I received this book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of this review.To Best the Boys by Mary Weber
Published by Thomas Nelson on 2019-03-19
Length: 333 pages
Reviewing eARC from Netgalley
Reading Challenges: #NGEW2019, 2019 New Release Challenge
The task is simple: Don a disguise. Survive the Labyrinth. Best the boys.
In a thrilling new fantasy from the bestselling author of the Storm Siren Trilogy, one girl makes a stand against society and enters a world made exclusively for boys.
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. The poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.
In the province of Caldon, where women train in wifely duties and men pursue collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.
With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the deadly maze.
Welcome to the Labyrinth.
Oh my! I lost myself in Mary Weber‘s latest book To Best the Boys. It’s been a long time since I could say that! I loved the setting and characters, the main storyline and how relatable it is to today’s world. To Best the Boys is about a young woman who wants more education and joins the annual scholarship competition that is just for boys. From start to finish, this book will have you on the edge of your seat. Now let’s break this story down from this sentence in the blurb: “The task is simple: Don a disguise. Survive the Labyrinth. Best the boys.”
Don a Disguise
Rhen Tellur is a fantastic character who I instantly fell in love with. She is driven, smart, and a little quirky. Rhen lives with her father and very sick mother in what can only be described as the slums of her town. She works with her father in his small home laboratory, learning all she can about science, health, and disease…especially disease. A plague has struck her community, and she is desperate to find a treatment. I loved how focused she is on her research, how evident she loves what she does. When the letter for the scholarship comes around as it does every year, Rhen makes a daunting decision. If she can’t get the help and equipment she needs as a girl, she’ll enter the contest and win. I love that she doesn’t even hesitate to cut off her locks, steal a dead man’s clothes, and walk right into the labyrinth.
Survive the Labyrinth
The labyrinth reminded me a lot of Caraval and the maze featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It mostly messes with your mind, putting the characters in situations where they are terrified but must think intelligently to make it to the next round. I loved the puzzles and mystery surrounding the Mr. Holm, the nobleman responsible for the maze and scholarship. It kept me engaged and on edge throughout the book.
Best the Boys
There are basically two boys in Rhen’s life that are causing some complications. Vincent is her childhood friend, one she would have considered her best friend if not for the way he is currently acting. Basically he plans to marry Rhen (even though she doesn’t want too) and use her research for his own gain. Y’all I can’t say what I’d call him 😉 The other is Lute, a local fisherman who Rhen grew up with and has been nursing a crush on for a long time. I loved Lute. He respects what Rhen does and doesn’t hold her back. We all need a Lute.
My Final Thoughts
Overall I really enjoyed To Best the Boys. The setting, which is comparable to our late 1800s-early 1900s, is perfect for the fantasy Weber created. The subtle feminist viewpoint was also perfect. I loved that the author shows two feminists with different life goals and (guess what!) they supported rather than tore each other down. (Y’all I didn’t mention Seleni in my review, but she is the opposite of Rhen and a fantastic character). This notion that a woman can pursue a career and have a family at the same time is relevant in today’s society, and I love how it was shown here. If you enjoy historical fantasy, a touch of romance, and a lot of suspense/action, I highly recommend it.