In this long awaited review…I was finally bullied (haha, irony intended) into reading beyond the first Zodiac Academy book.

Buckle up.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The and Wall Street Journal #1 bestselling dark fantasy romance series from authors Caroline Peckham & Susanne Valenti

I’m a Gemini. Impulsive. Curious. Headstrong. A twin. Heir to a throne I know nothing about. And it turns out, I’m Fae.

But of course there’s a catch – all I have to do to claim my birth right is prove that I’m the most powerful supernatural in the whole of Solaria. And sure, technically that’s true as I’m the daughter of the Savage King. But the bit they didn’t put in the brochure was that every single Fae in this Kingdom would claim my throne if they could.

The school they’ve sent me to is both dangerous as sh*t and one helluva party. Vampires bite weaker students in the corridors, the Werewolf pack has orgies in the Wailing Wood at every full moon and don’t even get me started on the dark and twisted ways the Sirens use their powers on people’s emotions, or how my sinfully tempting Cardinal Magic teacher hosts detentions that leave people needing therapy.

What’s the selling point?

Despite the ominous two-star rating, I’m not such a stuck-up reviewer that I can’t appreciate what these two hardworking authors have managed to do. And that appreciation starts with understanding why they wrote this particular series in the first place. I think the first telling place to look is their disclaimer at the end of their amazon metadata.

***This is a dark, bully romance – don’t go expecting a sweet school for magic with friends around every corner. Fae fight for everything they own and Zodiac Academy is a cutthroat school for students aged 18+ where only the strongest prevail. There’s no Dumbledore here to save anyone’s ass and Lionel Acrux will give Voldemort a run for his money in the evil dictator category. So hold onto your stardust (broomsticks not required) and get ready for a bumpy ride***

Tell me that isn’t the kind of thing you see at the beginning of a hulking 500k-word fanfiction. Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti have created one of the most chronically online series I’ve ever read. They’re selling it to teenagers and women in their early 20’s. They’re selling really graphic smut, a group of neverending romances to get sucked into, and really easy reading that makes you feel like you’re in a comfortable internet environment. Their goal is to keep you reading.

Time to dismantle this disclaimer and gleefully tell you why I dislike the series so much.

This is a dark, bully romance.

Yeah, I was never the perfect audience for this series. Despite having intermittently trashy taste, I hate me a bully romance. Or the bullying trope in general. Check out my review of the first book for the full rant, but I hold a different kind of hate for fictional bullies. Hell, I had trouble with The Cruel Prince for this reason.

The common wisdom is that the series gets much better after the first book because a) the four heirs stop being such heinous, disgusting bullies, b) the girls successfully get revenge on them (by bullying them back), and c) the boys had a good reason to be bullying the Vegas (more on this point later).

But the bullying doesn’t get better. It’s a bully romance right up until our resident Voldemort hijacks the entire plot. And even then, sometimes. The entirety of Zodiac Academy is full of bullies, and that ruins the experience for me.

Tory and Darcy? Our protagonists? Very few redeeming qualities, in my opinion. They give pure, unadulterated hot mean girl energy. Imagine Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls when she’s at her peak bitchiness, pranking Regina and obsessed with herself. When they’re not being personally traumatized by the heirs—including being drugged, dragged in public media, stripped, physically beaten daily, verbally abused, and sexually assaulted—they’re busy mentally and verbally abusing their friends (looking at you, Tory—Diego did nothing to you), fighting back at the heirs (okay, these pranks were funny), and hanging out with a group whose express purpose is to kiss their ass. At best, they’re dismissive of any and all characters with less power than them.

The book never takes a beat to ask why they would want the crown in the first place. Instead, it focuses on who they want to beat. Because of the things those people have done to them. So they want the crown for…revenge?? Because it’s their blood right? Nothing about their upbringing or actions or background suggests they would be better rulers than the Heirs! Also, they’re eighteen!!

Fae fight for everything they own and Zodiac Academy is a cutthroat school for students aged 18+ where only the strongest prevail.

The common retort to all of these complaints is: that’s how the Fae are, and the fae aren’t human. In the world of this series, power is all that matters.

Sure. By that logic, Tory and Darcy do deserve to have the crown. The weak are destined to suffer and shall never inherit fae-earth.

It’s a very convenient excuse. It certainly taught me that I don’t want a world like that, if I didn’t know already. But I’m not sure all readers will read with a constant awareness that in this world bullying is allowed because this world is so different and these people aren’t really people, but fae.

I sure couldn’t. They interact like people, have the same emotions and connections as people, as any solid story requires. They have the same sense of right and wrong as we do. They’re constantly talking about how different they are from the evil Lionel Voldemort Acrux—but are they? Perhaps in some obvious ways—they don’t go out of their way to kill innocent people, for example, nor do they make people their slaves—but I’m not sure the moral core is much better.

At the end of the day, I’m not convinced this is anything but a rant against the bullying trope, so take it with a grain of salt. But ‘the world is bad and full of people who take advantage of their power, therefore you should do the same to crush them‘ is a maxim oft employed by, er, really really bad people.

There’s no Dumbledore here to save anyone’s ass and Lionel Acrux will give Voldemort a run for his money in the evil dictator category.

Boy, what a caricature of a sociopath. Lionel is boring, but convenient enough to get the plot going every once in a while. I don’t have a problem with the plot as such, just with how much non-plot you have to read to get to the plot.

I’ve regularly see people posting that they ‘only read Darius and Tory chapters,’ ‘only read Orion chapters,’ and so on. When their entire realm is being threatened, chapters are still spent on Zodiac Academy’s version of Quidditch. Even the most avid supporters of ZA will admit that there are parts that bore them, that these books are MASSIVE, that they could have been edited heavily.

This is such an obvious issue that I don’t want to spend long on it, except to say that I think it’s intentional. The authors have traded any kind of pacing for a) being able to churn out these chonkers at a ridiculously fast pace and b) selling eight books and counting for every sucker they hook. Gotta respect the hustle.

None of this is actually the selling point, though.

The selling point, if I were to guess. is the romance. And the sex. If I were to ballpark a ratio of romantic drama/angst/sex to everything else, I’d put it at a conservative 50/50. The kissing and sex scenes are actually really good, and kind of like I’ve said for FBAA and ACOTAR, I think those are the scenes that motivate beleaguered readers to go on.

Let’s rank the pairings! SPOILERS from now on—I’m talking endgames.

1. Darius and Tory

I’m a sucker for angst. I don’t think either of these characters are good people (and not the kind of morally grey I go in for, either), nor would I ever want to be friends with Darcy or Tory, but you can’t deny that they’re a wild ride. Darius did have me cringing every other conversation, though,

2. Seth and Caleb

Unexpected for the first few books, but I’m a fan of how far this has gotten. God, Seth is the worst, though. I was not happy to have to go back to reading his chapters.

3. Lance and Darcy

Lance was so out of pocket with Darcy in the first book I can’t get over it. And the dom/sub vibes in the relationship with him being 8 years older and her professor…he deserved jail. I realize Darcy had some more character development in the later books, but she’s still 18-year-old Lily Bloom with a god complex and buckets of pretty privilege.

None of the other pairings matter. If you disagree, no you don’t.

So hold onto your stardust (broomsticks not required) and get ready for a bumpy ride

This series is so cringe. Riddled with typos and missing commas and grammatical snafus, sure. But the concept itself is silly—a magic academy that centers the signs of the Zodiac—and it only gets worse from there.

I don’t think I can catalogue all the things I caught that had me cackling aloud, but I’ll give a few just for fun:

  • FaeBook, not Facebook. We get to see posts (mostly cyberbullying) and hashtags and everything.
    • For the first few books, the girls also get daily zodiac readings that foretell their day and add nothing to the book in general.
  • “STIs like Faemidia, Centyphilis, Grifforrhea and Manticrabs.”
  • Something called the Fairy Fair
  • Lots of references to songs by title and artist, like
  • cotton candfae not cotton candy
  • The one Hispanic character speaks Spanish like google translate with zero punctuation
  • Pegasus herds have a “Dom” and subs
  • Faetalian not Italian…the only other geographical place hinted to in the series is Fae Italians for some reason?
  • Clippard Clip-Clop is the name of the professor for the pagasuses.

The silly and funny content and tone plus the super adult sexual and traumatic content is a super surreal read. In all seriousness, I do wonder what ages are reading this series, because the last thing you’d want is kids in high school thinking this is an acceptable way to act in high school. The authors are clear that it’s an 18+ series, and I think they’ve covered their bases. So if it’s adults, though…go for it! If this is your thing I can suppress my bully-trope-hating self to say I respect it. You’re in for a long, if not endless, read. I, personally, am done.

p.s. Really. I just started the new novel Godkiller by Hannah Kaner and it feels like a breath of fresh air and I’m already walking around in a better mood.

3 thoughts on “Zodiac Academy | Series Review

  1. lol, great review! i just saw cari’s video on her booktube channel cari can read of her practically having a full-on mental breakdown over how bad she found the series and her review plus yours strengthened my already rock-solid resolve not to read this series. i, too, am not a fan of bully romance (like you, i also struggled with the cruel prince for this reason) and it sounds like zodiac academy worsens that with awful writing all-around. but hey, like you said, if you’re an adult who enjoys it and doesn’t take the themes to heart, who am i to yuck your yum

    Liked by 1 person

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