An Amazon Best Book of November 2018: If Hogwarts was in Russia instead of Great Britain, if failing your O.W.L. exam meant death to family members, and if learning how to bend reality might deform your brain and physical body…well, Harry Potter wouldn't make it past year one. Vita Nostra, a Russian urban fantasy novel, audaciously expands the concept of magic and philosophy well past their current comfortable doctrines. The strenuous, stressful lessons that Sasha Samokhina assimilates at the Institute of Special Technologies forces Sasha and her classmates to rethink their assumptions and break past mental barriers—even when the barrier is simply identifying as human. Reading Vita Nostra exposes just how complacent novels about magic have become as they evoke the tried-and-true magical systems based on inherited abilities, willpower, or enchanted items. As Sasha expands her vision of the world, so, too, the reader's vision of fantasy literature expands. Vita Nostra’s ending doesn't have the tidy satisfaction I expect…but perhaps that reveals how pigeonholed some of my own reading expectations continue to be. —Adrian Liang, Amazon Book Review

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