“All gentle persons of university age (respectively seventeen to nineteen) are cordially invited to test for esteemed annual scholarship given by Mr. Holm toward one fill-ride fellowship at Stemwich Men’s University …
For All: Mr. Holm and Holm Manor bear no responsibility, liability, or legal obligation for any harm, death, or partial decapitation that may result from entering the examination Labyrinth.”
The task is simple. Don a disguise. Survive the labyrinth. Best the boys.
Every year for the past fifty-four years, the residents of Pinsbury Port receive a mysterious letter inviting all eligible-aged boys to compete for an esteemed scholarship to the all-male Stemwick University. Every year, the poorer residents look to see that their names are on the list. The wealthier look to see how likely their sons are to survive. And Rhen Tellur opens it to see if she can derive which substances the ink and parchment are created from, using her father’s microscope.
In the province of Caldon, where women are trained in wifely duties and men are encouraged into collegiate education, sixteen-year-old Rhen Tellur wants nothing more than to become a scientist. As the poor of her seaside town fall prey to a deadly disease, she and her father work desperately to find a cure. But when her Mum succumbs to it as well? Rhen decides to take the future into her own hands—through the annual all-male scholarship competition.
With her cousin, Seleni, by her side, the girls don disguises and enter Mr. Holm’s labyrinth, to best the boys and claim the scholarship prize. Except not everyone’s ready for a girl who doesn’t know her place. And not everyone survives the maze.
This book came in the March 2019 Fairyloot “Favourites Box”. It isn’t one that I had ever heard of before and therefore was pretty apprehensive going into it. I took part in the Fairyloot read-along, which was my first and I am pleased to say that this book surprised me, I did enjoy it.
From first being introduced to Rhen I knew that she would be a character I really enjoyed watching grow. She is so brave, but sassy at the same time. I found myself laughing and crying with her numerous times, I was routing for her from beginning to end. She seems to have been through so much in her short life, however she always managed to pick herself up and start again each time she was knocked down. I really enjoyed reading about her family life and getting to know the dynamics better. I found that this really grew with me throughout the story, and whilst sad, there was such a strong and supportive family network that I just craved more and more of. If any character deserved such a wonderful and loving family it was definitely Rhen. I am a bit weird like Rhen, her fascination with corpses amazes me and made me love her even more. She had me laughing out loud so much with her being completely oblivious to other peoples thoughts about this and still discussing it out loud, even using her fascination as some kind of chat up line. Absolutely brilliant. I’ll talk corpses with you any day Rhen.
Disclaimer: Due to my job I have had a lot of exposure to corpses. I am honestly not just a weirdo who loves a dead body … honest.
I hate love triangles, I actually think it is a trope that makes me not want to pick up a particular book. If I’d have known before picking this book up that it contained elements of a love triangle, whilst subtle I would most likely have regarded it and not picked it up. I really liked reading about Rhen’s love life and was really routing for one side from the beginning. I absolutely loved Lute, I think he was hands down my favourite character. Honestly, I loved him so much. Gradually finding out about his family situation and the reasons behind his actions just made my heart melt. Keep being you Lute. His love for Rhen is just beautiful, everybody needs a Lute to love them unconditionally. Many of the things he said had me emotional, he’s just so damn cute. However, I actively hated Vincent, he made me frequently angry and I ended up just wanting to punch Vincent in the face. Please, if you know Vincent can you punch him on behalf of me and probably every other reader of To Best The Boys. Talking about arseholes … Germaine, I also hate you and I would happily punch you in the face also. Who the heck does he think he is?!?!
As you can tell I have real opinions based on most of these characters and I think it is the way that Mary Weber portrays them in her book. I love her character building, it is so strong throughout the book. I felt like I had such a connection with most of the characters including those I did not particularly like. It was really nice to build up such a connection to them as I continually felt the emotions that they were confronted with, as a reader it added to my experience and enjoyment immensely.
For me, the only reason this book didn’t get 5 stars was due to the world building element. I feel like the concept of this book was fantastic and whilst it was good, for me it could have been better. I felt like the majority of the book was spent building up to the labyrinth but actually not a lot of the book was in the labyrinth which for me was a shame. I felt like it was a short rushed part that I definitely would have liked to have seen more of. What I did get of the world I absolutely loved, the criticism isn’t about the world in particular but I just would have loved more of it.
I would really like to see this as a series, or have more books with this kind of concept from Mary Weber. I really liked this book, it pleasantly surprised me. It was a nice, quick and easy read that I would recommend.