Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: Spellcaster by Claudia Gray

Release date: March 5, 2013
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 389
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
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.
Spellcaster is one of those books that I'd written off. I saw a few reviews saying it wasn't that good, so I figured I'd just let it go by. So what changed? Well this Friday I'm off to the Dark Days tour stop in New Orleans, and Claudia Gray is going to be there! In anticipation, I figured I needed to give this a try and let me tell you, I'm so glad I did. No, Spellcaster isn't perfect, nor is it mind-blowingly different from a lot of other novels about witches. That doesn't change the fact that it's highly entertaining and wholly atmospheric, and I liked it.

The first chapter dumps you right into the story, not only introducing you to the two main characters but also giving a crash course in their situations. It's so nice not to see all of this information just mentioned; instead, you learn naturally. The type of witchcraft Gray creates here is really cool, too, with most spells Nadia does involving feelings and memories, tapping into the power of experience rather than physical items, which I really liked. There's a lot of aspects of the witchcraft that I really liked, actually--especially the idea of a Steadfast and the rules all witches must follow--and I hope there's more to see in books to come.

What I think I liked best in Spellcaster, though, is the atmosphere. Slowly but surely, Gray creates a deep sense of isolation in Captive's Sound. She weaves mentions of decaying buildings and grey skies into the story, giving a sense that those in Captive's Sound aren't so concerned with the outside world and that the outside world really isn't that concerned with them either. This makes the stakes feel higher, almost as if the whole world is crumbing around these people even as most of the events only concern the small town.

The romance did fall a little flat to me, though, and that is probably largely because there's not enough groundwork for it. Mateo "knows" he's going to fall in love with Nadia and they both, of course, feel a deep connection to the other. Even so, it evolves to love altogether too quickly, without enough real interaction between the two to justify it. Can we write it off as magic? :)

Nonetheless, I think Spellcaster is a very enjoyable read that you should probably reconsider if you've written it off--especially if you love Gothic-y settings like I do. I'm so glad I changed my mind, and am so looking forward to getting to Steadfast, the sequel, very soon.

About the author:

Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of Amy Vincent, a bestselling, New Orleans-based novelist. She is perhaps best known for her four-book Evernight series, which follows a girl named Bianca, who is sent to Evernight Academy, a boarding school for vampires.

Gray has also published Balthazar, a spin-off of the Evernight series about Bianca's vampire friend, and a stand-alone novel entitled Fateful, the tale of a young serving woman aboard the doomed ship Titanic, and a dark stranger who is pursued by werewolves. Gray's short stories have been featured in anthologies such as Immortal, Enthralled, and Vacations from Hell. Before working as a full-time novelist, Gray worked as a lawyer, a disc jockey, a journalist, and a waitress (a terrible one by her reckoning). She enjoys hiking, traveling, reading, and listening to music, but says she loves writing best of all.

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