The Killing Spell (ParisDude’s Review)

Title: The Killing Spell
Author: Shane Ulrrein
Publisher: Deep Hearts YA
Release Date: July 9, 2019
Genre(s): YA, Magic, Wizard, First love
Page Count: 236
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 0 flame out of 5
Rating: 3.70 stars out of 5


Edward Peach is a fourteen-year-old wizard who receives a letter that he has been accepted into the prestigious Prymoutekhny Wizards Academy for Boys, in the faraway land of Aradia. His parents are overjoyed, but he feels reluctant to leave his family, friends, and his comfy cottage in the English coastal village of Manley.

As term begins, Edward adjusts to life in his new school, dealing with bullies, strict teachers, and challenging wizardry classes. He is almost ready to give up when he falls in love with a charismatic, privileged boy—and talented wizard—named Mr. Andreas. Prymoutekhny is a school that has still not opened up to same-sex attraction, so he must keep his feelings secret.

Soon, Edward and the impressive boy realize their deep attraction for each other. This causes immediate controversy in the school, as they are the first two boys from feuding houses to come together—especially in a school where house rivalry can end in murder.

He is then put to the ultimate test as he must risk being with the boy he loves even at the cost of his own life!

Once in a while I like to read a nice YA-novel. Whatever anyone says about the Narnia-series (sexist, racist, whatever-ist), I just love those books. Rowling has poor vocabulary and only knows the verb “say”? Well, she’s a helluva good story-teller, and Harry Potter one helluva wickedly entertaining series. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of the sweetest, best-written books ever. So, a YA-novel with first love and wizards and magic? Pitch-perfect for me. Alas, once I’d finished the book, I had to admit it was a rather mixed bag for me. Somehow like a nice meal, a meal that smells heavenly, rich and spicy, and looks scrumptious. And when you eat it, you realize that there are spices aplenty, alright… but the cook has forgotten to add that pinch of salt that gives the whole thing real flavour.

Plot-wise, we follow Edward Peach, 14, first-person narrator, who’s just arrived in the renowned Prymoutekhny Wizards Academy for Boys, somewhere on a magical island. He isn’t thrilled to be there, far from his beloved England and his mates, but soon makes friends with three other lads from his house, the Manticore House. We learn there are three of them: Manticore (for middle-class boys), Phoenix (for the poor), and Alpha (for the well-off). Each house is like a secluded isle; classes are mixed, but apart from school activities, members of the different Houses don’t mingle. Any infringement of that unwritten rule is not only frowned upon, but almost outlawed and, as we learn, punished by death more often than not. Here, we get already three things that didn’t quite work for me. The whole school business remained too vague, Edward being always very detached, uninterested in details, unquestioning. The rigid and severe House-system seemed out of another century; yet, we know that when the boys go home for holidays, they use mobiles, and as they learn about Harry Potter’s struggles in their History class, we can suppose the story takes place nowadays. Last but not least, the way the death of a student is treated not only by his mates but also the teachers is disturbingly offhandedly—people don’t do more than shrug. Edward reacts with more sensitivity, but finally accepts his mate’s death as something unavoidable, almost normal and understandable (it is not, and that’s what disturbed me; that death was a cruel, stupid, inexcusable murder).

Anyway. Edward then becomes friends with a first-year student from the posh Alpha House: Mr. Andreas, son of a prestigious, world-famous wizard and already an accomplished wizard himself. They fall in love with each other and become boyfriends in less time than others say “Hello” (well, if my memory’s right, that’s how things happen when you’re 14). That falling-in-love part is sweet, but Mr. Andreas remains somewhat sketchy, as so many other things in this book. The fact that we (as well as Edward) don’t get to know his first name only adds to that perceived sketchiness. Alright, we learn that one must not speak out loud that first name for there’s a curse attached, but the author might have come up with something less zany. It’s indeed almost comical when one 14-year-old calls his boyfriend “Mr. Andreas” or “love”. Their relationship has (self-induced) ups and downs (well, yes, they’re 14)… and doesn’t seem to evolve at all. I wasn’t expecting porn; that would even have been out of place. But holding hands and exchanging kisses at 14? I didn’t have boyfriends at that age, I didn’t even dream of having boyfriends, but even I did more than that! At fourteen, you start to understand, explore, pleasure your body. Hormones shoot through you like sap up a tree-trunk in May, and you can hardly keep your hands away from certain body parts.

In one word, some things didn’t work for me. Unfortunately, many things are told and not shown, so that as a whole, my reading experience was not a satisfying one. Showing—the salt of that meal called book. This is a nice enough YA book, though. Good vocabulary (at last! someone is using a Thesaurus! Kudos to that), hardly any spelling or grammar mistakes, simply the odd typo. I guess the plot could have been made more thrilling, more engaging, but that would no doubt have been enhanced with more showing.

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Galley copy of The Killing Spell provided by the publisher in exchange of an honest review.


Dieter, born and raised in Austria, studied Political Sciences in Vienna in the early 90s. He's living in Paris, France, with his boyfriend and working as a graphic designer. In his spare time, he loves to write, read, cook, take photos, and travel as often as possible. He’s already published two short-story collections as well as four poetry collections. His first murder mystery novel “The Stuffed Coffin” featuring Damien Drechsler and the dashing Greek student Nikos has been released on Jan. 6, 2019, and is available in English, French, and German. By the way, the French version "Le cercueil farci" has won the prestigious Prix du roman gay 2019 in the category murder mystery. Dieter runs a gay book reviews site in French and is also writing reviews for Gay Book Reviews under the pseudonym of ParisDude.