Worldweavers Series by Alma Alexander

Summary of Gift of the Unmage: “When there is a battle to be fought, it is you who can choose the place of the battlefield.” Thus says Cheveyo: mage, teacher, and the first person in Thea’s life to remain unimpressed by her lineage. From birth, great things were expected of Thea, but her magical abilities are, at most, minimal. Now, with Cheveyo, Thea has begun to weave herself a new magical identity, infused with elements of the original worlds.

Back in her everyday life, she attends the Wandless Academy, the one school on Earth for those who, like her, can’t do magic. It is at the Academy that Thea realizes she will indeed have to fight, since her enemies are hungrier and more dangerous than she thought. Fortunately, her greatest strength may be the very powerlessness she has resisted for so long…

My review: At first glance, this looks like an alternate Harry Potter universe, but this series completely original. Drawing on her Masters in Science, Alma Alexander weaves a multi-dimensional world and, throughout the series, takes us through time, space, and worlds belonging to other magical races. It's every bit as SciFi as it is Fantasy, and that, gentle reader, is cool.

Thea is an awesome lead character. Even before she begins to develop her gifts, her intelligence gives her an edge. That edge only sharpens as the world around her changes and draws her into a complex mystery to which she is the key. Her attention to detail and ability to see the big picture as well as the details within are the real magic in this story. I love that her gifts aren't limited to the bibbity-bobbity-boo, and that she is the story's impetus.

There's plenty of fun in the series, too -- we meet characters at the Wandless Academy (aka the Last Ditch School for the Hopelessly Incompetent) who are worse than Rowling's squibs--some kids are even dealthly allergic to magic.

Most of all, I really loved that fantasy element wasn't based only in European mythology. The SciFi/Fantasy world has recently dealt with what's come to be known as RaceFail: the way SciFi/Fantasy writers tend to make their main characters Caucasian and relegate other nationalities to side characters. While Thea is "white", diversity is integral to the story. Kudos to the author for creating a world that more accurately resembles the melting pot of our own.