Jane Yolen is a very good and very successful writer. But anyone who’s written more than one hundred books is bound to have a few not-so-great-ones in there. “Wizard’s Hall” is among them.
In fairness, her basic aim seems to have been “write a narrative where the hero is just someone who tries.” And she achieved that. But the narrative itself feels haphazard, the characters dull, the plot rushed. The adult characters are useless, magic itself is pointless, and the ending includes sudden and shocking violence that is completely out of tone from the rest of the book.
But Yolen is still a great writer, and there are little touches where her strength shines through. The star map on the ceiling of every student’s room. The great witch, shrunk to parrot size and kept in a cage, unable to speak except to a blind man. A beast made of quilt patches that used to be people.
These little things are great, and I think that with some more time and revision the whole thing would have fit together. But as it is, the book is intensely underwhelming.