I read more science fiction than fantasy, but my family has seen all of the Harry Potter books more than once. The Zero Blessing has echoes of Harry Potter, but it is very different from the main characters to the world-building to the central plot.


The Worldbuilding

The worldbuilding alone is amazing. For example, a lot of thought went into the practical applications of magic. The Zero Blessing is set in a world where everyone has magic to varying degrees. The noble elite are literally much more powerful, but even common servants use common spells to wash the floors. Poor commoners in the countryside may have magic so weak they can’t reliably cast useful spells or they’re short-lived. A true “zero” or no-maj, to borrow from the Potter-verse, is rare. Kids transfigure each other on a regular basis as pranks, and a fair number of people remain slightly disfigured from magical accidents.


The Characters

Caitlyn hates her sisters and is hated by them in turn. It is more than mere sibling rivalry. In this world, twins and triplets have additional power by virtue of being part of a multiple birth. Caitlyn’s sisters Alana and Belladonna express their magic at an early age and are gifted at it. Caitlyn can’t do magic, and it seems to malfunction around her, too. That alone would hurt her family’s status in this feudal society if known. They go to great lengths to hide it, and Caitlyn must be inventive to hide it, too, once she is sent to an advanced magical school. Caitlyn’s anger and resentment at the world is understandable, though it makes her harder to relate to. She does manage to connect to a few teachers and peers, though the hinted romance doesn’t mature until several books later. Then again, she’s 12 for most of the book.

The story focuses on Caitlyn, but secondary characters are fleshed out. Caitlyn ends up friends with a talented commoner that her classmates abuse and despise because she’s a commoner. The relationship reveals the flaws in her society even as both individuals develop. Caitlyn’s sisters hate her for being the weak link, but they cover up for her lack of magic even as they get back at her at times.

Unlike many young adult books, Caitlyn is close to her father, though he’s flawed. For example, she’s struggling to convince him she can’t do magic, though he thinks it is merely repressed and thus needs to be challenged to be developed. Her abilities are actually something very different, though world changing. Yet she’s still seeking his approval and eager for his advice and support.


The Plot

Caitlyn’s parents send all three sisters to an advanced magical boarding school. The entire book beyond the introduction takes place in the boarding school, hence the many comparisons to “Harry Potter”. Caitlyn is supposed to be powerful and important as a triplet from a magically powerful family. She ends up being important in another way. I like the slow revelations and Caitlyn’s discovery process. It makes sense given her situation.

The book ends with a magical duel that is very different from Harry Potter versus Voldemort. Teenagers who aren’t allowed to kill each other are still fighting for their reputations in an honor-culture and their academic/professional futures. Caitlyn accidentally reveals herself here, and the repercussions of this will last through several books.



The world of The Zero Blessing is arguably post-apocalyptic. Their society rebuilt after the Thousand Years war. They know that they’ve lost a lot of knowledge from that era and know almost nothing about the time before it. There are many who try to recreate spells and devices from that era. Working objects of power, things that last centuries without fail, are treasured relics no one can replicate. It is a magical parallel to the Medieval Europeans staring at many Roman accomplishments.

I wonder if there are parallels of Shannara here. They aren’t just at risk of a civil war in a feudal society resembling pre-WW1. I wonder if the knowledge that seems to have been intentionally suppressed in all the books are tied to the apocalypse in the Thousand Year War. No one knows what weapons they used, and the impact must have been massive … but that’s hardly explored in this start of a young adult fantasy series. (There are six books to date.)  It would be interesting if magical auras and ability for everyone are the aftermath of said war ….



This book is clearly written as the start of a series. The detailed world-building and discovery process makes the book longer than I’d like. On the other hand, it is a unique book for offering what I’d call realistic realism. And I would be fine giving any books in this series to a middle-schooler who loves Harry Potter.