Thursday 19 October 2017

A spellbinding witches' tale of bubble, bubble, time travel and trouble

children The Broken Spell Erika McGann O'Brien Press, €7.99, pbk, 248 pages

Available with free P&P on www.kennys.ie or by calling 091 709350

The Broken Spell is a very enjoyable blend of school-based fun, spooky intrigue and down-to-earth friendship issues. The five friends, Grace, Jenny, Rachel, Una and Adie, were novice witches in McGann's first book, The Demon Notebook, now they are getting more serious lessons and learning the theory and power of witchcraft.

Amidst all the magic, the portrayal of the girls' relationships is a very strong aspect to this novel, with sharp observations and perceptive descriptions of behaviour and inner feelings, and the teen dialogue is spot-on. Moods, jealousies and nastiness abound, as well as friendship, support and laughs.

A new teacher, Ms Gold, lets the girls put their learning theory into practice with some real spells, which causes conflict with their two regular witch-teachers. On finding an old yearbook from the 1970s, the girls see that the three teachers had actually been good friends and were very cool, with dyed hair, piercings and punk style.

A spell sends the girls back in time, where they try to find out why their teachers fell out. However, an evil being is accidentally brought back to real time and an unpleasant episode in the history of the school is revealed.

Can they get this evil character back into his time zone and help make amends for what happened in the distant past?

Can the three teachers ever be reconciled? Why is Jenny being so nasty and unkind? There is lots of tension as the reader tries to find answers to these questions and figure out who can be trusted.

The spells, complete with Latin names and convincing incantations, rhyme and scan beautifully. The 'Tardis' -- the method and mechanics of time travel -- is not quite so smooth, with a train sound effect and foghorn blast that feels a little clunky.

Girls aged 10-13ish who like friendship stories with a supernatural edge will enjoy this new one from a talented, imaginative writer.

PADDY O'DOHERTY

PADDY O'DOHERTY IS A FORMER EDITOR OF 'CHILDREN'S BOOKS IRELAND' MAGAZINE.

Irish Independent

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