Witches of Hylund draw magic from the earth using glyphs, or special symbols that represent various elements like air or fire. Witches can make different spells out of different glyphs based on their knowledge and power.
Hylund is not only filled with magic but also light and dark spirits. Light spirits are connected to the earth, while dark spirits come from the void to cause mischief, at best, and serious harm, at worst. Part of a witch’s job is to get rid of dark spirits and banish them back to the void.
Today is Arianwyn Gribbles’s evaluation day. She and other apprentice witches are being tested to see if they can become full-fledged witches. If they pass, they will take on assignments around the country to protect the citizens of Hylund from dark spirits.
Wyn does not have a good feeling about this test. She knows her stuff, but bad things have a way of following her around. First, she runs into Gimma, another apprentice who loves to make her miserable. Then, she gets on the bad side of the witch conducting the test. Worse, when she’s supposed to focus on the core glyphs during the test, an unknown glyph flashes in her mind. She’s seen it before…and every time she does, something bad happens. Last time, her mom died. This time, the machine they’re using to test her nearly blows up, and she’s declared a failure.
As if it couldn’t get worse, her grandmother butts in and uses her position on the Council of Elders to secure her a position anyway. She’s allowed to remain an apprentice, to be retested later, and is sent to the small town of Lull, which hasn’t had a resident witch in years.
She has a rough start, a few tough jobs that get messy. The mayor of Lull doesn’t let her forget it; he resents being sent an apprentice witch instead of a full-fledged witch.
But Wyn makes friends with a local girl, gets along with the Council’s area representative, saves a light spirit that grows attached to her, and things seem to be finally getting better.
But sightings of dark spirits are more and more frequent. And then the unthinkable happens: Gimma comes to town. Turns out, she’s the mayor’s niece and hasn’t been doing so well in her new position. In fact, she’s a pretty terrible witch and now she’s Wyn’s problem. And that unknown glyph keeps popping up in her mind more and more. It’s only a matter of time before something really bad happens…
The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol has a steam punk vibe, with a mix of modern technology and magic in a fantasy world similar to our own. Wyn is an incredibly relatable character: whether you’ve experienced the loss of a parent, the loneliness of having a parent in the military, the homesickness of leaving everything you’ve ever known, the disappointment of bombing a major test, the embarrassment of being picked on by the popular kids…it’s almost impossible *not* to relate to Wyn. Just read it and try not to.