Okay, yes, this features students at a school of magic, but it feels totally fresh. The writing is rich and vivid, the characterizations of adolescents and young adults dead-on, the magic exhilirating, dangerous, even brutal. It manages to capture the self-conscious, angsty, what's-life-all-about-and-who-am-I-anyway mental state of privileged teenagers without making me want to smack somebody (Catcher in the Rye, anyone?) or, more to the point, smack the book itself shut. I'm all agog for the sequel (supposedly due out in the summer of 2011) and I don't even LIKE sequels.
Has the funniest line I've read in any book this year, but I can't post it here because it's a total spoiler.