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. Every year, 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 are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into 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 maze.
This review contains no spoilers.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Trigger warnings// death, gore, body horror, bullying, murder, (terminal) illness, poison, violence. Please inform me if I have missed something and I will update this section.
I have to be honest that I didn’t know about this book before I started scrolling around on Netgalley. At first I was drawn in because of the cover, and then I fell for the blurb as well. It sounded amazing and like something I would totally enjoy reading, so I requested. To my surprise I got accepted, and I couldn’t be happier!
To Best The Boys starts of great and really makes it clear what kind of girl Rhen is (an amazing one, that is) and it sets the mood as well. The writing is very descriptive, but not overdone. It doesn’t shy away from gross descriptions (especially in the beginning).
I didn’t expect there to be magical creatures, and I’m not a 100% sure why they were there. Both ghouls and sirens were mentioned multiple times. It wasn’t annoying, but it was just quite unexpected and maybe a little bit weird.
Something that I really liked is that this story is empowering for girls/young women, without it preaching about it a lot. It’s just very naturally woven into the plot and Rhen’s character. I liked her wit and her independency. This story makes you root for a few characters, and punch others in the face, haha.
The part of the book that takes place in the maze came pretty late in this story, but the beginning wasn’t boring at all. That was surprising to me, because I caught myself wondering when the competition would start, but at the same time also just enjoying reading about Rhen’s life and those around her and the build up to the competition. Though I kind of wish that the whole competition were a little bit longer and more detailed.
I read this book pretty fast and with a lot of enjoyment. I will definitely buy this book once I have the chance and I totally recommend it!