Magic, Heroism and Journey in The Serpent’s Spell

The Serpent’s Spell by Rae St. Clair Bridgman is a captivating tale of magic spells, a journey and a young hero. It begins with a news report of a fire, then switches to a girl and her cat, then switches again to a boy and his snake taking a train journey from Toronto to Winnipeg. So, it is a Canadian novel.  

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

The Hero’s Journey with his Serpent

Wil Wychwood, the hero, is sad, for he has just lost his grandmother, who had raised him since his parents’ deaths, and their Toronto home, to that reported fire. Now he has only his cherished snake, Esme, who joins him on his train ride to Winnipeg, a mysterious black medallion, and a gold ring. That’s where he’ll be living next with his two aunts and cousin Sophie—relatives he didn’t even know he had. The journey is strangely eventful, giving a hint of what is to come.  

Even on the trip to the city of MiddleGate Wil experiences a startling illusion or possibly enchantment. He soon discovers he’s part of a family of mages. Wil is initially skeptical, but weird things keep happening.  Wil and his cousin, Sophie, attend a strange academy full of bullies, stern mage teachers, and the library’s notoriously pesky ghost where they learn magic.  

Magic, Heroism and Journey

Wil is a relatable young hero dealing with loss and struggling to fit in. He loves books and absolutely adores Esme, his nonvenomous reptile who doesn’t bite. Then he discovers that thousands of snakes, the reptiles Wil loves, are being murdered– serpicide, what a wonderful word–under mysterious and gruesome circumstances and he and his cousin decide to get to the bottom of the crime. In fact, Wil and Sophie’s character development are both outstanding. They are endearing figures both heroic and vulnerable who find themselves in tough situations. 

Wil’s aunt Violet cryptically warns him about an ancient, enigmatic secret society. Indeed, someone willing to commit kidnapping and possibly worse crimes wants something from him. In this series opener, Bridgman gives us odd though likeable characters adapting to a demanding situation before she gradually adds supernatural elements. She builds up the mystery of Wil’s past and the aunts’ discomfort with revealing anything about it, coupling them to the strangeness of the school itself. Inserted skillfully are lots of information about snakes, clever Latin chapter headings with their translations, and lots of nice magey touches.  

The Serpent’s Spell

This captivating tale of magic spells and a young hero launches a promising saga. The Serpent’s Spell is a mixed genre of fantasy, adventure, and action. Bridgman writes for middle-grade and young adult readers. She has crafted a superb opener for her beautifully written, clever and sensitive series. I recommend The Serpent’s Spell not only for its intended audience but for anyone who loves well-written fantasy fiction. 

There are three other books in the series., Amber Ambrosia, Fishe and Sphinx, and The Kingdom of the Trolls. Rae St. Clair Bridgman is an award-winning Winnipeg author and illustrator of children’s books, including several picture books and the mythical MiddleGate Books. University professor, anthropologist, urban planner, mother of six, grandmother to nine. Her website is www.raebridgman.com

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