The Philosopher's Flight - Tom Miller

Ok, I admit, I look for opportunities to relive the excitement of reading that first Harry Potter book, and I was already a grownup when I read it. This title seems deliberately designed to evoke that image, so yes, I wanted to love it before I read the first page. And, I did love it, for the most part. The premise is terrific, especially since, unlike Potter's world, even I could master Sigilry if I just put enough effort into it. Yay, I can fly, finally! Miller gives us an alternative history, one where magic (empirical philosophy) is used to fight wars, and to get us places in a hurry. I enjoyed most of the characters, but because there was so much groundwork to cover, I didn't feel like they were developed thoroughly enough. Many were described in broad strokes and Miller left you to fill in their stereotypical traits. I remember when Harry Potter came out and some people disparaged it, saying that Rowling just described English boarding school in clever terms for people who knew nothing about it; I felt a little like that reading this book, as Miller tries to parallel US history and current events, rather than create an entirely new world. I will say that I am wary these days when a "women can do anything" idea is taken to such an extreme that it seems incredible (note the genre, fantasy), and even heavy-handed. Trying not to end the year on a cynical note, but all of this reverse engineering of reality seems a bit like pandering to me. There are some very clever concepts here, so I wouldn't count this series out. I'll be interested to see what's planned for the next installment.