Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Review: Sorcery For Beginners by Matt Harry

A Simple Guide to a Challenging & Arcane Art
by Matt Harry
Illustrated by Julian Crump
Middle Grade Fantasy
300 pages
ages 9 and up

Five-hundred years ago, magic began to fade from the world. Combustion engines and computers took the place of enchanted plows and spell books. Sorcerers were hunted almost to extinction. Science became the primary system of belief, and the secrets of spell-casting were forgotten ... until now.
Written by arcane arts preservationist and elite mage Euphemia Whitmore (along with her ordinary civilian aide Matt Harry), Sorcery for Beginners is the true how-to manual for returning magic to an uninspired world. It's also the story of Owen Macready, a seemingly average 13-year-old who finds himself drawn into a centuries-long secret war when he uses this book to take on a school bully. But when Owen's spell casting draws the attention of a ruthless millionaire and a secret society of anti-magic mercenaries, he must decide how much he's willing to risk to keep magic alive in the world.


Owen is a fairly average thirteen-year-old. He thinks so too. When his parents separate and he moves to a new school, things start to get stressful. While escaping a bunch of bullies, Owen ends up in a book store and receives a guide to magic. It seems pretty hard—he has to actually practice and work up to things—but he's determined and is soon using spells for his own purpose. His goal is to get his parents back together. But things don't stay smooth, and soon he finds himself caught up in a magical war, where he and his new found friends must save the book and maybe the world.

This is a very clever dive into a magical tale. It's built up like a text book, but at the same time, reveals Owen's exciting story and experiences. There are footnotes and other notations, which add lovely little tidbits. . .some quite funny. . .which help avoid information dumps an insure that the reader receives the things they need to know. As Owen discovers magic, so does the reader. And it's exactly this format which is not only engaging but a delight to read.

Owen is average, and he sees himself that way too. He isn't exactly a hard worker, but when something is important enough to him (like find the right spell), he does put forth the effort. Readers will have no trouble sympathizing with him and will see some of themselves reflected in him. His friends are a sheer delight, each so different from the other. While Owen's story drives the main plot, his friends aren't forgotten and have their own problems which need to be solved. This gives the book just the right amount of depth, and several interesting layers as well. This group also makes sure that Owen does sit as the only capable character, but rather lets the balance of friendship and working together shine through.

Imagination fills this story as Owen discovers the world of magic. Some questions surrounding the magical world are left open, but most of the story wraps up in a lovely end. There's never a boring moment, but then, with the illustrations and other notations, there's always something to look forward to. Even the plot is not easy to predict and maintains a quick pace until the end. 

Summed up, this is an entertaining read which is sure to grab the interest of young fantasy and magic friends.

Book Buzz!

"The book's inventive format incorporates spellbook elements, including engraving-style illustrations, droll sidebars, and spell instructions... it's a charming package and a drily funny adventure." —Publishers Weekly

"Matt Harry has a knack for taking what's already a fun concept (of his very own creation) and making it even more fun throughout. Sorcery for Beginners makes me wish I had this book when I was Owen Macready's age. The story casts a spell of its own." —Mike Rich, author of Skavenger's Hunt, screenwriter of The RookieRadio, and Finding Forrester

 "Wonderfully hilarious, delightful, and charming." —Paula Yoo, author of Good Enough

"Fun premise that sorcery can be taught in a 'For Dummies'-type format. Clever and intriguing." —Helena Echlin & Malena Watrous, authors of Sparked

And here they are. . .

The Author!

Matt Harry received an MFA in Film Production from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, and has
worked as a filmmaker, editor, screenwriter, college professor, movie critic, and story consultant. His writing has been published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Akron Beacon-Journal, and the textbook The Elements of Style. He has received accolades from the FOX Comedy Script Contest, the Austin Film Festival, the Launchpad Manuscript Competition, and the Nicholl Fellowships. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. Sorcery for Beginners is his first novel.

The Illustrator!

Juliane Crump grew up in Los Angeles. She studied music in high school, art history at Yale, and film at USC before becoming a graphic designer for film and television. You can find her work on ABC, NBC, FOX, HBO, and at While sorcery eludes her, she makes magic every day with her Wacom tablet, her bagpipes, and her family of boys.

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