Advent: A Novel

( 10 )

Overview

A drowning, a magician?s curse, and a centuries-old secret.

1537. A man hurries through city streets in a gathering snowstorm, clutching a box in one hand. He is Johann Faust, the greatest magician of his age. The box he carries contains a mirror safeguarding a portion of his soul and a small ring containing all the magic in the world. Together, they comprise something unimaginably dangerous.

London, the present day. Fifteen-year-old Gavin ...

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Advent: A Novel

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Overview

A drowning, a magician’s curse, and a centuries-old secret.

1537. A man hurries through city streets in a gathering snowstorm, clutching a box in one hand. He is Johann Faust, the greatest magician of his age. The box he carries contains a mirror safeguarding a portion of his soul and a small ring containing all the magic in the world. Together, they comprise something unimaginably dangerous.

London, the present day. Fifteen-year-old Gavin Stokes is boarding a train to the countryside to live with his aunt. His school and his parents can’t cope with him and the things he sees, things they tell him don’t really exist. At Pendurra, Gavin finds people who are like him, who see things too. They all make the same strange claim: magic exists, it’s leaking back into our world, and it’s bringing something terrible with it.

First in an astonishingly imaginative fantasy trilogy, Advent describes how magic was lost to humanity, and how a fifteen-year-old boy discovers that its return is his inheritance. It begins in a world recognizably our own, and ends an extraordinarily long way from where it started—somewhere much bigger, stranger, and richer.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Debut novelist Treadwell ties together the fear and wonder of magic and adolescence in this revealing tale of age-old ambition clashing with newfound identity. Gavin, a troubled 15-year-old suspended from school after admitting he sees ghosts, takes holiday with his aunt Gwen, housekeeper for an ancient Cornish estate, Pendurra. Infused with the enchantment of forgotten places, Pendurra attracts other people who bear witness, involuntarily and at a cost, to otherworldly presences. When powerful artifacts crafted by Johannes Faust, the last magus, appear at Pendurra, the stage is set for Gavin and friends to uncover the secrets of their own heritage while attempting to deal with the return of magic and to thwart the resurrected Faust. Treadwell makes marvels from the simplest materials—a blooming rose, a rowan walking stick, a traditional carol—and brings his landscape to frightening and fascinating life. Readers of Susan Cooper and Alan Garner will rejoice to find the first of a new trilogy worthy of sharing their shelf. Agent: Will Francis, Janklow & Nesbit. (July)
From the Publisher
“A stunning debut.” —Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of A Discover of Witches

“Treadwell makes marvels from the simplest materials—a blooming rose, a rowan walking stick, a traditional carol—and brings his landscape to frightening and fascinating life. Readers of Susan Cooper and Alan Garner will rejoice to find the first of a new trilogy worthy of sharing their shelf.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Ripe with literary language and classical references, Treadwell’s novel shape-shifts between bewitchingly perplexing and supernaturally entertaining.” —Kirkus

“Its classic story of good versus evil as well as its haunting characters ad rich, inspired imagery will remain with readers long after they turn the final page.” —Library Journal

Library Journal
The first volume in this debut fantasy trilogy takes readers on an astonishing journey between modern times and a long-forgotten magical world. Johannes Faust is the greatest magician of the 16th century. He possesses a ring that contains all of the magic in the world. Gavin Stokes is a misunderstood 15-year-old living in present-day London. He possesses something special too—the ability to see things that aren't really there. Unable to deal with Gavin's strangeness, his parents ship him off to stay with his weird aunt at Pendurra, a forgotten estate in a remote corner of England where echoes of magic are said to remain. There, Gavin's fate entwines with choices Faust made centuries ago. The magic that was once lost has now been found, and the reunion of the two very different worlds will come at a terrible price. VERDICT This original work of literary fantasy is imbued with dark, sometimes strange language. Its classic story of good versus evil as well as its haunting characters and rich, inspired imagery will remain with readers long after they turn the final page.—Amy M. Davis, Parmly Billings Lib., MT
Kirkus Reviews
Near Truro, where Britain meets the legends of the mythic sea, Gavin Stokes awaits his Auntie Gwen at an estate called Pendurra. Gavin has heard a woman's voice since childhood, a voice he refers to as Miss Grey. His mother thinks he's batty. His father thinks he's contrary. His school has suspended him. With parents away for winter vacation, Gavin is sent to Auntie Gwen. In this first of a trilogy, Treadwell links young Gavin to magus John Fiste, a student of "the unseen world" in 1537. On his way to Truro, Gavin encounters Hester Lightfoot, a scholar at Oxford forced to resign because she too hears a voice. Gavin's aunt isn't on hand to meet the train, and so Hester drops him off at Gwen's lodge on the grounds of Pendurra's ancient manor house. There, Gavin encounters its owner, Tristram Uren, and his fey and feckless 13-year-old daughter Marina. Setting and atmosphere are perfect for a gothic-tinged, magic-driven story: a forbidding opening; strange characters; bizarre noises and shadowy visions; and a narrative that slowly but inexorably circles toward seemingly inevitable doom. Shifting from Gavin's current day to Fiste's era, the story reveals the great magus is Johannes Faust, whose skill with the black arts allowed him to travel in time to meet Helen of Troy and Cassandra. That there is a link between Fiste/Faust and Gavin becomes apparent when Gavin encounters a mysterious woman near Hester's village who refers to him as Gawain. She asks Gavin to take her burden, that being "There will be fire and blood…The world will find it a bitter weight." The book thereafter romps toward a surrealistic and fantastical conclusion filled with dryads and pukas, mermaids and a giant talking crow, trees that come alive, malevolent angels and Gavin's heroic overcoming. Ripe with literary language and classical references, Treadwell's novel shape-shifts between bewitchingly perplexing and supernaturally entertaining. A book that should appeal to grown-up Potter-philes.
From the Publisher
“A stunning debut.” —Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of A Discover of Witches

“Treadwell makes marvels from the simplest materials—a blooming rose, a rowan walking stick, a traditional carol—and brings his landscape to frightening and fascinating life. Readers of Susan Cooper and Alan Garner will rejoice to find the first of a new trilogy worthy of sharing their shelf.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Ripe with literary language and classical references, Treadwell’s novel shape-shifts between bewitchingly perplexing and supernaturally entertaining.” —Kirkus

“Its classic story of good versus evil as well as its haunting characters ad rich, inspired imagery will remain with readers long after they turn the final page.” —Library Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451661644
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
  • Publication date: 7/3/2012
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 1,013,422
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Meet the Author

James Treadwell was lecturer and junior research fellow at the University of Oxford, and assistant professor of English at McGill University. He is the author of Autobiographical Writing and British Literature, 1783–1834 and Interpreting Wagner. He lives in London, England.

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Read an Excerpt

1

A DECEMBER NIGHT

On a wild night in deep winter in the year 1537, the greatest magus in the world gathered together and dismissed his household servants, wrapped himself in his traveling cloak, took his staff in one hand and in the other a small wooden box sealed with pitch and clasped with silver, and stepped out into the whirling sleet, bound for the harbor and—so he expected—immortality.

All but the city’s most utterly forlorn inhabitants had been driven from the streets by the bitter weather. The remaining beggars and strays were fully occupied with their struggle to survive until dawn, so the magus walked uninterrupted through alleys of filthy slush. Nobody so much as saw him; any lifted eyes would have been stung by the icy rain, which felt as if it blew from every direction at once. Nobody but one.

Some thirty paces behind him, a figure followed, bone-thin as the stray dogs and ragged as the beggars. It looked like little more than a jumble of sticks and scraps of cloth that should have been scattered at once by the ferocious wind; but seen more closely (though nobody saw) it was a woman, gaunt, weather-beaten, but steady. Her eyes were fixed on the man’s back, and never turned away no matter how the sleet blew.

Beneath his cloak, the magus kept a tight grip on the box. Inside it, padded around with wool, was a calfskin pouch pricked out with marks of warding and asylum. Inside the pouch were two things: a small oval mirror in a velvet sheath, and a ring which appeared to be carved of wood, though it was not.

Inside the mirror was a share of the magus’s soul. Inside the ring was all the magic in the world.

He came out of the alleys and hurried as best he could along a broader thoroughfare by a frozen canal, where the wind was at last able to settle on a single direction and roar at full force. He was not afraid, exactly. Since mastering his art he had seen far more than any other living man, and outgrown faintheartedness. Still, the things he carried were infinitely precious to him, and he was eager to be away, across the sea in England.

Even in the foulest weather, a falling tide and a wind blowing seaward kept the wharves from being entirely deserted. He had to break stride to pick his way through the lantern-lit clusters of carters and watermen clumped alongside creaking hulls. That was what made him glance around, and so for the first time notice his pursuer.

His fingers closed tighter on the box.

“Johannes!”

Her voice made a space for itself in the air, slicing between the weather’s din and the clattering and flapping of the ships. He halted, his back to her.

The moment she caught up with him, the wind stopped. Instead of sleet, snowflakes fell, gathering on his hood and shoulders. In the abrupt silence he felt in his ears the guilty hammering of his heart. The rest of the world around them had gone still. The two of them stood as if alone in the snow, as they would again, long, long afterward, in their last winter.

He sighed, and closed his eyes. “How do you come to be here?” he asked.

“Johannes, turn.” She spoke in Latin, as he had.

“I know what I will see.”

“Then face me.”

He neither turned nor answered.

“What you took from me,” the woman said, “you must now return.”

At this his eyes blinked open. He pressed the box tight to his heart.

She stretched out an arm toward his back, hand open, and held it still. “You cannot bear it,” she said. “Save yourself.”

Still without facing her, the magus raised his voice. “I did not look for you to be here. Let me go.”

“Look for me?” He had never heard her angry before. He had not thought her capable of common passions. The ice in her voice cut as keen as winter. “You never looked for me. No more can you dismiss me. But if you do not turn back, I will go, Johannes, and the end you fear will have arrived.”

For a few seconds neither spoke. The snowflakes made white shadows on the trimming of his cloak, and thawed into cold drops on her upturned face.

He set his lips tight and took a step forward.

She gave a despairing cry, instantly drowned out by the return of the wind. In an eyeblink it hurled away the flecks of snow and spun them into the freezing murk. He looked around, but the ragged woman was nowhere to be seen. She at least had kept her word, and was gone.

A voice bellowed: “Master John Fiste!”

It was how he had given the captain his name. The vessel and its crew were English. He shifted around to put the wind at his back and saw a mariner beckoning, and beyond that, the harbor light glowing through a sparkling curtain of sleet.

Still holding the box tightly concealed under his cloak, he followed the man aboard.

Some hours later the wet abated, and because he had urged haste and paid them extravagantly, the ship put out to sea. The wind was strong but steady, and the crew made light of it. But as dawn approached it grew into a storm. All that day it swept the carrack unrelentingly westward, far past the port where Master John Fiste had expected to begin his life again. When at last they were close to being propelled altogether out of sight of land, with no sign of the storm relenting, the captain resolved to risk an approach to the lee of the English coast, hoping to enter the great harbor at Penryn. As they neared the estuary, the wind squalled capriciously, the ship was blown onto a reef, and captain, crew, and passengers were drowned, Master John Fiste and the rest.

For all anyone knew, the greatest magus in the world had stepped out of his house alone one winter night and vanished. In time, most came to say that he had sold his soul for his art and been called to a reckoning by the devil, snatched off without a trace. It made a good cautionary tale for a more skeptical age. Believing Johannes in hell where he and his practices belonged, even wise men barely troubled themselves with the fact that all the magic in the world had gone with him.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 30, 2012

    About a quarter of the way through "Advent," I thought

    About a quarter of the way through "Advent," I thought to myself, "Oh, I see what he's doing here". And I was right.
    I find that a lot of fantasy books tend to satisfy the need to see some splash and sparks fairly early on. This is much more of a book that sets up its characters, lets them develop as a generally fiction book would, and then brings in the magic about halfway through. You see, there's a payoff for sticking it out: senseless and superfluous spells you won't find here. There are tastes of it early on in some flashbacks, but nothing concrete. It builds as a fictional mystery and then ends with a big fantasy ending. I believe sometimes you earn the reward of a good book by having patience and faith in the writer, and I felt very much rewarded for that: I could barely put down the book for the last 200 pages. For folks that demand a fast-paced book with magic quickly leaking out of every other paragraph - this may not be the book for you. Honestly, the beginning is a bit slow and the writer leans quite a bit on character's internal musings instead of actual dialogue (usually a weakness, in my view). There were times where I wondered why writers seem so keen to write magical books from the point-of-view of teenagers and hoping things would get a bit less whiny and clunky (for example, apparently teenagers can barely speak. If they do, they are either obnoxious or annoying. Not the type of kids you want to be surrounded with in a book).
    Things, however, did get much more interesting and I can honestly say I will pick up any sequels should they be written. I appreciated the historical fiction elements and hope that the second installment, if written, will more a bit quicker and the dialogue be a bit more on point. All in all, though, I very much enjoyed it.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This was a long dull slog through an uninteresting story. Really

    This was a long dull slog through an uninteresting story. Really not worth reading.

    4 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2012

    Excellent Writing If You Like That Kind of Thing!

    On the surface, not a lot happens in Advent. A boy who feels unappreciated at home travels from London to far Cornwall by train, arrives at his aunt's house but can't find her, meets the other people who live on the manor and runs back and forth on the grounds a few times. Oh, and magic has lain dormant for half a millennium and slips back into this world in this book.

    The big events are largely interior, and the main character is really the language, so Advent bucked any expectations I had by being surprisingly literary.

    Here's an example that stayed with me, from page 240:

    "What's happening?" The question dropped of its own accord from the block of his bewilderment, a fragment calving from a glacier.

    I thought, if the author can take the time not only run the two worlds (the world we know and the magical world) together through the plain style of speech and the elegant narration but also to extend a metaphor, striking in its own right, for such a simple piece of dialogue, what other literary wonders await? The answer: an astonishing number.

    Some reviewers have said that the book is slow, and it's at least partly because this example is not unusual. The whole book is like this. This is not a book I would have enjoyed as a child. A reader needs to have a certain contemplative maturity in order to enjoy what the author is trying to do. It's a book meant to be savored, set down and returned to later, not read in one night. The magical elements are intelligently plotted and crafted and the narration expects a bit of intelligent work on the part of the reader. If you like your fantasy laid out plain, this is not your book.

    I enjoyed the weaving together of the Faust legend and that of the sybil Cassandra immensely. I also had a strong desire to escape to Pendurra, the estate where time has stopped or at least slowed down. The story feels complete to me, so I'm puzzled -- and maybe a little curious -- as to how much more ground can be covered in the two other books in the series. Overall, Advent delivers on the promises of its blurbs. It's original, full of mystery, and stunning.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 24, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    The story opens with the tale of a magician and how he captured

    The story opens with the tale of a magician and how he captured and lost magic.  We revisit his story in segments (in reverse) throughout the story.  While he plays an important part in the tale, the story doesn't concentrate on this strange figure.  Instead we follow Gavin Stokes - a strange little boy that sees strange things.  One of theses strange things is a woman he names Mrs. Gray.  When Gavin is sent to stay with his aunt at an old, old estate called Pendurra while his parents are on vacation, this Mrs. Gray is the catalyst to a whole new life for Gavin.




    There is a lot going on in this story and you really need to sit down and read it either all at once or in large chunks or you may miss some important connection.  Several different pantheons seem to collide when magic begins to stir again at Pendurra.  The descriptions of these creatures and people are fantastic.  The scenes really come to life and the world is incredibly well developed.  These are all things that I absolutely love in a fantasy or paranormal story.  As a character, Gavin is not necessarily likable at the beginning but as he learns to trust in the things only he can see he and embraces his destiny he becomes a great hero and lovable character.  Most of the characters are written in a way that they fit there roles perfectly, but I'm still not sure what Horace's place is going to be in the grand scheme of things.  He seems to play more of his role in book two perhaps.




    The downside of this book is that it is written very well - almost too well and too much detail for most young adult readers.  I fear that many would give up on the story before it got the point that it really gets started.




    *This book was received in exchange for an honest review*

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013

    Awesome!

    Advent starts off slow, but builds into a wonderful story. I can not wait for the next book to come out!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2013

    I wish there was more

    Loved this story and wish there was more of it

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  • Posted September 25, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A Somber Dawn

    This is a somber book with some strengths and weaknesses. It tells the story of a teenaged boy, Gavin, who sees things. Well not things exactly. Rather he sees a woman, who he calls Miss Grey. She has appeared to him for years. Gavin knows she is not just his imaginary friend, even though his parents have tried to convince him of this. They demand he stop pretending. He is even kicked out of school for trying to tell a teacher what he is seeing. His parents ship him off to the countryside to stay with his Aunt Gwen, who is not considered to rock steady herself. This is okay with Gavin because he hopes to find in her a sympathetic ear. Paralleling this story is the tale of an ancient wizard, Johann Faust, who has made a deal with the spirits to live to be immortal. He intends to do this using his vast knowledge of magic and an enchanted ring that once belonged to a prophetess of ancient Troy. Gavin's arrival at the estate of Pendurra coincides with the reemergence of Faust from what should have been his watery grave. The confluence of Faust's search for his missing ring, the secrets of the inhabitants of Pendurra, and Gavin's awakening to his mystical powers merge into a tale of magical mystery. There is a lot going on in this book, perhaps too much. I didn't feel the author successfully supported all the elements and characters.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2012

    Idea was better than the book

    The plot was slow and I often found myself rereading parts because they did not make sense. I really wanted to enjoy it, but it fell short.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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