Review: The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy #1) by Mindee Arnett

Rating: **** / 4 out of 5
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery
Published March 5, 2013 by Tor Teen
Goodreads | Amazon

 Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli’s dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.


Thanks NetGalley and Tor Teen for a copy of the book in exchange for a review. Seriously, thank you,  because this novel surprised me. I didn’t expect to love it (given my lukewarm view to PnR in general), but I did! It was such a good and refreshing read!

I think one of the reasons why The Nightmare Affair felt so refreshing was that it incorporated paranormal elements in a whodunit story in a creative and stimulating way. I mean, I’ve read a lot of paranormal books and mystery stories, but the manner the author wrote it here, as well as other factors I’ll disclose in a few, made the whole reading experience a fun ride. And also, it features a freaking dream eaterDream eaters are awesome.

Worldbuilding? Awesomesauce. So, basically, magickinds roam and thrive alongside ordinary folks since time immemorial. There are a lot of them, so they are classified into three groups: naturekind like fairies and mermaids, witchkind like witches, and darkkind like nightmares and other entities that leech their powers from others. Trust me when I tell you the world Mindee Arnett created is much more diverse and colorful than described above. Imagine Rosario to Vampire except with less demons and monsters and with a lot more variety of magical creatures. Granted, this kind of setup is pretty overused now, given the vast amount of paranormal books out there, but Mindee Arnett has a huge imagination, and she puts this to good use. I’d love to be a student in this Academy myself!

A likeable heroine in a paranormal novel? Fo’ real?! For real. Our heroine in this story is Nightmare Dusty – feisty, snarky, strong-willed, incredibly curious but amazingly brave. She’s ostracized by her fellow Magickind because of her heritage, but she later finds out she’s more than who she is (I totes saw that coming). She doesn’t take this positively, though, because she’s convinced herself her gift is more of a curse than a blessing. Despite her flaws and insecurities, she’s very amiable and funny, making her a character very easy to relate to. Usually, the heroines in this genre of young adult fiction annoy me, because they’re oftentimes stupid and impulsive, but not Dusty, nope. She may be curious, but she’s calculating and cautious, which makes everything so much better since it’s a whodunit story. Finally, someone who doesn’t act before she thinks!

Romance is slow, but steady. No instalove! Yahoo! Yes, of course there will be romance. That’s a given. But what made me appreciate this book a lot was the fact that despite there are relationships blossoming between characters, the story does not revolve around them and/or they don’t take a huge chunk of the story. Trust me, there are a lot of heavy-romance paranormal books out there that are labeled as “mystery”in disguise to give me a huge headache, so the pace of the romance here was a breathe of fresh air. I loved how there was space for everyone to get to know each other better and bond with each other through teamwork and team building. It made the eventual romance more natural, real and definitely, swoon-worthy. *swoons*

Despite all these good points, I did think the plot was predictable. By the second half, I already knew who the bad guys were. Maybe the foreshadowing was too much, or some details gave it away too early, but no matter. Even though I could already taste the suspects in my tongue, I looked forward to how the author would disclose and reveal them. Is it going to end with a bang? Would it be anti-climactic? Needless to say, the escalation to the climax and finale was intense and gripping, and my already knowing of the “mystery” didn’t change my overall view of the story. It left me breathless and very satisfied.

Overall, this book was refreshing and fun. It’s a better version of Hex Hall with a darker plot, interesting characters, and real romance. If you’re looking for a PnR whodunit story that will leave you giggling and at the edge of your seat, this book is for you. As for me, I’m incredibly excited for the next book, and trust me, you’ll feel the same way.

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A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena


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    • says

      Thanks Katrina! Appreciate the response. The reviews I read were pretty “meh” as well, so I didn’t expect this one would easily reel me in ;) Let me know when you do read and review it!

  1. says

    Thanks for the follow! Following you back. :) I’ve been getting comments like the above one ALL DAY LONG. Yikes. I’m glad you liked this book; it’s on my TBR shelf as I thought the premise was interesting. I haven’t yet read Hex Hall, but I’ll add those, too!

    • says

      HAHAHA! Let me know when you’ve read and review it. I was hesitant to start it, but it colored me surprised :)

      Unfortunately, I didn’t like Hex Hall (which is why I was hesitant to read The Nightmare Affair), but let me know what you think of that, too :)