Sarah Beth Durst
McElderry Books, hardcover, 310p.
What Lily Carter wants most in the world is to attend Princeton University just like her grandfather. When she finally visits the campus, Grandpa surprises her; she has been selected to take the top secret Legacy Test. Passing means automatic acceptance to Princeston. Sweet!
Lily's test is to find the Ivy Key. But what is she looking for? Where does she start? As she searches, Lily is joined by Tye, a cute college boy with orange and black hair who says he's her guard. That's weird. But things get seriously strange when a gargoyle talks to her. He tells her that there are two Princetons - the ordinary one and a magical one - and the Key opens the gate between the worlds. But there are more secrets that surround Lily. Worse secrets.
When Lily enters the magical Princeton, she uncovers old betrayals and new dangers, and a chance at her dream becomes a fight for her life. Soon Lily is caught in a power struggle between worlds, with her family at its center. In a place where knights slay mosters, boys are were-tigers, and dragons might be out for blood, Lily will need all of her ingenuity and courage - and a little magic - to unite the worlds and unlock the secrets of her past and her future.
Enchanted Ivy is a quick, and uncomplicate YA book. Firstly, the cover is very attractive (although it doesn't scream university setting) and the muted shades of grey and purple added to overall appeal of the cover. Even the naked cover was quite attractive, and I loved the shimmery purple text used against the mottled grey and white paper on the spine (which was paired with a plum coloured cover.) These colours are also mirrored on the dust jacket in the title.
On to the world building. It is okay - for the limited settings - but could have been embellished more so one really had a sense of both Princetons. The author seemed to focus more on the characters than their surroundings. Except for the description at the end of the struggle Lily has with the dragon.
The characters were entertaining. I enjoyed the relationship between Lily and her mother, who is losing her memories, as well as the relationship she has with her Grandfather. Very true to a multi-generational household. Tye is very mysterious, and the attraction between him and Lily is almost comically instantaneous - but this is a short book so I didn't expect a long courtship. Jake, and his connection to Tye, was a real surprise. I enjoyed his reactions to the 'other' world, however his loyalty to his twisted grandfather was very frustrating, but realistic. Speaking of the grandfather, Mr Mayfair at first seems to be a nice old man, but as Lily gets drawn further into a magical war the gentle facade gives way to the zealot underneath. Definitely a character I love to hate.
I did love the inclusion of all manner of magical creature. The talking gargoyle reminds me of Sam from Shanna Swendson's MSI series (go read it, it's fantastic!).
There were only a few negative points, and the main one was the huge size of the text. Seriously, it was like reading a large type book! Secondly, it got quite repetitive in places which bogged down the fast pace. Also I found some of the plot devices to be quite predictable. Corrupt leaders, betrayals, secrets and lies. However these negatives didn't dampen my overall enjoyment of the book - and a younger reader may not even notice them?
This was my first Sarah Beth Durst book, and although it wasn't the best fantasy I've read, I'd like to try some more books by her as I found her style to be interesting.