Review of Middle grade fantasy Spell Sweeper by Lee Edward Födi
There’s nothing magical about wizard school
. . . at least, not for Cara Moone.
Most wizard kids spend their days practicing spells and wielding wands, but Cara? She’s on the fast track to becoming a MOP (a.k.a. Magical Occurrence Purger). You see, when a real wizard casts a spell, it leaves behind a residue called spell dust—which, if not disposed of properly, can cause absolute chaos in the nonmagical world. It’s a MOP’s job to clean up the mess.
And no one makes more of a mess than Harlee Wu. Believed to be the Chosen One, destined to save the magical world, Harlee makes magic look easy. Which makes her Cara’s sworn nemesis. Or she would be, if she even knew Cara existed.
Then one of Harlee’s spells leaves something downright dangerous behind it: a rift in the fabric of magic itself. And when more rifts start to appear around the school, all in places Harlee has recently used magic, Cara is pretty sure the so-called “Chosen One” isn’t going to save the world. She’s going to destroy it.
It will take more than magic to clean up a mess this big. Fortunately, messes are kind of Cara’s thing.
Excerpt from Spell Sweeper
* * *
There’s nothing magical about a broom
* * *
It’s one of my earliest memories, vivid as a full moon. I’m only four or five, and Su is walking me to school like any good big sister. We stop at the crosswalk and I see an old woman sweeping the pavement, just a few feet away. She wears a frayed sweater, grimy jeans, and maybe a secondhand pair of sneakers. Her broom is wisps of straw, the handle fashioned from a twisted stick of wood. Everything about her is ordinary. Mundane. But as I watch her, the morning sun catches her just right, and for an instant she ignites with a golden luster, frozen in a perfect moment of magic—a fairy sweeping away the shadows of the night.
Then she vanishes. Maybe it’s a trick of the light, maybe my childish frame of mind, but I’m convinced she’s a witch, that she has leapt upon her broomstick and taken to the clouds. When I tell Su this, she doesn’t laugh or chide me for having an overactive imagination. Instead, her eyes dance with wonder.
“Well, there is magic in the world, Cara. That’s what Dad always says. Right?”
I nod dramatically in agreement.
Of course, that was a long time ago. A lot of things have changed since then—with me, with my sister, with everything.
I know now that you can’t fly away on a broomstick. It’s not that I grew up and stopped believing in magic—actually, I believe in it more, which is what happens when you’re chosen to attend one of the most prestigious wizard schools in the world. But here’s the thing: when I was given my own broom, it wasn’t so that I could soar across the skies, read prophecies in the stars, or fight dragons in wand-to-fang combat.
It was because I’m a failure.
Trust me. It doesn’t matter if you’re some old lady on a street corner or a kid with a whisper of magic in her blood—a broom is for one thing and one thing only: sweeping.
Yay, me. I’m going to wizard school.
And it’s terrible.
My Review of Spell Sweeper
I make no secret of the fact I’m a sucker for books about magic schools. So when this came up, it went on my immediate “read this as soon as you can” list. A magic school where the main character is essentially a magical janitor? Hundred points for concept and creativity right there. Extra points for all the “why did this place look like a regular school? Shouldn’t there be ghosts in the closets?” comments. Those were just fun.
I suppose I don’t need to say I enjoyed the setting. The magic was also very neat. I like how brooms were used to actually clean, and I had my ESP pleasantly confirmed when I got to the author’s note at the end and it read that the book started with the question of a magic world where brooms were used to clean. The only thing that really tripped me up for much of the book was Cara’s attitude. Even though she’s middle-school aged and feels like she got the short end of the stick (or broom handle), she was overly sarcastic about everything and judgmental to the point where it took me a while to get past that and start truly liking her. By the end, though, I’d warmed up.
Not much else to say. If you’re a fan of magic schools, I recommend reading this. The ending definitely left room for a sequel, and I’ll be keeping a lookout for that.
About Lee Edward Födi
Lee Edward Födi is an author, illustrator, and specialized arts educator—or, as he likes to think of himself, a daydreaming expert. He is the author of several books for children, including The Secret of Zoone and the Kendra Kandlestar series. He is a co-founder of the Creative Writing for Children Society (CWC), a not-for-profit program that helps kids write their own books. He has the joy of leading workshops for kids in Canada, the US, Korea, China, Thailand, and other places here and there. Lee lives in Vancouver, where he shares a creative life with his wife Marcie and son Hiro.
Find him online:
Lee Edward Födi will be awarding a Spell Sweeper prize pack: Hand-made miniature broom, hand-made magical creature egg, spell bottle, and bookmarks to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
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