Wednesday, February 23, 2022

"The Raven Spell"

Luanne G. Smith is the bestselling author of The Vine Witch, a witchy historical fantasy series set in Belle Époque era France, and The Raven Spell, the first book in A Conspiracy of Magic, a gothic witch series set in a fantasy version of Victorian London. She’s lucky enough to live in Colorado at the base of the beautiful Rocky Mountains, where she enjoys reading, gardening, hiking, a glass of wine at the end of the day, and finding the magic in everyday life.

Smith applied the Page 69 Test to The Raven Spell, and reported the following:
Turning to page 69 of The Raven Spell we find Mary and Edwina Blackwood, sister witches living in a fantasy version of London in 1899, confronted by a shaggy elf-like creature who has just performed a form of tutelary magic on the unconscious man snoring away in their father’s bed:
“Well, I’m not sure I do,” Mary said, slipping the dull memory stone into her apron pocket as she hovered near the stairs. She looked like she wanted to get as far away from their visitor as she could.

“It’s a symbiotic relationship, if I’m right,” Edwina explained. “There’s a connection between the two. It’s as if they share the same experiences and memories. You must have been devoted to him from an early age.”

The elf beamed until his eyes teared and his ears poked up through his tangle of hair. “I’ve known my mister since he was a wee babe in swaddling cloth.”

The image tickled Edwina and she beamed as well, though she half suspected the happiness she felt flowed as much from the overspill of the elf’s magic as anything else. She was not a woman who readily experienced giddiness, but for whatever reason, she couldn’t stop smiling at the hairy little elf and the snoring man whose life he’d presumably just saved. After straightening the strip of tartan on Ian’s chest, she and the elf waited diligently for him to wake, while Mary studied the hard coal stone from her pocket, clearly regretting the loss of one of her precious orbs.
As far as excerpts go, this is fairly representative of the novel. The four main characters are all there and hints of the tensions and attractions between them are on display. The sisters are both witches, but it’s Mary who has the talent to steal corpse lights as they rise off the dead (and sometimes the nearly dead, which is what happened to Ian) so she can collect the person’s memories and convert them to shiny blue baubles that she stores as keepsakes in her jewelry box. Edwina is very devoted to her sister, enabling Mary’s odd magical appetites despite their somewhat ghoulish nature, but she longs for a life of love and happiness. And then this stranger from the north crashes into their lives, along with his hairy elf guardian, and the sisters will never be the same again.

For readers, it’s probably a good test. My storytelling is sometimes called “Harry Potter-esque” because I write about witches, fairies, and jinn all existing in an otherwise historically accurate world. I’m a fan of folklore and fairytales, so that influence naturally shows up in my work. If you’re not fond of whimsical elements in your stories, you’ll likely not enjoy the presence of the elf in an otherwise “low” fantasy historical novel.
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--Marshal Zeringue