Tag Archives: Magic

A Review of The Red Pencil

Book cover for The red pencil by Shawna Reppert. Image on cover shows a red pencil lying on an opened spiral notebook. Title: The Red Pencil

Author: Shawna Reppert

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: September 26, 2015

Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: About 19 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 4 Stars


A young girl learns to be careful what she wishes for. . .and as an adult decides that some things are worth the cost. Contemporary fantasy by an award-winning author.

Although this story is inspired in part by the author’s childhood in Pennsylvania and her Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, it is contemporary fantasy/magical realism, not memoir. The magic in the book is entirely the author’s invention, although inspired by archetypes from several cultures. It is in no way meant to represent the Pennsylvania Dutch hex tradition.


Content Warning: Two brief descriptions of animal abuse and one brief description of a dead pet cat.

Everyone needs the right tools for their education.

Childhood isn’t always a fun experience. It was interesting to see how Mari coped with her jealousy over a classmate who seemed to live a charmed life. Those sorts of emotions can be intense, especially when the ordinary scuffles of recess spill over into other parts of life. Getting to know the main character was even more rewarding than it had already been once she shared how she handled her feelings and how the red pencil helped her learn an important life lesson at such a tender age.

I would have loved to see more world building in this short story, especially when it came to Mari’s relationship with the Huckster. He was such a mysterious figure that I would have loved to know how they first met and how he knew she was the right person to give the red pencil to. There was space to expand this world here, and I would have gone with a full five-star rating if the author had done that.

With that being said, I thought Ms. Reppert did a fabulous job of explaining the allure and danger of the red pencil. Some of the most memorable scenes for me were the ones that explored Mari’s relationship with what she originally thought was a perfectly ordinary gift from an acquaintance. I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover what was actually going on there, but this is the sort of magical touch to a plot that leaves me wanting more.

The Red Pencil was a thoughtful back-to-school read.

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The Healer: A Review of Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil by Lea Doué book cover. Image on cover shows a young woman wearing a black cloak and touching her Hans as she walks through a deserted forest on a slightly foggy day. TitleSweet Basil – A Firethorn Chronicles Short Story

Author: Lea Doué

Publisher: Butterwing Publishing (Self-Published)

Publication Date: August 30, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 24 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars


Hiding from sorcerer hunters, Marisol travels in search of those she can help with her dangerous gift of healing. With every life she saves comes the risk of being discovered, but only if her secret doesn’t destroy her first.

Sweet Basil is a stand-alone short story set in the world of The Firethorn Chronicles, a series drawn from The Twelve Dancing Princesses and other fairytales.


Content Warning: Pain and  life-threatening illnesses. I will not mention them in my review.

Would you continue using your powers for good even if doing so put you in terrible danger?

I’d never read a tale about a magical tattoo, and the idea excited me as soon as it was introduced in one of the very first scenes. The person who had that tattoo knew that it was something incredibly special that not everyone around them would understand, so they had to take measures to prevent others from noticing that their tattoo could do things like move around of its own accord. I’m dancing around this subject a little to avoid spoilers, but I was impressed by how creatively the author explained this portion of the plot. It made me think about tattoos in an entirely new light, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much this item affected the course of the storyline.

It would have been helpful to have more world building. No, I didn’t expect the author to explain everything, especially since it was a prequel that was primarily meant to whet the appetites of new readers for more. With that being said, there were a few scenes I found confusing because of how little time was spent explaining what the rules of magic are in this universe and how someone can reasonably expect a magical object to behave when it is used. I simply didn’t know enough about those matters to tell if items like the tattoo were acting out of the ordinary or not.

One of my favorite things about this story was how it depicted Marisol and Renzo’s friendship. Many storytellers, especially in the fantasy genre,  immediately assume that any two characters who are single and who share compatible sexual orientations must end up in a relationship together no matter how much this may or may not make sense for their individual character arcs or for the plot as a whole. Given this trope, it was refreshing to see how the author handled their friendship and where she took it. Her decisions made sense for for what I know thus far about the characters and the plot. Obviously, I can’t say how the rest of the series will develop from here as I haven’t read it yet, but I appreciated what’s been done with it up until this point.

This is a prequel to a series. It can be read as a standalone work.

Sweet Basil – A Firethorn Chronicles Short Story made me smile. 


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