Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Spell Tailors, a middle grade, magic filled adventure from James Nicol. A big thank you to Olivia over at Chicken House for involving me with this tour! Today I’ll be sharing a Q&A with James, and then a review of the book also.
Hen dreams of becoming a spell tailor, stitching magic into clothing like his beloved Nana.
But thanks to new factories, spell tailors are struggling. His Uncle Bertie’s fancy shop has shut down, and when he, Aunt Lucia and stuck-up cousin Connie move in, it’s a disaster for all the family.
Then Hen stumbles upon a new kind of stitch – one which causes Nana and Bertie to ban him from sewing.
What is the power of the stitch that can sew memories into clothes – and could it be the very thing to save them all?
Q&A with James Nicol
Tell us about your new book The Spell Tailors
The Spell Tailors tells the story of Hen and the Danelli family. They are descendants of ancient sorcerers and have the ability to stitch spells into clothes. But Hen accidently discovers he can also stitch a different kind of spell and it’s not one that his beloved Nana or Uncle Bertie are keen on. Banished to the attics to sort through years of accumulated junk Hen unearths some more magic. Could both be a way to save the struggling family business from being snatched away Tiberius Pepper who wants to take over the world with his mass-produced factory-made spelled clothes
Why are you particularly drawn to magic in your stories?
I think it’s to do with the possibilities that it presents to the characters and to the readers. ou are only constrained by your imagination. children read about children who can do magic it gives them a wonderful sense of power and possibility. It’s also so freeing and wonderful escapism which I looked for especially as a young reader.
Who was your favourite character to write in The Spell Tailors?
You must love writing all your main characters of course as you spend so much time with them as you write and edit. But it’s often the smaller characters – the supporting cast that you can have more fun with. Aunt Lucia, who worries constantly that Connie will get run over by a tram or contract some awful disease was joyous to play with. And there’s a character called Old Mrs Henderson who only appears briefly but she was a hoot! I also have a soft spot for the baddies in my stories, Mrs Thackeray elicits fear in everyone without having to even try – she was delicious fun.
Your stories always feature very dynamic and strong female characters, who inspire these characters?
Thank you! I’m lucky to have some amazing women in my life. My mum was an incredibly capable person who could turn her hand to just about everything. I remember one occasion when I was about eleven in the space of an afternoon she baked a cake, laid a new carpet fixed my little brothers bike and made a pair of curtains. I also spent a lot of time with my two Nanas growing up and similarly they were very inspiring women, certainly the matriarchs of my family. Brilliant and beautiful, funny and ferocious (when they had to be)
What are you working on next?
Oooh, what can I tell you about my next book . . . t’s still a bit secret as I’ve not given a draft to my editor yet so it could change quite a bit! But it’s inspired by an idea I had not long after we moved up to Yorkshire based on a local landmark. he full idea didn’t really hit me until last Christmas when a character popped into my head and everything started to fall into place – thankfully! It’s magical – of course – and just a little bit bonkers to but in a good way I hope!
If ever there was a comfy, magical adventure to get swept away by, it is this. Full of characters you will love (and also strongly dislike), a unique magic system to capture your attention, and a story that is sure to stick with you long after you close the pages, this might be a middle grade book, but there’s something special in it for everyone.
I loved the way that Hen and the magic were introduced to the readers. By Hen being an apprentice and things needing to be checked, it was a clever way to teach the reader about how the stitching worked without a complicated detour. And Nana as a character was just wonderful. I’d love one of her scarves hanging up, ready for the cooler Autumn days we’re (hopefully!) heading for. She came across as so clearly real and vivid.
Hen himself was a glorious character to be leading the way for changes in magical sewing. Stubborn and fiercely loyal not just to the surname he’s grown up sewing for but also his customers, he really doesn’t let any of the barriers that get in his way hold him down. Exactly the type of lead character middle grade readers need to be encountering!
The whole book was simply superb, full of rich fabrics both to sew with, and those our family and friends make up. As someone who has sat in front of a sewing machine trying to figure out how to solve a mistake too many times to count, the motto to take away from this book is that everything can be fixed. Sometimes, you just need a little magic.
Thank you so much to James for joining me for this post, and a big thank you again to Chicken House for sending me a copy of this delightful adventure. The Spell Tailors is out now.