Title: Enchanted Ivy
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Premise: Fantasy creatures - like gargoyles, centaurs and dragons - exist in another world alongside ours.
Plot: Lily is told to find the Ivy Key to gain an automatic acceptance to Princeton, her dream university. But finding it is far from the end of the story...
My first impression of Enchanted Ivy was that it was simple, predictable, and going to bore me to tears. I couldn't have been more wrong - Durst takes our expectations, developed after years of more-or-less the same plot written over and over in this genre, and turns them on their heads. The only 'common' magical creature that she makes use of is a dragon, but the mystery behind Lily's bloodline is one that you'll never see coming - simply because it's just never been done before. Durst keeps up the original spin with regards every part of her book (except, perhaps, for the group of religious knights who hate magic) and constantly keeps you guessing. There's no vampire or werewolf love interest (yay!) and the skills Lily picks up aren't always enough to save her.
It was definitely Durst's originality that made me love Ivy so much, both in the big things - like the secret behind Lily's new powers - and in tiny details like the magical science-esque books Lily finds in the library. This is another book that'll make you laugh - I LOVED the talking gargoyles - and Lily herself is a great character; believably nervous about getting into university, confused by what she thinks is a needless amount of hassle gone into her 'quest', and hilariously stubborn when she insists on trying to find rational explanations for magical things. But she's also incredible in the way that she deals with her mentally ill mother; their relationship is touching, as is Lily's bond with her grandfather (another character you can't help but love). Both she and the romance are easy to identify with, and the fast-paced writing will keep you biting your nails right up to the very end.
I loved that the quest for the Ivy Key was only the begining of the story, and dealt with quite quickly. Durst could easily have stretched out the search for the key into a book all of its own, but I'm glad she didn't; the whole magical mystery thing is overdone and incredibly dull at this point. Whereas the interworld politics between our world and the magical world, which takes up the rest of the book alongside the mystery of Lily's bloodline, the secret behind her mother's illness, various past scandals come to light, and a magical/non-magical war make for a much more interesting read!