All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. But as a descendant of the Witch Rona Blackburn, who famously cursed her family over a century ago, Nor is no stranger to suffering. She has a reason to hope, however, that she may have escaped the thornier side effects of Rona’s curse.
Then a mysterious book come out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. The author – Nor’s own mother- is performing magic that should be far beyond her capabilities. And such magic always requires a sacrifice.
A storm is coming. It’s coming for Nor.
Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest, a setting that figures predominantly in both her novels for young adults. Her debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, was published in 2014.
What I Thought
Like a cross between Practical Magic, Charmed and The Craft with Dark Willow thrown in for good measure. This book seems to have garnered mixed reviews but I really enjoyed it. I have not read the author’s previous novel which I believe is in the genre of magical realism. This is a very different book to that. More an urban fantasy horror.
The story takes place on Anathema Island and the environment and nature plays a huge part. Our protagonist can hear plants and animals so they become characters in the story and shift and change based on the mood. Personally I’d have liked to hear from some the animals a little more. Some of their conversations provided little spots of humour in an otherwise dark novel.
Nor was a conflicted heroine with the dual burdens of being a witch and having an awful mother taking a heavy toll. Luckily her grandmother Judd and her partner Apothia fulfil the loving family element although they take more of a back seat later in the story, with the next generation leading the charge.
There is some romance and friendship and small town shenanigans but this is at its core a horror and therefore a perfect read with Halloween on the way. The Prologue was all about the matriarch of the Blackburn Witches, Rona. I’d have loved to have had her story in even more detail too.
We start with a girl who isn’t comfortable in her own skin and end with an epic showdown. Nor’s mother Fern the author of The Price Guide to the Occult is most definitely bad to the bone and she has no redeeming features. Nor’s father felt very inconsequential – and this fact is played out. Fern has everyone – even the President of the USA under her spell and and the comedown from the magic high is briefly explored at the end of the book. Nor’s comfort may be fleeting, and it made me wonder if we will be hearing more from Nor (sorry couldn’t resist).
Trigger Warnings for Self Harm, Suicide and Parental Violence.
Thanks to Walker for the copy for the purposes of this honest review.
Mildew and Sponge don’t think much of Maudlin Towers, the blackened, gloomladen, gargoyle-infested monstrosity that is their school. But when somebody steals the School Spoon and the teachers threaten to cancel the Christmas holidays until the culprit is found, our heroes must spring into action and solve the crime!
But what starts out as a classic bit of detectivating quickly becomes weirder than they could have imagined. Who is the ghost in the attic? What’s their history teacher doing with a time machine? And why do a crazy bunch of Vikings seem to think Mildew is a werewolf?
Hugely funny, deliciously creepy and action-packed by turns, this brand new series from Chris Priestley is perfect for 8+ readers who like their mysteries with a bit of bite. Fans of Lemony Snicket and Chris Riddell will love Curse of the Werewolf Boy.
Ever since he was a teenager, Chris has loved unsettling and creepy stories. He has fond memories of buying comics like Strange Tales and House of Mystery, watching classic BBC TV adaptations of M.R. James’ ghost stories every Christmas and reading assorted weirdness by everyone from Edgar Allan Poe to Ray Bradbury. He hopes his books will haunt his readers in the way those writers have haunted him.
What I Thought
This was such a fun read and perfect for the target audience. I can imagine that this would make a great bedtime story with lots of enjoyment to be had doing the voices.
The two main characters, best friends Mildew and Sponge reminded me of Phineus and Ferb, as did the whole crackpot adventure.
Not only did Chris write all the words he drew all the pictures too. And I felt the illustrations added to the story, in one case more clearly contributing details that wouldn’t have been gleamed from words alone. And look at this map?
This is a fun boarding school parody that will entertain fans of the genre. I’d love to see Robin Stevens and Chris do a Murder Most Unladylike/Maudlin Towers crossover. Maybe the Deepdean Vampire could meet the Maudlin Werewolf?!
The werewolf aspect wasn’t really introduced until halfway through the book which I thought was a little late, not that there wasn’t lots of enjoyment to be had with all the other aspects of the story first.
There were lots of threads that were tied up and this was very well executed, and I imagine created quite a headache for everyone involved. Note to self: Never write time travel. Addition to note: Oops too late – – Ask Chris for advice on how to keep track of everything.
Will our intrepid duo live to have another adventure or will they fall down to the curse? Even though Halloween is over do pick up a copy. This dark nights time of year is perfect for spooky stories.
I nearly got bitten by this little Werecat the other night but how can you not forgive him?
Thanks to Faye Rogers and Bloomsbury for arranging the review copy. Opinions are mine.
Happy Halloween 👻 🎃 everyone – here’s a nice creepy piece of short fiction I wrote a while back. Hope you enjoy!!!
That’s what he saw first on his early morning jog over the dunes. Their feet.
At first he thought he might have interrupted something private, something that is usually and more comfortably best achieved indoors. Their feet were intertwined, touching toe to toe. On hers were two silver toe rings in twisted metal. He apologised then to their twisted faces. Eyes open they looked into each other’s eyes and saw forever and nowhere all at once.
He was not ashamed to scream as the crab scuttled over her hand. His dog lurched forward to lap at the dried blood that had once been dripping down from the gunshot between her eyes. The man was worse, his shot was through the mouth up into his brain. The congealed mess and sound of the dog’s lapping made him feel sick and he vomited.
Turned away from the scene he knelt in the sand no longer able to stand. He dialled 999 all the while trying to think of his response to ‘What’s your emergency?’ When the question came, he vomited again and spat out, ‘They’re both dead. Beach. Come quick.’
He spotted the gun then, in the man’s hand, and wondered if the girl had had a choice in this or if she had just been on her dream date watching a beautiful sunset with her lover.
When he heard the siren’s wail he wept and his dog, inquisitive and drawn to his sobs came close, nuzzled up and licked his tears.