JAMES NICOL

Not only has James penned an amazing trilogy about the trials and tribulations of an apprentice witch but Arianwyn’s adventures are now being adapted for the TV! How did James wave a magic wand over his writing to achieve this? Let’s discover how The Apprentice WitchA Witch Alone and A Witch Come True began their adventure to publication with Chicken House Books, founded by the legend that is Barry Cunningham.

The Apprentice Witch

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.

A Witch Alone

“All our spells, thus far, remain ineffective. And it is time for new ideas, new spells… or maybe old ones.”

Jinxing-jiggery! Arianwyn’s adventures continue in the town of Lull as more menacing supernatural creatures from the Great Wood head her way, threatening the townsfolk and her new career with all manner of unimaginable horrors. No longer an ‘apprentice’, Arianwyn is now one of eleven thousand qualified witches serving the crown. But with the white-robed High Elder breathing down her neck, and her talent as the only witch that can decipher quiet glyphs putting her in demand, the new witch really has her work cut out in banishing evil from the Kingdom through the toughest spells known – and unknown. But can she uncover the darkest of all secrets before chaos reigns?

The Spellorium she lives in on Kettle Lane continues to charm with mugs of hot chocolate and moon hare Bob curled at Arianwyn’s feet. Friendships further develop in this second book of the series and we are treated to more friendly spirit creatures and observe Salle’s character arc growing as boldly as Arianwyn’s. We are delighted, too, to learn more about Colin who ventures from behind his desk at the Civil Witchcraft Authority to join the girls in Lull.

As James told us during our live webinar the antagonists are not designed to be truly evil, as most people in life never encounter true evil. But the irritation and anger they cause our beloved Arianwyn is entirely relatable, with Gimma continuing to push her buttons and Mayor Belcher and Miss Newam equal parts irritating and amusing.

You would never guess that this book was the most difficult of the trilogy for James to write – and rewrite – but we highly recommend this joyful story for children and grown-ups who believe in magic.

A Witch Come True

As the vision faded, Arianwyn watched the snow-white ground turn back to the grey ash of the fire as the flames died at last. A chill crept in around her at once and she couldn’t shake the feeling of the dark eyes staring at her from the back of the hearth, even though all she could see now was bricks and ash.

What did it all mean?

Oh, boil it! We can’t believe we’ve reached the last in the Apprentice Witch series already – for now, at least. As magic fizzes all around, settle down with steaming hot chocolate and cinnamon muffins in front of the Yule fire. Discover if Salle will ever appear on stage in a play and if our beloved heroine, Arianwyn, will conquer her greatest challenge yet.

The book opens with her father returning to the military sanatorium and Arianwyn discovers he has received an unknown visitor making strange enquiries. But this is only the beginning of the problem. The prickle and tingle of energy is as resonate as ever as dark magic entangles itself over the Great Wood and through some of its citizens. But who has deliberately spread such a terrible hex? And why? With emotions running high in this post-war world who can Arianwyn trust?

With celebrations of Yule all around and a twist we didn’t see coming, this is a wonderful resolution to a truly remarkable series which will delight and challenge the most competent of readers.

Will Arianwyn return? Will Razlors and Harvest Bogglins, Snotlings and Winged Grippets re-emerge through the rift? For now, author James Nicol says no and tells us he is currently working on more magical wonders with lots more creatures. But never say never. And with Arianwyn set to appear on TV screens in the future, courtesy of Lime Pictures, we do hope you’ll be tuning in. We know we boggin well will!