Choice of the Exile: Strategic Considerations
The exile chosen at the end of Fall of Daria is an important branching choice for many reasons. There are slight differences between the various class levels in different locations, and each locale provides the resolution to different quests and access to different prestige classes down the line. I should note here that for class benefits, Squire, Priest, Cleric, Thief and Thug don't care about your location, and Bard mostly doesn't; these will not be mentioned unless they are.
While the best option depends on your build and your plans, there are some quests that provide more generally useful benefits than others. Thus, this list is ordered roughly from the most powerful option to the least.
Classes: If you don't have much magical aptitude going into Book 2, and you want to get some magical aptitude, you can't go wrong by getting an edumication - though expect to pay for the privilege if you want to start a career as a pro wizard here. If you already have a level in wizard, then the tradeoffs are more complicated; it's free to continue your education, but one only has so much room for points in magic skill. Pretty much every class here gets some magical training (except, ironically, monk). Bard is comparatively weak here - though "weak" still means 55 skill points! On the other hand, Ranger is especially weak; 35 points. If you want to do ranger stuff, the Academy is not the place for it.
Quests: Hooboy, there's a lot of stuff to do here. You can return the book if you have a wizard level. If you have the dagger, you can make a thief token. But the real gold is if you come here with Jace/Jess: As a Soulburner, they can solve a lot of problems for a trifling price in morality, and as a Catalyst in the third book, you can make them into a mighty mage indeed. I'd say Jess is tied with Petra for the strongest character quest.
Verdict: There's a lot of reasons to come here, and few reasons not to - though if you want to be a wizard, consider carefully whether this place is worth the gold. In particular, Jess' Soulburning is one of the best companion benefits, up there with vampirism.
Classes: You want Nature skill? No, you probably don't, but you're going to get it here. Classes in the Wilderness tend to have a lot of points stuffed into Nature, and it's not a place to start a priestly career - but then, being a priest is something you should decide on in Book 1. That said, consider the Assassin - 60 points, nearly as much as the Bard (65 - though the Bard does well anywhere). Also, for cool value, consider an open Cleric of Darkness, leading the military faith of Shadi. (Yeah, clerics generally suck. Yo' point?)
Quests: Two! Two reasons to come here! ...Count Von Count joke. Okay, now let's talk about what you're all here for: Petra's quest and the vampire. Mechanically, this is a quick route to extra physical stats and lotsa evil, with more of both (and other stuff) on the way, culminating in a prestige class. As for Gale's quest, it's far less interesting and less powerful, though it leads to the Berserker class.
Verdict: Look, if you're here, you're probably not really listening to me anyway; you're here because you've already decided to become a bloodsucking night fiend, or maybe because you want to start your own religious sect. Other than that, it doesn't have too much to offer; fortunately, the power of the fang more than makes up for this. If you wanted to specialize in Nature, I have a hunch you went Ranger or Druid already, and both of these classes do well here.
Classes: Not much to speak of; Tornassa's classes are pretty vanilla. Wizard is weak, while Sage is a bit stronger than average.
Quests Two modestly nice ones, albeit situational. If you're a priest, this is where the Unknown gets Its holy tentacles into you. The Infinity Arrow is likewise interesting: it's a one-use I Win button, or if you don't use it, it leads to a far more useful benefit for wizard-thief types: The Artificer class, which gives you multiple magic weapons and is an excellent way to shift from wizard-thief to warrior.
Verdict: The quests are solid, though they lack some of the spice of the higher-up options.
Classes: Monk. The Eye of Heaven is how monks turn into ki masters, and gives them some nice training too. Also, guards get solid bonuses here, and they, rangers and druids get extra Endurance. Everything else is either weak or average, nornally weak.
Quests: The Eye of Heaven allows a monk to get Ki Strike, and for a monk, going here is worth that alone. Theo/Thea's quest is next to worthless; it gets you a little military assistance and jack else.
Verdict: If you're a monk, this place may be worth it for the ki strike - though it's not mandatory or anything, if you're playing a monk, you should be in it for the sauce. If not, do something else.
Hope this helps.