Monday, February 18, 2008

Stephen Elboz

A Handful of Magic
by Stephen Elboz
Recommended Age: 11+

Kit Stixby lives in an alternate-history version of Victorian England. His father, Sir Charles Stixby, is the Witch Doctor to Queen Victoria herself. But when Kit gets into a bit of trouble with the queen’s favorite grandson Prince Henry – nothing much, only Henry does get bitten by a werewolf – Sir Charles falls out of favor.

In fact, magic in general may be doomed, the way things start to go. The Queen listens to nobody but Stafford Sparks, a magic-hating scientist and inventor who wants to do away with warm, wizardly glow balls and replace them with electric lights. The march of progress looks like it is going to trample the old ways in the dust. But when Kit begins to suspect that Sparks is up to no good, it falls to him to save Prince Henry, restore the good name of magic users everywhere, and stop the technological villain before he can carry out his evil plans.

Kit is aided by a gang of grubby young wizards from the East End of London, an affectionate flying carpet, stuffy old Aunt Pearl and her Shakespeare-quoting friend, a flock of fiercely protective gargoyles, and of course, the ability to point his hand and make amazing things happen. But when he is betrayed by a friend and forced to do his enemy’s bidding in an environment shielded from magic, will that be enough?

It must be, because this book is only the beginning of a series in which Kit repeatedly foils the schemes of the magic-hating archcriminal Stafford Sparks. Harry Potter fans will warm to Kit instantly. They’re practically identical – except that Kit rides a carpet instead of a broom. And his father and aunt are still alive. And he has all of his adventures away from school (which is a little wizarding academy called Eton, by the way). Oh yes, and the Dark Lord he comes up against isn’t a wizard at all. But other than that, and the quirky 19th-century setting with a sky full of airships and streets crowded with steam-driven vehicles, a world where magic is done openly and for the benefit of all mankind...other than that, they’re exactly the same!

Well, you get my point. It’s COMPLETELY original, but lots and lots of fun, just right for a kid coming off a round-the-clock Harry Potter bender!

A Land Without Magic
by Stephen Elboz
Recommended Age: 11+

Kit Stixby, previously introduced in A Handful of Magic, learns that his arch-enemy Stafford Sparks – the most dangerous criminal in Britain – has escaped from prison. For his own protection, Kit is pulled out of school at Eton Magical Academy and packed off on an overseas airship trip with his best friend, Prince Henry.

Lost? No wonder. This is a version of history you didn’t read about in school. In this alternative-Victorian England, magic is widely practiced and publicly accepted. The same isn’t true for the Eastern European kingdom of Callalabasa, where Prince Henry and his retinue are going to attend a coronation. Unfortunately, Kit is a hot-headed young wizard who is neither willing nor particularly apt to hide his magical powers, even in a land where wizards are considered evil and dangerous.

It turns out that the real danger comes from the police force dedicated to stamping out magic. Aided by none other than Stafford Sparks, plus a frighteningly wicked vampire named Count Drohlomski, these hoodlums-with-badges are planning to set off a terrible war. Hundreds of witches, wizards, and plain citizens stand to be killed, along with a young and unsuspecting king. And who is there to stop it except, once again, a poorly groomed, short-tempered, hasty boy wizard with a flying carpet and a handful of magic?

A Wild Kind of Magic
by Stephen Elboz
Recommended Age: 11+

Kit Stixby, the son of Queen Victoria’s Royal Witch Doctor, isn’t a particularly tactful, well-groomed, or well-mannered boy. Actually he’s a bit of a nightmare in polite company. But when he learns that the new president of America, George Washington-Jefferson Cougar-Paw III of the Ghostfleet tribe, is coming to Buckingham Palace, he has no objection to attending the reception. Especially since that means meeting a lot of real, North American Indians and learning about their unique brand of magic!

Things do not go altogether as planned. In fact, the President gets kidnapped right under Queen Victoria’s nose. Not only does this create an embarrassing international incident, but it could lead to an American Civil War. This has something to do with a serial killer named Jack the Ripper, who seems to have superhuman powers. Again, it seems to be connected somehow to the black flowers that suddenly grow up all over London. And again, it may be connected with the elusive, magic-hating villain Stafford Sparks, and his vampire partners in crime.

Even with the aid of a Scotland Yard detective, a magic-using Indian brave with a flying tomahawk, his own wizardly father and witchy Aunt Pearl, and his gang that includes Queen Victoria’s grandson Henry, Kit has his task cut out for him. Somehow, as usual, he has to be the one to stop Sparks from achieving his gruesome goals. With a hostage’s life at stake, a brood of blood-sucking fiends at large, and a macabre Temple of Science at the center of it all, this adventure will be the supreme test of the hero Kit Stixby must become.

This is the third book in the series that begins with A Handful of Magic and A Land Without Magic. Different from Harry Potter in every way except that the central character is a British boy wizard, this series may be the cure for your next bout of Harry hangover. Don’t curse the darkness; fire up a glow-ball and enjoy this sparkling new revised-historical-period-fantasy-adventure!

UPDATE: The fourth and last book in this series is now available: An Ocean of Magic, which I have just ordered.

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