All Prunella wants is to be a proper bog-witch. Unfortunately, her curses tend to do more good than harm. When her mixed-up magic allows a sneaky thief to escape her grandmother's garden, Prunella is cast out until she can prove herself.
It's hard enough being exiled to the unmagical Uplands, but traveling with the smug young thief Barnaby is even worse. He's determined to gain fame and fortune by recovering the missing Mirable Chalice. And to get what she wants, Prunella must help him, like it or not.
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Deva likes searching for patterns, which is probably how she ended up writing stories based on echoes of old fairy-tales and mythic archetypes. She lives in Maine with her husband and her dog.
www.devafagan.comExcerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
All I wanted was to charm a single stinking wart onto my face. Yes, onto, not off. A good bog- witch should have at least one. Grandmother had eleven, and a hooked nose to boot. Of course, there were rare witches who could pull off a certain dark and terrible beauty. My mother was one, according to Grandmother. Maybe that’s how I got stuck the way I was.
I peered into the moon- silvered water of the rain barrel. No wart. No dark and terrible beauty, either. Just the same clear brown skin and snub nose I’d always had. Blast it! I smacked my palm into the water. A true bog- witch wouldn’t be sniffling, I told myself fiercely. This only made the tears slip faster down my cheeks. Because I wasn’t a true bog- witch; everyone from Grandmother to my littlest cousin, Ezzie, knew it. That was why they were all off on a midnight mushroomspree, and I was stuck here, alone, keeping watch over Grandmother’s garden.
I blinked up at the moon. If I closed my eyes, I could almost see them: my cousins, my aunts, my great- aunts, my second cousins twice removed. All of them out there under that brilliant silver eye, laughing and teasing and dancing. I could almost smell the sweet wood- smoke, taste the earthy, buttery fried mushrooms. I loved fried mushrooms. But more than that, I loved being a Bog-thistle witch. Even if no one else thought I was one, really.
It wasn’t fair. I could twitch a fire out of soggy twigs as well as any of them. I could charm away Ezzie’s winter sniffles. Grandmother herself admitted that she couldn’t tell where I’d mended the chips in her best tea set. But those were still just baby spells. Until I proved myself with a proper curse, I would never be considered a true Bogthistle. And my curses, well, they just never turned out quite right.
I cringed, remembering the last one. The mob of Uplanders had descended on us on the eve of the full moon, jabbing the sharp tines of their pitchforks against the night. Their angry shouting drowned the fluting of the peepers. Their smoky torches burned the sweetness of the moonflowers from the air.
But we bog- witches were no strangers to mobs. Our foremothers had settled their cozy collection of cottages smack in the middle of the bog for a reason. The sucking mire and stinging thistles kept the fools at bay long enough for us to puzzle out some sense from their furious bellows.
“We didn’t steal the Mirable Chalice, you fool,“ Grandmother called over our spiny ramparts, her eyes blazing— really blazing, with green flames. I always wanted to learn that charm. “We’ve all the magic we could want here in the Bottomlands. What do we need with some Uplander bauble? Go take your torches and burn down the Mistveil Bayou if you want someone to blame. If anyone stole the chalice, it was that villain Blackthorn.”
The mob gave a rabblesome roar, sprinkled with shouts of “Foul hags!” and “Burn them all!” One particularly mouthy fellow at the front called out, “You stole the chalice, you harpies! You brought this curse to our lands! Our corn withers and dies, our children sicken, our homes crumble. We’re here to put a stop to it!” He waved his torch at the wall of thistles. “Give it back, or we’ll burn this place to the ground!”
Grandmother’s nostrils flared. She drew herself even taller, like a great thunderhead about to loose a torrent of lightning. A few yelps and yips rose from the Uplanders. Even the mouthy fellow stepped back.
“So— a bit of trouble with your corn and you think you’re cursed? It’s time you learned the misery and woe of a true bog-witch curse.”
That was when she’d looked at me. I smothered a yelp of my own.
“Prunella,“ Grandmother commanded, “even you ought to be able to find a suitable punishment for these ignorant lunatics.”
I thought I had just the curse. I thought that was my chance to show my true bog- witchery, to prove myself. A rain of alligator spoor sounded perfectly horrible. And in my defense, it did chase them hooting and hollering out of the mire and back to their Upland homes. How was I to know it would settle over their land and give them the best harvest in ages?
They had fields full of golden ears within two weeks. By the third, they were showing up on the outskirts of the bog, begging for more charms to stop crumbling chimneys and heal fevers and coughs. They trampled the mushroom patch and scared away all the nesting herons with their hubbub. In the end, Grandmother had to curse three of them with pustulous boils just to get them to leave us alone. And it was all my fault.
So that’s how I ended up stuck in the garden, alone. Grandmother’s garden didn’t need watching. It waswarded and trapped to the gills, tighter than the queen’s treasure house. And who would want to steal her beans and pumpkins in any case? Someone would have to be an idiot, or desperate, or both, to try. Yet here I was, with only the fluting of the frogs and the twinkle of fireflies for company. The truth was, my family didn’t want me around. I was an embarrassment. Another tear slipped down my nose.
I needed more than just a wart. I needed a curse as fearsome and powerful as those of Esmeralda herself, the first, and greatest, Bogthistle. Even Grandmother spoke reverently about Esmeralda and her lost magics. Every night after dinner she led all the clan (except me, of course, since she said I’d spoil it) in cursing Lord Blackthorn, who stole Esmeralda’s grimoire ages ago. Sometimes I dreamed of running off and finding that grimoire, and all her long- lost magics with it. Surely with a book like that even I could learn to curse properly. Then I’d lead the mushroom sprees. Then I’d be taught the deepest Bogthistle secrets. Grandmother might even smile at me, once. I’d caught her smiling at Ezzie, so I knew she did, sometimes. Just never at me.
It was a silly dream. Lord Blackthorn’s manor was charmed up as tight as Grandmother’s garden. And anyway, a true bog- witch wouldn’t be glooming around wishing on stars. I raised my chin, pushing myself up. I might as well try the wart charm again. I had nothing better to do.
Creeeak. I stood still, sure I must be imagining things. No one could possibly have gotten into the garden without triggering one of the wards. But I knew the squeak of the alchemy- shop door all too well. It was what had given me away last week, when I tried to sneak in and listen to Grandmother teaching Ezzie how to turn herself into a crow.
“Thief!” I cried out, as I laid my hand on the pumpkin vine beside me, muttering my invocation. The green fronds hissed forward like serpents, coiling around the dark shadow that lurked beside the door.
The shadow grunted. I darted forward, my heart hammering a jubilant beat. I had done something right, finally. I’d caught a thief. Now, that ought to make Grandmother smile.
A cloud shifted. I crooked my finger. My curse had to work this time. The honor of the Bogthistles demanded it. Wan moonlight outlined the thief’s features. It was a boy. The shock of it froze my bent finger in midair, jabbing out at him.
It wasn’t that I’d never seen boys before. There were a few things we just couldn’t get in the Bottomlands, and Grandmother could not do without her daily helping of licorice. I had been to the nearest town of Withywatch four times, trotting along after Grandmother as she did her shopping, both of us cowled and cloaked against prying eyes.
I’d watched straggly farmer boys goggling at me from their hay- heaped wagons. I’d beheld snappy city boys scrumming and playing like a pack of young hounds. Frankly, I hadn’t seen what I was missing by living out in the bog. Yet something about this boy now standing in front of me made me hesitate.
He pushed back a fringe of honey- brown hair, looking fine and proud and determined. “Go on and curse me, bog-witch.”
The words of the spell scrambled against my throat. He’d called me a bog- witch. He knew what I was! In that moment, I didn’t care that he was glaring at me. If it weren’t an entirely unwitchly thing to do, I would have flung my arms around his neck and danced with him under the moonlight.
“Well?” he said after a moment. “Are you going to stand there posing, or are you going to get it over with? I’m three inches deep in mud here.”
I smothered my smile. “I’m just deciding on the best punishment for a thief.”
“I’m not here to steal anything,“ he said, scowling.
“Oh? You sneak into bog- witch gardens for fun, do you?”
“I’m... I’m on a quest.” He raised his chin slightly. “For the Mirable Chalice.”
I rolled my eyes. “Oh, and of course we must be the ones who took it. Just like we’re the ones to blame for every cough, storm, and broken wheelbarrow in the Uplands.”
“You bog- witches tried to steal it once already,“ said the boy, crossing his arms. “Everyone knows that story.”
“That was two hundred years ago!” I protested. “Besides, Esmeralda never wanted the chalice. She was trying to help you stupid Uplanders. And what thanks did she get? Chased off into the bog by a pack of ignorant goons!”
He shrugged. “So a few Uplanders think you stole the chalice. What’s it matter to you? Seems to me you lot settled yourselves nice enough, if you don’t mind the mud and muck.” He gestured around at the garden. Something fluttered in his hand.
“What’s that?” I saw a flash of purple checks as he tucked it behind his back. “That’s one of my aunt’s best dishtowels! Give that back!”
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Book Description Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), 2010. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110805087435
Book Description Henry Holt and Co. (BYR), 2010. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Brand New!. Bookseller Inventory # VIB0805087435