Review: Spellstoppers by Cat Gray

Written by Cat Gray
Cover Illustration by David Dean
Published by Usborne Publishing

Spellstoppers is an electrifying, magical adventure that absolutely captivated me:  a wonderful story of the strength of family, friendship and self-belief.

12-year-old Max Harrow has to avoid touching anything electrical since his touch is destructive.  Even though he takes precautions by wearing wellies and bright yellow washing up gloves, he accidentally destroys his mum’s new electrical car, knocking himself out.  His mum is worried that he will get seriously hurt, so she invites his grandfather, Bram, to visit.  Max has never met his grandfather before, but he soon discovers that Bram and he have something in common:  they both have a problem with electricity!  Max’s mum thinks it best that he goes to stay with Bram for the summer holiday in the seaside village of Yowling where she hopes he will be able to get his problem under control.

Soon after arriving at Bram’s farm, Max makes a rather intriguing discovery. His grandfather has a very unique and rare ability:  he is a Spellstopper who can fix magical items or, if too dangerous to fix, remove the magic from them.  He has an assistant, Kit, who is adept at repairing non-magical items.  Bram owns Harrow & Co:  Spellstopping & Non-Magical Repairs.  Could magic really exist?  Could Max’s ability be a rare gift rather than a curse? And what on earth do you do when an enchanted kettle escapes, causing chaos?

When Max’s grandfather is kidnapped by the terrifying Keeper of Yowling Castle, Max and Kit find themselves on a dangerous mission to save him, and the village, before the castle’s magic and Keeper, destroy them.  Together with some rather unusual and wonderful friends, Max will need to muster all his courage, ingenuity and strength to face his fears:  will he be able to master his magic in time, and perform the most important spellstop ever?

This is an incredibly exhilarating, fast-paced adventure brimming with danger, secrets and twists. I loved the rich assortment of magical, supernatural and mythical characters from the selkies to the sand witch to the vile owls and man-eating fish – and the enchanted weasel!  The magical system feels really fresh and original and I became completely spellbound as I was taken from the farm, through the village, along the beach and into the castle.  I also loved the food references and would really like to try some of the ice-cream and visit Pearl’s café, although I’d definitely want to avoid the Keeper – and the owls!  Oh, and Bran’s stew – I’d absolutely want to avoid that!

Max is such a likeable character who has been living with an ability he can neither understand nor control for four years, leading to his life changing in so many ways, including loss of friendships.  Going to stay with his grandfather opens up a whole new existence for Max as he finally begins to understand his magic, and tries to harness his abilities, showing great resilience mixed with understandable moments of frustration.  I really liked Bram who is supportive, encouraging and reassuring as he believes in Max’s ability before he believes in himself.  I also adored the friendship between Max and Kit where they support, and find strength in each other, to keep going, even when failure seems likely.    

This is a heart-warming, thrilling, magical adventure that utterly enchanted me, and is one I wholeheartedly recommend to young adventurers of 9+.       

Thank you to Fritha Lindqvist and Usborne for an early copy in exchange for my honest opinion.  

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