Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts

Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts by Erica Lewis is an incredibly fun Celtic middle grade. Kelcie Murphy never thought she was worth much, but everything changes on her 12th birthday.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
All quotes are from an advanced reader copy, and may or may not reflect the published edition.
From Goodreads:
The Otherworld is at war. The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts trains warriors. And Kelcie Murphy—a foster child raised in the human world—is dying to attend.
A place at AUA means meeting Scáthach, the legendary trainer of Celtic heroes. It means learning to fight with a sword. It means harnessing her hidden powers and—most importantly—finding out who her parents are, and why they abandoned her in Boston Harbor eight years ago.
When Kelcie tests into the school, she learns that she’s a Saiga, one of the most ancient beings in the Otherworld. Secretive, shunned, and possessed of imposing elemental powers, the Saiga are also kin to the Otherworld’s most infamous traitor.
But Kelcie is a survivor, and she’ll do whatever it takes to find her parents and her place in their world. Even if that means making a few enemies.

“There were no seismic quakes, horrendous storms, nothing suspicious at all to warn Kelcie Murphy that she was about to unleash the greatest evil the world has ever known.”

This book was a fantastic middle grade that took me by surprise. Pulling from similar concepts as Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Erica Lewis has brought us a Celtic story. I adore the idea of the older myths being recreated in our modern world, hidden from those of us who are normal. While this isn’t a part of the Rick Riordan Presents groups, it does feel similar to them, and I’m not complaining. And for those of you who have already decided to pick this up, be sure to look for the glossary in the back- you’ll need it.

Academy for the Unbreakable Arts, only those who relish danger and despair for the rest of their lives may apply.

Kelcie is an interesting character, her ferocity is something that made me love her from the beginning. The other fantastic thing about this book is that Kelcie feels like a 12-year-old. Often in middle grades, characters can feel either too old or too young for the age that they’re being written to represent. Kelcie is clearly a young person who has experienced hardships, with the ferocity and tenacity that reflects that. When she makes her way to this secret world that she never expected to be in, she also genuinely shows some fear. Her core character is the same, but it’s incredibly realistic for a 12-year-old to be scared when put in these situations.

Brona found Kelcie’s hand. Looping her pinky through Kelcie’s, she held on, like it was the most normal thing to do. “Don’t worry. I can fly. I won’t let you fall.”

The friendship, enemies to besties, the plotline of Brona and Kelcie were precious. I adored Brona, even when she was being the bully. Both of the girls in this book are not classic, soft, friendly girls. They have been through some things, and they are tough from it. The boys show more of the emotional and soft sides and I really appreciated the differences here compared to many other books – of all age groups. The interpersonal relationships that are shown in this book really warmed my heart and kept me reading.

“When do I get mine?” Kelcie had asked him. He had scoffed at her. “You don’t. Girls don’t have horns.” Kelcie decided right then and there that if she ever met the person responsible for doling out Fomorian genetics, she would lodge a formal complaint, because that was just sexist.

The pacing in this book is wonderful, and the world-building felt solid. The references to these older myths were well done, and I feel can easily bring a new generation to be interested in Celtic myths.
Admittedly, the reason this book doesn’t get five stars from me though is that there were too many named characters. This was additionally difficult with the names being ones that I struggled to understand the pronunciation of. This caused the characters to stick less in my mind and made me have to focus a little bit harder to connect who was who. Most of the side characters have names and aren’t simply referred to offhand.  This made it really difficult to keep up, and I wish that hadn’t been the case.

“It was flawless, except they missed one very important thing.” “What’s that?” Zephyr asked. “That when you four work together, there is nothing that can stop you from accomplishing your goals.”

Overall, this middle grade is definitely a new favorite, and I can’t wait to see more from this author.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.