Time I wrote another blog…

Personal: What with working with my group in Chapel to prepare our Buxton Festival Fringe performances, discussing future folktale performances with colleagues, planning the Glossop Bookfest for November and a series of open mic evenings before it, keeping pace with editing work and taking time to read books – something every writer must do – I haven’t had much free time. Hence the interval since my previous blog.

I spent one day that was free of commitments travelling around parts of the Peak District taking photos of sites of stories not included in Folktales of the Peak District. I now have enough such tales to compile a second volume; the photos will illustrate it. All I need is to identify a publisher. The day brought its amusements: my car was thoughtlessly imprisoned behind a locked gate and I had to get the landowner to rescue me; I went to take a photo of St Michael’s Church in Wincle and became embroiled in a wedding party, only to meet the same party later when I was driving to Old Hag Farm near Swythamley… But all was well in the end.

Review: Speaking of all being well in the end, I’ve just had fun reading Kate Russell’s The Bookkeeper’s Guide to Practical Sorcery. The title tells you it’s a comic fantasy book, but gives no clue to it richness and sheer entertainment value. The story is – more or less – as follows:

Since the disappearance of his father on a trading mission, teenager Henry Noble has become the breadwinner for his mother and younger brothers – terrible twins if ever there were. He works as a bookkeeper in the King’s castle under the supervision of a horrible boss, Mr Colloid. Henry is a quick learner but his friend Halcyon, the elderly Sorcerer Royal, is reluctant to help him achieve his aspiration: to become a wizard. Halcyon relents when he learns that Henry has started to attend classes run by the Gorman Dizing Enterprises, for which the word “rip-off” was invented, and our teenage protagonist starts to receive worthwhile lessons. Then Halcyon disappears and Henry eludes the pursuing Castle guards to seek out the Evil in the Dark Forest.

He has two companions: DC, a woman about his own age, whose friendship is the only good thing to have emerged from his contact with Gorman Dizing Enterprises; and Peter, another of Mr Colloid’s minions. DC is borderline crazy, much more knowledgeable than Henry but hopelessly impractical. Peter is rational but scared of everything.

There are so many things to love about this novel. It’s fun and it holds the attention, though the first two or three chapters are quite challenging until we’ve fully entered the world of the story. The author has used her journalistic experience and her knowledge of gaming to great effect. Her names and situations are often hilarious and there are oblique references to contemporary society and politics (think Terry Pratchett, though Kate Russell’s writing style is quite different from the late Sir Terry’s). There are twists and double-twists. The way in which Ms Russell offers us “scientific explanations” for magic made me laugh out loud. Henry and his companions are steadfast and determined but their inexperience shows and they make blunders. Nevertheless, the one and only Nasty Baddie meets a suitably satisfying fate.

What a great read!

Kate Russell, The Bookkeeper’s Guide to Practical Sorcery, Fantastic Books Publishing, 2016; ISBN: 978-1909163492.


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