The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller (A Netgalley Review)

The Philosopher's Flight by Tom Miller
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 13, 2018)
Description from the publisher:

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.

First, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised to see this as a Book of the Month pick for February, as it's a little different and a lot of fun! I was on a streak of books that were dark in tone recently, and the description of this story sounded like the perfect reprieve. 
Robert's character quickly wormed his way into my heart and is an underdog worth rooting for - in a world of magic dominated by women, this sole male prodigy is humble and quite obviously in a situation that would apply mainly to women or minorities in the real world. Miller holds a mirror to many familiar situations and really made me think about how things might be different if it were a 'woman's world.' Much of the book reads like a campus novel, where Robert has to manage ridicule, derision and perform twice as well as the women to get half the credit. Imagine! 
I was also won over by the world building and the amount of detail that the author imbues into this story. The way society is impacted by 'empirical philosophers' affects how we approach medicine, war, travel, the economy, and of course, politics: there is a thinly veiled comparison to white nationalists in the so called 'trenchers' who are radically against this practice dominated by women. And although it touches on many layered and heavy subjects (sexism, racism, class, civil rights), the tone is very light and it's a quick read with something for everyone: humor, action and adventure, family and friendship, and romance. 
If I had one complaint, I think that Miller tried to pack in a bit too much. There are so many sub plots and I would have liked him to pay closer attention to one, rather than a little bit to several. Since it's the beginning of a series, however, I think it sets the stage nicely for more in depth narratives.
I've seen this novel compared to The Magicians, which I didn't love - so, if that's holding you back, I'd still give this novel a try. I think they are similar in that it's a year at a magical school, mainly setting the stage for future stories. Yet the tone of The Philosopher's Flight is so much brighter and it also appeals to those who enjoy historical fiction.
Many thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for an advance copy in exchange for my honest review!
And, if you use my referral link for Book of the Month, you can get this book, or another of your choosing for FREE when you sign up!


  1. Hmm...I've been hearing a lot about this one, lately, but wasn't sure I would enjoy it; your endorsement may swing my opinion! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one!