ARC Review: The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy by Anne Ursu

About the Book:

Title: The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy

Author: Anne Ursu

Page Length: 432

Publication Date: Oct. 12, 2021

Publisher: Walden Pond Press

Synopsis: If no one notices Marya Lupu, is likely because of her brother, Luka. And that’s because of what everyone knows: that Luka is destined to become a sorcerer. The Lupus might be from a small village far from the capital city of Illyria, but that doesn’t matter. Every young boy born in in the kingdom holds the potential for the rare ability to wield magic, to protect the country from the terrifying force known only as the Dread.

For all the hopes the family has for Luka, no one has any for Marya, who can never seem to do anything right. But even so, no one is prepared for the day that the sorcerers finally arrive to test Luka for magical ability, and Marya makes a terrible mistake. Nor the day after, when the Lupus receive a letter from a place called Dragomir Academy—a mysterious school for wayward young girls. Girls like Marya.

Soon she is a hundred miles from home, in a strange and unfamiliar place, surrounded by girls she’s never met. Dragomir Academy promises Marya and her classmates a chance to make something of themselves in service to one of the country’s powerful sorcerers. But as they learn how to fit into a world with no place for them, they begin to discover things about the magic the men of their country wield, as well as the Dread itself—things that threaten the precarious balance upon which Illyria is built.

LINKS:     Goodreads    |      Amazon    |     Book Depository

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My Review:

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is a unique middle-grade novel with dynamically developed characters and strong messages. Marya’s brother wants to be a sorcerer, but when Marya messes up his evaluation, she is sent to a school for troubled girls called Dragomir Academy. As Marya and the other girls learn about being proper, conforming young women, they also find out more about the patriarchal society in which they live, as well as the Dread, which attacks whole villages.

Marya has always felt like she was living in her brother’s shadow. She longs to be accepted and treated as an equal to her brother but is often met with disapproval and disdain. However, Marya never stops questioning the inequities she faces. I love this! She is a fantastic protagonist, and I love her curiosity, resilience, and strength. There are some really interesting messages about equality, the patriarchy, and breaking the constraints that oppress you.

In this world, boys are treated differently from girls, and girls are judged based on how beneficial they will be to the country’s sorcerers. The girls at the academy are literally being educated and trained to benefit their countrymen. Women are considered less than if they are considered at all. However, Marya rejects these notions, and the more she learns about the magic, the men who run the country, and the Dread, the more Marya (and her friends) fights for the truth.

The story also highlights the importance of reading and education and the power of knowledge. Filled with wonderful moments of girl power, the story encourages trusting your instincts, standing up for yourself, and questioning authority when things don’t seem right. It also examines the toxicity of blindly following the societal norms when they conflicts with your morals and sense of self. I like how these poignant and important messages are woven throughout the story and found them empowering without overshadowing the plot.

A well-layered story with great characters and strong feminist messages, this is an immersive and unique read that will appeal to readers of middle-grade fantasy. There are parts that were slow, and it took me a bit to get into the story, but overall it is an entertaining read. Thanks so much to NetGalley, Walden Pond Press, and Anne Ursu for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.


Favorite Parts:

  • The strong messages.
  • The character development.
  • The magical elements.


I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy middle grade or young adult literature with:

  • sibling rivalries
  • magical schools
  • feminist messages
  • strong female characters
  • magical elements

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