The Witch in the Mirror – Part 25

Princess Alyce slammed the book shut. She had been reading it all night but all she found was frustration. All she had been able to do was cast an enchantment on the castle that protected it—and her—from the king. For now anyway.

What she had learned about breaking the king’s enchantment of Alexandria was another thing completely. She just didn’t have the power. Not on her own. If she had both her sisters they would be strong enough. But Meaghan was out of reach and Katharine had simply disappeared.

Alyce was furious with her older sister. At the first sign of trouble she just flew away without leaving word or staying to help her younger sisters.

She opened the book again. Hushed whispers rose from the pages. So many voices trying to tell her what to do, but she didn’t know which ones to listen to.

A breeze blew through the door and the pages of the book began flipping over. Alyce sat back and watched until they stopped. She leant forward and began reading.

If she needed more power she would get more power. Whatever it takes.

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The Witch in the Mirror – Part 23

Ailis twisted the petals in her fingers. She was lying on her stomach in the woods studying the wildflowers. She picked a handful and wove them into her curly red hair.

She looked up as a flock of ravens flew high overhead. They would be heading back to the mountains for the summer to roost. Their black shapes circled once before disappearing toward the east.

Her stomach grumbled with hunger but Ailis was too busy to bother doing anything about it. She had until the sun was high until she had to take her father’s lunch to the blacksmith forge. It had only just risen above the treetops so she had plenty of time. Besides, it was warm and peaceful in the woods.

Through the trees Ailis could hear the water of the lake lapping against the shore. She stood and walked through the trees until she could see glimpses of blue. She felt a thrill of excitement. She had never come this far into the wood before. But today was special. It was her birthday—and she was no longer a child, having bled for the first time last full moon.

Ailis’s red hair glinted in the sunlight as she stepped from the trees and moved to the edge of the lake. The lake stretched so far she couldn’t see the other side. Somewhere over there was the Westerly Mountains and on the other side—so her father told her once when she was young—was a magnificent castle where the king sat on his throne of gold.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to sit on that gold throne and rule the kingdom? Ailis smiled to herself. One day she would travel to that far away castle. Maybe she would even meet a prince and he would fall in love with her—even though she was only a blacksmith’s daughter. She grimaced and looked down at the patched skirt she wore. Her hands were small and still soft but she could feel callouses starting to her form on her palms. She rubbed her hands against her skirt, as though that would rub the callouses away. When she found her prince she hoped he would see the heart that lay beneath the patched skirt and calloused hands. He would shower her with beautiful things and she would never have to wear old clothes and live in a tiny cottage ever again.

Ailis closed her eyes and tried to imagine what a castle even looked like. The sun was warm on her face and she spread her arms wide. She began to picture herself flying—across the lake, over the snow-capped mountains, toward the distant castle. She felt light—light as a feather. Like she was floating …

Ailis opened her eyes and gasped before falling back to the ground with a thump. She had been floating. Flying! Really flying. Did she have magic? She felt a thrill of fear. Magic was forbidden throughout the kingdom. It had been forbidden years ago. Ever since before she was born.

She dimly remembered the stories her mother had told her. She had trouble remembering what she looked like now. It had been so long ago. She could remember her grey hair. She knew her face was kind even though Ailis could no longer picture her anymore. She had just disappeared one night. Ailis’ father had said she was with the king’s army, working as a healer for the soldiers. She will come home one day, he had said. But Ailis didn’t believe it anymore. If she was still alive she would surely have come back to them by now. Bryn the blacksmith never talked about Saba anymore, but Ailis had never forgotten that she had told her she was special. She had touched the pendant and said it kept her safe and she should never take it off.

Ailis felt the pendant under her dress. It was warm where it lay between her small breasts. She looked around to make sure she was still alone. A mischievous grin crossed her face.

She could fly!

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 22

Beatrice and Emily were at a bench in the science lab. They were both studying the test tube in front of them. Their first assignment was to observe the chemical reaction when they added a number of substances together.

‘So what do we do next?’ Beatrice asked.

‘Using the tongs, place the strip of magnesium in the bottom of the bottle,’ Emily read from the instruction sheet.

Beatrice carefully picked up the long magnesium strip with the tongs and placed it in the bottle.

‘Now add a pinch of salt and seal the bottle.’

As Beatrice reached into the container for the salt she sliced her finger on the sharp metal edge. She dropped the salt into the jar. They both stared at the spots of blood mixed with the salt.

‘Great Goddess, grant us your protection.’

Beatrice looked up and Emily was staring at her with wide eyes.

‘What did you just say?’ Emily whispered.

‘I don’t know, the words just sort of popped out.’

They stared at each other until suddenly there was a blinding flash of light and a puff of smoke rose from the jar.

When the smoke cleared they looked into the jar and the magnesium had become a small pile of ash in the shape of a crescent moon.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 20

Anar was still fuming when she got home. She hated being made to look stupid.

It wasn’t the first time Emily had made her look bad. Anar’s cheeks flushed pink as she thought about the day it had started. It didn’t matter that it was way back in eighth grade. Anar had still not forgotten.

BFFs forever.

That is what Emily had written in Anar’s book. And Anar had believed her. She looked up to Emily back then. Emily was the smart one and Anar was quiet and shy and they had instantly become friends when they first met at the beginning of the new school year. Nobody else wanted to play with a girl that had brown skin and a foreign sounding name.

It had only been a month into the year. They had spent the morning cooking cupcakes and Emily and Anar had giggled together as they carefully iced each cake.

After class Anar ran to catch up with Emily when she tripped over somebody’s schoolbag. Cupcakes scattered all across the corridor as Anar landed flat on her face.

At first she was stunned to see her cupcakes rolling on the floor. Then she heard the other children laughing. She looked up to see Emily laughing with them and Anar’s eyes stung with tears.

Emily later said she was sorry and gave Anar big hug. But the following week was Emily’s birthday. She had told Anar she wasn’t having a party or anything. It was only later that Anar discovered all the other girls in the class had been invited to a party.

That was only the beginning and life just got worse from there. Anar never spoke to Emily again.

She clenched her fists on the desk at the memory and screwed up the piece of paper she had been doodling on.

I hate her, I hate her, I hate her, was circled by spirals and shapes and stars.

Anar reached for her jewellery box and peered inside before pulling out a gold chain. She always liked gold best against her skin—they complemented each other. She studied the pendant before putting it around her neck. It had been a gift from her grandmother before the family moved to England. She admired it shining in the mirror.

Anar put the necklace back into the jewellery box and snapped the lid shut. The little ballerina did a half-turn and the box played a couple of musical notes. Anar reached to the back of the box and wound if fully before watching the ballerina do her dance, lost in thought.

The last notes finally tinkled from the jewellery box and Anar smiled to herself. She had a plan now. Beatrice and Emily. They had made Anar look stupid in front of others and she was out for revenge.

Book review – Torn by Amanda Hocking

Torn (Trylle, #2)Torn by Amanda Hocking

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I used to hate it when characters swore undying love for another, only to discover in a later book that their feelings for the first guy weren’t so strong after all when they meet someone else. But reading Torn made me realise that this is just the way love works in real life, particularly when you are only 18. You meet someone, they make your heart flutter and then after a while the excitement dies down until you meet someone else. Amanda Hocking does an amazing job of telling this story. There is no great climax to the story. It just quietly builds builds builds, but somehow she kept me reading. I had to keep reading because after a very short while I had become so invested in Wendy, the flawed and real to life heroine of this story. It’s the characters that drive this story along rather than the plot. Okay, so there is an evil king. There is a princess, a queen, they have powers, there is a handsome guy that sweeps Wendy off her feet (actually, several of them), a palace, beautiful dresses… But it is the connections between the characters that has kept me enthralled. The hint of menace as Wendy tries to decide what to do with her life is overshadowed by her relationships. I can’t wait to start reading Ascend.

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The Witch in the Mirror – Part 18

Beatrice finished reading her story to the class. The room was quiet for a moment. Emily couldn’t take her eyes from Beatrice’s face.

‘Very nice, Beatrice—I liked the way you left it on a positive note,’ said Mr Garcia. ‘Okay, so who is next?’

At the end of the lesson Beatrice was the last to leave the room. As she made her way down the corridor she saw Emily leaning against a locker. She drew near and Emily lifted her head.

‘Hi,’ she said. ‘It’s Beatrice, right?’ Emily voice was soft.

Bea nodded. Her throat had gone dry.

Emily took a deep breath. ‘I’ve seen you in class. Do you mind if we talk?’

Beatrice shook her head. ‘I was just on my way to chemistry.’

Emily hesitated. ‘That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I’m sorry to bother you, but I—well—I was wondering if we could—ummm—if you wanted to—to be my lab partner. You know, for the assignment.’

Emily pushed a strand of dark hair behind her ear. Her fingernails were painted a shiny deep purple to match the streak in her hair. Around her neck she wore a long chain with a bunch of charms gathered at the bottom. They jingled when she moved.

Beatrice had overheard some girls in the corridor talking about Emily. They said she was a loser, but they suddenly stopped talking as Beatrice walked past. She could feel their eyes drilling into her back. ‘She’s one of them too,’ she had heard them whisper.

But to Beatrice, Emily just looked like a lonely girl hoping that Beatrice would be her friend.

‘So how about it? Lab partners?’ Emily’s smile was a little unsure. It was the first time Beatrice had ever seen her smile.

‘Sure,’ she replied. ‘That would be great.’

Emily’s smile relaxed and Beatrice suddenly realised how pretty she was.

‘Cool, well—I guess I should leave you in peace then.’ She half turned to go but Beatrice reached out and touched her arm.

‘You don’t have to go. We could, you know, walk together and talk—about the assignment.’ Beatrice was suddenly the one feeling nervous.

Emily and Beatrice walked silently down the corridor. Neither knew what to say now they had actually spoken to each other. Emily was wracking her brain for something clever to say but all she could think of were inane things. She so badly wanted to impress Beatrice. The corridor was a hive of activity and other students streamed in both directions past the two girls.

Beatrice stole a glance at the dark haired girl beside her. She felt a strange energy coming from Emily. Beatrice was deep in thought, trying to remember when she had last felt energy like this.

‘So—how are you enjoying school?’

‘Sorry—what?’ Emily had spoken so softly it was hard to hear her over the noisy corridor.’

‘How are you liking your new school?’ Emily raised her voice a little.

‘Oh—it’s okay, I guess.’ Beatrice smiled quickly at Emily. ‘How about you?—I mean, not your new school—but—ummm, you know, just school.’

‘I hate school. I mean, not studying and stuff—I just don’t like being at school.’ Emily thought about how often she had gone home from school and cried into her pillow. ‘I like English,’ she quickly added. She didn’t want Beatrice to get a bad impression of her.

‘Yes, I like English too. Mr Garcia seems nice—and he’s enthusiastic.’

‘He’s the coolest teacher in the school.’ Emily suddenly blushed. ‘I mean—well, you know.’

Beatrice looked at her new friend again. There was suddenly a change in her expression. Beatrice looked up to see three girls blocking their way. Anar was in the middle with her arms folded across her chest.

‘You can’t go this way.’ She flicked her straight black hair behind her ear. A cluster of bangles jangled on her forearm.

‘Why not?’ Beatrice replied.

‘It’s blocked.’ Anar stared at Beatrice.

‘But our classroom is just through there.’ Beatrice pointed past Anar’s shoulder.

‘You have to go another way.’

‘Come on, Beatrice. Let’s go around.’

‘You should listen to your creepy friend. Go on, run away.’

‘No, we’re going past.’ Beatrice grabbed Emily’s hand and pushed past Anar.

‘You are soooo dead,’ Anar called after them. Her eyes were dark with anger.

Beatrice kept a firm grip of Emily’s hand until they were around the corner.

‘What was that all about?’

‘She’s always been like that. I usually try to avoid her. Anar can make life really unpleasant for you if she wants.’

Beatrice stopped and turned to face Emily. She was still holding her hand.

‘You can’t let her push you around,’ she said softly.

Emily was silent. Her shoulders were tense.

‘I am alone,’ she said in a whisper after a few moments.

‘No you’re not,’ Beatrice replied. ‘There are two of us now.’

Book review: Switched by Amanda Hocking

Switched (Trylle Trilogy, #1)Switched by Amanda Hocking

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was immediately captured by this book. What’s not to like about any story that starts with an awkward teenage girl with an unusual past? Wendy was instantly likeable and her feelings were so real it was easy being in the story with her. She was an interesting character with a range of emotions, not always doing the right thing, falling for the wrong guy, confused, angry… all of it. There was enough mystery in the story that I just had to keep reading to find out what happened next and who can resist a love triangle? If I had a little criticism it is that I kept wishing Wendy would use some of those magical powers she was meant to have. Did they only work on humans? It didn’t seem like that was the case but she was so easily overpowered and kept relying on Finn to save her that I would have like her to fight back a little more rather than just being confused and angry. My other criticism, sorry, was that the ending came to soon and left everything unresolved. Luckily I have Torn, the second book in the trilogy so I can start reading it straight away. Happy reading! 🙂

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The Witch in the Mirror – Part 16

Beatrice was lost in concentration as she looked up to think about what to write next. She wasn’t happy with the story she had been working on for homework.

Suddenly Beatrice noticed a shadow moving behind one of the bookcases. Her eyes focused on somebody standing on the other side of the bookshelf. Beatrice was sure the girl with dark hair had been watching her.

Emily had been looking for more books that mentioned witchcraft when she noticed the new girl writing in a notebook. She watched her secretly, peering through a gap in the books. Beatrice stopped writing and looked directly at where Emily was standing. Emily froze and could feel her heart thumping to think she was being watched. But Beatrice seemed to be deep in thought and soon went back to her writing. Emily let out her breath in a slow hiss and began to relax again. The red-haired girl was kind of cute with the way she moved her lips as she was writing, almost like she was casting a spell of her own.

Beatrice looked up again and the girl stopped moving. She could see the top of her black hair with the purple streak through a gap in the books. It was that girl from her English class—Emma or Emily or something. She didn’t seem like the other girls who were only interested in clothing, parties, makeup and boys—in that order. Beatrice didn’t know what Emma or Emily was interested in because they had never spoken. She kept to herself like Beatrice did. She had smiled at her once but the girl just stared back at her blankly.

Beatrice looked back down at her notebook and started writing again. Emily watched her for a moment longer. She was sure she hadn’t been seen. Maybe that cloaking spell really worked.

The bell rang for the end of lunch. Emily quickly packed her bag and hurried back to the English classroom. Mr Garcia followed her into the room and the noisy chatter quickly died down.

Maths was boring and chemistry made no sense, but Emily enjoyed English. Mr Garcia stood at the front of the room and explained irony to the class.

‘Now, class, this semester we are going to study Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.’ He leaned against a box full of books on his desk and everyone groaned. More irony, thought Emily, because it wouldn’t matter which book they were to study they would all hate it. ‘Has anybody read Jane Eyre before?’ Mr Garcia looked hopefully around the room.

Suddenly Emily put her hand up. There was a murmur as everyone turned around to stare at her.

‘Yes, Emily?’

‘I… I have read it.’ Her voice was soft.

‘Excellent, would you like to give the class a quick summary of it?’

‘Oh… ummm,’ her voice quivered. ‘It’s about a girl and she has no family and she’s sent away to boarding school where they treat her badly and eventually she becomes a governess and moves to this grand house where she falls in love with Mr Rochester but the guy is already married and then she runs away.’

Beatrice studied Emily’s face closely while she was speaking. She found herself drawn to this strange girl. She was so full of surprises. Beatrice decided she needed to find an excuse to talk to Emily.

‘Thank you, Emily. That is a good summary of the plot. What we will be exploring as we work our way through the novel is how Charlotte Bronte uses the plot as a frame to discuss the issues of concern to her.’ Mr Garcia spoke as he walked around the room handing out books. ‘As well as irony, we will be talking a lot on the theme of the truth in words. This is something that concerns Jane Eyre quite a bit. When she was young she believed if a thing was spoken then it was the truth. As she grows up she begins to see that not everybody speaks the truth. And yet the novel was written as though she was telling us the truth.’

Emily listened intently. She felt this was what she was trying to do. Write down her truth.

‘All right, ladies and gentlemen. It is time for you to present your creative writing homework pieces. Do I have any volunteers?’

Mr Garcia looked around the room but everybody was looking down at their desks. Looking anywhere else was preferable to catching Mr Garcia’s eye. Slowly Beatrice raised her hand. Mr Garcia smiled. ‘Of course, Beatrice, the floor is yours.’

He moved over to the window and leant against the windowsill. Beatrice walked to the front of the room and cleared her throat.

‘My short story,’ Beatrice began, ‘is called The Wind Witch.’ Emily sat up and began paying attention. Beatrice cleared her throat again.

A wind witch can control the wind. It seemed obvious, really. Gwenllian didn’t always know she was a wind witch. She had begun to think she wasn’t going to develop any special powers. Not all witches get a special power. Many witches perform some of the more mundane tasks for the coven—making potions, gathering herbs or making protective spells. But a witch with special powers could really be somebody. She was important. Gwenllian’s mother was a moon witch. That made her the most important witch at so many celebrations in the circle of a witch’s life. A moon witch was intune with the cycles of life. Gwenllian had hoped she would be a moon witch. She was meant to be. She should be following in her mother’s footsteps. But Gwenllian was nobody. She didn’t think there was anything special about her at all. She couldn’t even make light. That was one of the most basic witch skills. Her eyes burned whenever she remembered how the other girls had laughed when she couldn’t get the candle to light. All she ended up doing was blowing out all the candles. Their laughter still rang in her ears. And now, worst of all, she was in disgrace. A week before her 16th birthday and she had failed all of the coven’s tests. She knew she had completely let her mother down, not to mention all of the aunts. They had always said Gwenllian would be the next moon witch. But here she was, unable to even perform the most simple spells. Nobody would ever trust her again. Maybe she should just run away and join the travelling circus.

‘There’s no miracles, Gwenllian,’ her mother had said. ‘You have to work at your craft.’

But Gwenllian had worked hard. She kicked the ground. It’s just that nothing ever seemed to work.

‘Gwenllian—Gwenllian, are you out there, love?’

It was Aunt Margreet, the water witch. She had always been nice to Gwenllian.

‘There you are. They’re waiting for you. It’s time for the wind trial.’

‘I can’t do it, Aunt Margreet. I can’t face them again. I should just run away and become a jester.’

‘Oh, Gwenllian. It’s not as bad as it seems. You just need to be patient with yourself and you’ll discover your special magic.’

‘But I don’t have a special talent. I have let everyone down. I’ll just become a common herb collector.’

‘You haven’t let anyone down, honey. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with being a herb collector. It’s very important to keep the coven stocked with the right herbs. Besides, think of all those lovely days you would have wandering the forest.’

Gwenllian looked up at her aunt’s face.

‘Now you’re mocking me.’

‘Only a little bit. Come on, Gwenllian, everyone is waiting for you.’

Aunt Margreet stood and held out her hand.

Gwenllian reluctantly took it and let her aunt lead her back to the circle.

‘Just close your eyes and feel,’ Aunt Margreet whispered as she pushed Gwenllian gently into the centre of the circle.

The entire coven was silent as they watched Gwenllian. They all knew how important it was to find your special talent. The night was still except for the wind hushing through the pine trees. The other young witches had all successfully passed their trials. Now it was only Gwenllian.

‘Get on with it.’

‘Hush, Erica. Give the girl a chance.’

Gwenllian looked uncertainly around the circle of faces. Her eyes met Aunt Margreet’s smiling back at her.

‘Just relax,’ she mouthed.

Gwenllian closed her eyes and tried to steady her breathing. She felt the breeze touch her cheek. She remembered Aunt Margreet’s words and tried to concentrate on the breeze. She felt it tickle her hair, brushing her long tresses against her shoulders. The wind whirled Gwenllian’s skirt and she began to feel the magic tingling in her fingers. This is where it usually all went wrong. Gwenllian tried to focus on her breathing—each breath, slowly in and out. Gradually she realised the breeze was brushing her cheek in time with her breathing, pulsating. She felt the wind now. She imagined herself riding the gusts high into the air, far above the trees. She felt light, as light as a leaf. Gwenllian turned and circled around the clearing.

‘By the Goddess, she’s doing it!’

‘She’s a wind witch.’

‘I’m Gwenllian the Wind Witch,’ she said to herself. She began to feel the trees, swaying in the wind—her wind. It was exhilarating. After all the humiliation she was finally triumphant. She brought herself back to the circle and gently let herself float to the ground. The frill of her skirt lifted as she hovered three feet above the ground.

‘I am Gwenllian the Wind Witch,’ she said boldly. ‘I am ready to take the oath.’ She was no longer a child. She was a witch.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 15

Emily noticed the new girl at school early in the week. It wasn’t often that new students came to Pemblebury Grammar. Mostly it was just the children of rich parents who had attended the school themselves when they had been children.

Although she normally kept to herself there was something about this girl that drew Emily to her. She didn’t need friends, she told herself, but she couldn’t help watching this girl and the way she nervously flicked her curly red hair out of her eyes. Or the way she moved, like as if every step might draw unwanted attention. Emily noticed the girl always had a book in her hand. Maybe that was it.

Whatever it was Emily couldn’t stop watching her. The only thing she had learnt so far was that the girl caught the Nangle bus to school each day.

That’s why Emily was standing behind the bus shelter, waiting for the school bus to come in.

But then Anar and Heather walked into view, giggling and walking arm in arm. Emily grimaced as the crowd of school girls magically parted as they walked past. She drew further back into the shadows so she wouldn’t be spotted. The last thing she needed was for Anar to see her hiding behind the bus shelter. It was bad enough they had to share the same classes.

Emily’s attention was drawn back to the road as an old bus pulled up with a squeal of brakes and a cloud of diesel smoke.

A group of middle school kids got off first and then there was a gap.

Maybe she’s not coming today. Emily felt a twinge of disappointment.

But then there she was, stepping off the bus and right into the path of Anar and Heather.

‘Oh, sorry.’ Anar deliberately bumped the girl with her shoulder.

Emily fumed as the girl bent down to pick up her book. Anar and Heather had already walked away laughing.

The girl brushed some dirt from her book and then moved toward the classrooms. She held the book close to her chest with her arms folded as though she were protecting it.

Emily waited until the girl had walked past and then followed her to her locker. She seemed to be just as out of place as Emily. Maybe she did want a friend. The trouble was that Emily was too shy to make the first move toward friendship. Instead, she sat near the girl during class and hoped the other girl would make the first move—but nothing happened.

Later Emily sat in the school library at lunchtime and thought about the new girl. She didn’t know her name yet but in her mind she constructed elaborate stories about how they would meet. Each time it would finish with the girl with red hair reaching her hand out to touch Emily’s arm. Maybe if she tried a spell. Emily took the green book from her bag and opened the booklet hidden inside. She quickly checked that nobody was watching before flicking the pages until she found what looked like a friendship spell. Emily began repeating the words over and over.

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