A Season Of Spells: A Noctis Magicae Novel by Sylvia Izzo HunterA Season Of Spells: A Noctis Magicae Novel by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

A Season Of Spells: A Noctis Magicae Novel

bySylvia Izzo Hunter

Paperback | December 6, 2016

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In the latest novel from the author of Lady of Magick, Sophie and Gray Marshall must save the Kingdom of Britain from a tide of dark magic...
 
Three years after taking up residence at the University of Din Edin, Sophie and Gray return to London, escorting Lucia MacNeill, heiress of Alba, to meet the British prince to whom she is betrothed. Alas, sparks fail to fly between the pragmatic Lucia and the romantic Prince Roland, and the marriage alliance seems to be on shaky ground.
 
Sophie tries to spark a connection between Roland and Lucia by enlisting them both in her latest scheme: reopening the mysterious and long-shuttered women’s college at Oxford. Though a vocal contingent believes that educating women spells ruin, Sophie and her friends dream of rebuilding the college for a new generation of women scholars.
 
But the future of the college—and of the kingdom—are imperiled when the men who tried to poison King Henry escape from prison and vanish without a trace. Sophie and Gray will need all their strength and ingenuity—and the help of friends both present and long past—to thwart the enemy at Britain’s gates.
Sylvia Izzo Hunter is the author of the Noctis Magicae novels, including Lady of Magick and The Midnight Queen. When not writing, she works in scholarly journal publishing, sings in two choirs, reads as much as possible, knits hats, and engages in experimental baking.
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Title:A Season Of Spells: A Noctis Magicae NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:464 pages, 8.3 × 5.4 × 0.9 inPublished:December 6, 2016Publisher:Penguin Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0425272478

ISBN - 13:9780425272473

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Chapter I In Which Sophie and Gray Depart on a Journey, and Gwendolen Loses a Wager“Well, Magistra?” said Gray.The small flock of new graduates broke apart, smiling and laughing, and Sophie Marshall emerged from it to look up at her husband. He was beaming all over his kind, honest face, and when she stepped towards him, holding out her hand for him to shake by way of congratulation—for they had not met since before the day’s long ceremonials—he laughed aloud and swept her into a fierce, albeit chaste, embrace.Sophie’s friends hooted and applauded.“Where next?” Gray said, when Sophie had her feet under her once more. “Have you some grand festivity to attend, Magistra, to which I may escort you?”Sophie tilted her head, laughing up at him, and—trusting to the confusion of motion and noise that surrounded them—said, “I had hoped that a handsome Doctor of Practical Magick might give me his arm as far as Quarry Close. And after that . . .”Astonishing, she thought, with an inward grin, that being nearly six years married, she still could make him blush.“Sophie!” cried a voice behind her. “Gray!”Sophie turned on her heel to find her friends (and Gray’s ­colleagues) Mór MacRury, Rory MacCrimmon, and Sorcha Mac­Angus, together with Lucia MacNeill—it was she who had been calling them—elbowing their way through the crowd.A new round of back-slapping and embracing ensued, after which Mór said brightly, “We shall see you both at the bonfire this evening, I hope?”Sophie and Gray exchanged a lingering glance; Sophie, for her part, was calculating the hours remaining until dusk, and finding the number sufficient.“Of course,” she said, turning a general smile upon her friends. “We should not dream of missing it.”Then she caught Gray’s right hand in her left, and they began making their farewells.The succeeding fortnight was lost to a mad welter of preparations for departure. In May, Lucia MacNeill—heiress to the chieftain’s seat of Alba, and, if all unfolded as planned, soon to be Sophie’s sister-in-law—was to journey to London to meet her future husband and the rest of Britain’s royal family. Gray and Sophie, in her capacity as Princess Royal, were to travel south as part of Lucia’s retinue, and there remain until after her marriage to Prince Roland, so that Sophie might serve her friend as guide and interpreter of London society.It was not, in truth, a prospect which Sophie greatly relished; not only was she, in her own estimation, very ill equipped to be anyone’s guide to that circle of society in which Lucia MacNeill must be expected to move, but the task must bring her into prolonged and frequent contact with her stepmother, Queen Edwina, a circumstance unlikely to occasion joy to either. Lucia was her friend, however, and might very well have need of a sympathetic ear in the course of her sojourn in Britain. And of course she wished very much to see her sister Joanna, and Gray’s sister Jenny, and Jenny’s growing family.The Marshalls’ immediate plans, in any case, had thus been determined for them; but it remained to decide—or, perhaps, to discover—­what they were to do with themselves thereafter. Were they to return to Din Edin and their work at the University, or even a permanent home in Alba? To Oxford, in hopes that a second sojourn there might be more successful than the first? To London, or to the house in Breizh which had belonged to Sophie’s stepfather, Appius Callender, and now was Gray’s? All these possibilities had been the subject of six months’ intermittent and inconclusive debate.The packing-up of their small house in Quarry Close, therefore—their home, and a very happy one but for the dramatic disruptions of their first spring in Din Edin, for the past three years—had something of the character of a magistrate’s court, each object in it being interrogated as to its possible fate, should any of a variety of futures come to pass.“Gray,” said Sophie one morning, for example, “I have found that three-volume work on botanical magicks by Niall MacNeill, which you spoke of returning to Lachlan Ruadh MacDougall. Shall I set them aside for him?”Gray, on hands and knees with his head and shoulders inside a cupboard, sat back on his heels, thrust one dusty hand through his equally dusty hair, and said, “Yes—no—I must just read once more through the chapter on Niall MacNeill’s experiments with wild celery; he claims to have used it to prevent a rival of his from executing a shape-shift, and Rory and I have been meaning to put his method to the test—”“Absolutely not!” Sophie exclaimed, hugging the books to her chest and taking a step backwards. “Of all the absurdly dangerous—”She closed her eyes briefly—counted ten in Latin, then in Gaelic—invented a compromise which might put off the real decision to another day. “If I copy out the chapter for you, in my very best hand,” she said, “so that you may have the necessary information to hand when next you and Rory find yourselves at leisure to conduct hazardous experiments, may I then return the books to Lachlan MacDougall?”Gray sneezed; Sophie extracted her handkerchief from her sleeve and handed it to him.“Very well,” he said, when he had finished with the handkerchief. “I thank you, cariad.”“You may thank me,” said Sophie firmly, “by finishing with that cupboard, and making a start upon the one under the stairs; and by remembering that we shall be living out of our trunks and valises for the foreseeable future, and must consider their contents ac­cordingly.”She reflected a little guiltily on the contents of her own trunks, and went upstairs to agonise once more over the ratio of commonplace-books to gowns and bonnets.Their methods, in other words, were not conducive to either speed or efficiency, and Donella MacHutcheon, the daily woman who had had the care and feeding of Sophie and Gray since their ­arrival in Din Edin, exclaimed in despair at their manner of going on. When the day of departure arrived, however, it found the Marshalls’ affairs sufficiently in order that they might oversee the strapping-up of their trunks and ascend into Lucia MacNeill’s carriage with a reasonably clear conscience—though still with no clear notion of what, beyond the journey itself, their future might hold.Lucia MacNeill studied her friends as they settled themselves, side by side, on the opposite banc of the carriage. Sophie was rather pink in the face, and Gray patting the pockets of his coat as though searching for something, or (perhaps more likely) reassuring himself that he had not left some item of importance behind. They looked, in fact, nearly as unsettled and anxious as Lucia felt—not at all a reassuring beginning.Lucia clasped her gloved hands tightly together and looked out of the window at the narrow row-houses of Quarry Close, crowded ­together like herring in a barrel. She tried to imagine the Sophie who lived here—who so matter-of-factly presided over her creaky ­dining-table and cramped kitchen, who existed in a perpetual semi-­disorder of half-read books and half-finished essays and ongoing academic debates—as the Princess Edith Augusta Sophia, only daughter of Henry of Britain; and, as usual, failed.The carriage quickly left Quarry Close behind, and soon enough was joined by its companions: the equipage carrying Lucia’s cousin Sìleas Barra MacNeill and her husband, Oscar MacConnachie, envoy to the British Court; and Lucia’s personal squadron of her father’s household guard, mounted and travelling as outriders, together with Sophie’s guardsmen. Not all of Lucia’s guardsmen were, in fact, men; she expected some degree of trouble on that score, but had determined that she must begin as she meant to go on, which was not by compromising either her troops’ esprit de corps (a pretty phrase en français which she had learnt from Gray Marshall) or her own safety for the sake of her betrothed husband’s sensibilities. Compromises there must be, of course, but if he was to be her consort, he must take some things in stride.Despite the crowds assembled to see Lucia off, which impeded the progress of their convoy to a quite extraordinary degree, they had nearly left Din Edin behind by the time Sophie said, in an uncharacteristically hesitant tone, “You shall not be away so very long, after all.”Lucia turned from the window. “I beg your pardon?”Sophie’s brow was crumpled in concern. “You have been looking out at Din Edin as though you half expected never to see it again,” she said. “But if all goes well, you shall be coming back in a few months’ time, with Roland; and if it does not . . .”If it does not, I shall be coming back very soon indeed, with my tail between my legs like a dog who has lost her sheep.But there was no need to give voice to such a melancholic thought.“Yes,” said Lucia instead, attempting cheerfulness. “Very true. Now, I shall be your guide to the country round about, so long as we are in Alba; but once we are over the Wall, you must return the favour, and tell me all about everything we see, so that I shall not be entirely ignorant when we reach London.”“Not that necklace,” said Joanna.“Why not?” said Gwendolen. Though her tone demanded justifications, her fingers were already reaching for the clasp.“Why not?” echoed Joanna’s niece Agatha, watching them dress for Lady Lisle’s ball from her perch on the end of Joanna’s bed.“It spoils the line of the décolleté, just there,” said Joanna, pointing. She turned back to her dressing-table and rummaged in her jewel-­case, finally laying hands on what she wanted: a twisted string of round beads, smooth amethyst and faceted violet glass, and the matching set of ear-drops, a gift from Jenny for her fifteenth birthday.“Sit down,” she said, turning again. “You are entirely too tall.”Gwendolen smirked and folded herself gracefully into Joanna’s abandoned chair.In this way, Joanna’s face appeared directly above hers in the dressing-glass as Joanna fastened the amethysts about her slim throat and adjusted their set on her collar-bones, and side by side when Joanna bent, out of Agatha’s line of sight, to kiss the curve of Gwendolen’s left ear.“Perfect,” Joanna pronounced, straightening up again with both hands resting on Gwendolen’s shoulders.As Gwendolen reached for the ear-drops, their eyes met in the mirror—cheeks flushed, eyes shining—and they shared a secret, promising grin.“Aunty Gwen!” said Agatha. “Do you suppose Mr. Trenoweth will ask you for the first two dances?”Gwendolen’s smile went rather fixed. “I suppose he may, duckling,” she said. “He must ask someone, presumably, though I do not know why he should ask me in particular.”She turned her head this way and that, examining the effect of the ivory rosebuds in her dark hair.“Oh, but I know why!” Agatha crowed. She had got her feet under her, and scrambled up to stand on the bed’s low footboard, clinging to the bedpost with one arm—imagining, Joanna knew, that she was a sailor standing lookout up aloft. “Mr. Trenoweth’s sister is Lady Lewes, and she came to call upon Mama once, and said that she hoped he might ask you to marry him! . . . but I do not know what Mama said about it,” she added, now sounding rather cross, “because Rozena found me and made me come out from under the sofa, and so I did not hear any more.”Joanna (who knew exactly what Jenny had said, and to whom, and why) stifled a chuckle at her disgruntled tone; but her mirth died away as, out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of Gwendolen’s face.“I think I hear Rozena calling you, Captain Agatha,” she said. “Run away now, and we shall be sure to come and see you before we go.”Agatha clambered down the end of the bed with what she fondly imagined to be a nautical cry and slipped out of the room, closing the door firmly behind her.When the sound of her running footsteps had faded, Joanna caught Gwendolen’s hands in hers, turned her away from the looking-­glass, and peered up into her eyes. “None of that,” she said firmly. “We have had all of this out before, and you know that Jenny is with us and not against us.”Gwendolen briefly squeezed her eyes tight shut, then opened them again and sighed. “Yes,” she said. “I do know it, Jo.”“And Mr. Trenoweth has not been making a nuisance of himself?” Joanna said.Another sigh. “No, not particularly. He is a perfectly unobjectionable young man, you know, now that he has set his matrimonial sights elsewhere.”“I am glad to hear it,” said Joanna. “Now, before we go downstairs—”The words began what had become a sort of ritual between them, for occasions of this kind, when they should both be spending most of the evening dancing with other people. Gwendolen continued it by casting an approving eye over the tiny pink roses in Joanna’s hair, her garnet earrings, her new gown of rose-pink satin, the silver buckles decorating her dancing-slippers; Joanna returned her glance for glance, enjoying the blush that spread prettily over Gwendolen’s sharp cheekbones as she grew conscious of being admired.Joanna tipped her face up towards her friend’s, and for just a moment lost herself in the press of Gwen’s lips upon her own—so familiar now, yet always half-unexpected, always astonishing. Her hands found Gwen’s hips, her waist; crept up her spine to press her closer.“You look very lovely,” said Gwendolen, drawing back at last, too soon.“And so do you,” said Joanna. “As you know very well.”Gwendolen, being taller, held out her arm—bent at the elbow, as a gentleman does for a lady—and when Joanna tucked her hand under it, pressed it close against her ribs. “Shall we go, Miss Callender?” she asked.“Certainly, Miss Pryce,” said Joanna, matching her light, untroubled tone; and, moving as regally as either of them knew how, they swept out of her bedroom, along the corridor, and up the stairs to the nursery, to bid farewell to Captain Agatha as promised.Joanna was afterwards to look back on the beginning of that summer as a sort of idyll—no different on the surface from the years that preceded it, but bathed in a rosy glow of affection, freed (to some degree, at any rate) from the shadow of their shared but always unspoken anxiety by Jenny’s explicit promise to entertain no offers of marriage for either of them, no matter how apparently eligible. Less than a month before Lucia MacNeill’s anticipated arrival in London to make the acquaintance of her betrothed, the ladies of the royal household were consumed with preparations, and the Kergabet ladies with them; but though the endless talking-over of tedious minutiae sometimes frustrated and bored Joanna and Gwendolen almost past bearing, they had only to meet one another’s eyes, and the tedium gave way to relief and occasional jubilation.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for the Noctis Magicæ Novels   “A provocative series.”—SFFWorld.com   “Elegantly written, fast-paced, and highly original.”—Juliet Marillier, national bestselling author   “The history of her world is not the usual stuff.”—Marie Brennan, author of the Memoirs of Lady Trent   “Intriguing fantasy.”—Library Journal   “[Hunter’s] magical version of Britain is both innovative and intriguing. The plot is creative and suspenseful—and never predictable.”—RT Book Reviews