S.T.A.G.S. is one of the most fun books I’ve read this year. I just plain enjoyed myself every time I put on my headphones and fired up the audio. I’m a sucker for a boarding school setting and a fight between the privileged upper crust and the scrappy outsiders. There’s something so satisfying about peeking behind the curtain of the very wealthy to discover a seedy or shocking truth. We all have our junk; some of us can just pay more to hide it.
The group calling themselves the Medievals at St. Aidan the Great School can certainly pay a lot. Ringleader Henry de Warlencourt, as you can tell by his bombastically ridiculous name, is a very important and very rich dude who hosts a weekend of “huntin’ shootin’ fishin’” at one of his family’s many estates. Along with the usual coterie of ass-kissing friends, he’s invited three relative nobodies, including narrator Greer MacDonald, a scholarship kid who’s suspicious of Henry’s motives but really wants to fit in. As you might guess if you’ve spent any time watching teen movies, Henry hasn’t invited the social outcasts out of the goodness of his heart. Also, surprise, no adults are present other than a few creepy, taciturn servants. What could go wrong? Probably nothing. Let’s go shoot some animals!
I think the biggest selling point for me was the fantastic performance by audio book narrator Katharine McEwan, who, to my unrefined American ear at least, nailed the various accents and held me in thrall from beginning to end. The tone of the book is very conversational and lends itself well to the format. It feels like sitting down with a friend as they dish about a crazy experience they just had. And it’s the perfect book for gossip hounds with a conscience, because you can’t get in trouble for talking about fictional characters behind their backs.