Author: Kate Brian
Release: December 21st, 2010
YA Book Queen's Summary:
In 1915, Eliza Williams is sent off to the Billings School for Girls by her mother with hopes that the school will change Eliza as it has changed May, Eliza's perfect older sister. But Eliza is not like her sister. She craves adventure, loves to read tragic novels, and would rather die than become a demure clone of her sister.
Upon arrival, Eliza quickly bonds with Catherine White and Alice Ainsworth, which also unfortunately means she has to spend time with Theresa Billings, Catherine's annoyingly superior best friend. Theresa makes her disdain for Eliza readily known, because a Williams is always a Williams...and she does not like any of the Williams girls.
Together, these four girls discover a buried secret that leads to mysterious books about witchcraft. Unable to resist the temptation, they grow more attached to the magic, capable of more spells than they could ever dream of. But the more they use, the more troubling events come to pass until finally the worst possible outcome happens. And Eliza is about to learn that some secrets are better off buried.
Review: With an eerie, foreboding feel to the magic lying within the pages, The Book of Spells is intriguing and definitely ends with quite a surprise.
In this prequel to the Private series, a surprising direction is taken: Magic. Eliza Williams, our protagonist, is the focus of the story (third person narrative) and she has what our heroine of the Private series does not: a backbone. She isn't afraid to take charge and does not let people walk over her, but she still remains a bit likable. I was disappointed when the only character I truly adored died (why do they always do that???), but it did make for a very interesting few chapters.
The scenery is fresh, and despite being set in 1915, it's easy enough to relate with everything. I would have loved a bit more of the historical aspect, because sometimes it did seem just a bit too much like life now. Between boy drama, sneaking around after dark, casting spells on boys who get too fresh, and dark consequences, The Book of Spells was a much needed boost to the Private series.
Highlights: I got that spark from this novel that the Private series is starting to lose, that thing that just makes Brian's books so addictive. The story was different from what I was expecting, and the last few chapters before the end were very exciting to read, not to mention surprising.
Lowlights: The story seems to end very abruptly. Yes, things are tied up enough, but I've still got plenty of questions that need answers - and I hate it when novels aren't tied up (which leaves me with a bit of hope that a sequel will be in the works). Some of the characters seemed like different and slightly altered versions of ones in Private, but I enjoyed these "prequel" characters a bit more.
Do you need to read any of the other books in the Private series? No. This one stands alone, and can be easily read/understood without reading Brian's Private series.