Tuesday, February 6, 2018

The Sight Witch (Fanglewick School of Magic, Book 2) by E.M. Cooper

Release date: January 29, 2018
Subgenre: Middle grade fantasy, Young adult fantasy

About The Sight Witch


Marnie Speck has completed her first year at the Fanglewick School of Magic, but is waiting for the arrival of her witchy powers. When they fail to show, she is left wondering about the actual date of her birth and her true identity. After a tumultuous return to the Old World, Marnie and her best friend, Seb are welcomed to Mangleworm Avenue by Professor Lexi Spindlewood. Soon they discover life on Thundery Way, in the heart of Wandermere, is fraught with elfin and dragon dangers. Retreating to Fanglewick, they realise it too is under attack and unsafe.

Mage Mystilic ventures to Wandermere and leads Marnie and Seb on a wild dragon ride across a fantastic landscape to Morgansol in an attempt to trace Marnie’s parents’ final journey. To complicate life in the Old World, a new boy, the last apprentice at Blends and Fizzles, the potions and alchemy emporium, shows an unhealthy curiosity about Marnie and her newfound divination skills. 




Marnie Speck woke on Christmas day in the mansion belonging to her foster parents, Zachary and Blythe Arnold, who were both important wizards in the greasy, industrial city of Downfell in Northern England. She watched fluffy, white clouds moving slowly overhead through the skylight in her bare attic room. Yawning and stretching, she didn’t anticipate presents or celebrations on this special day but didn’t care in the least. She was happy—probably the happiest girl in Downfell.
A year ago, she had travelled from Earth to a parallel dimension in the Old World, peopled with fantastic beings such as wizards, witches, elves and dragons. She’d received the best present ever months ago in the Old World after the Fanglewick School of Magic accepted her as a first year student. Marnie had also discovered she was a witch. In a couple of weeks, when she reached her fourteenth birthday, an age when witches received their magical powers, she would finally be able to brew potions, cast spells and fly on a broomstick. She could hardly wait.
‘It’s a water-shivering day,’ said Bella, the talking cat Marnie had received her along with her wand when the teachers had welcomed her into Fanglewick. The cat was perched on the window ledge watching Clara, the cook scuttling along the path in the sleet under a bright yellow umbrella.
‘Merry Christmas, Bella,’ Marnie said.
Bella gave her a faraway look before leaping onto Marnie’s bed. ‘Thank you. I’ve observed many celebrations, but I must say, in recent times this is the first occasion I’ve received such a kind wish-thought.’
Marnie stroked her sleek black fur. ‘You’re welcome.’
‘Marn-eee,’ Molly, Marnie’s foster sister called from the bottom of the ladder that led to Marnie’s attic bedroom. ‘Mrs Arnold says you have to come and help Clara in the kitchen.’
Marnie struggled out of bed, pulled her clothes on and climbed down the ladder to where Molly was still waiting to give her a sour look. ‘Hurry up. Just ’cause it’s Christmas doesn’t mean you get to sleep through chores and breakfast.’
‘And happy Christmas to you too, Molly.’ Humming a carol, Marnie strode along the polished timber floor of the corridor towards the kitchen, enjoying the holly wreaths hanging on doors and silver tinsel strung from the ceiling.
‘Good morning and happy Christmas,’ she called to Seb and Clara as she entered the kitchen.
‘You too, Marnie.’ Clara waved a handful of stuffing at her. ‘Perfect timing. I need another pair of hands to wrangle with this brute of a turkey. You’ll need to wash your hands first though.’
‘It’s enormous ... well, actually it’s the first I’ve ever seen,’ said Marnie holding the cold turkey. ‘What’s in the stuffing?’
‘It’s my mother’s recipe: cranberries, pecans, bread, raisins, butter and herbs.’
‘Everything smells delicious.’
‘You’re in luck,’ Clara said as she stuffed the turkey. ‘We’re having guests coming for lunch and before that, photographers from the Downfell News. The Arnolds will want to make a good impression.’
‘Do you mean we get to eat some of this too?’ said Seb, another one of the Arnolds’ foster kids and one of Marnie’s closest friends. Seb was a special kind of wizard called a scatterling because he was half-human. He had just finished his first year studying magic at Fanglewick with Marnie.
Clara nodded as she offered the teenagers a plate of buttered toast, rashers of bacon and mugs of cocoa. ‘Better keep your strength up. When you’ve had breakfast, I want you to take that trolley with the place settings and cutlery into the library. We’ll be eating lunch in there.’
Seb collected the tablecloth, napkins and a small brown-paper parcel before following Marnie to the library.
He nodded at the parcel. ‘That’s for you, Marnie. Happy Christmas!’
Although Marnie had received Christmas and birthday presents at the orphanage, they were always boring things like new shoes, clothes or school supplies. They were never personal or frivolous. She took the package and sat on a chair. Inside the wrapping paper was a beautiful wooden picture frame decorated with stars and moons. Her eyes welled with tears as she ran a fingertip over the painted carvings. ‘It’s beautiful. Did you make it?’
‘Aye.’ Embarrassed, Seb grabbed a broom and began sweeping the library floor. ‘In Crawfoot’s class.’ Professor Muriel Crawfoot was an unconventional teacher and a witch, who took the students for lessons in relaxation and creativity, which were essential for preventing madness and collapse brought on by practising too much magic.
‘Thank you. But I didn’t get you anything.’
‘You didn’t have to. It’s just that I saw the photo of your mum and dad on the desk in your room at school, and I thought it looked lonely without a frame.’
Marnie beamed at Seb. ‘Thanks, that’s really thoughtful of you. I love it.’ The photo was the only one she had and her most precious possession in both her worlds—Fanglewick and the Old World. Although she knew what her parents, Amelia and Hamish Speck, had looked like from the photo that was all she knew of them. Someone had left her as a baby on the steps of the church next to St Augustine’s Children’s Home in a rose-covered suitcase. This year she had vowed to increase her efforts to discover more about them.
Charlie burst into the library. ‘What are you two slackers up to now?’
‘Happy Christmas, Charlie,’ Marnie said brightly to the Arnolds’ only son. He was a boy of nearly fifteen, who made their lives unpleasant and had cheated on the exam to get into Fanglewick. In his first weeks at Fanglewick, Charlie had summoned an evil djinn and let a dark, unknown creature into the Old World. Although Marnie and Seb’s friend, Mage Theodore Mystilic had safely returned the djinn to the demonic halo, the fate of the dark creature was still unknown.
Charlie scowled as he prodded some of the gifts wrapped in shiny foil and satin ribbon. ‘Don’t touch the presents under the tree, will you? They’re not for you.’
‘Wouldn’t dream of it,’ Seb said as he and Marnie spread the white tablecloth on the table, which also served as a scrying table when Charlie’s father, Mage Zachary Arnold entertained his wizard friends, who formed the Northern England Chapter of the Wizarding Elite. Mr Arnold had recently scored a prestigious position, heading up the Border Protection Department of the Imporium, the magical government of the Old World. He would be returning with Seb, Marnie and Charlie to that world after the winter break.
Mr and Mrs Arnold entered the library arm in arm, obviously delighted to be together again.
‘Hurry up,’ Mrs Arnold said to Seb and Marnie as she cast a critical eye over the tablecloth and smoothed an imagined crease. ‘Once you’ve finished here, return to the kitchen to help Clara. Make sure you shower and dress in your best clothes by eleven. I want you clean and respectable to greet our guests.’
As Marnie and Seb left the library, they heard the Arnolds wishing each other a happy Christmas before descending on their gifts.
At midday, lunch was ready and the smell of roasting meat and bread filled the corridors. Marnie’s mouth watered and unable to contain her excitement, she paced backwards and forwards in the kitchen.
‘Go on, off you go,’ Clara said when the front door bell rang.
Seb and Marnie darted off to join Molly and the two younger foster children, Ping and Jackson in the corridor. A girl with large green eyes stood with them.
‘Hello, you’re new aren’t you?’ Marnie said to her.
The girl nodded, her dark ponytail bobbing up and down. ‘I’m Iris from the orphanage in London,’ she said in a nervous tone.
‘I haven’t seen you around. When did you get here?’
‘Last night.’
Marnie gave her a hug. ‘Hi, Iris. I’m Marnie, another one of your sisters. This is going to be a fun day, I promise.’
The girl grinned shyly as Marnie took her hand and coaxed her forwards.
Miss Baxter was first to arrive and stamped the snow off her shoes before bustling in the doorway, followed closely by the Downfell mayor, Mrs Ratread and her husband, a pale thin shadow of a man. Miss Baxter nodded at the foster children lined up for inspection. ‘Good afternoon, children, merry Christmas.’
In a boisterous manner, Mrs Ratread waddled past the row of foster children, shaking hands and tousling heads while her husband retreated to a drink stand in the library. ‘What a lucky group of children, you are, to be celebrating Christmas with the wonderful Arnolds.’ She smiled at Mrs Arnold. ‘Ah, Blythe, you’re providing such a noble service for Downfell and these poor unfortunate children.’
Miss Baxter nodded in agreement. ‘That’s what I tell her. She and Zachary are living treasures.’
Marnie caught Seb’s eye and grinned. Unfortunate and poor were the last words she would’ve used to describe themselves. However, she knew life was different for the children who hadn’t made it to the Old World. That was something she would have to work on.
A reporter from the Downfell News arrived next, flashing his camera at the foster children as Mrs Arnold and Mrs Ratread posed in front of them while handing out beautifully wrapped and ribboned parcels. The reporter chatted to Mrs Ratread as Marnie discovered with disappointment that the parcels only contained soap and socks.
After the gift presentation, Mrs Arnold hustled the foster children into the library and directed them to sit as more guests arrived while the reporter followed them and snapped more happy pictures.
Mage Fairstar and the psychic wizard, Agnes were welcomed into the library by the Arnolds. They were barely recognisable in common human clothes—dresses, coats and high-heeled shoes.
The last time Marnie had seen the pair was when they had come to a meeting of the Northern England Chapter of the Wizarding Elite in this room. She had been hiding in the cleaning cupboard by the door and eavesdropping on their meeting.
Today Mage Fairstar and Agnes had brought strange gifts—bottles of blue and green liquid and small, fat hessian sacks tied with black ribbon, which Marnie guessed were valuable ingredients for potions or alchemy. Mr Arnold deposited and locked them in a small-shelved room adjoining the library before returning to his gramophone. He had dragged it in from the glasshouse and kept changing records to play an unending stream of traditional Christmas carols.
As the afternoon wore on, Marnie ate roast beef and turkey smothered in gravy accompanied by roast potatoes, pumpkin and peas. ‘I’ve never tasted anything so amazing,’ she said to Seb.
He grinned and pointed at the trolley overflowing with Christmas puddings, Yule logs, mince pies and jugs of cream and brandy sauce. ‘And we haven’t reached dessert.’
Marnie spotted Bella in the fernery and dropped a few scraps at her feet when the Arnolds weren’t looking although Agnes saw and gave her a small smile. Unnoticed, Bella slipped across the floor and sat by Marnie’s feet gobbling up the treats fed to her under the table.
A rather flustered Professor Thigimus arrived towards the end of the first course before the servants dished out dessert. He was the original president of the Northern England Chapter, who had retired a year ago to become professor of alchemy and potions at the Fanglewick School of Magic.
‘Greetings, Clarence.’ Mr Arnold pushed his chair back and hurried to greet Thigimus, who gave Mr Arnold a tall bottle filled with swirling, dark-orange liquid, which Marnie knew wasn’t orange juice.
Thigimus’ hair was haywire and he had a beetroot-red tint to his face as though he had fingered an electrical filament.
‘Rough trip?’ Mr Arnold asked.
Thigimus sagged forwards and whispered something in his ear.
Instantly, Mr Arnold lost his Christmas cheer and spoke in a rapid, strangled manner, ‘Come through here, Clarence and I’ll show you where you can hang your cloak.’ The pair disappeared through the doorway where Thigimus had entered the library. Just before the door closed, Bella slipped unseen (apart from Marnie) through the opening.
When the pair returned, they were subdued. Neither wanted dessert and instead, both settled for a few swigs of the dark-orange liquid Thigimus had brought with him. Marnie noticed Agnes scratching her arm and watching them curiously.
When Miss Baxter and Mrs Ratread and her husband left mid-afternoon, the remaining wizards gathered in the study and everyone else was directed to their rooms for a nap.
Marnie beckoned Seb to come to the attic and Bella accompanied them. Once they were safely away from anyone overhearing them, Marnie said, ‘I’ve something important to tell you, Seb, but first I have to talk to Bella.’
Seb burst into laughter. ‘You have to consult your cat?’
‘I’m serious.’ She turned to Bella. ‘Tell me what you heard.’
‘Thigimus only came back from Fanglewick yesterday. He was in a lather-dither. There’s been a horror-shock in Wandermere.’
Marnie could hear Bella was struggling to convey the awful news.
Astounded, Seb listened to the cat yowl and growl in an amazing array of tones. ‘Your cat ... it’s talking to you, isn’t it?’
Marnie nodded and after focusing on Bella’s story, relayed it to Seb. ‘Thigimus got back from Fanglewick yesterday and says there have been murders in Wandermere this week—four of them. Three victims were townspeople, but the other was from the Imporium. He was a great wizard mage—the president.’
Shocked, Seb looked between Marnie and the cat. ‘So what you’re saying is the cat can talk, you can understand her and the Imporium president is dead?’




About E.M. Cooper:

E.M. Cooper is an Australian author who enjoys writing fantasy for readers from middle grade and up.  She has written the five book fantasy series, Xavier and a paranormal fantasy series for older readers under another pen name.



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