Tag: Claudia Gray

Waiting on Wednesday: The First Midnight Spell

the-first-midnight-spellBack in March, I reviewed Spellcaster by Claudia Gray, and blogged about my theories for Steadfast, which is due out in March 2014. But in the interim, Claudia will be releasing a Spellcaster novella, The First Midnight Spell, which is a  prequel to the series. Those who have read Spellcaster will be interested to get a bit more background on Elizabeth Cooper. I think that will do nicely to tide me over until Steadfast arrives in March!

If you haven’t read Spellcaster yet, there is still time to get caught up before The First Midnight Spell is released on November 5, or you could start with the prequel and go from there. Spellcaster is the story of Nadia, a witch in training who loses her mentor just as she moves to a new town where magic seems to have gone wrong.

waiting-on-wednesdayWaiting on Wednesday is a bookish meme hosted by the folks over at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. What are you waiting for?

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Pitch Dark Days

This past Thursday, I visited the University Bookstore in Seattle, which was hosting the HarperTeen Pitch Dark Days tour, featuring five YA authors, including Kiersten White, Dan Wells, Debra Driza, Lauren Oliver and Claudia Gray. I was there to see Claudia Gray, whose new book, Spellcaster, I reviewed last week, but I was introduced to four more teen authors who write sci-fi/fantasy, and as a result my library holds queue just got a little bit longer. Here’s a preview of the books they were touring, and some of the questions they answered, and some speculation about what Claudia Gray has in store for us with Spellcaster #2, due out next year:

Cover image for Mind Games by Kiersten WhiteKierstin White was promoting her new book, Mind Games, a thriller about two sisters who are being held in a special school that exploits the supernatural powers of its students to conduct espionage. This book has a fantastic cover, which White touted as the best thing about her book! (She says the words are pretty good, too.) One of the sister’s in blind, which creating some unique descriptive writing challenges in the romance department. White started writing as a new mom, as a way to reclaim some time and space for herself. She wrote four books before she got published, but maintains that no book written is a waste, because you learn from your writing even when you don’t get published.

Cover image for Fragments by Dan WellsDan Wells is currently touring Fragments, which is book two in the Partials Sequence, a series of books about the extinction of the human race due to a virus. Wells described writing the book as “perversely fun,” because in book two he got to beat up his main character and show her that life isn’t fair. However, I was more intrigued by his descriptions of his  Mr. Monster books, which are apparently so dark that his mother-in-law was worried for the safety of his wife and children! When asked about his decision to set the books on Long Island, Wells explained that it offered the contained space he needed for his setting, but also put him in close proximity to Manhattan, allowing him to blow up famous New York landmarks.

Cover image for MILA 2.0 by Debra DrizaDebra Driza’s new book is MILA 2.0, the first in a sci-fi thriller series about a young woman who discovers that she is in fact a military grade android which her “mother” stole from the government. And, problematically, the series also features a human love interest for Mila. The most discussed (and joked about) item about this book by far was a scene in which Mila stabs someone with a hair dryer plug. Apparently the romance doesn’t get much page-time in book one since Mila has to go on the run from government operatives, but Driza assures readers the love interest will be back in book two. And, like Mind Games, this book has some fantastic cover art.

Cover image for Requiem by Lauren OliverMany of the fans who turned out for Pitch Dark Days were there to see Lauren Oliver, who just published Requiem, the final book in her Delirium series. The series is set in a futuristic society in which love has been deemed an infectious disease, and cured. The exciting news here is that there is currently a TV pilot in production based on the books, starring Emma Roberts. Oliver was also excited about the fact that she got to introduce a second POV character, despite the fact that this is the third book in her series. She also revealed that the Raven character was based on her own kickass, tough love sister. Though this is the final book in the series, Oliver mentioned that since she started out writing fan fiction, she loves “books where a door stays open for you.”

Cover image for Spellcaster by Claudia GraySomehow, of these five big name YA authors, I had only read Spellcaster, by Claudia Gray, which I finished just three days before the event. A little bit less sci-fi that the other titles, Spellcaster is a fantasy in which a young witch loses her teacher just as she moves to a new town with a cursed inhabitant and an evil resident witch. Gray described her villain as the coolest thing about her book, because she was so powerful that even Gray was sometimes stumped about how to have her protagonists triumph. Gray tried on many different hats before becoming an author, but finally got down to writing in time to, entirely by accident, have a vampire manuscript ready just as  Twilight  was taking off.

Gray also revealed that just before heading out on the Pitch Dark Days tour, she handed in book two of the series to her publisher. It is titled Steadfast, and is due out next spring. Although she got a lot of page-time in book one, Verlaine becomes a second lead in book two, and gets her own epic love story. The conversation amongst the panelists revealed that we likely already met her love interest in book one. (Warning: spoilers ahead!) There were very few male characters of the right age to be Verlaine’s upcoming love interest. Besides Mateo, the only teen boys with significant page-time were Mateo’s friend Gage, and the handsome-but-mean Jeremy Prasad. But Jeremy died, so it would seem that Gage is the de facto winner. Or perhaps not. One of the things I failed to mention in my review of Spellcaster was how much I loved a certain sassy and sympathetic demon named Asa, who is called up to serve the whims of the villain. He was genuinely one of my favourite things about the book, but he escaped mention because he doesn’t really do much, at least on page. However, towards the end of the book, he takes possession of the body of Jeremy Prasad, who, it is repeatedly mentioned, Verlaine finds handsome but obnoxious. I have a year to wait to find out if I am right, but casting Asa/Jeremy as Verlaine’s new love interest seems to offer a lot more possibilities than Gage (nice as he seems).

Already read Spellcaster? Who do you think Gray should enlist to romance Verlaine?

Spellcaster

Cover image for Spellcaster by Claudia Gray by Claudia Gray

ISBN 978-0-06-196120-5

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book at ALA Midwinter 2013. All quotes are based on an uncorrected text.

“A winter sunrise. The pain of abandonment. The knowledge of love.”

Nadia Caldani’s mother has left her family at the worst possible time. At seventeen, Nadia is a witch-in-training on the cusp of coming into her full power. But magic is a maternal inheritance, and with her mother gone Nadia worries that she will never learn the rest of what she needs to know to become a proper witch. But her mother won’t even return her calls or emails, let alone see her, and Nadia and her father and brother have left Chicago, and moved to the small town of Captive’s Sound, Rhode Island. From the minute she arrives in Captive’s Sound, Nadia realizes that something about the place that just isn’t right. A dark magical taint seems to be sucking the life out of the town, even as the surrounding communities thrive. And it isn’t just the town that’s strange. The first person Nadia meets is Mateo Perez, a descendent of the supposedly cursed Cabot line. Despite being a local pariah, Mateo always believed that the curse was a lie, but with Nadia’s arrival, his dreams have begun coming true, the first sign of the hereditary Cabot madness. And then there’s Verlaine Laughton, only a high school senior, but with the gray hair of an old woman. Together, this unlikely trio must figure out what is happening in Captive’s Sound, even as it becomes evident that time is running out for the seaside town.

One of the stand-out features of the novel is Gray’s unique magical system. Although she uses some magical ingredients and talismans, Nadia’s spells are largely built from her own memories and experiences. For example, the components for the spell for illuminating magical shapes are memories of a winter sunrise, the pain of abandonment, and the knowledge of love. Nadia focuses on memories that embody each of these ideas to cast her spell. These spells offer the opportunity for flashbacks and getting to know Nadia’s character and history. It also means that Nadia’s life experiences give her power, and each new experience causes her to grow both as a person and as a magical practitioner. Although it is difficult to make her way alone, Nadia is still able to continue learning without her mother’s help.

Gray assembles a classic fantasy trio of friends who fit together and help one another due to their complementary personality traits. However, rather than instantly bonding, Nadia, Mateo and Verlaine take their time figuring out how to be friends. Nadia is wilfully independent, and reluctant to get attached to anyone in Captive’s Sound, which she plans to escape as soon as she finishes high school. It’s hard for her to learn to rely on Mateo and Verlaine for help, rather than doing everything herself. And as lifelong loners, it is hard for Mateo and Verlaine to adjust to the idea of having friends. I was pleasantly reminded of the way Ron, Harry and Hermione worked out their differences and became friends in The Philosopher’s Stone. Unlike Harry Potter, however, we get to experience the POV of all three main characters in Spellcaster, and the villain as well.

Spellcaster is the first book in a series, and as a result, not all of our questions are answered by the end of the novel. Nadia’s mom remains notably absent, the mystery of the chemistry lab remains unsolved, and Verlaine’s intriguing backstory is left hanging. Fortunately, Gray already has plans to follow through on Verlaine’s tale (Steadfast, Spring 2014). Gray is currently out on the Dark Days 2013 Tour with Harper Teen, so if you’re attending the Seattle event, I may see you there!