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A Ghost of Magic by J L Clayton

A few months ago, I had a conversation on Twitter with JL Clayton (@JLClaytonBooks) and since then, she has become a lovely friend. The magic of social media! Having read her first two books in the Chosen Saga, A Spark of Magic and A Blaze of Magic, in quick succession, casting aside another sequel from another author that I had been eagerly awaiting, I was really keen to see where she would take Charlie and her band of lust-filled boys on her magical journey. 

I wasn’t disappointed in the least. Clayton has developed Charlie from the obstinate, innocent teenager of book one to a determined, feisty young lady in book three. That’s not to say that Charlie has fully evolved into someone who knows what she wants and goes for it, but she has most certainly made a progression from book one and two, as she becomes more aware of her powers and what she can do with them.

At the end of A Blaze of Magic, Nikko was struck by a spell by the evil Kate and Charlie unsuccessfully tried to revive him, instead making him a ghost who was tethered to Charlie’s magic. In A Ghost of Magic, Nikko is getting used to life as a ghost while Charlie is determined to try and find a solution to his ghostly state. However, Nikko is just one of her worries as Crispin, the Traveller, looms large. Disguised as new boy, Cris, he weaves his way into Charlie’s life in order to gain her powers and toy with her along the way. As he manipulates her friends and manages to quell any suspicions raised about who he really is, Crispin finds himself fighting a burgeoning feeling of affection for Charlie.

Clayton’s real talent is in the way she changes the narrative voice to suit each character so that they could have been written by different authors, they are all so distinctive. In this book, the story is told in turn by Nikko, Charlie and Crispin. Clayton doesn’t try and make Nikko and Charlie appear older than they are. Whilst they are on the cusp of adulthood, their naivety is displayed through the narrative, whereas Crispin is more formal, an adult in every sense of the word.

There is a real sense throughout the book that this book is a build up to something big and although there are climactic episodes in A Ghost of Magic, it still feels like this is an ongoing journey and certainly the ending of the book leaves more questions than answers, which is a good way to leave it when, as I understand it, this will be a four book series. Clayton keeps the reader gripped throughout as Charlie is duped on regular occasions then enlightened to her powers and to those surrounding her.

The men in Charlie’s life play the largest presence as Tru, Jace, Asher and Crispin fight for Charlie’s affections. I have my own opinion on who Charlie should end up with but time will tell! That’s assuming that these suitors really are in love with her and not being drawn to her by magical means. However, I think that this will be addressed in the next book. At least, I hope so!

Ultimately, this book is a rollercoaster journey between the mortal and magical worlds. Clayton navigates Charlie through her confusion over her powers and emotions by juxtaposing Charlie’s ever-changeable thoughts to Crispin stoic determination and arrogance that he reigns supreme. Clayton has answered questions raised by A Blaze of Magic and left plenty of questions to be answered in the next book. I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

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A Blaze of Magic by J.L. Clayton

Last week, I read A Spark of Magic by J.L. Clayton and loved it. (A Spark of Magic Book Review) I loved it so much that I put my next intended read on hold to read the sequel, A Blaze of Magic. There were so many unanswered questions and readers are left with a fantastically frustrating cliffhanger that I cannot imagine what those who read it before the sequel was released went through during that period! We were left wondering how Charlie was going to handle the fact that she was a supernatural with magic powers and that her Mum and Dad weren’t her real parents.

A Blaze of Magic is quite different in comparison to the first novel. It is quite fast paced and there are many more supernatural happenings than in the first one. I read it quicker than the first one, over two nights. Whereas with A Spark of Magic, there was a lot of necessary characterisation to inform the reader of the key characters, A Blaze of Magic is pure, unadulterated action from start to finish. We are introduced to a number of new characters, Asher the vampire being my favourite, and after being totally anti-vampire up to now, I think Asher may be the exception to the rule. I’m not going to say whether he falls into the “goodie” or “baddie” camp as I wouldn’t want to give too much away but either way, he’s very alluring.

Charlie gains her powers very early in the book and it seems that she is more than just your average supernatural being; she is a super-supernatural being called a Cypher. She has the ability to suck the powers from others to use herself and is expected to be the champion of the Supernaturals to destroy the Traveller, Crispin, the enigmatic, Christian Grey-like (in my opinion) character from the first book. However, she struggles to cope with the enormity of the task being put to her and she also struggles to control the powers that she has. Considering she is only 16 it is no surprise that she is finding it difficult to put her thoughts in order to deal with this situation, and like in the first book, it is easy to forget that Charlie is so young.

One of the powers that Charlie acquires is to read the thoughts of the other characters. This works as a great technique to allow the reader to know what the other characters are thinking as Charlie gains her super-powers. However,  when it is used to give clues about which of the characters from A Spark of Magic will betray Charlie and the other “sups”, I think it was all a bit too obvious. Perhaps this was the author’s intention but it could have been dragged out a bit more and been more of a surprise when Charlie is faced with her enemy. However, this is a small niggle, and does not by any means ruin the plot.

Like in A Spark of Magic, the narrative voice switches from Charlie to other major characters in the book and the writing style for each voice is barely recognisable from the previous one. This is a real testament to Clayton’s writing ability and you really feel like the personality traits of each character is emanating from the page as she switches from snarky, self deprecating Charlie, to the poetic, formal Crispin with incredible ease.

As the action moves location right at the beginning of A Blaze of Magic, to the supernatural town of Callamose, the sense that Charlie knows this place well even though she doesn’t remember ever being there is handled really well. Having been here before many times but had her memory wiped each time lets the reader know why she was so drawn to Jace when she first met him. They were great friends at Callamose, and Jace was in love with Charlie. Jace plays a much more prominent character in this novel and while I was possibly Team Tru in A Spark of Magic, I was definitely Team Jace by the end of A Blaze of Magic. We receive justifications for Jace’s often arrogant or unreasonable reactions in the first novel and honestly, I can’t imagine how Charlie and Tru’s relationship would work given the history that has been revealed at the end of the first novel and in A Blaze of Magic. Jace displays real, true love for Charlie and I’m not sure Tru will be able to compete with him, even though Charlie hasn’t really given up on her relationship with Tru by the end of this second novel.

Crispin looms in the background throughout A Blaze of Magic and I still love this character.  His end game is still a little unclear and it appears that he is very attracted to Charlie as he invades her dreams. We are given the idea that he intends to end Charlie and her friends in Callamose and that she is being set up to be his nemesis, yet he courts her like a potential lover and she is definitely attracted to him. I’d like to think that perhaps Charlie’s influence will imprint a little goodness in Crispin and they could become some superpower ridding the world of evil but perhaps that is just my imagination running away with me and I’m trying to find some justification for finding this totally evil character rather attractive! However, I get the impression that this is not the amazing Ms. Clayton’s intention and that Crispin is, and will always be, evil. I’d definitely like to see more of him in the next novel.

Charlie is still battling with her feelings for the men in her life and the arrival of Asher adds to the mix of confusion for her. I love the way that our opinion of Asher is continually challenged throughout this book. Not as bad as Crispin, but definitely not as inherently good as Jace and Tru, he adds an extra layer of indecision for Charlie. I like Asher a lot. Charlie continues to mentally berate herself, not just about her attraction to Tru, Jace, Crispin and Asher but about her abilities as a supernatural. However, she shows great promise as the saviour of the supernaturals against Crispin and she rises up to the challenge somewhat in her actions throughout this book, albeit against a lesser power.

As with the first novel, there are some issues with the proof-reading, but I implore anyone who would be put off from reading it because of this to get over it and appreciate this wonderful narrative for its substance because it is truly gripping and a wonderful reading experience. I do not usually like fantasy novels, but I’m becoming increasingly aware that I should not rule out any novel just because of the genre it fits into. My new-found liking for crime fiction, for example, should be testament to this. I cannot wait to read the next book in the Chosen Saga and I hope my new friend, Jennifer Lee Clayton, will be sure to give me the heads up on a release date so I can make sure I pre-order in good time! There are plenty of unanswered questions again at the end of A Blaze of Magic and again, one massive cliffhanger that promises a fantastic third book in this brilliant series. The action at the end of the novel occurs very quickly that you are left thinking “What just happened?” and initially, I wasn’t sure that this was a good thing, frustrated that I has been left wanting more but in reality this is a perfect ending. The reader is left reeling and desperate to know what happens next, sure to pick up the next book in the series, which is what, I would imagine, every author wishes for. Jennifer Lee Clayton’s Chosen Saga just keeps getting better and better and I can promise you this: once you have read the first book you will feel compelled to read the next one, and the next one, and the next one…

 

 

A Spark of Magic by J.L.Clayton (Chosen Saga – Book One)

One thing that I love about writing book reviews is the wonderful new connections that I have made as a result of the social media outlets that I have developed Segnalibro with. Twitter, in particular, has been brilliant for this and has led to me reading some wonderful books following tweets from authors. Over the last few weeks, I have developed a lovely Twitter friendship with Jennifer Clayton, and downloaded her two books to read and review. Now, I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that fantasy based novels are not usually my cup of tea, but I loved chatting to Jennifer so much, I couldn’t help but give her books a read. First up was A Spark of Magic, the first book in the Chosen Saga.

The opening is very enigmatic as we are given a very poetic hint at what is to come and what the themes of this novel will be. It reads like a prophecy and gives the reader a delicious sense of trepidation of what is to come. When we are introduced to Crispin in the prologue, the dark, magical traveller who takes great pleasure at ending the lives of his followers when they displease him, the beginning of the novel starts to make sense. Yet any potential thoughts about the plot are blown out of the water when, in Chapter One, Charlie, a clumsy 15-year-old girl is introduced as the main protagonist.  Written in first person narrative, Charlie is a bundle of contradictions and mixed up teenage angst. Clayton captures the stressed out teenager perfectly, as Charlie flits from one thought to the next, her emotions all over the place and laid bare for the reader to know.

A Spark of Magic tells Charlie’s story as she arrives in yet another new town after moving house for the umpteenth time. Charlie knows her Mum and Dad have not been completely honest with her and her anger at this ebbs and flows throughout. She describes her thoughts as they occur, playing out conversations in her head and is quite self-deprecating about herself. Initially, this is a bit irritating but as you rationalise that you are effectively in the head of a 15-year-old hormonal teenage girl, it works really well. I had been warned that it was a slow starter but to stick with it although I think the slow build up to a gripping climax works very well in this plot.

Charlie ultimately finds herself in a quandary as she finds herself attracted to two boys. Tru is the handsome Native American boy who befriends her outside his mother’s shop, after Charlie has been told a haunting story about Isha, the head of a Native American tribe, and his wolf companion, and about how a man only know as the Traveller wiped out Isha’s entire tribe and ripped the heart out of Isha’s wolf. The reason the Traveller lets Isha live is so that Isha can tell the rest of his people about the Traveller’s power and strength, so that they would always fear him. Charlie is spellbound by this story, as she is about the sweet, handsome Tru. He offers to give her a ride to school on her first day, but unbeknownst to Charlie, her mother has arranged for the son of a family friend to pick her up. Jace is also a handsome boy who infuriates and enchants Charlie with his confident flirtation, right from the moment he meets her. Charlie doesn’t want to be attracted to Jace, but finds that she is. Again, Charlie is confused and bewildered and we are privy to her every thought.

However, there is a third person who seems to invade Charlie’s dreams, or are they dreams? Charlie isn’t sure and neither are we as readers at first. However, it becomes clear that Crispin,who we are introduced to in the Prologue, is the traveller from Tru’s mother’s story and that he is, for some strange reason, manifesting himself in Charlie’s dreams. As we get Crispin’s point of view too, we are allowed to know more than our main protagonist, and the juxtaposition of the two viewpoints works really well to build up the tension. As readers, we know the danger, to a point, before Charlie does, but we are also aware that Charlie is having more of an effect on Crispin than he thought he would and it appears that Charlie unwittingly has a hold on him too.

Charlie is also experiencing some weird changes in her behaviour that she does not seem to be able to control. I’m not going to elaborate further on this because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who reads it, but something is definitely amiss as Charlie struggles to get a grip on her thoughts and doubts. It also becomes obvious that Jace knows more than he is letting on and that Tru may not be all he appears either, though whether this is in a malevolent way or not, you’ll have to read to find out, and I’m not sure you’ll know all the answers by the end of this novel either!

Sometimes, it is easy to forget that Charlie is only nearly sixteen. As she experiences the feelings of first love, she doesn’t know what to do and the uncertainties in her life continue to overwhelm her for a lot of the narrative, yet at other times, she appears quite grown up in her approach and the adult themes of some of the chapters add to this sense that she is older than her years at times. The dynamic between Charlie and the other characters is really well written so that the reader knows there is more than meets the eye, but only clues are given about how this will manifest.

Personally, I could understand how Charlie was torn between Tru and Jace and my opinion changed a few times in the novel. However, the enigmatic Crispin was the character who I found most intriguing and I felt that he had a Christian Grey feel about him, a detached curiosity about someone who he should be able to overpower easily but is strangely under her spell, much like Christian with Ana.

If I had one minor complaint about this book it would be that the proof-reading could be better, but I think that has more to do with my personal anally retentive approach to spelling and grammar than anything else. It certainly doesn’t detract from what a brilliant book this is. Clayton’s analysis of a teenage girl’s mind is absolutely spot on and as I have a fifteen year old daughter myself, I am only too aware of how changeable they can be! I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did, mainly because of the fantastical element of it, but I cannot wait to read the sequel, A Blaze of Magic. There are so many open ends left begging for answers that I am really keen to know what happens next, and it has been left with one humdinger of a cliffhanger. Even at the end of this book it is still hard to tell how everything links up at the moment but I hope that by reading A Blaze of Magic, I’ll be enlightened. Most of all, though, I am in awe at the writing skills of my new friend Jennifer Clayton, as she seamlessly flits between the deep, mysterious narrative of Crispin, to the self-doubting, yet tougher than she appears, Charlie.