A guest review from Lady Techie.
I took my time with this one because I knew as soon as I started it that I would like the protagonist and love the story. Discern is the first book in a new series about Nicole Williams who is a fourth child in her family which makes her what is called an Arete or magical. I found that premise very interesting as the family dynamics and relationships were displayed for multiple students in Nicole's school in Seattle, Katon University. It has to be a strain on parents that want to fit in knowing that having a fourth child would allow them to produce a magical child, as well as a strain on the children that come before that fourth child knowing that they missed out on something special due to not being the fourth child. Sibling relationships are difficult enough but this seems like it would create a sibling rivalry that would be hard to manage, especially for the one child that is different. Also, what if the parents are not fourth children? Nicole was a product of just a family. I picked up on her having brothers and so far we only meet her mother so I am looking forward to meeting her entire family. After we meet Nicole's mother we are left with a huge desire to know the history of her family.
Katon University is a specialized university designed for Arete students. It teaches not only traditional subjects like math, science, but also subjects that relate to magic like magical objects. Each Arete's gifts typically are related to one of the elements, earth, air, fire or water, but there are so many things in between that makes this story exciting. Nicole starts at Katon with her best friend Lizzie, who is also her roommate at an apartment that leaves a lot to be desired. There are some interesting neighbors and their apartment can be truly weird and horrifying but it just adds to action in this story. Nicole applies to go on an expedition in the desert to try and help determine why people are disappearing when they visit that part of the desert. It is suspected that it is magic related so her professor is one of two professors hosting the expedition and boy is that trip action-packed. Nicole learns a lot about herself, her classmates that also are on the expedition, and other Aretes that are part of the expedition.
Discern is a strong, exciting, action-packed start to the Katon University series. The world building was really well done. The character development gives the readers some really great characters to love, dislike and also some that leave us on the fence waiting to see who they become as the series unfolds. I am really looking forward to see where it goes next and I really look forward to hopefully a book dedicated to Nicole's life before Katon University.