A review of ‘The Apprentice Witch’, a novel written by James Nicol.

Finding an agent

‘Arianwyn mounted the three steep steps leading to the door and fished out the heavy key from her pocket.

 

Her hand shook slightly as she slid the key into the lock. She paused and took a deep steadying breath. The key clicked loudly in the lock and Arianwyn pushed the door wide.

 

The Spellorium seemed to heave a dusty sigh of relief as though it had been holding its breath, waiting for this moment.’

 

The Civil Witchcraft Authority is on a mission to identify the increasing number of spirit creatures and dark spirits in its Four Kingdoms. So witch apprentices of Hylund are being put to the test in order to serve their country as fully fledged witches.

Failing the assessment miserably, fifteen-year old Arianwyn is branded an Apprentice Witch and issued a dull bronze disc (instead of a shiny silver star badge) and packed off to the town of Lull on the edge of the Great Wood, forced to endure training under the supervision of Mayor Belcher and Miss Delafield. Feeling hapless and alone, Arianwyn is delighted to make a friend, Salle, a budding – (if not never getting anywhere) – actress, and their adventures begin.

Whilst hexes and charms do exist, Arianwyn is not a witch in the traditional sense; there is not a black cat or cauldron in sight – although James did, he told us during our live webinar, debate with his publisher Chicken House Books about the need for a broomstick! This modern approach to witchcraft is refreshing and we adore Arianwyn’s kind nature and the friendships she makes, even at times attempting to soothe her ‘frenemy’, shiny haired, tight-lipped Gimma. The girls encounter all manner of mischievous and dangerous spirit creatures, testing their witch ability as they mentally summon glyphs to create spells to banish the creatures from the kingdom. With the help of Arianwyn’s handbook, passed on to her by her gentle grandmother, the tips prove invaluable in navigating crawlers, snotlings and such like, and saving a moon hare she grows to love who Salle names Bob.

Underlying Arianwyn’s journey, is a quiet glyph, one that appears in her mind unprompted shortly before tragic events. Will she learn the truth about this glyph or will it ultimately be her downfall?

James sweeps us up on a magic broom and whisks us on an unforgettable adventure through a fantasy world, full of uncertainty, misfortune, wit and magnetic charm. But it is the strength of the human spirit that “Wyn’s” us over. His rich descriptions and humourous names and dialogue read like a classic Enid Blyton or C S Lewis adventure.