A lovely book and a comforting, reliable re-read about a group of young adults who meet and bond at a college for wizards. Unfortunately, their instructors are not the most reliable or educational, and much of their adventures come from them taking matters in their own hands. Most of the students we focus on come from well-connected families, and all are training at the college against the full support of those families. One, for instance, snuck out of his kingdom against his brother the Emir's wishes, another scraped together the money with the help of a grandmother and sister and enrolled without his father's consent, another is a runaway from an abusive father. Trouble ensues when the headmaster instructs one of the teachers to send a letter begging for money to their families.I enjoy the characters, all are well developed and their bonding over shared frustrations seem entirely natural. It's refreshing to have a griffin and dwarf be part of the student mix, along with a few other representatives of countries/kingdoms in this world. It makes for a sense of diversity within the group, but not one that creates barriers, only interest. There is an innocence and ingeniousness about the students that makes their efforts toward improvement quite sweet and not at all malicious. Eventually, a few members of the group and incoming supporting cast end up pairing off, but any romance is gentle and exists mostly in the area of hand-holding and shared company. I love the magic in this world, although mechanics aren't particularly explained. The protection spells the group comes up with to protect one of their members are priceless fun.I actually read this long before Dark Lord of Derkholm, so although it says "sequel," don't let that put you off. Most of the main characters from the prior are only peripheral, and the preceding events are only responsible for the ruins of the college, not really what is happening to it now. Though the characters are young adult and the resolutions of issues neat, it is not a simple book by any means in concepts or language. Very light in tone.Perhaps my one quibble is with griffins. There's apparently a race of griffins in a country across the sea, so it's a little odd that Elda and the others of Dirk's "created" griffin children are so compatible, even to the point of arousing "primitive instincts." Oh well, it's magic.Highly recommended.