She’s just looking for somewhere to lay low…even if it’s a magical academy.
As the only child of a broke single mom, Mal Jones doesn’t mind breaking the law for cold, hard cash. But when a streak of bad luck leads to the local police almost busting her, Mal’s only escape is to accept a place at Legend Valley Academy, a paranormal boarding school.
Her mom doesn’t want her to go, but with a criminal on her tail—who thinks she’s a snitch—a magical Academy in another freaking dimension is the best place to hide. Right?
All she had to do was keep her head down and wait this year out, but not standing out is harder than Mal thought. Turns out, her deadbeat dad is more famous than she knew.
And something horrible is going on at the Academy.
The worst part: Mal is one of the only witnesses…
Amazon Link: Notorious (Legacy Valley Academy #1)
Author: Sudha Kuruganti
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy/Academy
Rating: 5/5 stars
I read a lot of Academy books and many of them are similar. This one stood out from the pack with its original world-building and characters. For starters, the main character, Mal, is already in trouble even before she discovers the magical world and she jumps on the chance to join it so she can escape her problems. (But magic won’t solve everything.) And the world is full of magical creatures from mythologies around the world, focusing mainly on Indian mythology like Naga and Yaksha, but you also get to see people who are Japanese kitsune, Scandinavian Fossegrim, and more. It’s a nice break from the typical witches/wolf shifters/vampires/Fae, although they’re also present.
Mal is a sympathetic character, even though she’s made a mistake, because she’s such an outcast in both worlds. Instead of some invented magical reason, her problems boil down to real racism and the difficulties faced by people who are mixed race. Her mom is white and she grew up in the U.S., so she is familiar with American culture, but many Americans exclude her for the color of her skin. Her dad is Indian, but he left when she was a baby and she never had any exposure to Indian culture, so when she finds out about her Indian grandfather at the academy and she gets placed into the dorms for Asian students (including Indians), she doesn’t know how to relate to her new family member or her dorm mates. And racism doesn’t stop in the magical world. It’s not fantasy racism like the vampires don’t like the Fae or whatever, but white supremacy just like in the real world. These details made the story feel very real and relatable.
I also enjoyed the friendship with Mal and her classmates, her relationship with her mom, and her budding romance with Korou. It was easy to picture all the characters as real people with complex motivations. The story kept moving things along at a quick pace so I kept turning pages to find out what happened next.
If you’re looking for an academy story that’s a little different, with a diverse cast and unique world-building, then I recommend checking out Notorious!
Here is the story in my reading journal: