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Spell Bound

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About The Book

An instant New York Times bestseller!

Two rival apprentice sorcerers must team up to save their teachers and protect their own magic in this “charming and engaging” (School Library Journal) young adult romantic adventure from the author of In Deeper Waters and So This Is Ever After.

Edison Rooker isn’t sure what to expect when he enters the office of Antonia Hex, the powerful sorceress who runs a call center for magical emergencies. He doesn’t have much experience with hexes or curses. Heck, he doesn’t even have magic. But he does have a plan—to regain the access to the magical world he lost when his grandmother passed.

Antonia is…intimidating, but she gives him a job and a new name—Rook—both of which he’s happy to accept. Now all Rook has to do is keep his Spell Binder, an illegal magical detection device, hidden from the Magical Consortium. And contend with Sun, the grumpy and annoyingly cute apprentice to Antonia’s rival colleague, Fable. But dealing with competition isn’t so bad; as Sun seems to pop up more and more, Rook minds less and less.

But when the Consortium gets wind of Rook’s Spell Binder, they come for Antonia. All alone, Rook runs to the only other magical person he knows: Sun. Except Fable has also been attacked, and now Rook and Sun have no choice but to work together to get their mentors back…or face losing their magic forever.

Excerpt

Chapter 1: Rook 1 ROOK
Hex-A-Gone.

The name didn’t quite inspire visions of magical greatness. It was a pun. A bad one but funnily apt for a local emergency on-call curse-breaker. And while I could appreciate the humor on a campy level, the name definitely was not what had drawn me there. I wasn’t cursed. I wasn’t hexed. I wasn’t in need of a magical service, but I stood outside the nondescript office front that had the name emblazoned in simple white letters across the glass door, and a “Consortium Sanctioned” certificate tucked into the corner of the window.

A wilted potted plant leaned mournfully toward a sliver of sunlight on the other side, and beyond that, the lights were dimmed, making it difficult to see anything other than the reception area. The whole image was the epitome of depressed office park chic, down to the plain black welcome mat on the other side of the threshold, and not what one would expect from a magical business owned by the supposedly most powerful sorcerer in Spire City.

Ignoring the dour exterior, I pulled on the door handle and stepped inside. I had a freshly printed high school diploma in my backpack alongside my newest invention and a deep desire to work with magic, and I wasn’t going to be put off merely because the office appeared abandoned. A frisson of excitement or terror—I couldn’t tell which—swept down my spine. The inside was somehow less impressive than the outside, filled with typical dull office decor, including an empty receptionist desk and a room of prefab cubicles.

I fidgeted, hands digging like claws into the straps of my backpack, unsure of what to do next. Should I call out a “hello” and hope that someone heard me? Should I ring the little bell on the desk? Should I turn around and walk back out because what the hell was I even doing there? A teenager with no magical ability at all about to beg for a job in a magical profession.

I gritted my teeth. No, I was not going to run. I could do it. I could totally do it. I was going to do it. I had to do it. I literally had graduated from school the day before, and I needed a job. But beyond that, I needed to find out if I belonged. The worst thing she could do was say no. Right? Well, she could turn me into a frog. She was a sorcerer after all. But I doubted she would because she was in the business of helping people, albeit for a price. Huh. Hopefully not only for a price. I wasn’t exactly swimming in riches, hence my search for employment.

Regardless, the chance of potentially being turned into a frog was one I was willing to take to be able to talk to Antonia Hex.

I shuffled forward, my heels scraping across the mat. I glanced toward the coatrack in the corner, which sagged against the wall. It turned in my direction. I blinked. What? The coatrack straightened from a slouch and regarded me much like how I regarded it. I bit down on my startled yelp as it moved, hobbling over on three legs. It bowed deeply at the waist, or what counted as the waist for a coatrack. Then it gestured toward my backpack, holding out its spindles in invitation.

I clutched my bag with white knuckles and took a step backward, as I had the abrupt and stark realization that my judgment and my self-preservation instincts were not as honed as they probably should be for a nonmagical almost-seventeen-year-old.

For one, I should have freaked out at the sight of a helpful coatrack, and while I was slightly wary, because weird, I somehow stayed outwardly calm. I wanted to poke it to see what would happen, curious about the mechanics of an obviously magical coatrack, but self-preservation did kick in and I resisted the urge.

For two, I had willingly walked into the business owned and operated by a formidable sorcerer. I was sure many customers had come and gone in the agency’s tenure—otherwise it wouldn’t still be in business. But I was also sure that few of them were penniless, utterly powerless humans like myself. And three, while the coatrack tapped its stand, impatiently waiting for me to hand over my bag, I became achingly aware that this was magic. Real and powerful magic. Something I hadn’t been allowed to experience in so long. The elation of feeling the slightest tingle of it prick along my skin chased away all the apprehensions clamoring in my stomach and replaced them with a bone-deep reverence.

I sucked in a breath as I squirmed in the doorway. Despite the name, Hex-A-Gone was a well-respected business that responded to magical emergencies and specialized in breaking curses, hexes, and jinxes. I had done my research. The owner, the aforementioned Antonia Hex, was a powerful sorcerer, and the rumor was that though she wasn’t evil per se, she wasn’t what one would call lawfully good, either. And if she ever wanted to turn evil, there wasn’t much anyone could do to stop her.

I should have been terrified or cautious at the very least. And I was, but it wasn’t going to keep me from trying to get a job there, because I wanted so badly to learn from her.

The spelled coatrack made another gesture toward my bag. I shook my head. Wait, was it spelled or cursed? I wasn’t sure the terminology other than that it was an inanimate object that had been imbued with magic to act as some sort of welcoming committee to the office. If a coatrack could be judgmental, this one was, and it crossed its skinny arms, spun on its base, and hobbled back to a position by the door. Uh-oh, I had offended the coatrack. Maybe I should’ve given it my bag? Was that some kind of test?

I cleared my throat. I might be in over my head. Just a little bit. Because as much as I could research the business itself and dig up a little about the owner, the actual magic involved was hidden away under lock and key, available only to a select few.

I shifted nervously on the welcome mat, my tattered sneakers squeaking on the rubber. I had the terrifying and fleeting thought that maybe the welcome mat was spelled as well, and I was basically dancing on its face, when a small crash followed by a string of expletives emanated from deeper in the building.

“Son of a bitch,” a woman muttered as she stepped out of a small break room beyond the partition and off to the side, dabbing at a large rapidly spreading coffee stain on her blouse with a tiny napkin. She was tall, especially in the red heels she wore, and had long dark hair, golden-brown skin, and an intimidating aura.

“Modern appliances just aren’t meant to…” She trailed off when she looked up and saw me standing by the door. She was undoubtedly beautiful, with berry-colored lips, perfectly shaped eyebrows, and thick lashes, but her most striking feature was her violet eyes. They pierced through me like I imagined arrows would. Her long fingernails were painted black, and they curled around the soaked napkin crumpled in her hand while the stain wicked through the fabric of her sleeve. Her brow furrowed as she looked at me. Then her gaze cut to the coatrack brooding in the corner.

“Why didn’t you alert me that someone was here?” she demanded.

The rack’s shoulders drooped, and it turned away from her like a scolded puppy.

“Now, don’t be like that,” she said, tone softening. “But what is the point of having spelled furniture to watch the door if it doesn’t do its job?”

The coatrack seemed to sigh, then teetered back over to me and gestured an arm, beckoning me into the office.

“Well, it’s a little late now,” the woman said, shaking her head. “Just go… clean up the coffee. The brewer combusted again.” Somehow the coatrack conveyed annoyance in the shrug of its wooden body. “Yes. I’m aware,” she said, frowning. “I’ll figure it out eventually.”

The coatrack slouched off, and the woman turned back to me, her previously white sleeve now brown and damp and clinging to her arm.

“Don’t mind him,” she said with a shrug. “Herb is moody on his best days.”

“Herb?” I asked. It was the first thing I’d said since I entered the office, and the woman’s lips quirked.

“That’s his name. I take it you’ve never met a spelled coatrack before?”

Spelled. It was spelled, not cursed. “No. But my grandmother had a temperamental teapot.”

She nodded. “Sometimes convenience isn’t worth the trouble. Anyway, who are you, and why are you here?”

Oh. Well. Abrupt. But sure. I pulled back my shoulders, adjusting my posture. “My name is—”

She raised her hand and cut me off. “Stop.” Her violet eyes glittered. “Let’s leave names out of this for now. Tell me why you are here first.”

I didn’t know how to take that. But I swallowed. “I’m here to meet with… the owner, if possible.”

“Really?” she said, pulling out the word. She looked me up and down. “Have you been cursed?”

“No.”

“Hexed?”

I swallowed. “No.”

She snapped her fingers. “Jinxed, then. Don’t worry, sweetheart. Jinxes tend to run their course and wear off. You don’t need to employ Antonia for a simple jinx if it’s fairly mild.” She looked around the office, then cupped her hand near her mouth and stage whispered, “You probably couldn’t afford the rates anyway.”

As I figured. “Um… no. That’s not why I’m here.” My knees shook. “I want to ask her about a job.”

The woman’s eyebrows shot up. “A job? With the most powerful sorcerer in the city? Possibly in the world? You?”

My heart pounded. “Yes?”

“Is that a question?”

“No.”

“So, you don’t want a job?”

“No, wait, I do. Yes, I want a job.”

She snickered. “I’m just messing with you, kid. Come on,” she said, spinning on her heel, her hair whipping behind her. “Follow me to the boss’s office. We’ll get you squared away.”

I stepped off the welcome mat to follow, and the corner smacked me in the ankle. Surprised, I scrambled after her, beyond the entryway and into the office proper.

“Oh, and beware the welcome mat,” she said, glancing over her shoulder and giving it a narrow-eyed look. “It’s cursed.”

Oh. Wonderful.

She flicked her wrist, and an inner door opened. She led me deeper into the building, past a row of cubicles, and into a massive office. The office had a large tempered glass wall and door on one side and a claw-footed desk in the corner next to a huge window. The nameplate said ANTONIA HEX in big letters. There was a computer, but it was set off to the side, as if it wasn’t as important as the hefty, old leather-bound book that took up the majority of the desk’s surface. Next to it was a small cauldron on a hot plate and a row of vials in a wooden stand.

The woman walked around the desk and settled herself in the high-backed office chair. With a mutter and a wave of her fingers, the air shifted, and the coffee stain on her arm disappeared in the space of a blink. I tried not to stare wide-eyed, but I’d seen more magic in the last few seconds than I had in the last year, and giddy excitement bubbled beneath my breastbone.

She leaned back in the chair, tented her fingers, and cocked her head to the side. “Sit and tell me why you want to work for me.”

Oh. Oh. She wasn’t some random office worker. She was Antonia Hex.

I awkwardly fell into the seat, forgetting about my bag, which crammed between my spine and the chair. I became tangled in the straps for an embarrassing moment until I was finally able to free myself and drop it at my feet.

“Geez, kid. Don’t hurt yourself.”

“I’m sorry,” I breathed. “I… I… It’s just…”

“I’m not what you were expecting?”

I shook my head. “Honestly? No.”

“Good. I don’t like being predictable. Keeps things interesting.” She tapped her lips. “Let me guess. You heard the words ‘the most powerful sorcerer in an age’ and looked the business up on the internet and immediately thought creepy, old, withered hag or someone’s doddering grandma who plays with potions. Am I right?”

Close. I did think of my grandma but for other reasons. I scratched the back of my neck. “Something like that.”

“Well”—she opened her arms—“appearances can be deceiving.” She smirked. “Now, let’s get started. But first you have to stop vibrating.”

“Huh?” She pointed to where my leg bounced erratically. I hadn’t even realized I was doing it. “Oh, sorry. I’m nervous.”

“I can tell,” she said with a soft smile. “Don’t worry. I don’t bite.” Her smile ticked up at the corner, turning sly. “Well, I don’t bite children.”

“That’s… good, I guess?”

She laughed, a low and throaty sound. “You’re cute. I’ll give you that. But I don’t work with people based on that alone. So, spill, kid. Why are you here?”

Okay, this was my chance. I’d practiced my speech in front of a mirror for the last week. I’d made notecards with bullet points and memorized them. I’d worked on my body language and presentation. I’d even worn my best button-down and newest jeans and used cheap product in my brown hair to make it stay in place.

“I miss my grandmother,” I blurted. And oh. Oh no. That was not how I’d meant to start. “She died a year ago.” Well, that was even worse.

Antonia’s eyes narrowed. “I’m not a medium,” she said, lips pursed. “And despite Spire City gossip, I can’t bring anyone back from the dead. Well, let’s be real, I could, but that’s considered necromancy and is generally frowned upon in most circles. Not that I care what people think of me. But it’s not worth the paperwork or the scrutiny.”

“No, I know. I mean, I didn’t know that. But that’s not why… I’m not here for… I’m sorry. That’s not… What I meant was…” Come on, self, make a statement. “I’m a genius.”

Both of her eyebrows shot up.

Shit. That was not it either.

“Wait. I’m sorry.” I ran a hand through my hair, then winced when it came away sticky with gel. My hair probably stood on end, and my face was so hot with embarrassment. And now my fingers stuck to my palm as I clenched my fist. I couldn’t meet her gaze and stared at the floor, absolutely mortified.

“Is this going how you thought it would?” she asked, the click of her fingernails drumming on the wooden desk loud in the otherwise silence.

“No,” I muttered.

“Well, at least you’re honest. But as hilarious as this all is, I do have work to do, so…” She trailed off.

I lifted my head and composed myself the best I could. “I want to work with you because I want to help people like you help people. My grandmother was a low-level sorcerer, and she made potions and she took care of everyone in the neighborhood. And that’s what magic is to me. And I really am a genius. I graduated from high school early with the highest grades in the class, and I learn difficult concepts very quickly. I’m loyal and I follow through and I’m punctual. I brought references from a few of my teachers if you’d like to see them.”

She waved away the offer.

“Okay,” I said, on a breath. “I’m enthusiastic and I work hard, and I very much want to work for you.”

Antonia leaned forward, elbows on the pages of the book, expression placid, bordering on bored.

“Why curse work and not one of those”—she waved her hand—“flashy spell places downtown?”

Ah, yes. The sorcerers for hire who performed spells for exorbitant fees. I’d heard a few of my schoolmates bragging about how their families had hired sorcerers for their graduation parties to spell chandeliers to hover and sparkle and decorations to change every hour and drink glasses that wouldn’t spill. All frivolous and fancy magic that cost more money than I’d see in a lifetime.

“I don’t want to work for them. I want to work for you. Apparently, you’re the best.”

“Apparently?” Antonia scoffed. “Child, I am the best.”

“Then I want to work for you.”

She nodded. “Okay. Makes sense. But did you know that curse work is messy and basically the lowest form of magic for hire?”

I swallowed. I had guessed that was the case, and it made my chances of being hired a little more real, especially if there weren’t many others clamoring for employment.

“Then why is the best sorcerer in the city relegated to it?”

Her lips pulled into a sly grin. “Why indeed?”

That wasn’t an answer. And my weak self-preservation instincts registered that I should probably be afraid of whatever the answer was and make a hasty exit since she blatantly skirted the question. I stayed rooted in my chair.

“Anyway…” Antonia plowed through the tension, not giving me a second to contemplate further. “What if I’m not hiring?”

I’d prepared for that. “I’ll work for minimum wage. And if not, then a mentorship. Or I could be your apprentice!”

Her expression went flat, sour. “I don’t take apprentices. I don’t teach magic. And I work alone in the field.”

That was disheartening. I licked my dry lips. “Not even a volunteer?”

She tilted her head, her eyes burning as her gaze swept over me. “Hold out your hand. Palm up.”

It wasn’t a request. I gulped, afraid and optimistic all at once. Trembling with nerves, I held out the non-sticky hand. She grasped it and yanked me close, forcing me to the edge of the chair, her fingernails pinpricks against my skin. She stared at my palm intently, smoothing her thumbs over the lines, then pressed the tip of one finger hard, right in the center. It hurt, but I resisted pulling my hand away and clenched my jaw against a whine. I expected that this might happen, that I’d have to endure this test again, and I braced myself for it, gritted my teeth, and bore the pain. I’d failed it once before, and the anxiety of falling short again swirled inside me, made my stomach churn and my free hand shake. But I was also hopeful because Antonia was the most adept sorcerer in the city, and maybe the outcome would be different because maybe she would see that I belonged. It was one of my reasons for coming here, and I hoped against hope that the result would be different.

After an excruciating minute, she released the pressure. “You aren’t magic,” she said, brow furrowed as she studied my hand. “I can’t sense any magic ability within you.”

I did my best not to physically deflate right there, but my throat went tight, and the burn of unshed tears gathered behind my eyes.

“Can you even see the ley lines?” she asked.

Ley lines. The source of all magical energy. They crisscrossed the globe, stronger in some parts of the world than others. Some of the thickest and most powerful lines converged right here in Spire City. Sorcerers could see them, draw from them, and use them to perform spells and infuse potions with the magic from them. It was like magical Wi-Fi. The rumor was that some sorcerers were even so adept that they could build a reserve of power from the lines inside themselves for use later. Though it was only rumor.

Antonia snapped her head up and dropped my hand. It fell to the desk with a smack. “Well?”

I couldn’t lie if I wanted. “No,” I said. “I can’t.”

She leaned backward, tented her fingers. “Huh. Well, this has all been fun. But without the ability to use magic, I’m sorry to say that there is no place for you here.”

Her words were a slap. They weren’t mean, just matter-of-fact. But they still stung, picked at the open wound of insecurity in my chest that whispered to me that I’d never fit in anywhere. Too smart for my own good. Too aware of the magical world to live without it, but not magical enough to be included and certainly not wealthy enough to access it. I’d known, deep down, that approaching Antonia was a long shot, a desperate attempt at belonging, but I’d hoped… I had desperately hoped that as powerful as she was, she could see magic in me when no one else could, and perhaps she’d sense that I was supposed to be here, a part of her world. But she hadn’t. She didn’t. My heart sank to the floor, and my cheeks burned with shame.

“None?” I asked, voice cracking. “At all?”

“No, kid. Without magic, employment wouldn’t be allowed anyway.” She studied me. Her eyes caught the light, shining like two bright jewels. “You’re not going to cry on me, are you?” she asked.

I shook my head, frantically trying to rein in my utter dejection. “No,” I said, my voice a rasp, blinking back tears. I’d wait until I was on the bus back home at least.

“Look, kid, this line of work, it takes… Well, even the girl who manages the office has a bit of magic. This is not something to dive into lightly. It’s hectic and can be frightening for someone who has not been around it before. And I just don’t have the time to train someone who doesn’t know the difference between a curse and a jinx and wouldn’t be helpful in breaking either if they did. I’m sorry.”

I pressed my lips together and nodded. “I understand.”

“Good, because—”

The phone on the corner of the desk rang. It was a typical office phone, but it was so loud and so obnoxious that we both flinched. Antonia cursed and pointed a finger at it, magic bursting from her in a wave that knocked the phone onto its side. It continued to ring, though now more of a dying whale song type of noise than a high-pitched trill. After a moment of torture, the sound finally sputtered out with an eerie dial tone.

Antonia put her hands over her ears. “I’m sorry. My office manager is on vacation, and somehow the stupid phone got turned up to high volume and I have no idea how to turn it down, and I can’t magic it, because if I do, it just explodes.”

“It explodes?”

Antonia winced and pointed behind me. I turned in my chair to see a plain box in the corner with the remnants of a phone exactly like the one on her desk. There were also fragments of what looked at one time to be a desk lamp and… Was that a printer?

Wow. I raised an eyebrow as I turned around. “Is that what happened to the coffee maker?”

She huffed. “Magic and machines don’t mix.”

I clutched my bag at my feet.

“And I am magic, and I break electronics all the time.” She sighed. “I really wanted that coffee.”

My heart leaped, and my thoughts buzzed in the face of a potential opportunity. Maybe there was another way in. I cleared my throat. “I can fix that, you know,” I said, nodding toward the phone. “And the coffee maker. I wasn’t lying when I said I was a genius.”

She lifted her chin, straightened from her defeated slump. “You can fix that?”

“Yeah. I have a way with electronics and technology.” I leaned over and righted the phone. Taking the receiver from the cradle, I found the volume button on the keypad and turned it down to a less earsplitting level. It was an easy fix, something Antonia could’ve figured out on her own, but I wasn’t above exploiting this newfound weakness to my benefit. I gestured toward the laptop that was pushed off to the side. “Do you even use that?”

Antonia rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, defensive. “I know how to use it. I just don’t. It’s a preference.” She eyed it like it was a monster that would come alive and eat her. “Okay, fine. I don’t like it. It doesn’t like me. We have a mutual understanding.”

“Is it cursed like the welcome mat?”

“I wish. I’d know how to fix it then.”

Well, this was a smidgeon of leverage. So, I pushed. “I could take a look at it if you want?”

She gauged me with a shrewd eye, then wagged her finger in my face. “Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing,” she said, lips pulled into a wry smile. “But fine, you fix that computer, and I’ll give you a job.”

“Really?”

“On a trial basis. And only in the office. No magic. No field work. Office staff only.”

It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was close enough. Better than nothing at all. At least I’d be around magic again.

“Okay. Deal.”

She nodded. “Do you have school or something?”

“I graduated.”

“Okay. Well, come back tomorrow morning to fix the laptop, and we’ll talk.”

I smiled wide, my head spinning from the emotional roller coaster of rejection, then acceptance in the space of a few minutes. “Okay. That’s great. Really awesome. I’ll be here. Thank you. I’m very excited.”

“Don’t make me regret it, kid. Leave before I change my mind.”

I shot to my feet, swinging my bag over my shoulder. “Okay. Yes. Leaving now.” I scrambled out of the office, down the hallway past the cubicles, and to the reception area. I waved at Herb, who ignored me, turning away in dramatic fashion.

“Hey, kid!” Antonia called.

I skidded to a stop and spun on my heel. Antonia leaned in the doorway of her office, yelling across the empty space. “What’s your name?”

“Edison,” I called back. “Edison Rooker.”

She made a face. “That’s an awful name.” She hummed. “I’m going to call you Rook. Okay. Got it.”

Well, close enough. I turned back toward the door.

“And watch out for the—”

As I stepped across the welcome mat, it jerked to the side, sliding my foot out from beneath me. I stumbled but managed to keep from falling to the floor by catching myself on the wall… with my face.

“Mat,” Antonia finished weakly.

“I’m fine!” My nose throbbed. A trickle of blood wound its way from my nostril. “I’m fine. It’s fine.”

I heard muffled laughter and a “holy shit” follow after me as I fled out the door, but I didn’t turn around, too embarrassed, too bloody, and very aware that my position with Antonia was tenuous enough that an encounter with a cursed rug could potentially ruin everything. Better to make a run for it before she could change her mind.

Sprinting toward the city bus stop, I couldn’t help but laugh, even though my nose ached. I felt like I could run a marathon and sleep for a week at the same time. Catching my reflection in the bus window as it slowed to a stop, I could see that I looked a bit deranged and did my best to tame my hair and wipe the blood smears off my face. The bus driver gave me a judgmental once-over when I boarded and swiped my card, but she didn’t say anything as I headed toward a window seat near the back.

I slumped into the seat, and my leg jiggled in anxious excitement as I watched Spire City speed past me in a blur of tall buildings and busy streets. The city itself was massive, stretching in all directions, one of the largest in the world, a far cry from where I’d grown up in my grandmother’s cottage on the very outer edge of the city sprawl. Antonia’s office was a good hour bus ride from my apartment, but it would be worth it. So worth it.

The best part though was that I’d be around magic again. It wouldn’t be like living with my grandmother, where she’d conjure sparkling butterflies for me to chase in the spring or spell the fire to heat the house in the winter. Where there was always a bubbling cauldron of something, be it soup or a cold remedy or a sweet fizzy drink for the hottest days of the summer. But it would be something more than the loneliness of the apartment and the absence of any familial affection.

I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and checked the time. I had no messages, which wasn’t a surprise. I didn’t have friends at school, only classmates and acquaintances, since I was the new kid who moved in at the start of senior year and also younger than everyone I shared classes with. And my caseworker had been clear that while my stipend and rent would continue until I turned eighteen, now that I’d finished my mandatory education, I was well and truly on my own. No more awkward check-ins, no more supervision, and now nothing to stop me from pursuing my own interests and enacting my tenuous plan to gain entrance back into the magical community. The community I’d been cut off from when my grandmother passed.

And with that thought, despite the excitement of the afternoon, I sank lower in my seat and leaned heavily against the window. I dozed as the bus navigated the busy street, rocking when it went up on the curb, honking the horn at pedestrians, and jerking to a halt every so often at the different stops along the way.

When it finally pulled into my stop, I hopped up and exited, yawning as the events of the day caught up with me and fatigue settled behind my eyes. I quickly walked the short route home, head down, hands twined in the straps of my bag. I lived on the fourth floor, and while the elevator was rickety and the buttons on the panel were burned out half the time, I went with it instead of the stairs because I was on the verge of being worn out. By the time I’d made it to the door, I was well and truly exhausted.

Once inside, I kicked off my shoes in the entranceway and dropped my bag onto the couch, then switched on the TV for some background noise as I rooted around in the freezer. The apartment was quiet and still. Lonely, to be honest. But I’d been lonely for the past year, since my whole life had been uprooted, and it was easy to slip into the comfort of it. It wasn’t entirely a bad thing, and now I had work to look forward to since I was going back to Hex-A-Gone in the morning.

Feet on the coffee table, ice wrapped in a paper towel pressed to my nose, I pulled my backpack into my lap. I unzipped it and gently took out the device that I’d been working on for the last year of my life. The Spell Binder.

Its creation was what had kept me going since the day I’d been forced from my grandma’s cottage and sent to live in the city on my own. Ever since, magic had been excised from my life when a nameless government sorcerer had pressed their finger into the center of my palm and deemed me not magical and thus not allowed to stay in the home I knew or the community I loved. Unable to see the ley lines, they said. Unable to learn how to cast. Unable to access magic. Banished to the outside looking in with the only entrance being vast sums of money, which I didn’t have.

I had hoped that having the most powerful sorcerer in the city—the world if Antonia was to be believed—read my palm, she might see a spark that someone else had missed, that there was fledgling potential within me that she could nurture. She hadn’t. The confirmation hurt worse than I thought it could. And even if she had found a smidgeon of magic, she’d been clear that she wouldn’t teach me, sending a jagged ache of rejection piercing through me yet again.

But I’d be okay. I’d experienced worse. And while it didn’t feel great, it merely meant that I had to recalibrate and adjust, something I happened to be excellent at. So she wouldn’t be teaching me magic directly. That didn’t mean I still couldn’t learn about it. I could learn anything. I was a genius after all. I had learned to live on my own. I had learned to navigate life in the city. I could carve out a place for myself within the magical world. That’s why I created the Spell Binder in the first place. I couldn’t see the ley lines, so I developed a device that could see them for me.

I checked it over, making sure that it hadn’t been damaged in any way. I powered it on, and it blinked to life in my hand, the screen flickering. This was the first step in changing my life, because if I could see the magic myself, then it couldn’t ever be taken away from me. Despite the slight setbacks, I held on to hope. I had to because it was all I had. And with Antonia’s unwitting assistance, I was never going to be without magic again.

About The Author

Photograph by F.T. Lukens

F.T. Lukens is a New York Times bestselling author of YA speculative fiction including the novels Spell Bound, So This Is Ever After and In Deeper Waters (2022 ALA Rainbow Booklist; Junior Library Guild Selection) as well as other science fiction and fantasy works. Their contemporary fantasy novel The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic was a 2017 Cybils Award finalist in YA Speculative Fiction and the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Gold Winner for YA fiction and won the Bisexual Book Award for Speculative Fiction. F.T. resides in North Carolina with their spouse, three kids, three dogs, and three cats.

Why We Love It

“F.T. Lukens is an expert at creating a chaotic blend of swoon-worthy romance and laugh-out-loud humor set against whimsical fantasy backdrops and fueled by effortlessly charming characters. Spell Binder is no exception! Add enemies-to-lovers apprentices and you’ve got yourself a winner.”

—Kate P., Editor, on Spell Bound

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (April 4, 2023)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665916226
  • Ages: 14 - 99

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Raves and Reviews

"With mystery, magic, and mega-cute rivals-to-lovers vibes, Spell Bound cast a spell that had me flipping through the pages at lightning-speed! Once again, I'm utterly enchanted by F.T. Lukens!"

– Jason June, New York Times bestselling author of Out of the Blue

"A delightful novel about magic and belonging."

Kirkus Reviews

"Tight plotting, fresh world-building, and an innovative magic system buoyed by clever banter and impassioned romance results in a winsome found family narrative and a delectable treat."

– Publishers Weekly

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