Hey all, Dani here.
I’m just going to start today’s post by saying that I am so mad at myself for not reading this book last year when I was approved for it on NetGalley. It sounded like an interesting concept and the cover just sort of pops out at you, and I wanted to read it. And then, as typically happens for me, I got distracted by other books and pretty much forgot about my desire/obligation to read several NetGalley titles.
Thankfully this one kept poking out from the recesses of my mind and asking when I was going to read it. So I finally picked it up a couple weeks ago…and then I flew through it. This is easily one of my favorite books of the year so far, and I’ve already done a happy dance as I was just approved for the sequel on NetGalley. And don’t worry…it won’t take me a year to read it. The sequel is out in July, so the review will be up in June.
So thank you to Simon & Schuster and NetGalley for granting me a copy of this book. I do also own a physical copy of this book now as well. But as always, I will still state that receiving the early galley did not affect my rating or review. My opinions are my own.
Anyway, let’s launch into the review.
Two parts Harry Potter and one part Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Philosopher’s War is a thrilling, epic historical fantasy that melds science and magic into a single extraordinary art—heralding a major new voice in literary fiction. “Like his characters, Tom Miller casts a spell.” (Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club and The Last Bookaneer)
Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is an empirical philosopher—he practices an ancient, female-dominated branch of science indistinguishable from magic.
Though he dreams of fighting in the Great War as the first male in the Elite United States Sigilry Corps, Robert is resigned to mixing batches of silver chloride and keeping the books for the family business in rural Montana. But when a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert wins a scholarship to study empirical philosophy at Radcliffe College. Far from home, Robert hones his skills—hovering, smoke carving, and stasisry—and struggles to earn the approval of his all-female classmates, including Danielle Hardin, a disillusioned young war hero turned political radical. They begin a tenuous romance, but Danielle’s activism and Robert’s recklessness attract the attention of a fanatic anti-philosophical group. With his life in mounting danger, Robert strives to find his place in the struggle for philosophers’ rights at home and abroad.
In the tradition of Lev Grossman and Naomi Novik, Tom Miller is a writer with unrivaled imagination, ambition, and talent. His wondrous portrayal of America during the First World War reinvents history by weaving empirical philosophy into a magical, fantastical coming-of-age tale.
Rating: 5 stars
I’m so mad at myself for not reading this book last year. Yes, that needs to be stated again. The concept sounded interesting and yet it somehow ended up being even more amazing than it sounded. I was pretty much obsessively fangirling over it the whole time I was reading. It might have annoyed Damian a bit…but I think that he’s getting used to my odd and adorable geeky quirks.
Okay, yes, so I did think that there was a bit of info-dumping in the first couple of chapters, which was a bit aggravating, but after that it balanced out a lot better and melded into the story beats more. I became absolutely invested in the characters and the story. I was cheering on Robert Canderelli Weekes as he fought to make his dreams happen, even when faced with very difficult odds.
It was weird to enjoy this story in a way, because all too often the standard in fantasy or sci-fi is to have a woman want to go into a masculine career and she disguises herself as a man and works her butt off to achieve her goals, etc. etc. But here Robert is in a similar position but he doesn’t try to disguise himself. He just plainly states his intentions and then works to prove everyone else wrong. And then it was fun to see him start to win over some of his classmates, as well as professional empirical philosophers.
This story was just very well done. All of the alternate history seemed perfectly plausible, and it was cool to see a bunch of strong-minded and strong-willed women out there doing these amazing things, and then of course the one man who just wants to be a Rescue & Evacuation flier. He just wants to help people and save people. You can’t help but root for him on this journey.
There is action and romance and a bit of a school setting, and I was just so entranced by this story. I’m definitely picking up The Philosopher’s War very soon, because I want to know what happens in Robert’s life next.