Hello everybody! Today, I’m ever so excited to be part of the blog tour for James Nicol’s the Spell Tailors, a book I have been eagerly anticipating since the end of his Apprentice Witch trilogy in 2019. I have both a playlist from James to share, and my review. Onto the post!
Review: If you’ve been around here a while, you will know that I was a huge fan of the Apprentice Witch books; they are exactly the sort of cosy fantasy I love and crave and want to see more of. So when this was announced, I was immediately excited not only because it’s a new book from James, but also because I love fashion and clothes, and the idea of magical garments hugely appealed to me- there’s a stitch for almost everything you can think of.
The book follows the Danelli family of “spell tailors”- who can stitch magic into their clothes- who are going through a tough time as a result of new, mass-producrd magical clothes factories starting up, and more specifically on Hen, who is discovering that he has a dangerous but incredible ability that might just save the family and their business from ruin.
Hen is a wonderful main character- it’s impossible not to sympathise with him when things are going wrong, and cheer for him when he’s trying to right wrongs and stand up for what he believes in and the Danellis have always stood for. His family round out the ensemble with their distinct personalities and relationships with Hen- my particular favourites were his cousin Connie, who learns a lot as the book progresses, and Aunt Lucia, who just wants to look after everyone.. And of course, I loved Marjorie the shleep! Everyone is just so vividly depicted that they feel real, and I think the complicated but loving family dynamic adds to that feeling as well.
There’s also a fun twist I hadn’t seen coming, which makes everything tie together so beautifully at the end. As such, this is wholly satisfying as a standalone, but I totally wouldn’t say no to a sequel if one is on the cards. I can’t wait to see what James does next, but in the meantime, I’ll be hunting down copies of Arianwyn Gribble’s adventures so I can reread!
Guest Post: The Spell Tailors Soundtrack Blog Post – James Nicol
The Spell Tailors
I know lots of authors who create or use soundtracks when they are writing and editing their books, – I probably know an equal number who can only write in total silence! Do what works best for you! I’ve always loved to listen to music when I write – probably because outside of writing I have (on the whole) always worked in busy environments with people coming and going constantly so total silence is a rather strange situation for me to be in.
Now for the purposes of writing I can only really listen to music without lyrics or where the lyrics are not sung in English – otherwise I find I start to type or write random lyrics into the story . . . – not a great idea! But every now and then a song with lyrics will help to set the mood for a story or a scene. Obviously film and TV soundtracks can be really useful because they are created specifically to help create a specific mood or atmosphere so they often feature on the playlists I create for my stories. It’s all very much like making a mix tape, which shows how old I am!
So here are a few of the songs and pieces of music that inspired The Spell Tailors or that I listened to during the writing and editing process.
An American Quilt by Thomas Newman – This suitably sewing- inspired piece of music has long been a favourite piece of music for me. It’s beautiful, delicate opening is like pure magic. And it really helps to settle me into the mindset for writing or editing. Listening to this I can clearly see Hen and Nana sat by the workroom fire sewing away quite happily.
After You’re Gone by The Charleston Chasers – Although they’re fantasy stories, I always like to imagine an aesthetic time period that my books are set in – and, I try to steer clear of modern times just because I think it raises too many questions about modern tech and magic. I’ve been fascinated by the 1920s since I was very young and it seemed the right time period for The Spell Tailors, especially to be set in with the leaps in fashion that happened in that decade. This piece is just pure 20s to me! It also diverts away from some of the more melancholy music that I’m often drawn to.
re:member – Ōlafur Arnalds – I stumbled across Ōlafur’s music by chance but it all really resonated with me and quickly became a favourite for writing and editing. re:member had to have a place in the playlist really given there is so much about memories in The Spell Tailors. I love the layers in this piece of music, how elements fade in and out. To me this is the music that plays when Hen sees the memory stitches for the first time!
Ghost by Kate Rusby – I am a HUGE Kate Rusby fan and her music has filled my life for the past twenty years. Folk music is often filled with sadness and loss and lovers being parted by a wide selection of different things (shipwrecks, cruel parents, being dead, etc!)! This is one of my favourite songs of Kate’s and it perfectly captures the mood of the attics where poor Hen is banished too, especially when he thinks he has found an actual ghost living up there and it turns out to be something quite different indeed!
Crazy Blues – Mamie Smith – I often feature songs in my books. Grandma sings Arianwyn a song that really gives her a confidence boost as she goes to fight a terrible creature at the end of The Apprentice Witch and then Wyn herself has to stand up and sing a song (which is actually a spell) in front of the whole of Lull in A Witch Come True. So when poor Hen first discovers his talent for sewing memories into clothes, it’s unfortunately from stitching a rather inappropriate song into a customer’s dress. What I had in mind as I wrote down the lyrics – was something from the 20s, jazzy, bawdy and bluesy and with blaring trumpets and a rich vocal. Crazy Blues and Mamie Smith was the ideal inspiration.
These are just a few of the highlights from my playlist, if you’d like to view and listen to the entire playlist you can find it on Spotify via the link below:
Thank you so much for reading! Are you a fan of James’ previous books, and are you planning to pick up this one? What magical clothing item would you most want to buy?