Nightschool: The Weirn Books 1 by Svetlana Chmakova: B+

nightschool1From the back cover:
Schools may lock up for the night, but class is in session for an entirely different set of students. In the nightschool, vampires, werewolves, and weirns (a particular breed of witches) learn the fundamentals of everything from calculus to spell casting. Alex is a young weirn whose education has always been handled through homeschooling, but circumstances seem to be drawing her closer to the nightschool. Will Alex manage to weather the dark forces gathering?

It’s hard not to think about Vampire Knight when one first learns the concept of Nightschool: after the day class has gone home, the school turns its facilities over to a night class populated by vampires, weirns, and other supernatural students. In their execution, however, the two series could not be more different. Vampire Knight might take the prize in the artistic category on account of its sheer prettiness, but the characters in Nightschool are more interesting and the story more instantly captivating.

There’s a lot going on in this first volume—though it spans but a single night—and we follow several characters at different times, but the protagonist seems to be Alex Treveney, a young weirn (witch) who is being homeschooled by her older sister, Sarah. Sarah has just recently been hired as the night keeper at the school and tries to convince her sister to attend, but Alex will have none of it. Alex can be a little prickly, but she obviously cares about her sister, even if she doesn’t always follow her rules. Sarah is more extroverted and really gets into her job at the school, forming extracurricular clubs for the supernatural students and campaigning for them to finally get their own yearbook. We’re also introduced to some Hunters, a band of teens tasked with hunting down dangerous vampires and weirns, and seem to have quite an extensive organization backing their efforts.

An intriguing story is brewing here, with hints that Alex may unknowingly be susceptible to an evil influence and an appearance by a mysterious black-winged student who imprisons Sarah and eradicates her memory from all except for Alex. Could this be an attempt to lure Alex to the school? I’m not sure how all of the elements will eventually fit together, but it seems to’ve been well-planned and I’m looking forward to Alex’s journey to rescue her sister. The worldbuilding is nifty, too, with spell casting having a certain look, references to a treaty between humans and vampires, and young weirns being accompanied by little astral beings (Alex’s is particularly endearing). Also, there’s some snappy dialogue—I detect some Buffy the Vampire Slayer influences—though the presence of emoticons in the speech bubbles is an amateurish touch.

Chmakova’s art has obvious manga influences, utilizing the occasional chibi form as well as shorthand like sweatdrops, veinpops, et cetera. It still retains a certain Western feel, though, since she doesn’t try to make the characters into Japanese clones and, in fact, has assembled an admirably multi-ethnic cast. The occasional sprinkles of cute don’t hurt, either. Take a look at this adorable panel:


I’m so easy to please sometimes. Seriously, it just takes a cute little bat.

If you’re looking for a spooky and original story to get you into the Halloween mood, Nightschool is a great choice. The first volume ends in a place that made me glad to have volume two on hand, though, so keep that in mind.

Nightschool: The Weirn Books is published by Yen Press. Two volumes have been released so far and a third is planned for October 2010.

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  1. I want to borrow this!


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