Review: The Last Spell Breather

Published by Oxford University Press (OUP)
Published on 4th July 2019
Cover Illustration: Dinara Mirtalipova

The Last Spell Breather is a truly amazing debut novel with stunning world-building, both horrifying and adorable characters, and sublime story-telling which had me devouring it in one sitting. 

Rayne is a reluctant apprentice spell-breather, training under the tutelage of her mother.  She does not want to be a spell-breather as she doesn’t feel capable of being successful, and neither does she want to be bitten by the Grotesques who protect the Spell Book from which spells are carefully mindread and the words breathed on to pages when needed by the villagers.

This magical system is absorbingly fascinating and weaves a unique enchantment of its own as the reader becomes more familiar with its origins … and the terrifying consequences misuse can lead to.

After seeing a strange figure that deeply unsettles her, Rayne’s mother leaves Penderin to visit the Great Library where spell-breathers once trained.  In her absence, Rayne must take on the role of spell-breather which has disastrous consequences for the village as she makes a dreadful mistake which forces her, and her friend Tom, outside the protective barrier of the village on a dangerous quest to redeem herself and save her village …

Once outside the barrier, the children face terrifying encounters, unveil incredible secrets and deal with heart-breaking betrayals as they fight to trust in spell-breathing and in each other.  The authenticity of the friendship between Tom and Rayne is wonderful.  Both children battle inner feelings of guilt and lash out at each other, but ultimately, they are there to offer support and protection.

I adored Rayne who is a heartachingly sympathetic character as she battles self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy and guilt, yet overcomes these with courage and a willingness to embrace her magical spark … but has this acceptance come too late to save herself and the ones she loves?

A truly gripping, magical story which is perfect for readers of 9+.

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