Book Review : The Philosopher’s Flight
By Tom Miller
A thrilling debut from ER doctor turned novelist Tom Miller, The Philosopher’s Flight is an epic historical fantasy set in a World-War-I-era America where magic and science have blended into a single extraordinary art.
Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly. Though he dreams of fighting in the Great War as the first male in the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service—a team of flying medics—Robert is resigned to mixing batches of philosophical chemicals and keeping the books for the family business in rural Montana, where his mother, a former soldier and vigilante, aids the locals.
When a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study at Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school. At Radcliffe, Robert hones his skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable, unruly women.
Robert falls hard for Danielle Hardin, a disillusioned young war hero turned political radical. However, Danielle’s activism and Robert’s recklessness attract the attention of the same fanatical anti-philosophical group that Robert’s mother fought years before. With their lives in mounting danger, Robert and Danielle band together with a team of unlikely heroes to fight for Robert’s place among the next generation of empirical philosophers—and for philosophy’s very survival against the men who would destroy it.
In the tradition of Lev Grossman and Deborah Harkness, Tom Miller writes with unrivaled imagination, ambition, and humor. The Philosopher’s Flight is both a fantastical reimagining of American history and a beautifully composed coming-of-age tale for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.
(Courtesy of goodreads.com)
Adult Point of View
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Tom Miller has woven a fantastic tale with a world at war with the use of magic. Robert is a country rube, who has lived his life in the shadow of his mother and sisters with their undeniable talent. Lines have been drawn in the fight between the sexes, escalating because women naturally have more talent in philosophy – the science of magic. When philosophy entered the wars horrible acts were committed bringing resulting in the common man fearing the abuse of women’s philosophical powers. Robert is the outsider having to prove himself in a woman’s world, rife with the prejudice, slander and prosaic attitudes. He learns self-control and discovers he can believe in himself, even against the odds.
I felt connected to Robert, and his struggle to fit into the world with his big dreams. I also liked how his mother was pragmatic and no-nonsense. The women attending the school became a blur. I knew Jake came from a privileged background, was very talented and beautiful. I didn’t feel like I understood her motivation in accepting Robert into their tight-knit group. Danielle was another character I wish I knew a little better. She also came from a wealthy background, but still faced racial slurs. Even though she suffered with post traumatic syndrome from the war as a demon for her character motivation, I still wanted to see more out of her and why she chose Robert.
I frequently read old literature, and Miller employs some of the characteristics of antiquated novels. He includes descriptions of the place and time, which increased my understanding of the world where his characters reside. Some readers may dislike the amount of exposition. He also used antiquated terms for lesbians, who are found more frequently among the empirical philosophers. There are a few chapters with heterosexual sex scenes, which would nix it as a “clean fantasy”.
Overall, I liked Miller’s novel, the fun and thoughtful world he developed and particularly liked his character Robert Weekes. I would recommend this book for adults.
3.5 out of 5 stars
If you enjoy historical fiction with a magic twist I recommend Sorcery and Cecilia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Caroline Stevermer and Patricia Wrede as one of my favorites set in Regency England.