Casting Spells

casting spells by Barbara Bretton Sugar Maple, Vermont, is a lovely town that is distanced from the evils of the world as most of us know it - a haven for ordinary people who welcome tourists to their shoppes, the inn, the playhouse, the library, and the storybook charms of quaint New England.

Chloe Hobbs, owner of Sticks & Strings, provides tourists and townies with yarn, knitting instruction, and the kind of hand-knitted sample items that can tempt even the most stash-stuffed knitter to open her purse. Every knitter knows that Chloe's store is the place "where your yarn never tangles, your sleeves always come out the same length, and you always, always get gauge." Sounds perfectly magical, doesn't it?

Well, it is, and it isn't. Actually, the town has flourished as a haven for ordinary-looking people who only drop their mortal mufti amongst themselves, when their true natures and skills can shine -- and a diverse group it is, what with the werewolves, selkies, wizards, faeries, shape-shifters, poltergeists, vampires, and trolls.

Other businesspeople in Sugar Maple are free to use their powers to create the inviting enchantments that delight tourists. (Productions at the Sugar Maple Arts Playhouse are easy to cast, since all of the actors are shapeshifters!) But Chloe, the product of a mixed marriage between a sorceress and a mortal man seems to have inherited no magic at all. Not a whit of it.

Chloe's friends are eager to get her married, hoping that she, like her sorceress mother, will find her magic when she falls in love. The townspeople are concerned about Chloe as well. As the only female descendant of the sorceress who enchanted the town and kept the magic folk safe for centuries, it is Chloe's presence that ensures the integrity of the spell.

But the spell has been weakening for awhile. Its vulnerability has been proven by the drowning death of a lovely young woman who had just purchased a delicate shawl from Chloe. This brings another threat to the town: a handsome hunk of a policeman from Outside, sent to investigate the death.

Chloe's friends have failed to find a suitable partner for her, try as they might: there had been neither magic nor chemistry between Chloe and the troll, or the selkie whose breath smelled like smoked salmon. But - when Chloe meets the hunk and shakes his hand, sparks fly - literally - and true magic enters Chloe's life.

A subplot about a power-hungry, purple-glitter-shedding faery and her desire to own the Book of Spells that was left to Chloe causes additional tension. Chloe's house is destroyed by the faery's warring sons. ("How was I going to explain this to State Farm?" she worries. Luckily, she doesn't have to, since her house is restored by morning, as if by wizardry.) (Or, by wizardry.) A town meeting about the weakening spell brings out all of the residents, including old vampires who have to insert their false teeth before they wheelchair it out into the night, an itinerant house sprite, a punked-out faery with tats and a pink iPod "permanently set too stun," and a witch who tells Chloe that "Banshees are imaginary."

(This same witch, observing Chloe in a startled moment, says "you look like you've just seen a ghost." Chloe laughs until she cries. So did I.)

Let's just say that this book delighted me, and will delight you. Trust me.

  • One cavil: Why did the town's librarian have to be a troll? Don't we librarians have enough of an image problem?? Barbara reminded me that Lilith is a glam troll with gorgeous red hair. True...It's also true that she utters the funniest line in the whole book.