Review: Spellcaster by Claudia Gray
Published March 5th 2013 by HarperTeen
ARC received from the publisher
Spellcaster was a rather polarising read for me – on one hand I loved it and I think Ms Gray made some great choices, but on the other hand there were quite some elements that grated on my nerves.
Nadia’s mom left her and her family, unannounced. This is a tradedy in itself, but what’s worse is that she now can’t finish her training in the Craft, because only a grown witch can teach her. Not even her father or little brother know that she is a witch. They move to Captive’s Sound to start over, and she instantly feels there’s something wrong with the town. It almost feels like someone is draining it…
Despite the (in my opinion) rather boring and weird cover, Spellcaster is an original creepy young-adult paranormal story with witches. What I loved most was the haunting setting – a run down small town, cut off from the world. Almost everything is falling apart. Sometimes quite literally, with random sink-holes swallowing cars. The feel of the town reminded me of Stephen King.
Massive props to Ms Gray for creating a nice bunch of diverse main characters. The love interest Mateo is Hispanic (*gasp* a minority main character!), I think Nadia might also be from some non-Caucasian heritage, and Velaine (the female friend, taller even than most guys and lover of vintage) is so weird it’s awesome. They’re not necessarily all that well written, but just the fact that it’s non standard made my day.
The downside of Spellcaster is that it’s slightly clumsily written. This definitely isn’t this writer’s first book, so I guess this is just her style, but it’s not one I particularly enjoy. I commend her for letting the couple take things realistically slow, but the emotional connection wasn’t quite there for me. The villain of the story sometimes goes into almost caricature style speeches with one of my favourite awful quotes: “But things would change soon. Very soon”. Can’t you just hear the DUN DUN DUNNNNN?
I also had a few deeper issues with the story. Basically, Nadia has taken on the role of mothering over her little brother since her mom left. She fell so naturally into this role, taking over cooking, babysitting, the whole shebang. At one point she is thinking: “Dad had enough to deal with. She was supposed to be taking care of him and Cole, not the other way around”. Huh? Did I miss something? The only thing on his mind is having a job and the fact that his wife ran off. Since Nadia just lost her mom too, I don’t see why he’s in worse shape than she is. There is absolutely no reason for her to feel so obligated to do this. It reminds me of it being so natural for Bella to do the entire housekeep once she moved in with her dad. Maybe I’m seeing this in the wrong light, but just because you’re a girl doesn’t mean you have to take care of people. Especially not if they’re grown up men.
The magic system is interesting, it has a mix of old-fashioned myths like having a Book of Shadows and the fact that Halloween is significant and some new elements like spells being based on emotions. It was nice, but I’m not really sure about the sexist part of it, namely that only women can have magic. That seems slightly wrong to me. I hope we’ll get some more insight into this in the next book in the series.
Although the main conflict is solved by the end of Spellcaster, there is a huge set-up for next book. Be prepared not to get all the answers, and be prepared to be left hanging for a bit. The ending fit the story, but I was a bit disappointed by how quick the action was over. I was hoping for just a little bit more of an epic struggle. Either way, I’m more than curious enough to read the next part in the series, Steadfast.
When Nadia’s family moves to Captive’s Sound, she instantly realizes there’s more to it than meets the eye. Descended from witches, Nadia senses a dark and powerful magic at work in her new town. Mateo has lived in Captive’s Sound his entire life, trying to dodge the local legend that his family is cursed – and that curse will cause him to believe he’s seeing the future … until it drives him mad. When the strange dreams Mateo has been having of rescuing a beautiful girl—Nadia—from a car accident come true, he knows he’s doomed.
Despite the forces pulling them apart, Nadia and Mateo must work together to break the chains of his family’s terrible curse, and to prevent a disaster that threatens the lives of everyone around them. Shimmering with magic and mystery, New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray’s new novel is sure to draw fans of the Hex Hall and Caster Chronicles series, and fans of the hit CW TV show The Secret Circle.
- Review: Scent of Magic by Maria V. Snyder (3/5 Stars)
- Review: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters (5/5 Stars)
- Review: Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black (3.5/5 Stars)
- Review: A Witch in Love by Ruth Warburton (4/5 Stars)