People often complain about the horrible teacher-to-student ratio in schools these days. Most schools have dozens of students per teacher, which negatively impacts the interaction between individual students and their teachers. Imagine a school with only five students and a full set of faculty, i.e. a place where the teachers outnumber the students? What would that be like?
If you are Amelia Armstrong Windrose, the number of students isn't the only odd thing about your English countryside school. Her original name was Secunda (as in the second eldest of the bunch) and at eight or ten she got to choose a name. Of course she didn't notice that was strange since everyone (all five of them) went through the same thing and they hardly ever had contact outside of the school. Being raised in sheltered environment makes you think your special, right?
Unless the shelter is actually a prison and both you and your captors are not at all what they seem. That premise is the jumping off point for the Chronicles of Chaos, a trilogy of fantasy novels that begins with Orphans of Chaos. This book sets the stage for what is to come, describing various characters and the parts they play in the larger scheme of things. And by larger, I do mean multi-dimensional and possibly eon-spanning.
As the students discover their powers and their origins, a rich if overwhelming tapestry of mythology and science is woven by the author. So much mythology is thrown in, it can be hard to keep up. There's also a lot of scientific and pseudo-scientific talk describing how their powers and magics work. I found that a bit of a challenge and started giving up on keeping track of everything. I hope I haven't glossed over anything that will be important in the next two books.
The other challenging thing about this book is that it is definitely the first act of a larger ongoing story. Much like the three books that make up The Lord of the Rings, it seems as if this book is just the first third of the story and not so much a complete story in itself. The ending leaves the reader wondering what will happen next. Even though my paperback includes the first four pages of the next book at the end, the addition hardly provides the sort of closure that would allow the reader to skip the other two books.
Fortunately I do own the subsequent novels and will start reading Fugitives of Chaos right away.