Today’s book review is for Dark Spell, by Gill Arbuthnott, published by Floris Books. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Callie Hall has always felt a bit like a misfit. She has few friends other than Josh, whom she met when he was vacationing in her village last summer. However, she’s still not prepared to find out that she’s a witch. She struggles against her new-found identity. But when Callie and Josh decide to explore the old tunnels beneath St. Andrews, she brings a darkness back with her–and soon she can’t deny who she is. If she’s going to defeat the darkness, though, she’s going to have to figure out what it is and embrace her witch heritage. Will she be able to master her powers before the people she cares about are placed in mortal danger?
The thing that bothered me most while reading this novel was that the Kindle formatting was terrible. Even though formatting is a cosmetic issue rather than a style issue, it can still impact one’s reading. At times it was difficult for me to follow the dialogue, because there needed to be line breaks which weren’t there. There were also places where cut scenes weren’t delineated which also got to be a bit confusing. This was a big problem, because every formatting issue pulled me out of the story.
It wasn’t the only problem, though. Even though the story was interesting and creepy, the pacing was far too slow. There were too many moments where I found myself wondering when we’d get back to the interesting bits–it wasn’t a building of suspense, but rather too much of Callie’s inner monologue. Her inner monologue was pretty predictable. She’s worried that her friend is going to freak out and stop being her friend. She can’t deal with her mother. She’s not sure she’s strong enough to handle the task at hand. Sound familiar to anyone else?
And it’s too bad, because I actually found a lot of the story quite compelling. I absolutely loved how local history was woven into the plot. It made the haunting seem all the more plausible because the history had actually happened. It also made it easier to imagine a lot of the locations, even though I’d never been to them. I could picture St. Andrews with all the tunnels, the unremarkable Dane’s Dyke, the ocean of Pitmillie. All of it felt vivid and alive. The characters were also fairly likable. I loved grandmom Rose and her circle of friends. And I liked Josh and Callie, too. Sometimes Callie irritated me, but I think that nearly any teenage girl would.
So, it’s kind of a wash. It has all of the elements for a great novel, but the pacing and atrocious formatting prevented it from attaining that status. If you’re the kind of person who is into the creepy YA paranormal genre, it could be worth checking out (particularly if formatting issues don’t bother you as much as they do me). I’ll give it 3 stars since I cared about what was going to happen in the end. But that might be a little bit generous.
You can find out more about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.