The Philosopher's Flight
A thrilling debut from ER doctor turned novelist Tom Miller, The Philosopher’s Flight is an epic historical fantasy set in a World-War-I-era America where magic and science have blended into a single extraordinary art. 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.

The Philosopher's Flight Details

TitleThe Philosopher's Flight
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseFeb 13th, 2018
PublisherSimon & Schuster
ISBN-139781476778150
Rating
GenreFantasy, Historical, Historical Fiction, Fiction

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The Philosopher's Flight Review

  • Will Byrnes
    January 1, 1970
    And what is empirical philosophy—what is sigilry—except a branch of science that we don’t yet fully understand? There’s no dark art to it; it’s nothing more than the movement of energy to produce a physical effect. The human body provides the power, while the sigil, drawn sometimes with beads of water, sometimes with cornmeal or sand, catalyzes the movement. You can do a thousand useful things: make a plant grow larger and faster; send a message a thousand miles in an instant; fly. If you grew And what is empirical philosophy—what is sigilry—except a branch of science that we don’t yet fully understand? There’s no dark art to it; it’s nothing more than the movement of energy to produce a physical effect. The human body provides the power, while the sigil, drawn sometimes with beads of water, sometimes with cornmeal or sand, catalyzes the movement. You can do a thousand useful things: make a plant grow larger and faster; send a message a thousand miles in an instant; fly. If you grew up with it, it’s natural. It’s right. Why would anyone want life to be otherwise? Why indeed? Eighteen-year-old Robert A. Canderelli Weekes lives with his mother, Major Emmaline Weekes, in Guille’s Run, Montana. Mom is something of a legend in her chosen profession, that being Empirical Philosopher. Of course, the word philosophy is used a bit differently here from what most of us are used to. It refers to a special power, the ability to order the world about using sigils, or hand-drawn designs. The major sigil skill at issue here is flight. There are plenty of others, but flying is prime. Also core is that it may be a man’s world, but sigilry is most definitely a woman’s domain. Enough so, that many conflate it with witchcraft, to the sigilists’ peril. This makes life a bit challenging for Robert. Think the equivalent of a female left tackle for the Steelers. Sure, it is theoretically possible, but, for now at least, it is just not done. Mom passed along enough DNA, from her, and her forebears’ pool, and considerable training and practice, so that Boober—yes, really, this is the poor guy’s nickname in the family (palms to face, looking down, shaking head slowly left and right, while sighing deeply)—is actually a pretty decent flyer. A talent that comes in handy when emergencies arise that require rapid transport of aid in, and/or evacuation of the injured, or people in danger, when wheeled, winged, or aquatic vehicle-based transport is not a possibility. Serious, important, and challenging work.Tom Miller - photo by Abigail Carlin-image from Simon and SchusterThe Philosopher’s Flight falls into the alternative history category. The closest thing I have read to it is Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell, which imported magic into 19th century England. This one refers to roots in earlier times, but adds bits of magic mostly to the early 20th century in the USA, specifically in the days leading up to the USA entering World War I. I am sure there are plenty more of this sort, but you will have to rely on better-read reviewers to ferret them out. These two novels differ from works like Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, which considers what the world might look like had the Axis powers won World War II, sans incorporation of fantastical elements. Miller looks at how the presence of this strange ability, sigilism, might have changed events, how it might have been harnessed by governments for military purposes. The American Civil War is the first major application. Later, sigilry becomes subject to international treaty restrictions, sigilists being removed from combat, but employed as a sort of Red Cross. When the USA enters World War I, Robert, 18, is eager to join the Rescue and Evacuation Department of the US Sigilry Corps. Mom is aghast, knowing from painful personal experience how unsafe the war theater can be, and, in any case, they would certainly turn their noses up at a male applicant in an all-female group.Robert may have serious sigilist talent, but is rarely taken seriously. After all, sigilry is woman’s work, and Robert is just a man. A nice twist on the usual gender-based trope. And Miller has a lot of fun with it. The serious aspect of this being a look for the reader at sexism as if through a photo negative. The imagined illuminates the real. The major action of the novel takes place after Robert is accepted into one of the handful of colleges that trains sigilists, Radcliffe. It is at school where he not only makes some lifelong friends, but must overcome personal and institutional bias to prove his mettle. A love interest enters while there. I am not certain if this book is being marketed as YA or not but the sexual element struck me (heathen that I am) as tame enough for a YA audience, most assignations, thankfully, taking place off-screen, with lots of winking, nodding, and euphemism.There is another seam that permeates. A dark side to the bright light of sigilry. There is a group that breathes brimstone and is determined to restore the world to its pre-sigilry state, and if that means slaughtering all sigilists, they are perfectly fine with that, eager in fact. The Trencherists. Think KKK mixed with misogynist Death Eaters. Atrocities happen. There is a significant body count. The politics of bigotry certainly has resonance with the real world. It is what happens when hatred and fear turn kinetic that we must worry about. There is plenty of kinetic here. We know that Robert survives it all, as the book opens with him telling his nine-year-old daughter about the history of sigilry. But we do not know the fate of anyone else. And some of these characters will make you care, will make you want to know. The age grouping here is late teens, early twenties, with most teachers and leaders being a generation or more ahead. The age difference of the primaries separates this a bit from the Harry Potter target demo by at least a few years. I was very much reminded of a science fiction writer of note. Robert Heinlein, who wrote a passel of books featuring young and young-ish characters. Starship Troopers stands out, but there are others. The group camaraderie is reminiscent of boot-camp-bonding and allegiance under fire. An older female character stands in for the cigar-chomping Drill Instructor who is tough as nails, but truly concerned for the safety of his charges, and a softie underneath. In many instances, Heinlein’s teen heroes shared a sort of gung-ho, let’s-go-kill-the-enemy vibe. That feel permeates here, with the significant difference that, despite having to engage in actual battle at home, the wartime activity that our hero and heroines aspire to is not mass murder but search and rescue. As with many such novels, the gung-ho mindset gets exposed to actual mortal peril and has to face up to the reality of war, battle, and group hatred. My primary gripe with the book is that the characters seemed a bit thin, with the exception of Robert. There are enough edges, hard and soft, to go around, but some of them seemed lacking in texture or color. Also, the mechanics of sigilry seemed a bit clunky to me. I don’t really see the sort of writing devices sigilrists use ever matching up against wands. I expect, though, that much of the hardware can be downsized or eliminated with some creative writing in future volumes. Too much hardware resembled contemporary digital devices. On the other hand, the costuming was pretty sweet.I don’t want to leave you with a narrow view of what sigilists can do. Flying is definitely way cool, but there is a thing called Smokecarving that is pretty impressive, and a transport talent that comes in quite handy. Definitely a grimoire or two short of the Potter range of magical capability, but this is the first in what absolutely has to be a series, so I expect that range of magical possibility will fill out in time. One item of note is that each of the chapters is introduced with a quote from a noted personage, some of whom are characters in the book. These offer some interior history and a bit on where this alt-history diverges from the one we know. One thing these quotes provide is a glimpse into both what came before and what lies ahead in the big-picture story arc, seeding material for future sequels and prequels.In short, this was a delightful read, fast-paced, engaging, with a few nifty core themes and concepts to add substance to the mayhem. My only real disappointment here was that the book was not due for release in time for Christmas. It would have made an outstanding holiday gift. Next year, for sure. I’d sign out, but don’t want to chance making a mistake and transporting myself into a boulder. Tom Miller is a major new talent. The Philospher’s Flight is the opening gambit in what promises to be a brilliant new fantasy series. It soars!Review posted – 12/22/2017Publication date – 2/13/2018=============================EXTRA STUFFMiller maintains a minimal on-line presence. I am hoping that as the release date nears, that will change. When it does, I will add the appropriate links here.In addition to the absence of on-line activity, there is a singular absence of interviews with the author. I am also hoping that this changes ‘ere long.The book was formerly titled The Philosopher’s War, which maintains the focus on one character and would have been a better fit, IMHO, but not by a huge margin. They could use it for a subsequent volume.Image from Pinterest
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  • Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
    January 1, 1970
    $1.99 Kindle sale, April 13, 2018. This WWI era SF/fantasy novel is a 2018 book and a worthwhile read. A strong 4 stars. Full review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:Many historical eras ― particularly the Regency and Victorian, with World War II in the mix as well ― have been reimagined through the lens of fantasy and science fiction: alternative history, with magic or superpowers as the focus for recasting historical events. World War I has, I think, been underserved in this genre. Tom Mill $1.99 Kindle sale, April 13, 2018. This WWI era SF/fantasy novel is a 2018 book and a worthwhile read. A strong 4 stars. Full review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:Many historical eras ― particularly the Regency and Victorian, with World War II in the mix as well ― have been reimagined through the lens of fantasy and science fiction: alternative history, with magic or superpowers as the focus for recasting historical events. World War I has, I think, been underserved in this genre. Tom Miller’s The Philosopher’s Flight does a creditable job of shedding new light on the Great War era. Miller uses not only magic (here thinly veiled as a branch of science called empirical philosophy), but also the fact that these powers are primarily controlled by women, to enrich the story. Men are at a profound disadvantage in this science, with the women by and large extremely reluctant to allow men into their ranks, if not actively hostile.Robert Canderelli Weekes is the eighteen year old son of Emmaline Weeks, a war hero and now a county philosopher in rural Montana. Philosophers in this world are not merely academics who study the nature of existence and knowledge; they are people who actually warp the laws of probability using sigilry, magical symbols that enable human flight, teleporting of groups, and other extraordinary powers. Robert has inherited the power of using sigils to fly, assisting his mother in her day-to-day work of responding to accidents and other local problems that require her services. He’s a decent flyer, not nearly as powerful or fast as his mother, but good enough to dream of following in her footsteps and joining the US Sigilry Corps, which assist in wartime evacuations and rescues. Emmaline is dead set against it; not only will the women in the R&E Department almost certainly reject Robert just because he’s a man, but the R&E wartime work has an extremely high death rate. Robert finds a path that may lead him to his goal of joining R&E: the Contingency Act pays for philosophers to go to college, provided you serve an equal number of years afterwards in an area of the U.S. that’s short on philosophers. He applies and is accepted to Radcliffe College, a woman’s college that is now accepting a limited number of men as Contingency Act students.So Robert heads off to Radcliffe in September 1917, joining a large group of women ― and a scant handful of men ― who are studying the philosophy and practice of flight. During his time at Radcliffe, Robert makes new friends, falls in love, and diligently works on improving his flight skills. He’s better than all but the fastest women, but still is faced with rejection and persecution from many women who don’t want men to join their ranks. This reverse sexism is a running theme in The Philosopher’s Flight, adding an unusual twist to the tale, particularly since women are the more militant group in this discipline. On the flip side are the Trenchers, a stubbornly fundamentalist and bigoted group that rejects all brands of philosophical science and insists that women should return to hearth and home, leaving jobs to the men. The Trencher movement has gained power over the years since the Civil War, and its members are now engaged in a bitter and murderous feud with the philosophers. I would have preferred Christianity being left out of the Trencher’s belief system ― religion is too often used as a convenient punching bag in speculative fiction.Miller makes liberal use of actual historical events throughout The Philosopher’s Flight, weaving them into Robert’s family history and as a backdrop for current events in the novel, sometimes with a few changes to fit the story. The Civil War’s Battle of Petersburg becomes a watershed event in the development of philosophical science and using it (and women) in wartime, when Lucretia Cadawaller used her powers to create a poisonous gas to kill 40,000 defenders of Petersburg. She intended to quickly win the war with a single, fearful blow … but she also inspired the rise of the Trenchers. I appreciated the way history informs the events of this story, with Miller frequently giving them a half-twist to shed new light on topics such as women’s rights and warfare practices. As gung-ho as Richard is to join the Sigilry Corps and the war effort, there are other characters cautioning him against the horrors of war and the likelihood of death or disability.The Philosopher’s Flight is a well-paced tale, with the blend of magic and science giving it a somewhat retro feel that fits the time setting. Robert’s varied adventures and his developing relationships with others make this an engaging and original read. As far as I can tell this is currently a stand-alone read, but Miller has left the door wide open for a sequel.I received a free copy of this ebook from the publisher through NetGalley for review. Thank you!!
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  • Mogsy (MMOGC)
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/03/18/...The Philosopher’s Flight might be my first genuine surprise of 2018. Backed by a fascinating premise that blends together historical fiction and fantasy, this novel held my attention captive from beginning to end. Set in an alternate World-War-I-era America, at the core of this tale is “magical science”, also known as empirical philosophy, a system of magic that uses the artform of “sigilry” to perform amazing feats like 4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2018/03/18/...The Philosopher’s Flight might be my first genuine surprise of 2018. Backed by a fascinating premise that blends together historical fiction and fantasy, this novel held my attention captive from beginning to end. Set in an alternate World-War-I-era America, at the core of this tale is “magical science”, also known as empirical philosophy, a system of magic that uses the artform of “sigilry” to perform amazing feats like summoning the wind, sculpting clouds of smoke, teleporting from one place to another, or even defying gravity.Told in the form of a memoir, the book stars protagonist Robert Weekes who recounts his time as a young man at Radcliffe College studying to pursue his dream of flying Rescue and Evacuation for the US Sigilry Corps. But here’s the twist: in this world, empirical philosophy is a field dominated by women. The greater affinity for magic in the female sex means that they are stronger and more powerful philosophers, which also makes them better conditioned to become flyers—a discipline that few men can master. Robert, however, has flying in his blood. His mother, the indomitable Major Emmeline Weekes is his inspiration and role model, a war hero who has served many years as part of the elite all-women R&E team saving countless lives on the battlefield. Determined to follow in her footsteps, Robert decides to apply to Radcliffe, becoming one of only three men enrolled in the school.And here’s where the story gets interesting. Few things in this book unfold the way you’d expect, despite the frosty reception Robert finds on his first day. Facing strong pushback from some of his professors and fellow students who believe he doesn’t belong, our protagonist must work twice as hard to prove his worth and be accepted in a role that’s traditionally been closed to men. How dicey, I initially thought, to have story centered around a male protagonist who must struggle against gender discrimination, considering the current feminist movement and how these days books actually tend to feature the opposite scenario. And yet, at the same time I found it to be a refreshing change, not to mention the gender-flip was executed in a thoughtful way that treats women with respect and reverence. With the exception of the Trenchers (more on them later), the world generally views empirical philosophy as a gift—and women, as the wielders of that wonderful and magical power, are held in high esteem. They are America’s greatest heroes and legends that girls (and boys like Robert) look up to and dream they can become.However, the author also does not patronize his readers by glossing over the situation. Every slice of the population will have its bad eggs, and Robert encounters his fair share of prejudice, intolerance, and injustice from some of the women at Radcliffe, and some social norms are just so ingrained that they are hard to break. In addition, there are the aforementioned Trenchers, a radical group that opposes everything related to empirical philosophy (hence many of their messages are also anti-women) and they aren’t above resorting to violent means to achieve their ends. Among these tactics is a hit list targeting well-known philosophers like Robert’s mother Emmeline Weekes and his girlfriend Danielle Hardin for assassination. Ultimately, it’s the Trenchers who are the main antagonists of this book, whom Robert works tirelessly and passionately with his fellow Radcliffe students to oppose.This is a multi-faceted story with lots of positive messages about fighting for change, serving your fellow citizens, doing good for the world, and reaching for your dreams—all done in an unconventional yet sympathetic way. It’s also a tough book to categorize, because of its many themes. At its heart The Philosopher’s Flight is a coming-of-age new adult tale about growing up, which also has elements like sweet romance (experiencing first love), pulse-pounding action (training to perform dangerous and daring aerial maneuvers), light-hearted humor (making lifelong friendships), as well as thrilling adventure (competing in school spirit events and flying contests). All this is set before an alternate historical fantasy backdrop that feels genuine and well-realized. The college setting also makes me think this would be great for readers looking for a more serious and mature “magic school” story—think Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, except a lot more fun and not as soul-suckingly depressing (not to mention with decidedly more likable characters).It is my hope that this book, like its protagonist, will reach new heights because it is certainly deserving of all the praise. Tom Miller has written a complex and deeply nuanced debut that examines the way lives can be shaped by social beliefs and experiences, but it is also a wild tale full of warmth and fun. I was glad to learn that The Philosopher’s Flight is the first book of a new series, because I am absolutely on board for more.
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  • Book of the Month
    January 1, 1970
    In an alternate world where only women are strong enough to wield magic, a gifted boy goes where no man has gone before: Radcliffe, a prestigious female-only school of sigilry.Learn more at https://www.bookofthemonth.com/the-ph...
  • Juli
    January 1, 1970
    I love books about alternate history. But The Philosopher's Flight is something more....a combination of fantasy, sci-fi, alternate history...and pure magic. The Basics: Certain symbols, called sigils, can be used to focus power. That power can be used for mundane things like making plants grow larger, curing illness or even flying, but also for more destructive actions like killing 40,000 enemy soldiers in one battle during the Civil War. Although some men can wield the power, women are much mo I love books about alternate history. But The Philosopher's Flight is something more....a combination of fantasy, sci-fi, alternate history...and pure magic. The Basics: Certain symbols, called sigils, can be used to focus power. That power can be used for mundane things like making plants grow larger, curing illness or even flying, but also for more destructive actions like killing 40,000 enemy soldiers in one battle during the Civil War. Although some men can wield the power, women are much more talented at being Empirical Philosophers and using sigils. Most counties in the United States have a resident philosopher to help with emergencies. Maj. Emmaline Weekes is a county philosopher in Montana in 1917. Her son Robert helps by ordering supplies, cooking and being support for his mother. America is entering the Great War in Europe. President Wilson has just announced a declaration of war against The German Empire. Robert;s dream is to fly Rescue & Evac, but women are much more talented at flying than men. The elite unit has never accepted a man into their ranks. After a emergency rescue following an attack by Trenchers, a group of vigilantes against sygilists, Robert proves that a male just might be able to make it in R & E. When he's accepted into college to become a philosopher, he realizes his dream might just come true!OMG! I love this book!! The mix of real history with the fantasy of sigils and philosophers! Such a creative and awesome story! The book is filled with action and excitement -- trencher attacks, rescues, training and war -- and kept my attention from beginning to end. Reverse sexism adds an interesting angle to the plot as well. Robert goes through a lot being a male in college studying philosophy and wanting to join R&E when they don't accept males. The Philosopher's Flight is Tom Miller's debut novel. I loved the story and his writing style. I will definitely be reading more by this author! **I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Simon & Schuster via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**
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  • Xavier (CharlesXplosion)
    January 1, 1970
    A high-fantasy, Harry Potter-esque story about a female-centric world. Although Miller's worldbuilding is unparallel, the lack of characterization and plot made The Philosopher's Flight a complete misfire.
  • Mike
    January 1, 1970
    This was excellent, and I'm really glad I took the risk with it. It was recommended by a fellow writer on a forum we both frequent, and when I saw it was on Netgalley I picked it up. My big concern was that the genderflip inherent in the premise - women are, for unexplained reasons, the best at magic, and a young man tries to establish himself among them during the period of the First World War - could so easily have gone terribly wrong. (I'm thinking of that awful raceflipped Pearls thing from This was excellent, and I'm really glad I took the risk with it. It was recommended by a fellow writer on a forum we both frequent, and when I saw it was on Netgalley I picked it up. My big concern was that the genderflip inherent in the premise - women are, for unexplained reasons, the best at magic, and a young man tries to establish himself among them during the period of the First World War - could so easily have gone terribly wrong. (I'm thinking of that awful raceflipped Pearls thing from a few years back.)I'm relieved to report that for me - and you have to remember I'm male - it succeeded in not being horribly tone-deaf in its treatment of the genderflip. First of all, many of the female characters, including the protagonist's mother, sisters, colleagues, and friends, are the kind of pragmatic, competent women that my own mother, sisters, colleagues, and friends are. Secondly, they're not idealised; though they're fine people in all the ways that really count, they're often coarse, they make bad decisions at times, and they struggle with assorted character flaws and blind spots. Other female characters are petty, selfish, silly, shallow, manipulative, all the things that real people (of both genders) are. If you're going to portray people who are not like you, this is the way to do it: make them feel like real people. Then the genderflip itself, the man struggling to succeed in a woman's world, is well done. I found Robert instantly relatable; he has a noble dream, to be part of the Rescue and Evacuation Corps who save wounded soldiers on the battlefield, using "sigilry" (the magic system) to fly them to safety. It looks like he can't have that dream. Even the women who support him becoming the best sigilrist he can be don't believe he can be accepted to the Corps; even his mother, his hero and inspiration, doesn't believe he should be accepted, even if he qualifies. He'd be a distraction to the women. He wouldn't fit in. He'd be a curiosity. It would be an exercise in political point-scoring, not a merit-based appointment. He wouldn't be able to do the work as well as a woman. If he was accepted, he'd have to be called a Sigilwoman; that's the name of the rank, and you can't simultaneously ask for equal treatment and ask for special treatment, now can you? Women bully him, haze him, threaten to boycott a major sporting event if he takes part, mark him down unfairly, strip him of an honour he's won by tremendous effort. He has to be better than most women to even be considered. He has, in other words, the experience of any outsider trying to enter a social space that's traditionally been closed to people like them. It's a story about family, and love, and friendship, and overcoming prejudice and injustice. Apart from a very early infodump, there's not a craft misstep in it; the author has both an MFA and an MD, which is an unusual combination, and draws on his knowledge of emergency medicine to make the multiple rescue scenes gripping and realistic. I loved Robert's competence in a crisis, demonstrated very early on and repeatedly after that, and so clearly learned from his mother. Robert doesn't just have societal prejudice about gender roles to contend with, either. The Trenchers, a political/religious group opposed to sigilry of all kinds and willing to take extreme measures against those who practice it, are constant threats, with some terrifying encounters that test Robert's values and ideals severely. This, too, is established right out of the gate and persists as a strong thread throughout. I enjoyed the epigraphs to the chapters, quotations from various invented documents which give intriguing glimpses into the characters' future and make me want to read more of their story - if I didn't already want to do so because of the excellent quality of this book. I very much do want to read more, and I will eagerly await a sequel.
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  • Laura LVD
    January 1, 1970
    I know I'm in the minority here, but didn't like it. I give two stars because it's really well written, but couldn't connect with the story at all. Sorry, but couldn't suspend my disbelief for one moment. I found the use of certain words irritating ("Sapphist", "cartogramancer" for example, why choose so many archaisms, euphemisms and invented words?) and the weird physics was too much for me (Example "at the same time you're braking, you are also accelerating toward the ground", wtf? how can so I know I'm in the minority here, but didn't like it. I give two stars because it's really well written, but couldn't connect with the story at all. Sorry, but couldn't suspend my disbelief for one moment. I found the use of certain words irritating ("Sapphist", "cartogramancer" for example, why choose so many archaisms, euphemisms and invented words?) and the weird physics was too much for me (Example "at the same time you're braking, you are also accelerating toward the ground", wtf? how can someone accelerate and brake simultaneously?). I know it is supposed to be a fantasy book, still had trouble buying the story or the characters. Even if it is an alternate history book, the fact that these teens are so liberal and XXIth century-like it's too weird for me.The end was a bit predictable and I didn't find it exciting at all. To sum up, I struggled to finish it since the beggining. Was tempted to quit all along and just finished because i got a free copy from the publisher.DISCLAIMER: I received a free ARC (advance-reading copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review) #NetGalley #thephilosophersflight
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  • Simone
    January 1, 1970
    I honestly and truly wished I loved this book. I felt like there's a lot of potential for it being a great series, but after only reading the first novel from both the author and the series I wasn't all too excited. This was definitely more like Harry Potter where magic (also known as Empirical Philosophy) exists alongside the very real world. This "magic" is not inherited, but learned and anyone can basically pick it up. It requires the use of sigils and specific minerals. For example, using a I honestly and truly wished I loved this book. I felt like there's a lot of potential for it being a great series, but after only reading the first novel from both the author and the series I wasn't all too excited. This was definitely more like Harry Potter where magic (also known as Empirical Philosophy) exists alongside the very real world. This "magic" is not inherited, but learned and anyone can basically pick it up. It requires the use of sigils and specific minerals. For example, using a particular sigil with cornmeal will help you to fly and how you write your sigil will determine how well you fly. It's a practiced art and you don't need a certain birthright to do it.I will say that the story did hold my attention and there definitely was some practical use of the philosophy. But a lot of what was happening in the book felt like a direct reflection of what's going on today. Women being the dominant gender to use Empirical Philosophy, Robert Weekes is one of only three men at his college. He's constantly teased and talked down to because men just don't do Empirical Philosophy. It just feels like a role reversal for what's happening nowadays; women being overlooked because they're women. The bad guys in this book are called "Trenchers." These dudes remind me of the extreme right movements in America right now. They are constantly fighting against Empirical Philosophy and trying to make it illegal. They think it's unnatural and the women kill their babies. It's against God and the Bible and people who study it are abominations. They're out trying to kill philosophers so that their numbers dwindle and they disappear. It really reminds me of the news and everything that's going on recently. There was even a march where philosophers went down to Washington DC to march for their rights to use this philosophy.I think this really bothered me the most in this story especially since it's fiction and really could draw from anything and it's just a reflection of what's going on today.Being that this is the first fantasy novel, I feel like a lot of this story was just explaining the universe as well. There was a lot of history that coincided with the very real United States history. The wars being fought are also fought by philosophers. There was a lot of explaining the philosophy, what it does, how it works, how it can be manipulated. I feel like I was in a class listening to a lecture about Empirical Philosophy than actually seeing it in action.When you do see it in action, it's great. The fighting against Trenchers and even The Cup was fun to read. However, reading passage after passage of Robert learning how to fly at a certain speed, his training regiment, or reading about him carry 100-lb bags for practice all just seemed to keep the story very still. The pacing was pretty slow and even though every few chapters had headers with how much time went by, it feels like no time at all. I get with new fantasies there's a lot of groundwork to cover. There's a lot of creating how each sigil worked and how the transporters moved and how flight paths can be determined. I don't want to discredit this novel because it's the first and the first always shares some of that knowledge. I just wish there was more excitement or something to move the story forward.Reading about a young country boy going to college in a big city for the first time is basically all I'm getting from this story. Aside from the fact that he can practice philosophy which is uncommon for men, it really just reads like someone's first adventures being alone and falling in love and learning new skills that he wouldn't have learned before. There's definitely growth for everyone and everyone miraculously knows what they want in life, but it took a long while to get there and a lot of reading.We learn a lot by the end that will probably set you up for the next one, but really it could have happened right in the middle of the book rather than the end. Honestly, at less than 100 pages left in the book I was worried that nothing would happen at all and that I'd have to wait for the next book. Perhaps then we'll see a lot more action for Robert and can chalk up this first book to first-time jitters.I'm going to be looking out for the second book in the future. I really want to like this book and that's why I'm rating it with three stars. The book kept me interested albeit a little wobbly at times, but I did find the whole Empirical Philosophy thing to be interesting and the battle with the Trencher party compelling. I hope I'm just as compelled in the next one.I received this book from Simon Books in exchange for an honest review. My opinions have not been influenced by the method I received this book and I was not paid to write this book review.
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  • Bam
    January 1, 1970
    *3.5 starsA unique reimagining of history that blends science fiction, fantasy as well as historical fiction. In this story, sigilry, or empirical philosophy, is a branch of science which came into widespread use in 1750. Since women have always been much better at this powerful technique than men, a group of fanatics calling themselves Trenchers seek to eliminate it as being witchcraft or some other dark art.But just what is empirical philosophy? "It's nothing more than the movement of energy t *3.5 starsA unique reimagining of history that blends science fiction, fantasy as well as historical fiction. In this story, sigilry, or empirical philosophy, is a branch of science which came into widespread use in 1750. Since women have always been much better at this powerful technique than men, a group of fanatics calling themselves Trenchers seek to eliminate it as being witchcraft or some other dark art.But just what is empirical philosophy? "It's nothing more than the movement of energy to produce a physical effect. The human body provides the power, while the sigil, drawn sometimes with beads of water, sometimes with cornmeal or sand, catalyzes the movement." You can do a thousand useful things with it...including fly!"To the men the earth, to the women the sky, as God willed it." Yes, it is a woman-dominated field, but in Montana in 1917, there is an eighteen-year-old man named Robert Canderelli Weekes who can fly and dearly wants to perform rescue and evacuation in the war effort. Here is "a man, self-taught, all natural ability and raw power," and that ability as well as his fierce desire to serve is recognized and he is awarded a scholarship to study at Radcliffe, a virtually all-women college in Boston.From the start, he is the brunt of jokes, insults, and other forms of sexual harassment and prejudice, so he not only has to study hard but must prove over and over that he is worthy to be there. Sound familiar, ladies?Even his hero says: " A rescue flier? Don't be ridiculous. A man's place is on the ground. In the army a man in R&E would be an abomination. Not in my corps." And when his goal is in sight, will he have to choose between love and a career? A delightful twist on what women face in our society when they go for a dream that is unusual for their gender, and the choices that must be made. There is lots of humor as well as friendship, romance, adventure and danger. There is a little bit here for every reader. This book cannot help but remind you of the Harry Potter series, Lev Grossman's The Magicians, and others of a similar type. Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and author for the opportunity to read an arc of this new book.
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  • Linda Zagon
    January 1, 1970
    My Review of “The Philosopher’s Flight” by Tom Miller Simon and Schuster, February 2018Tom Miller, Author of “The Philosopher’s Flight” has provided a unique story that combines the Genres of Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Magical Illusion, Magical Realism, and Fiction. The author has woven these genres in a coming of age tale of a young man fighting for his dreams in a women’s world.The author describes his characters as complex and complicated. The time-line for the story is around World My Review of “The Philosopher’s Flight” by Tom Miller Simon and Schuster, February 2018Tom Miller, Author of “The Philosopher’s Flight” has provided a unique story that combines the Genres of Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Magical Illusion, Magical Realism, and Fiction. The author has woven these genres in a coming of age tale of a young man fighting for his dreams in a women’s world.The author describes his characters as complex and complicated. The time-line for the story is around World War One and goes back in history, and speaks a little of the future. Women have been able to be “practitioners of empirical philosophy”….”Used to summon the wind, shape, clouds of smoke, heal the injured and even fly”(Blurb from NetGalley) The women have been able to win past wars and battles using these skills. Of course this has caused dangerous opposition from others that would want these women destroyed.Robert Weekes was only a child when his mother, considered a hero, taught him to fly and apply this philosophy. At eighteen years of age, Robert’s goals are to become part of the elite medics that fly and Rescue and Evacuate during the war. Unfortunately this is a women’s branch in the government and most men don’t fly and use this philosophy. Robert is determined to enter an all Woman’ s College, and learn more philosophy and sharpen his personal flying skills. Many of the women bully him, and make fun of him. Society doesn’t really approve of a man being able to hover and fly.What would it take for Robert’s dreams to come true? What are the risks for him. This is an unusual story, and if you try to imagine what if……..Can you imagine women having the power to fly their own bodies to save other people’s lives? Or women using smoke to cast an illusion or fight or heal others? I would recommend this novel for those who appreciate Science Fiction, Magic and Historical Fiction. I received An Advanced Reading Copy from NetGalley for my honest review.
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  • Sherwood Smith
    January 1, 1970
    Empirical philosophers--the term 'philosophers' used in the historical sense, which could include the practice of the sciences alchemy, astrology, etc.In this alternate world of ours, magic works, has been developing rapidly and scientifically alongside the industrial revolution all through the nineteenth century, and it is mainly used by women, who are better at it than men. The time is now early twentieth century, with World War I dragging on bloodily in Europe, and wars flaring fitfully elsew Empirical philosophers--the term 'philosophers' used in the historical sense, which could include the practice of the sciences alchemy, astrology, etc.In this alternate world of ours, magic works, has been developing rapidly and scientifically alongside the industrial revolution all through the nineteenth century, and it is mainly used by women, who are better at it than men. The time is now early twentieth century, with World War I dragging on bloodily in Europe, and wars flaring fitfully elsewhere. Including at home.Our first person narrator, Robert Weekes, is a teenager having grown up in Montana with a tough mother who has not only been fighting in every war, but fights on the home front, as men called Trenchers, who feel that magic is evil and women need to return to their place, use violence to carry out their views. And the philosophers use violence right back.This is a wildly imaginative, colorful, often funny and even witty, rollercoaster of a book, with whipsaw emotions as well as violence, as Robert--who longs go to into Search and Rescue despite its being staffed mostly by women, and despite its death rate being roughly 50%--ends up going to college at Radcliffe as a Contingency student.He's a token male in a female environment, and so he catches plenty of prejudice, but he also makes friends both male and female. We follow him in his studies, as the country boy gets used to the city, and all its complexities. And of course he discovers love.The second half is somewhat more jerky in pacing than the first as things escalate in all directions, but it's such a fast and engrossing read that I sped right by. An impressive first novel, in a fascinating alternate world, filled with interesting characters. The end seems to set up for more. If so, I will read them.Copy provided by NetGalley
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  • Barb
    January 1, 1970
    Trying to like this book, but finding it a bit challenging. I know, I know. The other reviews are great. And while I promise to come back when I've finished and layer more review on top of this brief one, I have some pet peeves for now. The main one is the use of unknown words that made me have to stop reading to go look them up. Emanuensis? Stasied? Never did find what that meant. Why not just say secretary? The other peeve was character development. I wasn't sure if I liked the mom or found he Trying to like this book, but finding it a bit challenging. I know, I know. The other reviews are great. And while I promise to come back when I've finished and layer more review on top of this brief one, I have some pet peeves for now. The main one is the use of unknown words that made me have to stop reading to go look them up. Emanuensis? Stasied? Never did find what that meant. Why not just say secretary? The other peeve was character development. I wasn't sure if I liked the mom or found her harsh. Maybe she is both. Need the development.
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  • Queen
    January 1, 1970
    Robert dreams of becoming a flying Rescue-and-Evac specialist. Even though females are better at arcane magic/science. We spend the bulk of this book at Radcliffe college where Robert trains among formidable women. The gender issue could have easily been mishandled, but the author does a commendable job. For some readers, this book may hit too close to home about social issues in current-day America. It's spot on. Also of note, this book is similar to Lev Grossman's The Magicians but a lot less Robert dreams of becoming a flying Rescue-and-Evac specialist. Even though females are better at arcane magic/science. We spend the bulk of this book at Radcliffe college where Robert trains among formidable women. The gender issue could have easily been mishandled, but the author does a commendable job. For some readers, this book may hit too close to home about social issues in current-day America. It's spot on. Also of note, this book is similar to Lev Grossman's The Magicians but a lot less emo and generally more entertaining. Strong start to the series.
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  • Rachel Stansel
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of the most fun books I have read this year. A unique alternate history where "philosophers" use special combinations of chemical or compounds to do what we would consider magic. Smokecarving, hovering, transporting and lots more. Women are the lead sigilists with some men having basic abilities. Robert is the son of one such woman, but he gets the chance to show he is just as capable. Throw in their enemies, traditionalists men who want things done the old way, and you have a terrif This is one of the most fun books I have read this year. A unique alternate history where "philosophers" use special combinations of chemical or compounds to do what we would consider magic. Smokecarving, hovering, transporting and lots more. Women are the lead sigilists with some men having basic abilities. Robert is the son of one such woman, but he gets the chance to show he is just as capable. Throw in their enemies, traditionalists men who want things done the old way, and you have a terrific story layered with religious and gender debates which added to the story. Robert is easy to love, and the story unique and well told. A wonderful first novel.Full disclosure - I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
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  • Travis
    January 1, 1970
    I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley, but my opinions are my own......And my opinion is: Mr. Tom Miller needs to write more books in this world! This is a 4.5 rounded up. The only reason it isn't a solid 5.0 is because I wanted the plot and story to cover a little bit more ground, but I expect that this is the first in a projected series. If you liked the depth and texture of Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, then this is the book for you. The character's are realistic I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley, but my opinions are my own......And my opinion is: Mr. Tom Miller needs to write more books in this world! This is a 4.5 rounded up. The only reason it isn't a solid 5.0 is because I wanted the plot and story to cover a little bit more ground, but I expect that this is the first in a projected series. If you liked the depth and texture of Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, then this is the book for you. The character's are realistic and the world is like a marvelous tapestry with tidbits of worldbuilding woven into every bit. Check this book out, you'll love it.
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  • Robin Bonne
    January 1, 1970
    Robert “Boober” Weekes is one of a few male philosophers. His mother is a famous war veteran transporter, and he aspires to become the same, despite the limited capability of his gender.This book was fun, despite how harsh the gender politics came across during the first half. Eventually, the alternate history/reality unfolds and makes sense. Recommend! Thanks to Netgalley for access to the advance copy in exchange for an unbiased review.
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  • wishforagiraffe
    January 1, 1970
    This book is fantastic. It's an alt-history with a truly excellent grasp on the social impacts the discovery of "empirical philosophy" (alchemy/magic by any other name) might have on the course of history. And we get snippets of history throughout the book, not just the course of the story, but all the epigraphs as well. Our protagonist, Robert Weekes, is the son of a war hero - a woman who we're told did some pretty terrible things in previous campaigns. Women are usually the best at philosophy This book is fantastic. It's an alt-history with a truly excellent grasp on the social impacts the discovery of "empirical philosophy" (alchemy/magic by any other name) might have on the course of history. And we get snippets of history throughout the book, not just the course of the story, but all the epigraphs as well. Our protagonist, Robert Weekes, is the son of a war hero - a woman who we're told did some pretty terrible things in previous campaigns. Women are usually the best at philosophy, and he's been helping his mom with her rural practice in Montana after she retired from the military. Shit hits the proverbial fan, and he ends up with the chance to study at Radcliffe College. As one of three men who're accepted to Radcliffe at the time, Robert is in the thick of some pretty interesting gender politics, but he navigates them very well. There's plenty of other social upheaval as well, as the US is getting ready to enter WWI and philosophers are being targeted. There are so many parallels to the current socio-political climate that I don't really want to get into them in a review, but suffice it to say that Tom Miller did a great job being true to the source material/history as well as saying something relevant about today.The characters are wonderful, even the ones who are wonderful to dislike because of their prejudices. The relationships are great as well - romantic, platonic, mentor, and family. I cared deeply what happened to folks, and cried more than once. The stakes are deeply personal, as Weekes has such lofty goals for himself, but it's easy to see the impact of the personal on the larger stage with how the book is written. I'd recommend this book for people who like magic schools, those looking for alt-history set in the late 1910s, folks who like fish out of water stories, and fans of strong worldbuilding. My review copy is courtesy of Net Galley.
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  • Chrissie
    January 1, 1970
    Subtly executed, Miller turns gender domination on its ear in the most delightful way. A fantasy novel that reads with the detail of historical fiction . . . this one needs more attention!The Philosopher's Flight is an absorbing mix of Harry Potter and a Patrick Rothfuss. The detail and length at which so many topics are covered, along with the span of years explored, this could be considered historical fiction—it’s certainly written that way, but with its fully-constructed alternative history.I Subtly executed, Miller turns gender domination on its ear in the most delightful way. A fantasy novel that reads with the detail of historical fiction . . . this one needs more attention!The Philosopher's Flight is an absorbing mix of Harry Potter and a Patrick Rothfuss. The detail and length at which so many topics are covered, along with the span of years explored, this could be considered historical fiction—it’s certainly written that way, but with its fully-constructed alternative history.In fact, it is really heavy on the fictional histories as the novel sets up. Though I found the concept immediately interesting, I did find the pace to be a tad slower than I would've liked for the first chunk of pages. But, especially once Robert begins his studies at Radcliffe, the narrative levels out of early boredom, and you soon realize that the interest and encapsulation rides steadily upward. One thing I am always aware of during some point with historical fiction, which this is on the same level as—or near it, is that amount of work the author has put into this. If books were created from someone’s essence, Miller would’ve experienced long moments of feeling rather drained. As the book moves forward and my investment in Robert gains interest, I found there was more and more depth to be had with every turned page. I felt some of the author here, and I think it paid off in spades.Surprisingly, I found this society so thought-provoking because of the subtly applied to the role reversals. I was constantly intrigued to be reading about Colonel or Lieutenant So-and-So and know the text refers to a woman. The mention of the year when women got the vote was inserted in one little blip that could easily be overlooked and moved the date of the ratification of the suffrage amendment back to 1864! Plus, the understated reversal is brought upfront with passages like this: “You could be the very best flier in the entire world, but—oh, it’s not your fault. You just can’t put a man in close quarters with thirty-five women. You can’t.” They’re not even close to some Amazonian warrior beheld to glory in Wonder Woman; they’re the same as now, but with a small change. The men still hold some kind of power, they aren't relegated to the back the way women actually have been throughout history. Female-dominated Philosophy demonstrates just a sliver of the domination over women previously, and most of it stems from the fact that women seem to be simply naturally strong in philosophy and more attuned to it on the whole. From this book, I can't tell if the change arose simply from the key role philosopher's played in the alternative Civil War, or if it was always leaning this way, but the take on women at the helm is refreshing to say the least. “Missy the Missile looked back to make sure Macadoo was watching. She planted a big kiss on my cheek and slapped my bottom. The crowd roared.” On one hand, I find this reverse sexism and harassment hilarious...looking at the typical situation through a funhouse mirror rather than a lens, but on the other hand I feel bad for poor Weekes—because what woman hasn’t had to endure that level of misogony and freedom-to-touch bullshit? Robert is told not to pursue his dream of flying for Rescue & Evacuation with the Corps (obviously a prestigious and life-or-death job), simply because of the fact that he's a man and all that that one aspect signifies for this matriarchal society. It would be unfair to yourself, to expect so much when you're just a man.No man would be able to do it. No woman would want a man there.Go pick out a wife, settle down, and be there for her when she gets home. Having a supportive husband is really important for a woman like that.When you look back at real life and remember all the reasons why women shouldn't be allowed to be on the front lines or in a submarine, remember that those are mainly focusing on the inconveniences for the male soldiers and the apparent insatiable sexual appetite men have and cannot apparently control. It was never really about protecting the women around these animal men, nor about the feelings and difficulties for women. So, when Robert is questioned throughout the book about being able to handle himself around so many women—at school, in the locker room (of which there is only one and it's for women), and in the Corps he so desperately wants to join—it's interesting to see it from a point of view of protecting the women and not inconveniencing the women, despite the fact that it still points to men as being uncontrollable sexual animals.On top of all of this, his love interest during the book puts him right in the middle of a political battle that is threatening the rights of philosophers in America. Protests, marches, and a strong violence-versus-peaceful strategy argument, this book feels especially relevant today, now.Interest and intriguing quality only goes up! By the end I was lapping it up, word by word.
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  • Out of the Bex
    January 1, 1970
    In a world much different, yet entirely similar to our own, debut author Tom Miller crafts a story for the ages.Between a spellbinding front and back cover, 405 pages explore artfully crafted characters and phenomenal world-building. The play between science and magic introduces a myriad of previously unexplored technologies, inventions, and unique perspectives. Additionally, Miller’s choice to experiment with an alternate reality where standard gender roles are reversed made for a thought-provo In a world much different, yet entirely similar to our own, debut author Tom Miller crafts a story for the ages.Between a spellbinding front and back cover, 405 pages explore artfully crafted characters and phenomenal world-building. The play between science and magic introduces a myriad of previously unexplored technologies, inventions, and unique perspectives. Additionally, Miller’s choice to experiment with an alternate reality where standard gender roles are reversed made for a thought-provoking, and at times political, read. The Philosopher’s Flight had plenty to offer for a debut fiction novel: captivating characters, a pleasant writing style, and absolutely fantastic world-building. What it lacks, however, is a sense of imminence. There is no driving factor that makes you feel a need to know what happens next. As a result, the plot can begin to feel slow in the latter half of the novel. I think this is a weakness in the overarching narrative. As a debut author, Miller may have misunderstood just how much attention to give to one plot over another.If you are a general fiction reader and enjoy a slower pace, this will be an incredible read for you. I can imagine you getting pleasantly lost in these intricate pages. However, if you enjoy a fast-paced read (like myself) you may still find it fascinating, but likely a bit tiresome.The world-building alone makes this a worthy and entirely memorable read. It’s the perfect book to borrow from your local library and would make for a great discussion piece at your book club.3.5 StarsVerdict: Borrow ItThank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me this for review!
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  • biblio_reine
    January 1, 1970
    *i got an arc of this book from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review*2.5 stars I enjoyed this book but the pacing was really slow. There were times where I got so bored to the point that I had to stop reading. I loved that the author wanted to put in feminism in it but I found that what was in the book not feminism. The women were all good and stuff but they weren't working together-instead some hated each other. One would call another a bitch which should not happen. I *i got an arc of this book from NetGalley and the publishers in exchange for an honest review*2.5 stars I enjoyed this book but the pacing was really slow. There were times where I got so bored to the point that I had to stop reading. I loved that the author wanted to put in feminism in it but I found that what was in the book not feminism. The women were all good and stuff but they weren't working together-instead some hated each other. One would call another a bitch which should not happen. I am very tired of girl on girl hate in books and movie and in society itself so I did not appreciate that part of the book. They were all also anti-men in the book which I also did not like. I am a woman and I'm a feminist but to me what was in this book was NOT feminism. I did like when they worked together and acted the way feminists actually should act but the fact that there was so little of it in this book did not raise my rating. To be quite honest,I was kinda disappointed in this book.
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  • Atlas
    January 1, 1970
    * * * * * 5 / 5~Review to come~http://atlasrisingbooks.blogspot.comThis book with a totally wacky premise, that was a little bit difficult to get into, and made me a bit cautious with it's "reverse-sexism" theme, ended up being a five star read. The Philosopher's Flight has a strong male lead, a fantastic mostly female supporting cast, is engaging and highly original, and had me rooting for Robert the whole way through.
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  • Koeur
    January 1, 1970
    https://koeur.wordpress.com/2017/11/2...Publisher: SimonPublishing Date: February 2018ISBN:9781476778150Genre: FantasyRating: 4.4/5Publishers Description: 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 ServiceReview: Well everyone https://koeur.wordpress.com/2017/11/2...Publisher: SimonPublishing Date: February 2018ISBN:9781476778150Genre: FantasyRating: 4.4/5Publishers Description: 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 ServiceReview: Well everyone that has read this novel so far, have loved it. Even the ones that rated it 3/5 raved about it like a pundit voting for the other side. This had all the elements that make a good novel, especially the intangibles like; looking forward to reading sessions and feeling comfortably warmed by the entertainment value that resides in well built characters.“So why you no give 5 stars!!?”. For an extravagantly built world that is fantastic in it’s creative allure, I found the story line a bit too safe. It just did not marry well with the sigil magic premise. Trencher’s as a constant threat was the evil dichotomy that was soon rendered a bit thin by overuse. I was not hoping for war, so much as an adventure outside the realms of societal norms. Still a fantastic author to watch out for.
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  • Marzie
    January 1, 1970
    Author Tom Miller's debut novel The Philosopher's Flight is a genre-bending steampunk wild ride. In this world, witches or wizards are philosophers and all the best ones are female. In spite of their amazing prowess in military campaigns, philosophers are feared. Trenchers, a sort of evangelical set comprised largely of men who fear and despise these powerful women, continually oppose and threaten the philosophers in ways both physical and legal. The harrowing opening passages evoke lynchings an Author Tom Miller's debut novel The Philosopher's Flight is a genre-bending steampunk wild ride. In this world, witches or wizards are philosophers and all the best ones are female. In spite of their amazing prowess in military campaigns, philosophers are feared. Trenchers, a sort of evangelical set comprised largely of men who fear and despise these powerful women, continually oppose and threaten the philosophers in ways both physical and legal. The harrowing opening passages evoke lynchings and the witch trials, while throughout the book we see Trenchers attack these women for everything from their use of birth control to their refusal to bow to the patriarchy. (We also see that these women are vulnerable to mistreatment by a military that quite literally exploits them.)Set during World War I, the story follows a rare male philosopher, Robert Weekes, as he is taken on as a contingency student at Radcliffe College, one of only a few token men training with women. Most of the men are merely theoretical philosophers, but Robert, or Boober, as his Montana family lovingly calls him, is an empirical philosopher, raised to fly. Encouraged and cajoled into his skills by his mother and older sisters, he is a truly unusual man and not just because he's an expert sigilist.Giving us the experience of role reversal, with a sole male prodigy among women encountering the derision, discrimination, and abuse that was usually heaped on women entering largely male educational settings during this era and too long after, Miller offers an accessible story about gender constraints perceived about talent and wrongly placed on education.All of that sounds almost preachy and this book was anything but that- it was great fun to read. We have a wonderful set of secondary characters and a lot of humor to soften the blows of Robert's progress in the philosophical ranks. A renaissance man himself, Tom Miller is a practicing ER doctor with an MFA in writing. He's also going at the top of my Campbell Award nominations next year. A wonderful new voice.
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  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    The world building in this book is incredible! I can’t remember the last time I felt as confident in a universe. In a way, Tom Miller reminds me of JK Rowling. If I were to ask Miller an obscure question about the history of sigilry or drawing a messaging glyph, I know he would have an in-depth answer at the ready. Miller knows and understands every small coroner of his world. Each chapter of The Philosopher’s Flight begins with a tiny excerpt from a history book. These few sentences imply a muc The world building in this book is incredible! I can’t remember the last time I felt as confident in a universe. In a way, Tom Miller reminds me of JK Rowling. If I were to ask Miller an obscure question about the history of sigilry or drawing a messaging glyph, I know he would have an in-depth answer at the ready. Miller knows and understands every small coroner of his world. Each chapter of The Philosopher’s Flight begins with a tiny excerpt from a history book. These few sentences imply a much larger and grander world and bring so much insight into Miller’s universe. The Philosopher’s Flight takes place during an alternate World War I America. Robert Weekes is one of the few men who study empirical philosophy, a mixture of science and magic, at Radcliffe College. Empirical philosophy, or sigilry as its commonly known, allows philosophers to fly, teleport, craft smoke into weapons, send messages, or even kill. Robert dreams of joining the all female US Sigilry Corps’ Rescue and Evacuation Department, just like his mother. Robert wants to save lives in the war, not take them. Miller’s gender flip allows him to highlight and deconstruct the absurdity of sexism. We all lose when we oppress half our population. For me, The Philosopher’s Flight brought to mind women and science in our own world. What else would women be capable of if we weren’t told over and over again that science is a man’s realm? How much further along would our society be? Also, I’m not going to lie, there was something intoxicating and empowering about reading the female pronoun as the universal pronoun. Every time I read it, I felt a jolt of pleasure. To be fair, The Philosopher’s Flight doesn’t have a strong plot line. At times, I felt like the story meandered. I know this might bother some readers, but I was enjoying the universe and characters enough that I didn’t care.The Philosopher’s Flight is jam packed with a swoon worthy romance, great friendships, politics, and some excellent underdog moments. I cried happy tears. If you are a fan of world building, this is a MUST read for you. 4 stars.
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  • Stephanie
    January 1, 1970
    (The publisher provided a copy for me to review)In this alternate history novel, empirical philosophers have discovered how to manipulate energy with sigils to send messages, grow better crops, control fire - even flight. Although women have an overwhelming ability for sigilry, our main character Robert is a rare man who has an aptitude for it and wants to pursue it. His dream is to join the elite Rescue and Evacuation team (just like his mother) and help in the Great War. This leads him to the (The publisher provided a copy for me to review)In this alternate history novel, empirical philosophers have discovered how to manipulate energy with sigils to send messages, grow better crops, control fire - even flight. Although women have an overwhelming ability for sigilry, our main character Robert is a rare man who has an aptitude for it and wants to pursue it. His dream is to join the elite Rescue and Evacuation team (just like his mother) and help in the Great War. This leads him to the women's college, Radcliffe, where he must prove himself.One of my favorite things about this book is the rich history Miller creates. A lesser author might have written a "man tries to make it in an all female world" book and I would have rolled my eyes and moved right along. Instead, this book feels like a drop from a much larger story - one where Miller imagined a unique ability, only available to women, and thought through all the nuances and consequences. The women have gained the right to vote, are essential in the war effort, yet a large part of the story is the conflict between the philosophers and the men who want to strip them of rights and power.I loved the characters and the university setting. I laughed, I clutched my pearls when the thrilling adventure was too much, I actually cried out "no!" several times because I was so invested in the story. And that's what tips the scale for me from "really good" over to five stars.
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  • Madeleine (Top Shelf Text)
    January 1, 1970
    Review to come!
  • Chelsey Mae
    January 1, 1970
    K I friggin love this book. So glad I picked it in one of my BOTM last month!!!! It was so different and fun and nothing like I expected at all really. Very pleasantly surprised!!! Magic ✨
  • Gertie
    January 1, 1970
    I liked this one - I didn't read the blurb first, and was pleased to find such an enjoyable story. It has a lot of elements that are usually something I appreciate... an underdog, growth of character and abilities, a challenging situation, school setting, romance. It can be a little... dry at times, maybe? I like more internal dialog. But overall really glad I read this one, and am on book 2 now.
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  • Abi (The Knights Who Say Book)
    January 1, 1970
    *I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*I HAVE A HEADACHE (unrelated to this book) SO LET'S GET THIS OVER WITH QUICKLY. (lmao this is me from the end of the review adding on: i did not get this over with quickly)The Philosopher's Flight is weirdly good. The magic system is super there (it's just... very there. It's there, guys.) and the complexity of the characters was unexpected and cool. Unexpectedly cool, you might say.All the moving parts of the novel *I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*I HAVE A HEADACHE (unrelated to this book) SO LET'S GET THIS OVER WITH QUICKLY. (lmao this is me from the end of the review adding on: i did not get this over with quickly)The Philosopher's Flight is weirdly good. The magic system is super there (it's just... very there. It's there, guys.) and the complexity of the characters was unexpected and cool. Unexpectedly cool, you might say.All the moving parts of the novel were developed nicely — the war effort Robert longs to join while others become disillusioned with it, the political complexity of the Trenchers who want to outlaw philosophy (that's the Magic, except here we call it by the name of something entirely different, because reasons, I'm sure Tom Miller has them), the violent clash of the Philosophers fighting back, Robert falling for war hero and political activist Danielle Hardin, all while Robert just wants to be taken seriously as a male Philosopher.But within the plot were the things that gave me mixed feelings about the book. Its slowness at many parts (it has pockets of action, but overall it's not fast-paced), and the fact that honestly... I wasn't there for the politics. Now, it's not the book's fault. The blurb didn't lie and say there wouldn't be politics and violent factions. It's just that the thing that drew me to the book in the first place was the "female-dominated branch of science", not the politics.I wanted the reverse narrative.You know that story, the one where a girl wants to enter in a male-dominated field and must go up against massive amounts of sexism and roadblocks to succeed? I wanted it flipped. I was tired of "everyone is sexist and everything is terrible but watch this young girl fight tooth and nail to prove that one (1) girl can succeed anyway!". I thought it would be fun to watch a boy have to do it instead. But I got cheated, because The Philosopher's Flight is fairly historical. Meaning that while this fictional field of magic is majority-women, the rest of the world is extremely misogynist.Women cannot vote during this time. Girls' strengths are described in terms of delicateness and gentleness while boys' strengths are described in terms of superior physical strength. Rape threats and slut-shaming abound. Not condoned by the narrative — I'm not saying this is a sexist book: it's just set during a sexist time period. Robert's position trying to succeed as a male Sigilrist didn't actually flip the script (though there were many times that his struggles paralleled those such as, for example, Kel's in First Test). If you're thinking of reading this book, read it because you want a story of sciency-magic grounded in history, not because you think this'll be a cool reversal of the story you already know. In many ways, it's still that story.Also present are quite a few instances of era-accurate (I assume) racism, homophobia, and transphobia. There were mentions of gay women at the college, which was nice, but it would be nicer to have major gay and trans characters. Racism was probably addressed head-on the most, with Danielle being mixed race and the worldbuilding integrating the magic system with history, including slavery to how things stood at the time of WWI, not that it was a focus of the book.Another thing I'd hoped for with Robert attending a 99.9% female college would be a lot more speaking time for female characters. And compared to many other books there was. But there were more male characters in the book than you'd expect from the blurb, so it wasn't quite the women-heavy book I wanted/expected. (Though again, better than you get from plenty of male writers who think they can give women 10% of the spoken lines and not expect me to assume their book is set in some badly-explained dystopian future where the female birthrate has dropped to 10% of the population.)So here's where we stand: sometimes the pace and historical setting of this book made me want to give up on it, but it has some real strengths in its worldbuilding, plot twists, and treatment of moral/political grayness (not to mention I actually really liked the romance, and descriptions of food made with magic. Sorry, made with Philosophy). It's not for everyone, but I don't regret reading it.
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