The Book of Spells (Private) Paperback – 3 Feb 2011
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About the Author
Kate previously worked for 17th Street Productions in New York, and has written several young adult novels under a different name. She lives outside of New York City.
Top Customer Reviews
When I first started this, I wasn't so sure about it. But by the end, I knew I'd loved it.
I haven't read any of the Private series itself, but I want to, especially if the writing's as immersing as this.
Although the characters appeared to be 15/16 the writing was much younger. But it was refreshing to read a rather "clean" YA that still had intrigue and attraction and naughty-goings-on.
I'm a sucker for boarding school situations. Let's blame that on reading the The Twins at St Clare's and The Worst Witch books growing up. And this book did not disappoint on that front. It reminded me of all of those childhood reading memories, only a little more grown-up, and I probably loved this book all the more for it.
The characters weren't the most likeable I've read. They were pretty much all spoilt little rich girls who were bored and trying to have fun. But that didn't matter, because without that the book wouldn't have worked.
The ending was pretty spectacular, and the build up to it was wonderful. Although there are a few loose ends that I would have preferred were cleared up, I was generally entertained by the book and enjoyed it a lot.
I particularly like how this book can be read on its own. There's no pressure to read the rest of the Private series to better understand the world, and I think this book would likely be rather different anyway, being set almost 100 years in the past.
What originally will strike the reader with this book is that the characters are not only designed but fit into this world extremely well with traits that modern readers can associate with and when backed with some descent dialogue and a clear demonstration that the author plays for keeps, allows the reader to enjoy the whole story. The only real downside is the finish as it felt rushed and haphazard although with a bit of luck the author will return to play in the world of 1915 again.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
THOUGHTS: In this prequel to the Private series, a surprising new direction is taken: Magic. You do not have to have read the Private novels to enjoy this one (although if you do start the series, don't expect any mentions of magic until the very end of the 12th novel of the series). Narrated in the third person, Eliza Williams has what our heroine Reed Brennan of the Private series does not -- a backbone. She isn't afraid to take charge and does not let people walk over her, but she still remains likable. Her relationship with a certain boy may seem reminiscent of Reed & Thomas. As with that duo, I feel like Eliza's relationship needs more substance. It's too quick and too attached for barely knowing each other.
Brian's writing is as addictive as ever, everything is easily visualized, but I would have loved to see the mystery and darker aspects pushed more. I wanted more suspense, more of that eerie feel to the story. Yet, between boy drama, sneaking around after dark, casting spells on boys who get too fresh, and dark consequences, The Book of Spells is a much needed boost to the Private series.
HIGHLIGHTS: I got that spark from this novel that the other novels of the Private series are starting to lose. The relationships between all the girls was a plus for me because it seemed more natural and believable than it's starting to feel in the latter novels of the Private series. The relationship between Theresa, Catherine, Eliza and the rest of the coven was always amusing, and sometimes even sweet. But it was without a doubt the surprise moments toward the end that made this book rock.
LOWLIGHTS: The story seems to end very abruptly. Yes, things are tied up slightly, but I've still got some questions. Another issue is that some of the characters seemed like slightly altered versions of ones in Private. And it seems like the story didn't really get going and intriguing until after the halfway mark. I wish this novel wasn't a prequel, because I want more with these characters. It would be nicer to see this as a spin off series of its own so that there could be more development with the characters/relationships, not to mention to answer some of the lingering questions.
VERDICT: I liked it. I didn't love it, but enjoyed it because I'm a sucker for some magic. In the case of this prequel, I think the magic aspect works. In the case of the upcoming 13th Private novel...well, I guess we'll see. I'm a bit skeptical that it will work out well since the Private series has always just been straight up murder/romance/mystery/suspense - no magic involved.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5
Eliza and her roommate Catherine become close friends. This relationship threatens Theresa, Catherine's other best friend, almost as much as Eliza's growing friendship with Theresa's fiance. Things get even more complicated when the girls discover a treasure map and a key that lead them to a secret room under the chapel and a trunk full of books on magic and witchcraft. They recruit eight of their classmates and form a coven. Innocent and fun magical workings--changing the color of a dress, or making themselves invisible to the head mistress--lead to more dangerous things as the rivalry between Eliza and Theresa grows. The girls learn that they are not the first Billings witches, and that their predecessors' activities led to terrible tragedy. Despite Eliza and her friends' best efforts, history repeats itself with devastating consequences for them and, we are led to believe, for generations of Billings girls to come.
While the petty grievances and romantic rivalries of Brian's characters are a little trite, the characters themselves are varied and interesting. The girls may appear stereotypical on the surface, but as the plot unfurls, each of them proves to be more than she seems. Catherine is the best buddy and peacemaker, but there's a mystery about her and her knowledge of witchcraft that only deepens as the book ends. Theresa is a snotty, selfish rich girl, but she's also fearless and loyal. Eliza has some delightfully human weaknesses--especially when it comes to vying with Theresa to be the leader of the coven. The plot moves quickly and offers some unexpected twists and one or two truly frightening moments.
What I liked most about the book, is the way it left the reader with so many unanswered questions. The Eliza, Theresa, Harrison love triangle is not resolved for certain. Also, you end the story with the sense that there's something deeply wrong at Billings School that goes back to way before 1915, perhaps centuries before. It's likely that Brian will address this in the later books of the PRIVATE series, and I am interested to see how it all resolves. The challenge for me will be starting with the first book rather then jumping ahead to number 13, OMINOUS, when the current Billings girls rediscover the book of spells.
In the Book of Spells we are transported back in time to the year 1915 , back to Easton Academy for Ladies - an academy where on the surface they teach you how to become a proper young lady and how to fit into the society's stereotypical role of a woman. However under the surface, is all that Easton Academy stuff we love to read about in the "Private Series" from Fashion, Boys, Adventures and Fun. When a group of girls led by Theresa Billings and Eliza Williams ,find an old treasure map while digging in the garden as part of their punishment, none of them realised the thrill, the excitement , danger and eventually death that finding the treasure would do to them.
Upon discovering the treasure, the girls realise that it is in fact "A Book of Spells " and the girls start to flip through the magical book. Upon discovering that they need Eleven girls to form a coven in order for the book to work , the seven of them set out to recruit much-needed girls by Invites only. To make sure that they are not caught, they call the group "The Billings Sisters Literary Group" thus creating the origins of the sisterhood of the sorority known as "Billings House" and why there are only eleven spaces allocated to girls each year at any one time.
The Book of Spells , also contains the first chapter excerpt of the 13th Book in the Private Series "Omninous" where we discover OMG Noelle Lange and Reed Brennan are in fact half-sisters and read as Grandmother Lange passes to Reed the Book of Spells as we discover Reed and Eliza are almost identical as are Noelle and Theresa in personalities.
Overall I enjoyed the book and would recommend it, but I was just a little disappointed with how abruptly it ended. I was hoping for more answers on whether Eliza ended up with Harrison in the end, and how the book of spells ended up back in the church for Noelle and Reed to find if the girls had buried it in the woods. I know that there was a lot of name dropping in the book like "Whittaker" and "Coolidge". I can only assume that these are the distant relatives of the current characters, but I would have liked more of a tie in and the "Ah - ha!" moments when you realized what the characters relatives were like when they were young and who ended up with who.
All of these are just nit-picky comments from me, because I did enjoy the book and really wished that this was a spin-off rather than just a prequel to this awesome series. I want more, more, more "Private" "Privilage" and anything else related. I think more than anything, I love how Kate Brian writes. It's very engaging and you feel like you're there rather than reading their stories in a book. I have felt happy, sad, annoyed, scared and nervous right along with the characters while reading her books. I hope that this series continues for a while.
Completely anachronistic. In 1915, wealthy high school boys wouldn't be getting engaged even if high school girls sometimes did. The book basically went, okay, how do I have modern dating relationships in 1915? I know! rather than saying a couple is 'going out' or boyfriend-girlfriend, I'll just say they are engaged! Problem solved.
Throughout the book there were bits dropped about how the heroine's older sister had gone off to school an adventurous, outgoing free-spirit but come back a robot. Never examined. No explanation.
The magic made no sense either. The coven does a spell to give themselves freedom, by making it so that no one but themselves can hear them no matter how loud they are, but apparently it only lasts long enough for them to get back to bed. That's hardly freedom.
The book was just inconsistent and poorly planned from start to abrupt finish.
Don't waste your time.