I was so glad to receive “To Best the Boys”, the new book from Mary Weber, with my FairyLoot box! I was only worried when I would be able to read it, as my tbr list is rather huge, but I managed to squeeze it somewhere in the middle! Good thing is that it was easy to read and the story went flawless, so it took me less than two days to finish it!
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive the same letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Everyone is expecting it for different reason. The poor fellows expect it to see that they are not forgotten and they still belong somewhere. The rich fellows expect it to see the odds their sons have at winning and Rhen Tellur expects it so she can analyse the ink and find out the substances it’s created from.
She is a young scientist, helping her father in his medicine work, helping people all around the port and experimenting on vaccines and cures in order to help her fellow citizens in need and her sick mother. A disease is spread above the port town and many people have been affected, her mother being one of them. Young Rhen is trying to find a cure, by using rats as guinea pigs and by getting data from the unlucky ones defeated by the disease. This is not what a young girl should be dealing with, by the society standards, but she was raised that way, with a free mind and free thinking and her nature very much complies to that attitude!
In the book era, which is something of 18th century along with ghouls, sirens and other mythical creatures, women are raised to become wives and mothers, while men are raised to be educated and providers for their families. This is a man’s world and a woman that does not know her place, may lose it after all. It’a world most of us have not lived in, but one we have surely read of. All those things that have been fought for by women before this time, are still to be conquered for Rhen and she is one of those to be fighting for gender equality and free will.
Rhen is a fighter. She is a young girl that believes in herself and she would do anything in her power to save her mother and along with her any other that suffers from the crippling disease. She has been bullied by those who believe themselves better than her and she has responded with dignity, holding her head up. She knows that you are who you are and you will become who you want to be, only be believing in yourself and act on it. She is not afraid to stand for herself and for those in need, but she also knows when to stop talking in order to avoid the opposite result.
Rhen’s cousin Seleni, is nothing like her. Seleni’s dream is to become a wife and a mother, but she fully respects her cousin’s dream, as she expects Rhen to respect her own dream. She is in love with young Beryll and is very nervous that his parents won’t accept her. Beryll is a young man with a faint heart but a strong feeling of responsibility and a person that can understand more than he shows. Vincent is the boy that once was Rhen’s best friend but now has become a total stranger. He used to be intrigued by science but all of a sudden he decided to pursue a career he always despised, that of a politician, just like his father. Lute is the strong responsible young boy that has a family to look after but doesn’t want to miss his own dreams in the process. He is true and honest and a reliable young man!
The labyrinth competition is a clever one and it intents to test one’s knowledge, as well as their character. Since this is a competition to win a university scholarship, a good amount of knowledge is needed for someone to be able to get out of the labyrinth. At the same time, it is also an adventure, where companionship is being built and true character is revealed in the end. Mr Holms, the benefactor of the scholarship is a mysterious person. Almost no person in the Pinsbury Port has seen him, but pretty much everyone is intrigued by him. There are many rumors as to who he might be or what he is capable of, and as far as the competition is concerned, not everyone is sure when he is serious or he is joking. He is their local legend and they are looking forward to the Autumn festival and the competition every year!