Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope. In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition. With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.
With a title like that, I definitely want to read it front of ignorant guys just to smirk at them. Heck yeah I’m gonna best you and there’s nothing you’re going to do about it. Also, the synopsis sounds really cool and really good, so I thought I’d give it a shot!
This book managed to be everything I thought it was going to be, while being nothing like I thought it was going to be. I still loved it a lot. There was less maze and puzzles than I thought and more ignorant comments than I was expecting. So, just be prepared for the angry when you read those! They are addressed as wrong and ignorant and the speakers eventually get what’s coming to them.
Rhen was cool. Her personality was a bit of a mishmash to me, but I think that has to do with her life. Her life is a little bit of a mishmash and I thought that was well developed and cleverly displayed. It was interesting to see a character with so much going on.
The world felt a little underdeveloped to me. Most of the worldbuilding was focused on the Holm and the maze. I mean, there were super cool monsters present, but their page time was limited. I just wish they were part of the story more; it would’ve been awesome.
The actual maze also felt a little lacking to me. It was less dangerous maze and more of a puzzle. And then the puzzles themselves also seemed a bit lacking. That’s just me. But I did like the complexity of the whole situation created. It felt realistic, as much as it could be, and I enjoyed exploring all the choices and consequences with Rhen.
The theme of females making their mark of the world was strong. It was probably obvious from the title haha, but this book does it well. It showed female strength on a spectrum. It showed the different kinds of female strength, which was freaking awesome. A girl is strong if she wants to be a housewife and a girl is strong if she wants to be a warrior. Its her choice and that’s strength. The lack of girl on girl hate was sadly refreshing, but amazing nonetheless. It makes me all warm and fuzzy.
And then ending. Wow, I loved the ending. It was empowering, it was sweet, it was amazing. Ahhhh, it was just so good and I can’t wait to gush about it with everyone.
Thank you for reading!