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THE SERPENT'S SPELL by Rae St. Clair Bridgman


by Rae St. Clair Bridgman

Pub Date: April 8th, 2021
ISBN: 978-1-5255-8590-6
Publisher: FriesenPress

A boy discovers his family’s surprising history at a school for magic in this middle-grade supernatural novel.

Wil Wychwood loses his grandmother, who had raised him since his parents’ deaths, and their Toronto home to a sudden fire. The 10-year-old boy now only has his cherished snake, Esme, who joins him on his train ride to Winnipeg. That’s where he’ll be living with his two aunts and cousin Sophie—relatives he didn’t even know he had. It turns out he’s part of a family of mages, though Wil is initially skeptical. The city of MiddleGate is special, and Wil and Sophie attend an academy where they learn magic. It’s a bizarre school of bullies, stern mage teachers, and the library’s notoriously pesky ghost. But there may be a genuine menace hiding among the people of MiddleGate. Wil suspects a person in authority is up to no good, while his aunt Violet cryptically warns him about an ancient, enigmatic secret society. Indeed, someone willing to commit kidnapping and possibly worse crimes wants something from Wil. In this series opener, Bridgman grounds her narrative with a likable young hero trying to fit in at a new school. Wil loves books and absolutely adores Esme, a nonvenomous reptile who doesn’t bite. The author gradually and skillfully adds supernatural elements, such as students and mages manipulating their shadows. There are also abundant mysteries involving the academy and the protagonist’s past; certain characters are actually more important than they first appear, including an old friend of Wil’s. The author, meanwhile, depicts the city’s landscapes with assiduity and panache: “Gravestones leaned perilously in derelict cemeteries, and exploded tire shreds pitched like so many dead blackbirds along the highway.” Although most questions raised have no answers in sight, a couple of reveals are doozies.

This captivating tale of magic spells and a young hero launches a promising saga.