In Firespell, Chloe Neill expands on her take of underworld, paranormal Chicago (see the Chicagoland Vampires series). This time, Neill takes a foray into YA with the first book of her Dark Elite series, set in a Chicago boarding school where all is not as it seems.Of course.Lily Parker is ready to start her junior year of high school in Sagamore, New York, when her parents inform her that they are going on a research sabbatical in Germany for two years -- and sending her to an elite boarding school in Chicago for the remainder of high school. Lily is packed off and installed at St. Sophia's School for Girls, in a new big city where she doesn't know a soul. That is, until she meets Scout Green, her slightly odd suitemate, who is prone to sneaking off in the night and seems to be harboring a secret. A secret that has to do with whatever's in the basement of the school. A secret that is dangerous, maybe even deadly. A secret that suddenly seems to include Lily herself, in ways she never could have imagined.What can I say about Firespell? It's not something that hasn't been done before; there are plenty of boarding school stories out there, and a good chunk of those stories have a magical slant with a new kid who finds herself in the middle of some magical feud, or the target of powerful mean girls, etc., etc., only to discover that she plays a bigger part in the battle than she thought. It's been done. And it will continue to be done, because for some unknown reason, we all seem enthralled by the idea, myself included. I mean, hell, I read all of the Gemma Doyle series, even though it's icky long and I didn't like it from page one.Firespell may not have been anything unusual, but it was certainly fun. Lily was a fine lead, but her friend and suitemate, Scout, stole the show. Scout was fun and quirky, and yes, I may be a little biased because her dorm room is overflowing with books which are organized by color. If you've ever been in my room (you haven't, and you never will), you would know that this makes her a girl after my own ♥.There was a bit of a mystery to the mystery. You know what I mean, right? You know something's coming, and you think you've got it pegged down, but there is a little doubt in your head. It was like that. It didn't go quite where I expected it. And Neill gave herself plenty of room to grow in the series. We get hints of other characters, but she judiciously avoided giving everything away in book one, so we'll get to explore them further as the series goes on, which is a good thing. A couple of them are swoon-worthy boys, if you're into that kind of thing. (You know you are; stop blushing.)There were some drawbacks, of course, aside from the somewhat cookie-cutter, slightly melodramatic plot, and these things were just sort of pet-peevish for me. Those of you familiar with Neill's adult Chicagoland Vampires series will know that there's a very collegiate, sorority/fraternity feel to it, with the different vampire sects being divided into 'houses' (think grown up Gryffindor), with house colors and coats of arms, and such. Firespell has a very similar feel, which is to be expected, as it is set in a school. I didn't have a problem with that, as such, though it makes me wonder if she's limited in her scope. What did bother me was the classification of the different magical beings in the book as JV and Varsity -- and then the continual repetition of these terms. Now, it's one thing to make an off-handed reference, but it just seems a little silly and thin when it becomes an actual element in the story. I'm not sure how to explain this without giving something away, but I just felt it was weak, and more so, irritating.Along the same lines, Neill seems to get stuck in these random patterns of weird word repetition, and it throws off the story. Now, this isn't a huge issue, and some people won't even notice it, but it's a pet peeve of mine because I believe that authors have a responsibility to put such insane amounts of thought into their work that they eliminate these little nuisances that break the reader out of the flow of the story. And after being a writing tutor for 5 years, these things jump out at me, and I can just feel them there, lurking, trying to drive me insane. I'm just saying.Perhaps my biggest pet peeve, though, is that Neill tries too hard at witty banter. She is funny, and when it works, it works. But she forces it too often, and sometimes, whether it's funny or not, it just makes the dialogue seem fake and the characters less believable. She needs to trust herself more to carry the story without one liners. Or to learn that not every person in this world is the one-liner type, so not every character should be, either. With a little more attention to natural sounding dialogue and character thoughts, I wouldn't have that much to complain about in Neill's writing.None of these drawbacks, however, would keep me from recommending this book. They aren't constant, they just crop up occasionally throughout, and they don't outweigh the book as a fun, fast, light read.So yes, Firespell has been done before. And it's fairly easy to see where it's going; nothing ever really came as a shock, and I doubt anything will as the series goes on. It may lean suspiciously towards the melodramatic, and it may have it's flaws in the style of the writing. That being said, it's still a fun read, and if you have to read one boarding school, supernatural story, why not make it this one?ps. I adore the cover.