Fantastic Schools, Volume 1” was edited by Jagi Lamplighter and Chris Nuttall. I’d previously read and reviewed his novel “The Zero Blessing”. “The Zero Blessing” is the first novel in his “Schooled in Magic” universe. It is a world very different from Harry Potter, yet his first book is compared to that because that’s become the default comparison for any “preteens sent to magic school” unless they’re vampires. One of the short stories in “Fantastic Schools” is by Mr. Nuttall, but there are more than a dozen short stories in the collection.

“Little Witches” is by Mel Lee Newmin. This short story feels like it is aimed at older elementary school children. That’s fine in and of itself given how many kids that age read these types of stories. I don’t like the caricatures in the story like Sir Basil. The story itself is trite. The rest of the stories in this collection are far better.

“The Path of the Phoenix” is by Emily Martha Sorensen. The short story is set in her “Black Magic Academy” and “White Magic Academy” universe.  You have separate schools for good and evil witches, and a generally good witch is trying to keep that secret as she attends the school for the dark arts. She’s managed not to kill an opponent in a death match, but her secret is about to be revealed … This is the first strong series in the anthology.

“A Firm Hand” was written by Aaron Van Treeck. People who manifest magic are transported to a magic bootcamp. Master magic or die trying. And then you’re drafted …

“Asymptote at Three O’Clock” is by Steven Johnson. Even magic school students look forward to the end of the day, the week and especially the semester. But the teacher has a final major lesson for the students before they can leave.

“Practical Exercise” was written by George Phillies. I’ve reviewed his book “Mistress of the Waves” and was looking forward to his foray into fantasy. A young woman who wants to learn the fundamentals of magic runs into bullies on her first day. And then the bully attempts a deadly duel when he’s expelled because of her.

“The  Ascendant Cup” is a short story by Thomas Carpenter. This story is set in his much larger fictional universe, “The Hundred Halls”. A group of magical teens enter a content that offers a massive payout. Unlike some other fictional magic schools, it is set in the modern era. For example, the students wear jeans and listen to EDM. And while they have magic, they also have smartphones.

“Doom Garden” is an aptly named story by Benjamin Wheeler. There is a gardener who has been transported to a world like ours but with magic. He has become a university groundskeeper, and he fights the magical students in his quest to maintain his beautiful garden. Then someone opens a literal portal to Hell in the quad …

“Crucible” by Frank Luke is a short story set in the “Legends and Lore” game / fictional universe. Grant Von Wold was pulled there from our universe and has trained as a wizard, though he’s a theology student. Now he has to pass his greatest test, his final exam. It is life and death. This story is notable for being a rare, respectably Christian fantasy story.

“The Last Academy” was written by G. Scott Huggins. It asks where the weird and de facto special education students of the magical world would go. And it presents a story where the misfits are the only ones who can save the world. It is a look at what might happen if Harry Potter had become a Death Eater and/or Voldemort won. There are lots of Harry Potter references here, artfully and ironically placed.

“Finals” is by Bernadette Durbin. An undercover law enforcement officer is posing as a student on a campus like any other in the 1990s, though there is magic added. She’s looking for whatever killed one of her compatriots at that campus. Her greatest concern was that and finals until the Elves start a blood feud with the theater department. It is one of the funniest stories.

“Metamorphosis” by Roger Strahan features a gifted young woman finds herself in a magical school after fending off a bully with surprising results. The story is tied to his “The Witch of New Orleans” series.

“How to Get into a Magic School” by Erin Furby was written in response to a classroom full of elementary school kids asking how they could get into magic school. This story about a magical school recruiter meeting a homesteading family in rural Alaska was the answer.

“Deep School Tuition” is a short story by Denton Salle. I’ve previously interviewed the author, and I was curious what his story would be. A young woman in sales and marketing is trying magic to get ahead. She’s tried everything, and now she’s considering the Deep School. Unfortunately, it commands a deep price. This turns out to be another strong, Christian fantasy story.

“Gennady’s Tale” is a short fantasy story by Chris Nuttall. This story is set in his “Schooled by Magic” universe. It is also the longest and darkest story in the anthology. This story is PG-13, though his “Schooled in Magic” books are between PG and PG-13 and thus suitable for middle-schoolers.

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