Toil and Trouble: 8 Bewitching Books About Magic Schools

Carolina Ciucci


Carolina Ciucci is a teacher, writer and reviewer based in the south of Argentina. She hoards books like they’re going out of style. In case of emergency, you can summon her by talking about Ireland, fictional witches, and the Brontë family. Twitter: @carolinabeci

Carolina Ciucci


Carolina Ciucci is a teacher, writer and reviewer based in the south of Argentina. She hoards books like they’re going out of style. In case of emergency, you can summon her by talking about Ireland, fictional witches, and the Brontë family. Twitter: @carolinabeci

Jumper & Company, publisher of the Sapience Novella Series

There is something unusual about Sapience University. It is a dark, isolated castle that has stood empty for years. It is surrounded by undead creatures left behind from a magical war. And when everyone returns to Sapience for the winter semester, some students seem eerily different. Students continue their magical studies unaware that enemies walk among them. However, it won’t be long until the enemy strikes and sends the school back into chaos.

Books about magic schools abound. This is not surprising: humans have long been interested in magic, including turning to the supernatural when we needed an explanation for scientific phenomena, or when we wanted a guarantee that something would turn out how we wanted it to. There are countless practitioners of witchcraft around the globe, and other religious beliefs may also be informed by a belief in magic, albeit a type of magic that humans cannot perform. Manifestation and the power of attraction is also based on magic beliefs.

Taking this into consideration, it’s not a surprise that magic is present in so many art forms. In literature alone, plenty of genres have been built around magic, or at the very least, feature it prominently: fantasy, magical realism, paranormal romance; the list goes on. Even people who believe in no kind of magic whatsoever are still susceptible to its appeal in fiction. The source of this appeal is twofold: for one thing, it takes us out of the mundane; for another, it feeds a very human longing for power and control. During these times especially, when we have so little control over so many things, the idea of being able to heal, or fly, or change matter simply by flicking a hand, or whisking a few ingredients in a cauldron, is particularly attractive.

A prominent subset of magic stories is centered on school. Magic school: a place where, instead of learning algebra or physical education, we learn how to perform a spell, or turn back time. Sounds like something you’d enjoy? Read on.

Akata Witch book cover

Akata Witch (The Nsibidi Scripts #1) by Nnedi Okorafor

Sunny, born in the USA but living in Nigeria, has albinism, and thus is very susceptible to the sun. Sunny has modest desires: all she wants is to play football, and to not be bullied. But suddenly, she falls in with the Leopard People, learning that a) she has magic powers, and b) her greatest weaknesses may end up being her greatest assets. Soon, Sunny is making friends, forming a coven, and oh yeah, chasing down a kidnapper.

Cover of Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

Charmed Life (Chrestomanci #1) by Diana Wynne Jones

Cat and Gwendolen, two young orphans, are summoned to live in Chrestomanci Castle. Cat (real name Eric) doesn’t mind being in Gwendolen’s shadow: she is, after all, an extremely promising witch. She is also extremely adept at tantrums. After one too many, her magic is removed and she’s supplanted with a lookalike named Janet.

Cat and Janet set out to solve Gwendolen’s disappearance, but the more they dig, the more ugly surprises they find. Who was Gwendolen really?

Cover of Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children has a specific target audience: kids who fell through portals into other realms, and are now back. They each want to go back to their fantasy lands, but everything changes when Nancy arrives.

cover of The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani; illustration of two young girls, one blonde with a white swan and one with black hair and a black swan

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil #1) by Soman Chainani and Iacopo Bruno

Starting two centuries ago, two children have disappeared every year. The pattern is soon understood: one “good” child, and one outcast. Their destination? The School for Good and Evil, where children are trained to become fairy tale heroes and villains.

This year, Sophie and Agatha are about to make the journey. Beautiful Sophie seems predestined to become the heroine, whereas Agatha appears to be a shoo-in to turn into a villain. But what happens next surprises everyone, Sophie and Agatha included.

A Deadly Education cover

A Deadly Education (The Scholomance #1) by Naomi Novik

In most schools, the two basic outcomes are pass or fail. In Scholomance, it’s pass or die. Literally. When El arrives at the school, she begins to unlock its secrets. Her powers are strong enough to obliterate the monsters prowling, but there’s just one catch: they may also be strong enough to obliterate her fellow students.

Cover of Supermutant Magic Academy

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Even superheroes need to start somewhere. That’s where the SuperMutant Magic Academy, a prep school for mutants and witches, comes in. Teenage mutants and witches, which means that school will always take a backseat to other more pressing concerns.

A Wizard of Earthsea cover

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1) by Ursula K. Le Guin

Ged is, without a doubt, the greatest and most powerful wizard in Earthsea. But even he was young once — young and reckless. Sure, some might say that tampering with long-held secrets and unleashing dreadful shadows in the world is more reckless than usual…but what do they know?

In this book, we learn all the tasks that Sparrowhawk must accomplish to restore the balance. After all, how hard can it be? (Narrator: hard, complicated, almost certainly fatal. Oh well. Don’t unleash shadows upon the world, kids.)

Amari and the Night Brothers cover

Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations #1) by B.B. Alston

In this MG fantasy, Amari Peters is determined to find her missing brother Quinton. When she stumbles upon a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs in his closet, she’s convinced that this is the path towards finding him. It’s not an easy path though: finding out that magic is real is hard enough, competing with kids who’ve known about magic all their lives? Especially when her own magic is now considered illegal? Amari’s summer is going to be the furthest thing from relaxing.

Would you like more books about boarding schools?