mysterious death the court thinks (but can't really prove) she caused. But never mind her. She's indistinguishable from all the other Bella Swan clones cropping up in what I like to call "Neo-Gothic YA." Which kind of makes me wonder whether the original Gothic novels can be considered the first YA novels. But before I wander too far away from my point . . .

Luce's first reaction to her new school is a kind of horror. And who could blame her? What would you think if you had to go to a school with: a) a commons so overgrown with weeds that it resembles a vacant lot; b) a main building painted a shade we can call Smoker Teeth Yellow, with bars on all the windows and barbed wire running along the roof; c) a dormitory with walls painted Dusty Chalkboard Green; d) a gymnasium that used to be a real Catholic church and still has much of the stained glass and religious art; and e) a cemetery dating back from the US War between the States?

Exactly!!! ;-)

So it's no surprise that she warms up to what is supposed to be a hell on earth rather quickly. A school that unapologetically edgy can't help but be loved. Heck, I want to go to school there, even if the price of admission is having to wear a metal bracelet that will give me an electric shock if I seem to be starting trouble.

So now excuse me for cutting this short, but I'd really like to get back to the book now . . . =P

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

This Week's Other Locus Focus:

Lowood School (Yes, really! LOL!) @ Birdie's Nest

Image Source: Fallen by Lauren Kate


Birdie said...

Hello m'dear! I'm sorry I'm so dreadfully late. I was VERY sick this weekend. And you'll crack up when you read which "educational environment" I'd decided on...Lowood Institution. Really! I'd chosen that even before I read your entry. *giggle* Great minds and all that, eh?

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, I hope you feel better now, Birdie!

Yes, you certainly brightened up my day with your choice of Lowood! =D

Belfry Bat said...

it almost sounds like a Hogwarts rip-off: a forrest full of wild things, impossibly built-up and elaborated, the ghosts of local victims all about ... the story sounds much different, though, so that's nifty.

Enbrethiliel said...


I think it's impossible for any new YA Fantasy settings not to have been influenced by Hogwarts in some degree, but Sword & Cross is definitely not a rip-off. =)

Then again, the last time I read a Harry Potter book, it was still 2003. The impressions of Rowling's wizarding world have quite faded from my memory!

If you have the leisure, Bat, why don't you try The Lightning Thief? It's the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and some reviewers really seem to think Camp Half Blood is really just Hogwarts Summer Camp. (Not that I think you're asking me to recommend Hogwarts rip-offs! I'm just wondering what someone who can see Hogwarts in Sword & Cross would think of Camp Half Blood. =P)