We got real witches in C.B. Lyall’s debut fantasy YA novel, not poor souls drowned in Salem or sexy Halloween harpies, sorceresses, or enchantresses casting spells, but real broom-flying, warts-on-their-noses witches who can light fires with a wiggle of their fingers. Lyall has created a world filled with magic and conflict with a little bit of plague and teenage love.
The Virus of Beauty (Austin Macauley) introduces us to 15-year-old Wilf Gilvary who, born a wizard, really only wants to play soccer. A typical teenager, he defies his father who has his own ideas of his son’s future, and he has his own method of making that happen. A mysterious illness has struck the witches of their realm, and Wilf’s father, Reginald, has the formula for the antidote. He has written it in a journal whose words are invisible to anyone but Wilf, who must use his wizard power to read it.
Wilf has no interest in using his wizard powers; he wants to play soccer. But when his father – poof! – evaporates, Wilf becomes the center of a power struggle between wizards and the witches who (a) want equality of power with wizards and (b) want the formula for the antidote.
So begins the odyssey for poor Wilf, on a broom sucked through a jellied Veil that protects the renegade witches, suddenly the target of people who want to torture him, and vulnerable to the whims and demands of both witches and wizards.
All the while, witches are falling victim to the virus. Witches, of course, are powerful and powerfully ugly. It’s their warts and scraggly hair that give them that power. A compliment: She has a face that would oxidize fruit. Once stricken with the virus, however, they become beautiful – and they lose their magic.
Wilf has been kidnapped and transported to the witches’ domain. They want that antidote. And the wizards want Wilf.
Raised as a “normal,” he’s homesick. He wants to go back to his old friends and his soccer team and everything that he grew up with, but he’s sought after by both wizards and witches. He’s hiding and imprisoned, escaping, running, and – boom – falling in love?
The characters in The Virus of Beauty are complicated and mysterious. Is Myra a spy or a traitor? Will Katryna spend the rest of her life with Wilf as a “normal?” Is Hywel a murderer? And Ermentrude. Really? Is she the toughest witch of all?
What about those earthquakes?
Some first books in a series end neatly and stand as a story on their own, but The Virus of Beauty has called us into a world of wizardry and witchcraft that readers will not want to leave.
This debut novel from CB Lyall tells the story of Wilf Gilvary, a young wizard who would much rather play soccer than practice magic. Unfortunately, fate has other plans for him, and he gets swept into a conflict between witches and wizards in the magical realms of Kuryemage and Mathowytch.
The story begins in Hong Kong, and the deft descriptions provide an excellent sense of place. Lyall's magical world is imaginative and unique, with fantasy elements woven through all parts of the story. Characters are well-developed and fun! Although this is geared towards the YA reader (ages 13 and up), it is still a fun read for an adult. Highly recommend!
If you are looking for a book to get lost in, The Virus of Beauty is it! The characters kept popping into my head during the day, and I couldn't wait for my nighttime reading. This book will result in late nights and lack of sleep! So worth it. The characters were well developed, and although I am by no means a part of the young adult audience, I found them to be age-appropriate yet mature. Wilf could be a worthy heroine for boys. Not once did I roll my eyes at their silliness, which can sometimes happen for me with this genre. The story was sweet and compelling, but there was nothing that would make me embarrassed to recommend this book to my mother or a teenager.
The scenery throughout was beautifully imagined. It isn't all prettiness, though, there were action and suspense too. I found myself re-reading passages, not because they weren't clear, but because they were so lovely! C.B Lyall is certainly a talented writer. You know how when you finish a good book, you miss the characters and wonder what happens next? It's like that. A great ending to this story, but I look forward to the next in the series!
Witches are falling victim to a magic-killing virus, and their only hope for a cure is to convince a teenager to accept his wizard heritage.
In this debut YA fantasy, 15-year-old soccer star Wilf Gilvary, living in present-day Hong Kong, wants nothing to do with magic despite his stern wizard father’s efforts to make his son use his gifts. After his father’s sudden death, Wilf still refuses to explore his powers when his 20-year-old stepsister, Myra, insists that they leave the normal world for new lives in the Magical Realm. A visit from a repulsively ugly and desperate witch forces Wilf to reluctantly accept that he is indeed a wizard. She informs him that the cure for the Pulch Virus, an illness that drains witches of their magic (and makes them distressingly beautiful as the disease progresses), resides only in his father’s journal, a work Wilf inherited. Unfortunately, he will be unable to read the formula for the cure unless he learns how to harness his abilities. Wilf ends up in the Magical Realm after all. There, his stake in events increases as he grows close to Katryna, a young witch infected with the virus, and as the journal and Wilf’s potential for performing potent magic place him in the sights of an unscrupulous wizard. In this promising series opener, Lyall skillfully deepens her world of wizards and witches with gender war elements. A magic Veil separates the domain of each group: Witches in wizard territory wear bracelets restricting their autonomy; unauthorized wizards in the witches’ realm face death. The characters’ believable motivations in this fast-moving tale range from self-interest, guilt, and fear to a desire for power and vengeance. Wilf deals with complicated and intriguing family relationships—Is Myra who he thinks she is? What painful secret from his past has blocked him from his magical potential? Other tantalizing questions include: Who is fomenting conflict between the Wizard Council and the Witch Council? What is the origin of the virus? What will happen to the balance of magic if the cure can’t be accessed?
An engaging fantasy with creative worldbuilding and authentically conflicted teen characters caught in a magical power struggle.