A haunted town, an enchanted mirror, ghosts, hidden dimensions . . . book three of Morgon Newquist‘s episodic School of Spells & War series, The Cinder Witch, has a little bit of everything.
The adventuring duo of Alis the wizard and Cahan the warrior is tasked by their school to help the residents of the remote town of Ashfern, located in the perpetually cold and snowy Winterwood, with a little ghost problem. It seems like a spirit is haunting the mayor’s children, particularly his youngest daughter, and he’s hoping that Alis and Cahan can do something about it. While the threat of the Formless, first encountered in Down the Dragon Hole, remains a problem constantly on their minds, the duo knows that they cannot ignore their duties.
Magic is more Alis’ strongsuit, and she soon finds herself struggling with a malevolent spirit that has far more magic power than her . . . but also a past that is just as tragic.
It sounds basic, but the set-up works for such a short story. And while there are plenty of genre tropes to satisfy your fantasy itch–mystical creatures, magical spells, swordfights, and magic battles–it’s the non-genre elements that give Down the Dragon Hole it’s heft. There are bigger themes at play than dragon-hunting, themes like expanding one’s moral and intellectual horizons, fighting off extinction, and what is lawful versus what is right.
Ms. Newquist also twists some genre conventions in the forms of Alis and Cahan themselves. They embody the stereotypes of their roles while at the same time breaking free of them, making both Alis and Cahan fun characters I’d like to read more about.
Well here we are, and I’m finally getting around to exploring the world of Alis and Cahan more.
A Midsummer’s Partyis the second book in Mrs. Newquist’s School of Spells & War series, and while this is a short work focused on one night at the titular university, it serves as an interstitial character piece leading into the next volume, The Cinder Witch. The set-up is as simple as it gets: The warrior Cahan and the wizerd Alis have been adventuring partners since their adventure in the first book. During Midsummer break, when most students are partying outside, Alis is in the library studying. It isn’t until two of Cahan’s warrior friends, Saer and Elyas, and her own wizard friend Brien interrupt her that she learns it’s Cahan’s birthday. And she hasn’t gotten him a gift. Continue reading “Book Review: A Midsummer’s Party: A Tale of the School of Spells & War, Book 2 by Morgon Newquist”→
This year, though, I’m trying something different. Instead of going into NaNoWriMo by the seat of my pants like I did last year–and how I approach pretty much all of my writing–I actually did an outline!
Yeah, I didn’t outline the whole story chapter-by-chapter. I got about eight chapters in. But the overall arc, the world, and the characters were game-planned beyond merely existing in my mind. This is a big step for me, because I tend to view words as concrete:
I’m one of these weird people for whom, when something is written down, it becomes permanent. It’s almost totemistic. It becomes solid. Whether it’s words or music, I find it difficult to break out of a structure once a structure is made.
Even something like an outline, as opposed to the more free-flowing structure I keep in my brain, has a way of bringing things to life and even shackling me to the structure that it creates. This is, quite frankly, ridiculous.
I mean, how hard is it to just . . . change your outline?