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“They were the troubled girls of Dragomir Academy — breaking, but never broken — and they had stories to tell,Marya Lupu. –The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy

by Anne Ursu
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Illyria, a land shrouded in mystery and magic, is home to a kingdom full of potential sorcerers, witches’ curses, and a mysterious mist called “the Dread.” Marya Lupu has always known her place in the kingdom. Her role is to stay quiet and make sure her brother Luka gets the title his family feels he deserves, which is to be a powerful sorcerer. However, on the day that the sorcerer’s guild comes to test Luka’s magical capabilities, Marya finds herself at the root of a chaotic mistake that will change her life forever. As it turns out, Marya’s brother is not a sorcerer after all, and the guild finds Marya to be unfit for the norms of society. Upon the king’s wishes, Marya is sent away to Dragomir Academy, a prestigious school for troubled girls. Although initially hesitant and fearful, Marya soon finds that Dragomir Academy is a place of great opportunity and learning. 

At the academy, Marya is introduced to the values and practices necessary for a lady of Illyria. In the eyes of the kingdom, Marya needs to know etiquette, needlework, music, and literature in order to have value. But Marya also discovers that Dragomir Academy is a place of secrets and intrigue. As she delves deeper into the mysteries surrounding the academy, Marya realizes that her fate is intertwined with Illyria’s fate. And as Marya uncovers the secrets of Dragomir Academy, she realizes her true destiny may be far greater than she ever imagined. 

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is a captivating and thought-provoking novel that delves into the lives of young girls dealing with personal issues such as what their role is inside a patriarchal society and what power they hold. Although the story starts off slowly, it gradually builds momentum as it explores the complexities of Marya’s and the other girls at the academy’s lives. Unlocking the mysteries will leave readers on the edge of their seats. 

As Marya arrives at Dragomir Academy, she is introduced to an entirely new world, one full of challenges and untold secrets. Her journey to unravel these secrets makes the book compelling.  Readers’ hearts will break as they follow Marya through the difficult challenges the ladies of Illyria face. Marya is a character that readers will want to give a hug. She is extremely relatable, especially for young girls who are learning to navigate their way in the world. She is curious, intelligent, and admirable, with a deep sense of empathy that makes her all the more endearing. Readers will find themselves rooting for Marya at every turn, as she overcomes obstacles both big and small on her journey of self-discovery. Her steadfast determination to succeed and strive to find out the truth makes her an inspiration to anyone who has ever faced adversity. Whether she’s exploring new horizons or facing down a challenge head-on, Marya’s spirit and resilience are sure to leave a lasting impression on readers of all ages. 

The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy is a powerful book that tells the story of girls who have been told that they are powerless. They have been told to calm down, be proper, and be quiet. This book is about finding strength, friendship, and the power within yourself. It’s about choosing to be strong despite the obstacles in your path. With vivid descriptions of the academy and the girls, the author paints a picture that is both whimsical and heart-wrenching. This is a must-read for anyone looking for an empowering story about young women who refuse to be silenced. However, it is not a read for the faint of heart, as it shows the gravity of how heavy life can be for a woman.  

Sexual Content 

  • None 


  • The Dread is a mysterious monster affiliated with the kingdom that causes villages to be lost overnight. The Dread leaves the villagers dead, which is described several times as the Dread leaving corpses without blood or souls. 
  • Marya reflects on the loss of her baby brother, Pieter. “The fever came during the day and he died during the night. She was eight, then. It happened while she was sleeping. She’d tried to stay up to watch him, but she was so tired from the day of trying to get the fever down.” She was heartbroken over the loss of her brother, after his passing her family pretended he didn’t exist.  
  • Two significant girls at Dragomir Academy get “mountain madness.” When the onset occurs, the girls start shrieking and crying because they either see things or feel that there are bugs crawling underneath their skin. Simona, the sixth year in charge of her class, tells Marya of her experience. “Nothing was there. But then it kept happening. Or it would feel like spiders were underneath my skin, scuttling in my veins… I tried to hide it, pretended everything was fine. And then one night when I was sleeping, I dreamed a giant spider was on my chest, tying me up. But it felt so real. So I started screaming and fighting, trying to get it off me.” Mountain madness then becomes a topic of interest for Marya as she feels there is something more to it that the adults are hiding.  
  • A girl’s aunt accidentally harmed a village boy. The girl says her aunt “was practicing witchcraft. Like, some boy who had been pestering her while she was walking, suddenly his hair lit on fire.” The child was okay, but her aunt was sent to an asylum for witches.  
  • High Count Arev, a member of the Sorcerer’s Guild, answers questions about witches. “During the early days of the Witching Wars, we simply put them to death. But of course, that ultimately added to our troubles, for reasons we understand now . . . All the magic of the witches we killed during the Witching Wars either transferred to new witches or appeared somewhere else in the kingdom as an uncontrollable entity and would wreak havoc.”  
  • The headmaster, Headmaster Iagar, of the school, locks Marya in a quarantined cottage. Then, he corners her in the great hall, but Elana, Marya’s friend, helps protect her. “Elana was at the top of the stairs, out of breath, Madame Rosetti, the other teacher at the academy, behind her. The headmaster whirled around, but before he could say anything, Elana lifted her hands and pushed them towards him, the air shimmering with power. He flew backwards, slammed into the wall, and fell to the ground.” He is left unharmed but remains unconscious for several minutes after the blow. 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • Elana was taken into isolation by the headmaster. “Then I fell asleep again and woke up and I couldn’t remember if it even happened at all, or I’d dreamt it . . . At least, I think that’s what happened. I slept so much. It must have been an enchantment. Or a potion. So I can’t really tell what was a dream and what was real.” Anyone who has “mountain madness” is taken to a quarantined cottage and given a potion that creates a drug-like effect on the user.  


  • None 


  • Sorcerers and witches are discussed throughout the entirety of the text as they are the protagonists and antagonists of the society. The Sorcerer’s Guild is made up of the young men of the kingdom who possess the talent to harness magic, while the witches are the enemy that they face. The Sorcerer’s Guild and high-ranking officials repeatedly assure the people of the kingdom that any woman who possesses a witch’s talents are harmful beings and must be stopped at all costs.  
  • The Dread is a monster that attacks the villages. It is “the monstrous force that lived in the forest and roamed to nearby towns to devour them.” The Dread is a misty, purple monster that kills an entire village in one night. It is explained that it is brought on by a curse set forth by the witches.  
  • A letter arrives at the Lupu home about Luka’s upcoming sorcerer’s test. “Representatives from the Council of Magical Protection of Illyria, serving the Sorcerer’s Guild, will be at your home in fifteen days, at noon, to evaluate your son, Luka Lupu, for potential giftedness in the art of sorcery.” Upon the day the guild arrives, Luka, like several other young boys throughout the kingdom, will be tested to see if he possesses the ability to harness magic. If he does, his family will be sent to a rich estate and he will join the Sorcerer’s Guild. If he does not, they will continue to live as they do and work hard to build their way up in society.  
  • Madame Bandu, a local village woman, explains how the magical testing will work for Luka. “The Sorcerer’s Guild has always been able to detect potential sorcerers through some kind of spell. It used to be that all boys would be sent to the estates so that they could be mentored when their time did come in. It’s only in the last few decades that they developed a test that could — with reasonable accuracy — predict which boys would actually come to wield magic.” 
  • Marya is learning about the history of Dragomir Academy and the beliefs many individuals hold about females. “Did people think education would somehow turn these girls into witches?” She believes this to be a ridiculous thought and one that makes her sad for the girls who do not get an opportunity for education. 
  • Madame Szabo, Marya’s teacher at Dragomir, asks them about their knowledge of witches. Marya answers, “Well, they cast spells. Like everyone else in the area would lose their vision at once, or sleep through a harvesting season, or plant catnip instead of turnips . . . Or they would all get fevers that lasted for months and months.” 

Spiritual Content 

  • None 
Other books by Anne Ursu
Other books you may enjoy

“They were the troubled girls of Dragomir Academy — breaking, but never broken — and they had stories to tell,Marya Lupu. –The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy

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