Mary Quirk and the Secret of Umbrum Hall (Dark Lessons, #1)
by Anna St. Vincent

Despite being a huge fan of St. Vincent in her other classic fantasy guise as J. Kathleen Cheney, I resisted reading the Mary Quirk series because I wasn’t in the mood for YA magic school books…or so I thought. (I mean, the King’s Daughter series is basically a YA academy (magic/military) book, so don’t know what I was thinking)

I should have trusted St. Vincent. This is YA, but really its got the curious and reasonable tone of several of her other-world fantasies marketed for adults. There’s a young girl realizing her own power, friends who are supportive and with complicated family backgrounds, a world to explore (in The Horn series basically they’re exploring vast fortresses built long ago with tech not fully understood, ditto here although Umbrum Hall is built by magic not fully understood) that includes a magic system based on math (vectors! tides!) and science so the academy part is truly pertinent.

Also there’s a bit of school politics, but mostly the friendships are already established other than our heroine Mary who combines forces with two ex-popular crowd boys to figure out the true nature of their magic school. And incidentally save it from a magical incursion. There’s a sweet, slow romance that culminates in a hug/hand squeezing. There’s exploration of responsibility tied to powers.

And there’s a bunch of Mary and her friends exploring the different fallow rooms (and architectures) of Umbrum hall. Definite parallels to a D&D quest.

I’m definitely going on to the next in the series.