St Mallory’s Forever! — A (fairly spoiler-free) Review

I don’t expect I’ll ever be a published author: I enjoy writing, but I don’t take it quite that seriously — I just write stories for fun. But I love to hear about fellow teenagers getting published. As soon as St Mallory’s Forever! came out, I rushed out (or rather, turned on my Kindle) and bought the book. I was not disappointed. Christopher Paolini is the only other teen-author whose published books I’ve read, but while it is very difficult to compare St. Mallory’s Forever! with the Inheritance Cycle, given that they are such different genres, Charley Robson and Miriam Joy join Paolini as inspiring teens.

St. Mallory’s Forever! is written by Charley Robson (17 years old), Miriam Joy (16 years old?) and Saffina Desforges (Who I’m not too sure about — I think she is actually a partnership: two people. And I don’t think either of them are teenagers.). It strikes me as incredible that a novel could be co-authored. I mean, a biography, maybe, but in a novel surely everyone would have different ideas as to where the story should go? Nevertheless, the plot was remarkably coherent and differences in writing style were managed by the fact that the story alternates between the points of view different people. Here is a fairly spoiler-free summary of the story:

It’s the start of a new term at St. Mallory’s, a boarding school where rather posh families send their girls to be educated. Abbie and Teresa are returning, and there will be two new students in their grade this year — whose names are rumoured to be Helen and Zoo-Anne. After a few relational mishaps, Helen and Zoo-Anne (whose name turns out to be Xuan — pronounced “shin”) become good friends with Abbie and Teresa. At first it seems like it’s going to be a fairly normal school-term: studying hard on weekdays and shopping in Brighton on weekends (and hopefully avoiding the nudist beach). But after some strange events — which include a bursar gawking at Helen’s teacher mother during classes, and a music piece dated after its composer died — it becomes clear that a mystery is underfoot…

So there we have it: a classic boarding-school novel. If you’ve read Enid Blyton it might put you in mind of Malory Towers or St Clare’s. (Or it might not. I’ve read Enid Blyton, and I’d never heard of either series until two weeks ago. She’s only the most prolific British author in history.) But while in many ways it’s a classic boarding-school novel, this book differs from others of its genre in that it is thoroughly modern. It is (I believe) a very accurate depiction of a 21st century boarding school, perhaps minus the mystery. And the story is told in blog-posts.

This gives a whole new twist to the old journal-style novel genre — and not just because the entries have a special name. For one thing, blog-posts are written to be entertaining. (and let me tell you: Abbie, Helen and Xuan are a lot more entertaining than me) Journal entries can get dry and boring, but these blog-posts are delightfully funny and interactive with the reader. For another thing, a journal entry usually happens once a day, but a blog-post happens every time something interesting happens.

Another thing that was interesting about reading such a modern novel is that I understood most of the references. Rather than references to ancient bands or ancient politicians or Walter Cronkite, this has references to people like Usain Bolt and Harry Potter, products like iPads, and places like Heathrow airport. Even the older references are to things like The Lord of the Rings and Pride and Prejudice that I know about. I guess these must be past things that the current generation thinks are important, rather than past things that past generations thought were important.

St Mallory’s Forever! is a mystery novel, so naturally I should discuss what I thought of the mystery element. It seemed to take a while for the mystery to kick into gear, but I didn’t really mind because I was quite amused up to that point by all the goings on at St Mallory’s, which are told very humorously. The unfolding of the plot did seem to slow down again a couple of times in the middle of the novel, but once again the good narration made fairly light of this. Around 70% of the way through I did think “enough with digressions and interrupting yourself, get on with the mystery!” a couple of times, but it really picked up at about 80%. The mystery itself was, I think, well planned, and the clues and red-herrings well laid, although in the end it was not an overwhelmingly complicated mystery — just complicated enough to make a good story. I suppose you don’t want to go overboard in your debut novel (a mistake Paolini made), but once the authors gain experience in this genre their plots will surely get more complex.

I thought the character development of Helen in particular was good in this novel. All the way through she is a well-written character with realistic strengths and weaknesses, and she goes from being an often bad-tempered girl who just wants to live in London — and wants to hate St. Mallory’s — to becoming some one who says— well… I won’t spoil it for you. Also, even though she came across as a bit of an uncultured city kid, she quotes The Lord of the Rings, which automatically makes someone awesome.

The other characters are good too, but Helen is probably the best. I thought it was strange how Xuan, for whom English was a fifth language, knew so many English idioms — maybe the Brits just use so many more idioms than the rest of us that you can’t help but pick them. I did think it was pretty funny how she points out so many quirks of the English language. (“why do people say ‘pretty’, which usually means ‘beautiful’, when they mean to say ‘quite’?”)

From the way it finished, I couldn’t tell if St. Mallory’s Forever! is meant to have sequels or not. It doesn’t exactly promise them, but it certainly leaves the door wide open. I suppose that’s the way to do it, really.

So all in all, St. Mallory’s Forever! is some pretty enjoyable light reading (though not so light that it didn’t have me looking up words in the Kindle dictionary pretty often!) and I would recommend that you give it ago, especially if you like a light-hearted mystery. It would probably appeal to girls more than guys, but I’m a guy and I read it, so its certainly not gender exclusive. It would probably appeal to people most between the ages of about 12 and 17, but don’t be exclusive about that either. It only costs 3 bucks in the Kindle store (not available in print yet), so it would be a good way to liven a dull weekend. (actually, it was longer than I was expecting — though why I was expecting a short book, being familiar with Paolini, I don’t know) But I digress. Give St. Mal’s a go!

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About Leinad

Leinad, also known as Keras the Unknown (Keras for short), also known as Thevarul, is an MK who likes to run, read, write and play board-games.

Posted on February 10, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 29 Comments.

  1. I shall let the authors know about this excellent review– you’ve got me wanting to read it! I don’t know if I can get an e-reader, though.

    • Well thank you, though for some reason the idea of a published author reading my review of their work is a slightly daunting!

      I wrote a fairly long, salesman-like comment advocating e-readers, but I’m not here to do advertising for Amazon, so to cut a long story short: e-readers are worth their salt.

  2. Hello! Thank you SO much for the review – it means the world to us, it really does.

    In answer to a few of your questions – yes, it is going to be a series! We’re plotting the next book as we speak, haha!

    Again, thank you very much for the review – very fair, and you’ve clearly got a better grip of how this whole mystery thing is supposed to work than I did, haha!

    Oh, and yes, the boarding school is pretty realistic. Well, ish. My own school might not take so well to snooping about the boarding houses after dark ;)

    • Your most welcome. Thank you for contributing to YA literature.

      I had an inkling that there were more St. Mallory’s novels on the horizon. There seemed to be too many details at the end of the book for it to be a regular closing up, but it wasn’t obvious enough for me to be sure. Well, good luck with the sequel then!

      There is one thing I thought I better mention in case you do any more touch-ups or anything: there were two chapter 12’s. Not that it had any negative effect on the story, but you might want to fix that up before it becomes a best-seller ;)

      Thanks for commenting and congratulations again on being published!

  3. Thanks for the awesome review! Yes, it’s the first in a series :) Oh, Charley already said that. Damn her, she always gets here before me.

    I was 16 by about five minutes on the day of publication — I’m now 17. It was a tight thing, but we managed it. Ehehe! :) And yes, Saffina Desforges is a partnership (we know them as Saffi and Mark), and while I don’t know how old either of them are, they’re significantly older than us.

    I’m glad you like Helen. She’s my favourite, and the most like me, as I’m musical too :) Initially, I mostly wrote her chapters, Charley wrote Abby’s, and Mark wrote Xuan’s… but as time went on we all wrote all of them, and would just ask who initially wrote them for pointers when we got stuck on the voice.

    Thanks for pointing out the multiple chapter twelves, too. Probably comes of proofreading at one in the morning. One tends to overlook those things.

    • I had a hunch that you wrote Helen’s, Charley wrote Abby’s and either Saffi or Mark wrote Xuan’s! But I didn’t think you would have swapped. That’s pretty impressive how the voices remained quite consistent.

      For some reason it’s often the mistakes in the headings that get through ;) I guess we don’t look at them so much.

      Good luck with the sequels!

      • Yes, Helen’s style is fairly similar to mine and Abby has some similarities to Charley’s style. But with the two of them, Charley and I have known each other around three and a half years, and have a fairly good idea how the other writes — not to mention we did edit everything the others wrote. So while I started Helen, she was still a collaborative effort. The whole thing was! (But the bits you liked, I totally wrote those. Anything you disliked was Charley’s fault. Honest. Ehehehehe.)

      • Actually I would be hard-pressed to say whose voice I liked the best, I was more talking about the character development. I thought Helen’s character as a who

      • Yeah, I got that — I was just explaining how the writing each other’s sections worked, and how we dealt with each character having a different voice. Ehehe :)

      • Ah, OK.

        I thought you might be interested to know that my mum (who doesn’t read a whole lot of fiction these days) read and enjoyed St. Mallory’s Forever!. Unlike me, she has read Malory Towers (in her youth), which I think is part of the reason she read this. I think she especially liked Xuan, and the blog-posts written by her, and she could relate to Xuan somewhat because when she immigrated to Australia as a young adult, she nearly had to do ESL for her Year 12. She was saved only by a cousin who vouched for her good english.

        Sorry I took a while to reply to this comment, the internet was off for most of the weekend ;)

      • That’s awesome to hear — thanks for letting us know! I’m sure the others will be pleased to hear that too. :)

      • Whoa, that was quick! Your welcome.

      • Oh, I just came on and saw a reply and replied to it. Didn’t realise I’d done so within two minutes. Ehehe :)

      • I’m used to being 12 or 13 hours ahead of all of my commenters, so being 7 hours ahead for once is a bit different :)

  4. A wonderful review! (even if you did refer to me as a ‘not-teenager’! ;-) Thank you…

  5. Leinad, have you completely disappeared? :P

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