Dark Spell

Dark Spell cover
Gill Arbuthnott
Floris Books
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In spite of growing up with a high school English teacher with a passion for Poe, let me say first of all that although I am not a horror fan, I do have a few movies that I like on the basis of an affinity for a particular actor or two, (Michael J Fox in The Frighteners, the entire cast of Practical Magic.) I am not predisposed to enjoy horror fantasy, but for some reason, magical families and witchcraft stories are the exception. Blame it on the chemistry between Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York. I felt the same g-rated sweet chemistry between young protagonist Callie Hall and her good friend Josh in Dark Spell by Gill Arbuthnott.

Callie Hall is a young witch. It's not so much that she's coming out of the closet, as it is that she had no clue she was in a closet. Unaware of her growing magical powers, she has a Carrie moment in response to some school bullying. She soon discovers from her grandmother and her cute little coven of old lady witches that like her grandmother, she is indeed a witch. The witch gene apparently is a recessive one, and skipped her mother, a fact which leads to some issues. Callie's long distance friendship with Joshua (from Edinburgh) has some issues, and the tunnel under the ruins of St Andrews' Castle really has some issues.

I was drawn in by many things in this book. The familial relationships, the problems between Callie and her mother, and the closeness between Callie and her grandmother. The sweet tolerance of Callie's oblivious father and not-so-oblivious grandfather. The chemistry of the family rings so true that it brings extra credence to the magic. I enjoyed this book so much that after I listened to it play aloud on my rickety old keyboard Kindle, I had to take it aside and read it in person with my own eyes to see if it was as engrossing as I thought. (It is.) The story is well engineered, and works not only on the superficial level, but on more than one level. I am not surprised that it has won awards.

I found myself enchanted by Dark Spell. I enjoyed not only the characters, but also the sense of place the author delivers of the mix of old and new in contemporary Scotland. Gill Arbuthnott conjures a stunning mix of teen angst and magic mixed with just enough danger to scoot you to the edge of your seat. Big thumbs up on this one!


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