Almost Magic by Kathleen Bullock
Reviewed by Geoff Nelder author of the twice-award-winning ARIA Trilogy and other novels; short story judge, editor, and a secret wizard in his garden.
Don’t give Almost Magic to your young teenager! If you do you’ll not see them again for days as the page-turning magical adventures grab their imagination and they become lost to the real world. It’s one of those rare books that charms its way into your psyche with spell-binding quests and wish fulfilment. It’s the nearest thing a young reader will find to a fictional grimoire (a strange-sounding word for an enchanted volume of magic handed down, wizard to witch, dragon to gargoyle, mysterious mother to dangerous daughter. I won’t allow anyone to peek at mine.) Almost Magic is a book bursting of delights, of and about magic and how it can both get in the way of life for Apple and yet be intrinsic to her existence. Considering that her family are not like the Ordinaries (you and me, probably) they possess delightfully human qualities of care, empathy, jealousy and humour.
The nuts and bolts of this collection of conjuring is a quest to save the Earth by Apollonia Bramblewood, (Apple) a 12½-year-old barely-competent witch, learning her craft. She believes she is an Attractor. You know, someone who attracts weird and often undesirable creatures instead of the admiring looks that her older, beautiful sister attracts by the magnet-full.
I like the way witches die in this book. Rather like in the old song ‘Old soldiers never die, they simply fade away’ the dying witch first loses sight of her toes then fingers and so forth. Quaint, and epitomises much of the enchantment in this book, brimming as it is with observational witticisms – ‘there are dreamers and there are dreams, quite separate beings’.
The chapters are adventurous episodes in Apple’s coming-of-wizard-age each hooking the reader to turn the pages to see how her spells go wrong or nearly right as she tries via quests to save the Earth from evil forces. She, more so than Ordinary youngsters has to learn to speak accurately, especially with her spells. For example she asks her Wanda to make her scooter go, and it did—without her! It’s one of several themes in this magical road trip, to make oneself understood unambiguously. A pleasurable way for the reader to learn such a lesson.
As a secret writer of magic myself, (or is that a writer of secret magic?) I commend Kathleen Bullock’s Almost Magic to all imaginative and sorcery teens who wish to put hocus-pocus fun into their Ordinary lives.
Spread the word. Use your Spell-phone (haha) and get Almost Magic out to its readers.