Book reviews, Russian books

REVIEW: S. Naumova, M. Dubinina, “Juusan. The Phantom Academy”

What’s up folks!
Finally here I am with my very first review on this blog! Really WISH you find it interesting, and for me to be completely bonkers to actually TRY TO MAKE AN ATTEMPT on translating it. Because who knows, maybe this can become a big hit internationally?.. /yes, Liliana, keep dreaming impossible dreams, like you’ve always done/

Juusan. The Phantom Academy
by Sora Naumova & Mariya Dubinina

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Original name:
Дзюсан. Академия-фантом
Rating: ★★★★☆
LiveLib | Goodreads
Published: 2016
Format: Hardcover

Synopsis: The investigation of little sister’s disappearance leads the former detective Henry Macalister to a lonely island in the Sea of Japan, to “Juusan” – an elite Academy for special teenagers. Here, the age-old mysteries come to life, people disappear without a trace, and the ghosts roam the corridors of the old mansion. But Henry still has no idea that he got caught in a web that’s hard to escape from not only for the living, but even for the dead…


Sora Naumova and Mariya Dubinina are the two Russian writers, this duo was formed back in 2014, and since then the girls were writing together non-stop. They’re mainly producing in following genres: mystery, detective, fantasy (specifically urban fantasy). As they say themselves, they fit perfectly together as they know exactly what the other one is thinking. The duo has 2 books published in hardcover, and one of them is this post’s topic.


“Juusan. The Phantom Academy” is their first ever published book released in 2016 (but not their first work in total). The plot revolves around a Scottish guy named Henry Macalister, who came to “Juusan” (translated as “thirteen” from Japanese), an elite academy listed as for special children, but in fact is a second home for kids with superpowers (Henry, by the way, also has the power of seeing  ghostsand talking to them). Under the guise of a commandant of the male dormitory of the Academy, Henry is trying to solve the mystery behind the disappearance of his little sister Fillis who was also an attendee of this unusual school.

Right off the first chapter of the book, we meet quite a lot of characters that play their roles in the storyline: Kimura Sorata, a Japanese chief whose destiny is connected with Juusan in somehow an unheatlhy way, and who becomes, though for a short time, a very close friend of Henry’s; Asikaga Rumi, the Literarure teacher, who basically stalks everyone and everything that is moving; Akihiko Daisuke, a mysterious Deputy Headmaster of the Academy, frequently leaving the island “on a business trips”; also the students – Oda Nicole, Kurihara Hibiki, Sam Chandler; and, of course, ghosts.

Macalister finds out that his sister is not the only missing person from this island, and even during his stay at the Academy, people kept disappearing without a trace. And of course, the excuse of transferring to another school is not fooling anyone who sense supernatural and dread in Juusan. And what a coincidence! – no matter what happens within the mansion, Henry keeps facing Kimura as if their fates are somehow meant to intertwine. It all leads to a message from a ghost that only Macalister can save Sorata from the danger awaiting him.

[SPOILER!] The evil mastermind is, actually unlike the traditions of the genre, someone who, yes, we won’t expect to be, but is the only possible candidate. Like, who finds it normal for a GUY to be way too attached to another GUY, calling him “his fairy”, even if you refer that attitude to age and mental state?! Poor Sorata… So, well, the gardener, Nils Johansen, is the one behind everything, and he – OF COURSE – is not who he is in fact! Thanks to all found diaries of the ones suffered on the island, Henry was able to detect a criminal and stop him from taking away his best friend, although, unfortunately, due to the mess, the evil mastermind still manages to escape from justice. And yes, of course, you do figure out that Henry’s little sister is forever gone.

And somehow, this interaction between Henry and Sorata doesn’t end at this point. We’re expecting a second book from the girls around this year. As they say, they’ve already finished writing it, and the book is awaiting its editing and proofreading stages before publishing.


To say honestly, I personally know one of the authors thanks to our old common interest which is Hiromu Arakawa’s “Fullmetal Alchemist” world, so, of course, to support them, I promised to read and leave a review on their book. And I actually enjoyed reading it, although – and I already said that to the duo authors – the speed of plot development in the first half of the books seems to be waaaaay too strained. I understant that it was used to establish the relationship between two main male characters, Henry and Sorata, but I personally think it could’ve been much, much shorter. I waited for too long to have it happen, and there were some situations where the boys face each other that I would, if I was writing that, drop down from the storyline to make it more dynamic. The second part, in contrary, was too rushed, so this also became a negative factor of my overall rating for this piece.

I’m truly expecting the next part of Henry and Sorata’s adventures in “Sintar. The Murderer Island” (“Синтар. Остров-убийца”) to see what happens next.

Some people might find this book not really of a high-level, which is understandable, but it has its own audience to follow, and I’m definitely one of them. Good luck to the girls with publishing the second piece of Juusan series! ^__~

Thanks for reading~

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