The Philosopher’s Flight

Tom Miller. Simon & Schuster, $26 (432p) ISBN 978-1-4767-7815-0

Miller’s imaginative debut reads like an American cousin to Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, filtering 19th and 20th century U.S. history through a scrim of magical science. Women make for better magicians—here called empirical philosophers—than men; they have greater ability to cast spells and fly. When America enters World War I in 1917, 18-year-old Robert Weekes, the son of an empirical philosopher, wants to enlist in the U.S. Sigilry Corps’ flying Rescue and Evacuation Service, the elite of the elite. There’s just one problem, though—the unit doesn’t accept men. Nevertheless, Robert perseveres and is admitted to Radcliffe College, the all-female school for magic, to train for the R&E. There, he falls in love with Danielle Hardin, already a heroine of the Great War in the Dardanelles campaign, who is dedicated to defeating the Trenchers, a radical group that wants to eradicate the empirical philosophers and their magic. Robert must overcome the odds and prove that he has the right magic stuff. Though Robert is a rather flat hero, the history of this alternate world and its magic tech are inventively executed. [em]Agent: Alexandra Machinist, ICM Partners. (Feb.) [/em]