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Mad Magic is a beautifully dark and rich Young Adult fantasy from Nicole Conway, bestselling author of the Dragonrider Chronicles.
Josie Barton is a high school student living in terror. Invisible creatures torment her everywhere she goes, constantly getting her into trouble at school, and even haunting her apartment. But just when Josie thinks things couldn’t get any worse . . . she meets the guy from across the hall.
Zeph Clemmont is a changeling with enemies in all the worst places, fighting to undo a curse that threatens to end his life. Survival means he will have to swallow his pride and trust Josie with all his darkest secrets.
With the help of a gun-slinging shaman and the enigmatic Prince of Nightmares, Zeph and Josie are only a heartbeat away from defeating one of the most diabolical faerie villains their world has ever known.
About the Author
Nicole Conway is a former freelance graphic artist for promotional companies and is now a full-time writer. She enjoys hiking, camping, shopping, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. She is the author of The Dragonrider Chronicles. She lives in Valdosta, Georgia.
Read an Excerpt
I wanted today to be a normal, quiet day. I wanted to go to school, take my tests, turn in my homework, eat lunch, and walk home without any major catastrophes. But, as usual, that was too much to ask.
I, Josie Barton, could not do normal.
So, for the third time this week, I sat in Ms. Grear's office. She glared at me over the top of her thick-framed glasses, but I knew better than to meet her gaze. Instead, I focused on the glass nameplate on her desk. It had the words School Counselor engraved on it.
Ms. Grear didn't like me. None of the faculty did. I saw it in the way they watched me with smoldering, disapproving glares. I got the sense from all of them that they were trying to figure out what, exactly, was wrong with me.
That question was getting harder and harder for me to answer these days.
For starters, I was a "problem student," a troublemaker, prone to outbursts at the worst possible moments. I caused scenes in my classes — like I had today. It used to only happen every now and then. But lately, it seemed to be happening more and more often, and I couldn't do anything to stop it.
I didn't blame the teachers for getting fed up with me. I was pretty fed up, too. I certainly didn't want to be this way. I mean, who actually wants to be crazy? I practically had a reserved seat outside the principal's office. I was really on a roll this week.
"Well, Josie, I'm not sure what you expect me to do with you anymore." Ms. Grear spoke in a vicious, bitter tone.
I wasn't sure how to answer her, or even if I should try. Ms. Grear already thought I was totally out of my mind, after all, and had let me know that many times before. She'd even said I was a waste of the school system's valuable resources — but of course, not in those exact words. She'd phrased it very professionally. Something about how I was "wasting time that hard-working teachers could have spent on other students who actually appreciated it."
It was hard to hear stuff like that. But what hurt the most wasn't how they looked at me, or even the things they said. The absolute worst thing was the fact that I was so incredibly alone.
"It's been three years since the incident, and I feel that we have all been very considerate of your situation. We've given you plenty of time and space to deal with your personal issues. But, you've become a major distraction to the other students. You won't take your medications. You insist on disrupting every class you attend." Ms. Grear leaned back in her chair. The metal hinges on the seat creaked like they were screaming in pain under her weight. "Sooner or later, you are going to have to start taking responsibility for your outbursts."
"Yes, ma'am." I was hoping agreeing with her would save me from hearing this speech again.
Ms. Grear narrowed her eyes dangerously. Her mouth pinched up, and for a few terrifying seconds, she looked like an angry Buddha statue. Then she started raking through the papers in her desk drawers.
"I have been trying to offer this suggestion to your legal guardian, but since he is so difficult to get in touch with, I will give it to you instead." She shot me another accusing glare. "Be sure you pass it on to him."
I cringed instinctively and managed to nod.
She finally pulled a pamphlet out of a drawer and handed it to me. "Davner's is a school for mentally unstable children, like you. They take in students who can't function in normal society. It's a nice place. You'll like it. They'll keep you on the proper medications and give you the structure and constant attention you obviously require. You can make friends with other children who have the same issues you do. This school comes very highly recommended, and they will know exactly how to manage you."
I carefully took the pamphlet from her, handling it as though it might be explosive. There was a picture of an old-looking brick building on the front flap. Inside, there were lots of pictures of smiling nurses, pristinely clean classrooms, and happy-looking teenagers all hugging each other. I only skimmed the text, but the words schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and sociopathic tendencies caught my eye right away.
My stomach began to get queasy.
I looked back up at her, mustering all my courage to try and argue my case. "But I don't want to transfer. I'm supposed to graduate soon. I can finish out the year. I just have to try harder. It's only a few months."
As Ms. Grear folded her chubby hands on the veneer desk, her thick fingers reminded me of pudgy, pink sausages. "Well, to be perfectly honest, you are on everyone's last nerve. Here at Saint Augustine's, we have standards. We have the highest test scores in the district. We are the most coveted private school in the city. Everyone else looks to us to set the bar, even when it comes to dealing with troubled students. I've already met with the rest of faculty, and we are all in agreement that this is the best option for you. All the paperwork is in order. All we need is the signature of your legal guardian. What was his name? Ben?"
I looked up again only because of the distinct flavor of sarcasm in her voice. She was grinning. It wasn't hard to imagine her with little horns and a pitchfork to match her evil smirk.
I wasn't sure what she thought was going on, but I knew she didn't think Ben was real. Even I doubted his existence sometimes, so I could understand why she might think I was making him up. He was barely in my life at all; just a spectator on the sidelines who stepped in every now and again when there was a problem I couldn't fix on my own. Beyond that, he was a shadow.
Maybe that was why I felt so isolated.
After my dad passed away in a house fire three years ago, I was completely alone in the world. I was fourteen then, so I couldn't legally be left on my own. I didn't have any extended relatives — no uncles, cousins, or grandparents who could take me in. My mom had died when I was really little, and my older brother not long after that. The only person still standing there after the funeral was over and the dust had settled was a mysterious figure that called himself my benefactor; I called him Ben for short. It sounded better than "Random Stranger Who Pays My Bills," since I didn't know his real name.
He wasn't a relative. In fact, I had never even seen his face. Right after my dad passed away, I was sent into foster care for several weeks while the police investigated the fire. During that time, a lawyer in a snazzy, black suit had come to visit me at the hospital. He had all the right paperwork with my dad's signature naming Ben as my new legal guardian, but all of it was sealed and beyond my understanding. It was like something from a mob movie.
Before I knew it, I was sitting in a fully furnished apartment with all that remained of my family's belongings that hadn't been burned to a crisp. I had a credit card in my wallet, and an acceptance letter to an expensive private school called Saint Augustine's. What else could a teenage girl ask for?
Answers, for starters. But those were hard to come by.
Apparently, my dad had made these arrangements for Ben to take care of me a long time ago, if anything bad were to happen. Ben was supposed to support me until I turned eighteen, and then I wasn't sure what would happen to me. I suspected I'd be left on my own to either sink or swim. For now, Ben took care of everything. He paid my rent and all my expenses. I had a credit card I could use for groceries and anything else I needed. Occasionally, we exchanged emails or text messages. But as far as communication went, that was where Ben drew the line. He never answered the phone when I called, and had never agreed to meet me — not even for holidays.
Ms. Grear talked me into circles about him all the time, like she was trying to catch me in a lie. She knew as much about him as I did. He didn't answer the phone when she called either. He had, however, sent her emails that she claimed sounded "youthfully voiced," which I guessed meant she was accusing me of writing them instead. In a few months, it wouldn't matter — I was about to graduate and turn eighteen. After that, I would be able to make all my own decisions, and wouldn't be anyone's burden to bear. I could move somewhere else, meet new people, and make a clean start.
I tried clinging to that idea as I looked back up at Ms. Grear. She scared me. She must have known she did because she always made a big show of it when she took me out of class for meetings like this. I think she liked watching me squirm as I sat across from her. Honestly, I was just trying to keep it all together. Meanwhile, her beady little eyes watched my every move, the corner of her mouth twitching with a sneer.
"I'll give him a call when I get home," I promised.
She scoffed and rolled her eyes, as if she couldn't believe I was still trying to keep up this charade. "Fine. You're dismissed." She jabbed an angry finger toward her door.
I gathered my backpack and hurried out of her office. The hallways were filled with students all dressed in school uniforms like mine — white button-down shirts, navy-blue knit sweaters, and blue plaid skirts or pants. We weren't allowed to wear makeup or excessive jewelry. I think it was to prevent anyone from feeling superior, like we were all equals or something. It didn't stop cliques from forming, though. There were the bookish kids, the popular and pretty ones, the athletes, and the gamers like at any other school.
Of course, I didn't have a niche. I didn't have any friends here at all. I was a pariah — thanks to my numerous outbursts — and it wasn't unusual for a room to clear whenever I entered.
It still hurt.
I intentionally avoided making eye contact with anyone as I dropped my books in my locker. The inside of my backpack still smelled like smoke from my last episode in chemistry class. I had been in the lab, paired up with one of the more popular girls to do an experiment. We were mixing chemicals, and things seemed to be going well. I had been trying my best to act as normal as possible, and she had been unusually nice to me, too. Like an idiot, I had begun to hope I might make a friend.
Then it happened again.
I was attempting to light the Bunsen burner to heat one of the chemicals when the flames flickered strangely. They flickered and danced, turning blue, pink, and purple. They'd moved almost like they were coming alive. I turned away and tried not to see; I'd always hoped it would go away if I ignored it. Then I saw the flames begin to take form — the shape of a fiery hand — and reach for my lab partner's ponytail. I screamed and dove at her, knocking her out of the way before her hair caught on fire.
Of course, no one else had seen the fire turn into a hand. All they had seen was me screaming and throwing myself at a perfectly innocent lab partner. The Chemistry teacher grabbed me by the collar and dragged me out of the lab while all my classmates watched. They stared at me with wide-eyed, shocked expressions — I got that look from them a lot. Some of the boys in the back snickered and I noticed a few of the other girls going over to console my former lab partner.
So much for making a friend.
I tried not to dwell on it too much as I left the school and walked home alone. I had other, much worse things I should have been worried about. But my thoughts got tangled up in Ms. Grear's words about transferring to a special school. Maybe she was right. Maybe things would be easier at a place like that. At least then I wouldn't have to live in that apartment anymore ...
It was freezing outside. The sidewalks were slick with ice and soggy slush puddles. Fortunately, my apartment was only a few blocks away so I didn't have to walk far. Ben had put me as close as possible to the school so I could get back and forth easily, which was especially useful when the weather was bad.
My apartment was right smack in the middle of the historic part of the city, where doctors and lawyers usually moved to retire. The buildings were all neatly huddled together on either side of the street, tall and skinny like different colored puzzle pieces. Some had small, perfectly-manicured gardens out front and iron fences with elaborate gates. There was a line of square-cut shrubs down the middle of the divided street, and a few blocks away was a collection of quaint shops and a family owned grocery store. It was everything you might need conveniently within walking distance.
I should have been grateful. Ben had given me a beautiful, quiet, and seemingly safe place to live. Instead, I felt guilty because the sight of it filled me with dread. Once I crossed the threshold of my front door, things always got worse.
Not that Ben had any idea about that. For all he knew, I was perfectly happy there. The rent was probably outrageous, and he was the one paying for it. I'd already tried asking if I could move somewhere less expensive. I didn't mind walking longer or even taking the bus. Every time I brought it up, Ben insisted I should focus on my schoolwork and "enjoy my high school experience."
It was bad enough spending a stranger's money, but what made it even worse was despite everything he'd given me, I wanted something more from Ben. I wanted to know him. I was lonely, and he was the only person in the whole world who cared about me even a little, teensy, tiny bit. I had apologized to him plenty of times for being a burden, and he always replied right away to tell me it was his pleasure and privilege to take care of me. Those words never made me feel any better, though. Words on a computer screen weren't very comforting. Frankly, they were cold, distant, and impersonal. I was still desperately clinging to the hope that one day he would allow us to meet, and I'd see someone smile at me again as though they were happy to see me.
I tried not to dwell on that as I climbed the icy front steps of my building, gripping the iron railing so I didn't slip. It looked as if it had originally been built to be a colonial townhouse, but now, the top two floors had been converted into two apartments per level.
The landlord, Mr. Bregger, lived on the first floor. There were two other tenants living there besides me. One was a sweet elderly lady who lived alone on the second floor. She was deaf, and always smiled whenever I passed her in the stairwell. Sometimes, when it was a warm day, she sat out on the sofa in the mailroom with her big, fluffy orange cat in her lap.
Then there was the guy who lived directly across the hall from me.
He was standing in the common foyer, casually checking his mail, when I ducked inside. My entrance sent a blast of cold winter air through the foyer, but he never so much as shivered. I slipped off my mittens and scarf, hurrying to close the door before all the warm, inside air escaped. I made a lot of racket, most of it intentional, and he still didn't give me a single glance. He never did.
I shuffled right past him to check my own mail.
He didn't say a word.
Maybe that shouldn't have bothered me. After all, he looked exactly like the kind of person your parents might advise you to intentionally avoid while walking home alone. His shaggy, dark brown hair came down almost to his shoulders, and there were colorful-tattooed sleeves covering both of his beautifully sculpted arms. Even if tattoos weren't usually my thing, his were amazing. They were brightly colored and riddled with rich, intricate details of flowers, vines, feathers, fish, and splashes of water. I blatantly stole glances of them whenever I spotted him wearing something sleeveless.
Creepy? Probably, but I couldn't help myself. Something about him drove me absolutely nuts, and the fact that he seemed to be intentionally ignoring my existence made it even worse.
He'd moved in here a couple of months ago, and at first glance I wondered what someone like that was doing living in a place like this. But the more I saw of him, the more my brain bubbled with mystification. Who was this guy? Why was he living here, when he could have moved to one of the trendier neighborhoods downtown?
Excerpted from "Mad Magic"
Copyright © 2017 Nicole Conway.
Excerpted by permission of Month9Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My Thoughts - 5 out of 5 Unicorns - I loved it!!! ***I choose what I read and review based on what intrigues me!! Yes, I got a review copy of this book, but no one tells me what to think, feel, or write about any book! I haven’t bought it yet, but I will be buying this book. This is the first book in this new YA series, and it is a full-length book. Wow! This book is awesome! I couldn’t put it down! At the start of this book, Josie is tormented and feels alone. With the help of her neighbor, Josie starts on a scary and amazing journey. So many twists and turns, some you see coming and others not so much. I truly enjoyed this book, and the high school parts of girl drama reminded me of what I see at the high school. I loved this magical world, and I can’t wait for more! Nicole Conway creates an amazing world that is rich and exciting! I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next! I highly recommend to all paranormal fans because you have magic, fae, battles, romance, friendships, and more!
This book has it all: romance, danger, magic, changelings, evil villains, sexy faeries (and not the flittering-about kind, I might add). These fae are not to be trifled with and they will have you salivating. Zeph is your rough, tattooed biker looking dude. Eldrick is your dark-haired, swoon-worthy, sophisticated hottie with a mysterious side that will leave you breathless. The story unfolds with high school student, Josie Barton, getting in trouble once again for something she has no control over. It’s been this way for a long time, with invisible creatures reeking havoc on everything around her. Just when her world goes really south and she feels there is no hope left, in steps Zeph, the scraggly neighbor with that ‘you’re-so-hot in a bad way-I could-eat-you-up’ swagger. But there’s something weird about Zeph and in a short amount of time, Josie discovers just what his secret is, as well as the secret behind the invisible creature living in her apartment. But the secrets and intrigue don’t stop there. Nope, they just keep coming and coming, and the life Josie thought she knew shatters all around her. She discovers things about herself and her father she never dreamed possible, and with the help of Zeph and Eldrick, she figures how who she is and becomes everything she is meant to be. There is a climactic battle in the end that left me riveted on the edge of my seat, but the novel also ends with a fantastic HEA, at least for now. It’s really hard to write a review of this book without giving spoilers away. Let me just say this novel was full of unexpected twists and turns, the characters are layered and I enjoyed peeling each layer back to expose their true selves. This was a fun book that can be read in one sitting. It’s got everything in it for YA fantasy readers, and fans of Sarah J. Maas’ Court of Thrones series will find this equally enjoyable. I hope to see more books in this series. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Mad Magic is alluring, dangerous, and magical! This one will take you for a ride through a stunning world of enchantment and Faeries! With plenty of twists and turns, excitement, and passion, this one is sure to impress all YA lovers! Can we just talk about the cover for a second? It is STUNNING! I was drawn to reading this one by the beautiful cover photo, and the synopsis. The book had a bit of a slow start for me though. It took me roughly 50 pages to really get in to this one, but once I did, it was smooth sailing from there. Conway did a nice job with building and creating this world where faeries exist with humans. It had a similar feel, and system, to the world of Shadow Hunters. It had an immense amount of imagery, and creativity, and felt almost dream like. The plot was quite intriguing too. It felt slightly formulaic, as far as YA Fantasy reads go, but still had enchantment and originality. It also felt like it gather inspiration from The Mortal Instruments series, Blade, Twilight, and Supernatural. After trudging through the slow, and slightly confusing beginning, I fell in love with the story line. I really enjoyed the unexpected plot twists, as well as the enjoyable predictability. I also loved the characters and their nice personality development! Josie had a few "typical YA girl" qualities, but also had a few strong qualities. She was a little naive at times, but also had quite a bit of intelligence. Sometimes she was a little too "lovesick", but other times she was level headed and strong. She had a nice amount of confidence for a 17 year old, and seemed quite mature for her age, when it was necessary. Zeph was dark and alluring. He was mysterious and caring. He felt like a "typical" YA Fantasy love interest at times, but still had depth and charm that helped him feel original. Eldrick was my favorite character. He was definitely dark and mysterious. He added quite a bit of humor to the story, and seemed to have a nice character transformation. He was full of surprises, and was so alluring to me. Mad Magic held charm, humor, fantasy, and excitement. It was well written, and definitely drew me in to the world Conway created. It made me think of faeries in a different way, and had a lot of originality as far as magic is concerned. I am looking forward to reading book 2, and would rate this one 3.5-4 stars. Thank you to Chapter by Chapter for providing me with this free e-copy in exchange for my honest review, and as part of the blog tour!
Mad magic by Nicole Conway was a epic magical, action packed ride that had me hooked from start to finish. I finished this book in a day, I couldn't stop reading. The flow was smooth, the plot stayed on point and I felt that this story, tied up it's major plot question at the end; leaving the ending open just enough for a sequel. Now I did have one problem with the story. It it has to do with the noticeable age difference. Now I get that Zeph is not human, and he doesn't age the same as humans, but that wasn't the issue. It was how he looked like he was in his mid 20's. Josie being only 17, made this pairing uncomfortable with me. It didn't help that it was repeatedly brought up, as if to drive the point home that he was an adult. It was a bit of a turn off at first, because I didn't want them as a couple. ( Towards the end, they grow on me) I've never been fan of these types of paring's for YA. Even if she turned 18 in the story, and was legal; I still felt like it was a bit much. (These another bit that comes out towards the end that really, really, was a nope for me.. but I won't tell you that.. No spoilers here) Now you might feel like that one problem would ruin the whole story, and you're probably wondering why I still gave it a five star, well because this is a freaking amazing story. Josie, though started out like other YA heroine's (useless), she stepped up, she didn't want to be a damsel in distress, and actually took it upon herself to learn how to use her powers. She put time and energy, and strived to perfect for craft. She developed a plan, reached out for help when things got to deep, she didn't go in alone. She used her head, she not only saved herself but she saved the ones that she loved. That my friends is why this is a 5 star. Our heroine, was an actual freaking heroine. She didn't stand in the background like a lump, she was in the action, she got hurt, bleed and she stepped up. There is also no love triangle, there could have been, the set up was there, but I'm delighted that the author took the unbeaten path and opted out. She created a true friendship, build on leaning how to trust, forgive and platonic love. It was sweet, and it made me feel a gushy on the inside, because it was true connection. It also paved the way to the epic ending. That ending! What at battle, it was so well written and choreographed. I could see the action like a movie. It had ups downs, and it was explosive. For a minute I wasn't sure how they were going to pull it off. But like I said, Josie stepped the hell up. I highly recommend this truly stunning work of fiction. This book is everything done right, how YA should be written. It broke away form the overused cliché's, troupes, and scripted nonsensical filler. It was a well-rounded story that kept your attention, kept you guessing. It's more then a page turner, it's a legendary journey that will suck you in body and soul. Happy Reading. E.A. Walsh