Book Review: Mary Quirk and the Secret of Umbrum Hall by Anna St. Vincent


Mary is a fire elemental, capable of creating flames from the very air around her. But to keep her place in the magic school of Umbrum Hall, she’ll need more than that skill to impress the professors. After all, anyone with a match can start a blaze.

Her first year, she worked hard and kept her head down. Something feels different this year, though, right from the start. Secrets are unfolding in front of her: about the nature of the school itself, about who her classmates truly are, and what they can do when theyโ€™re all called to step up.

And the biggest secret of all may be who Mary Quirk really isโ€ฆ



Thanks much to the author for providing a copy of this for review purposes. This did not affect the content of my review in any way.

I went into this one not knowing exactly what to expect and wound up having a lot of fun with it! If you’re looking for a YA magic school fantasy with a bit of a mystery, this book might be for you!

I’m not super big on magic school settings however, this one worked well for me. The school is more than a magic school where potentials go to learn and develop their powers. Not everyone will advance to the next grade because not everyone will actually develop their power. But aside from that, this school has secrets. The school itself, the building, is very unusual. I don’t want to say too much because spoilers, but suffice to say that it’s not just a building. As the kids explore the school, and the vast canal that runs under it, they make all sorts of discoveries about how Umbrum Hall works and what it really is. I thought all of this was pretty cool and I’m looking forward to learning even more about the building. I love me some metaphysical magic stuff.

One of the other things I appreciated about this is that the characters actually felt like teenagers. They’re young almost adults and they’re preoccupied with the things that teens are preoccupied with–friends, cliques at school, schoolwork, who is dating who, etc. That’s not to say they don’t have other worries, but it was nice to see teens in fantasy actually acting like teens. Overall, I thought the characters were really well written. They’ve all got their own goals and motivations that are propelling them through the story. Even though there is a main plot and several subplots that are neatly tied together, it still feels very character driven. Mary made for a good protagonist–she’s got just a touch of sass that I love in a character, but she’s actually very sweet and caring when she lets her guard down and gets to know others.

The pacing was pretty good even though it may have started out just a tad slow for me, but by the time I hit the twenty percent mark I was fully invested. It takes a little while for the main plot to reveal itself and we’re mostly dealing with various subplots but I have to say, I really appreciated the way these all came together in the end. Of course, there is a bit of a mystery–actually more than one–and I love a good mystery. Of course some of this will carry over into the next book and I’m eager to find out what happens! I had a lot of fun with this book and am looking forward to the next one. 4/5 stars.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Mary Quirk and the Secret of Umbrum Hall by Anna St. Vincent

    • waytoofantasy says:

      It’s the author’s first YA book so I’d be interested in seeing what you think of it. I read a lot of YA and admit that I’m immune to a lot of the annoyances others have with it so….I may not be the best judge there haha. ๐Ÿ™‚

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