Tom Miller’s debut novel, The Philosopher’s Flight, probably would not be on my radar had it not been for Book of the Month. When I went to pick my February book, this cover immediately caught my eye. And then I saw the words “easy read” and “feminist” and that was honestly all I needed.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) Eighteen-year-old Robert Weekes is a practitioner of empirical philosophy—an arcane, female-dominated branch of science used to summon the wind, shape clouds of smoke, heal the injured, and even fly. Though he dreams of fighting in the Great War as the first male in the elite US Sigilry Corps Rescue and Evacuation Service—a team of flying medics—Robert is resigned to mixing batches of philosophical chemicals and keeping the books for the family business in rural Montana, where his mother, a former soldier and vigilante, aids the locals.
When a deadly accident puts his philosophical abilities to the test, Robert rises to the occasion and wins a scholarship to study at Radcliffe College, an all-women’s school. At Radcliffe, Robert hones his skills and strives to win the respect of his classmates, a host of formidable, unruly women.
Robert falls hard for Danielle Hardin, a disillusioned young war hero turned political radical. However, Danielle’s activism and Robert’s recklessness attract the attention of the same fanatical anti-philosophical group that Robert’s mother fought years before. With their lives in mounting danger, Robert and Danielle band together with a team of unlikely heroes to fight for Robert’s place among the next generation of empirical philosophers—and for philosophy’s very survival against the men who would destroy it.
In the tradition of Lev Grossman and Deborah Harkness, Tom Miller writes with unrivaled imagination, ambition, and humor. The Philosopher’s Flight is both a fantastical reimagining of American history and a beautifully composed coming-of-age tale for anyone who has ever felt like an outsider.
I have always really enjoyed books that blend science and magic, and The Philosopher’s Flight is no exception. Even better, this book explores feminism in a really unique world in which women are the ones with the power. (And if you’ve read The Power, know that this book is a hundred times more fun.) I loved how this book approaches feminism, and found that it had a really unique viewpoint. The main character, Robert, aspires to be as skilled as the women, and I really appreciated how he fights for what he wants without the last bit of resentment toward the women who are more skilled than him.
The characters were really great. I definitely enjoyed all of their quirks and found myself attached to more than a few of them. I loved their relationships (though I definitely had a favorite). The characters almost reminded me of a modern take on The Great Gatsby, and I am definitely a fan. It was almost an alternate history in that it was heavily feminist before feminism was a thing. And I absolutely loved this version of the late 1910s.
As for the story, I will say this: it is a fantastic start to a series but also a wonderful story in itself, which is always something I look for in books that are part of a series. I thought it was really well told. It was engaging and interesting and I had a hard time not thinking about it whenever I put the book down. I thought the blend of magic and science was pretty seamless. I was definitely impressed with both the story and the writing itself, especially for a debut.
★★★★★ – The Philosopher’s Flight was a brilliant novel. It was a fun fantasy with a really great message, and I loved reading it. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel!
The Philosopher’s Flight is available now. (Find it on Amazon.)
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