The Viney Agency


Andy SeedJames Nicol grew up on a rich diet of Ursula le Guin, Roald Dahl and fairy stories before pursuing a career in bookshops and libraries.  His eureka moment came when reading The Witches to school children and he resolved there and then to write his own book about witches.  He has been mentored by Bella Pearson at the Golden Egg .  He lives in Cambridge.

James’ children’s debut about trainee witch Arianwyn Gribble was acquired pre-emptively by Chicken House in spring 2015 for publication in 2016.


ALL TEACHERS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL: MORE LESSONS AND LIFE IN THE YORKSHIRE DALES In the Four Kingdoms, witches use a set of five magical symbols, called glyphs, to control the natural flow of magic in the world.  But Arianwyn Gribble, a young apprentice witch, studying in the capital of Kingport, has seen a sixth glyph for as long as she can remember, a glyph that has always heralded trouble and darkness, like the death of her mother.

At her crucial evaluation test Arianwyn is distracted by the glyph and fails.  She is awarded a bronze disc instead of the longed-for gold star, much to the delight of Gimma Alverston, Arianwyn’s fellow apprentice and arch-rival.  Her grandmother reassures her that all is for the best, but Arianwyn doesn't want to listen.  Grandma gives her a tattered book of old-fashioned magic – The Apprentice Witches’ Handbook.

Posted to the obscure town of Lull, Arianwyn meets Salle Bowen, failed student of drama, and the two girls strike up a friendship.  Arianwyn immediately sets about a long list of witchly duties, with her grandmother's handbook forever at her side.  Many of her spells go decidedly wrong, but things get worse when Gimma, her nemesis from Kingsport, comes to Lull. Gimma is the favourite niece of the Mayor and she sets about charming and winning over the town in a way Arianwyn could only dream of.  However, it turns out that in spite of all her charm, Gimma is a hopeless witch.

Meanwhile, something is very wrong in the Great Wood of Lull, and Gimma only makes matters worse by opening a rift. The wood is now rampant with spirits and wild pockets of magic and the dark spells grow uncontrollably – endangering the whole town… Will Arianwyn be able to face her fears and save Lull before it's too late?