Mark of the Wicked
Published by: Swoon Reads
Publication date: August 10th 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
A young witch tries to unravel the mystery of who is framing her for dark magic in Georgia Bowers ’creepy YA debut fantasy, Mark of the Wicked.
Magic always leaves its mark.
All her life, Matilda has been told one thing about her magic: You use only when necessary. But Matilda isn’t interested in being a good witch. She wants revenge and popularity, and to live her life free of consequences, free of the scars that dark magic leaves on her face as a reminder of her misdeeds.
When a spell goes awry and the new boy at school catches her in the act, Matilda thinks her secret might be out. But far from being afraid, Oliver already knows about her magic – and he wants to learn more. As Oliver and Matilda grow closer, bizarre things begin to happen: Animals show up with their throats slashed and odd markings carved into their bodies, a young girl dies mysteriously, and everyone blames Matilda. But she isn’t responsible — at least, not that she can remember. As her magic begins to spin out of control, Matilda must decide for herself what makes a good witch, and discover the truth…before anyone else turns up dead.
mark of the wicked excerpt
The bus rumbled off in a cloud of exhaust fumes and prepubescent and pre-Halloween squeals. The sun was nearly down, preparing for the clocks to go back in a couple of weeks by casting the sky with a glorious pink and orange glow. Matilda welcomed the cold, as it sterilized the stale air from the bus, but pulled her coat around her.
She breathed in, savoring the smell of autumn. Fires burned as people arrived home and peeled off their woolly hats and scarves, and the fallen leaves wafted up their earthy smell as Matilda kicked through them on her way to Ferly Cottage. If the wind blew just right, she was certain she could smell the spiced apples stewing on her grandmother’s stove, ready to be enveloped inside a delicious piecrust. The smells, the tastes, and the magic Halloween would bring were all reasons why this was Matilda’s favorite time of year.
Nimbus crept out from between the skeletal branches of a hedge and sat in the middle of the path.
“What have you been up to?” asked Matilda as she stroked the cat’s fur. Nimbus lifted a paw to clean herself and a gray feather floated to the ground. “Hunting, hey? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was you killing all those other cats.”
Nimbus turned and slinked ahead, her tail and bottom high in the air. Matilda followed the cat around a wrought iron gate and down a path speckled with shadows and crunchy leaves, her shoulders relaxing as she walked beneath the arch of a yew hedge. The garden’s aroma massaged her soul. She could walk home wearing a blindfold and still find the garden gate just by following her nose.
Lottie was always telling her not to use the back door like “some sort of stray,” but Matilda loved coming home this way. The overgrown yard was a chaotic explosion of flora and fauna, and a rust-colored palette of pumpkins and squash lined the edge of the cottage, harvested and arranged by her grandmother as soon as October arrived. Stepping-stones led across the grass to the back door of the crooked cottage and Matilda’s favorite room: the kitchen. Her stomach growled as she imagined what her grandmother had been baking in the giant green range while she was at school, but her feet paused over the stone as the window flickered with light and she saw her mother sweeping back and forth.
Nanna May will bring me something later, Matilda thought as she crossed the grass away from the kitchen and her mother. The bubbling pond and singing toads welcomed her home as she passed the basil for salads and belladonna for spells in Nanna May’s overgrown herb garden. She rounded the back of the cottage then followed the gravel pathway that was lined with daffodils in the spring and dandelions in the summer.
“Hey, little buddy,” she said, crouching down and fussing over Victor as he trotted out of the shadows in the woods. “Missed me today?” He bleated and Matilda smiled. “I know. Me too.”
Victor followed Matilda to a cream-colored garden room nestled between naked cherry trees, two flickering pumpkins on either side of the door. As she put her hand on the doorknob, a timer clicked and hundreds of lights blinked on, strung around the roof of the garden room and spiraling around the tree trunks.
Her mother had always encouraged her to spend time in the building to connect with the energy around her, and Matilda soon felt more comfortable being in the garden room among the trees and the wildlife than anywhere else in her life. She often fell asleep on the floor of the room while she read her grandmother’s books about magic, so she brought a beanbag and a lamp out so she could read into the night. One day she walked in and the daybed was there, a clear message from Lottie that if Matilda would rather be out in the garden room and away from the family home, then she didn’t have a problem with it.
Georgia Bowers lives in Bedford, a small market town in England. When it was time to decide what to do with her life, she was obsessed with two things: books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It seemed sensible to follow in the brogued footsteps of Rupert Giles, so she became a librarian, though sadly not the demon fighting kind. But there’s still time.
Ever since her mum told her that witches used to meet in the woods near their village, she’s been obsessed with witchcraft and the paranormal. When she was a teenager, a weekly habit of Point Horrors satisfied her thirst for chilling tales before she moved on to reading Stephen King. These days she likes to give her nerves a break every now and then with a good YA romance.
After completing a course in writing YA fiction she was a winner in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Undiscovered Voices. Since then she has dabbled with stories of chosen ones and ghostly best friends until she conjured up the magical ingredients for her debut novel, Mark Of The Wicked.
a Rafflecopter giveaway