Cover Reveal (and Interview!): The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr
I don’t know about you but I haven’t read nearly enough fantasy novels this year. It’s so funny that I’ve been so bad, since fantasy was the genre I loved the most when I was a kid. Remember when they released those Dragonriders of Pern books starring Menolly as children’s middle grade novels (Dragonsong, Dragondrums, and Dragonsinger)? I was there. I feel bad I’ve fell down on the job in 2017. Word on the street has it that there are a couple really good dragon-related books out there (anyone read The Dragon With the Chocolate Heart yet? I hear good things).
My plan at this point is just to wait until 2018 to pick up the slack. And, happily, today we are featuring a book, an interview, and a cover reveal for some fine dragon flavor. Meet The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr. The description reads as follows:
Grisha is a dragon in a world that’s forgotten how to see him. Maggie is an unusual child who thinks she’s perfectly ordinary. They’re an unlikely duo—but magic often makes unlikely friendships.
And magic has chosen Grisha and Maggie to solve the darkest mystery in Vienna. Decades ago, when World War II broke out, someone decided that there were too many dragons. As Grisha and Maggie navigate the inner bureaucracies of the Department of Extinct Exotics, negotiate with talking cats, and evade a dangerous magician, the two friends ask the question everyone’s forgotten: Where have the missing dragons gone? And is there a way to save them?
At once richly magical and tragically historical, The Language of Spells is an adventure about remembering old stories, forging new ones, and the transformative power of friendship.
As you know, I prefer cover reveals where I can give you a bit more info on the subject matter. Here then is an interview with author Garret Weyr:
Betsy Bird: So I don’t know about you but when I think “WWII Vienna mystery” my first thought is definitely “dragon heist”. As in, someone heisting dragons. Usually when folks write a dragon fantasy they go the easy route and set it either today or in some mythical past. WWII is awfully specific. Why combine the two elements then?
Garret Weyr: I LOVE that you think that because Maggie, the 11 year old human protagonist, and Grisha, the almost 200 year-old dragon one, spend most of the book looking for dragons who have, in an evil spell way, been heisted. Oddly, I didn’t know I had written a fantasy, let alone a dragon fantasy until four or five drafts in. I thought I’d written a story about what happens when magic and its creatures are forgotten and then remembered. Grisha was born in 1803, and the book ends in the mid to late 1980s. What’s important in The Language of Spells is that magic is a fact of history, just like Europe’s wars.
BB: Seems to me this book pairs awfully well with the successful Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them franchise. Forbidden magical animals have a certain allure. What was the inspiration for the tale?
GW: Hotel bars, a junk shop, castles on the Danube, and terrifying bedtime stories. I spent a lot of my childhood in Viennese hotel bars. I know it sounds strange, but Vienna is where my father grew up and lived until a few years before I was born. Hotel bars in Vienna are like the nicest living rooms you have ever seen. Plus, you can order cake, ice cream, cheese-toast, or anything yummy. As a bedtime story, my father would tell these elaborate (often terrifying) stories about a dragon who lived in a castle in the Danube.
Flash forward a number of decades and I am in a junk shop. I picked up a small ornamental teapot in the shape of a dragon. It looked at once sad and beautiful. I wondered how he had gotten in there and decided to find out. I phoned my father and asked permission to write about his dragon. He gave it and his dragon became my dragon, and then Maggie’s dragon.
BB: Okay. So what are your Top Three Dragons of all time and why. I’m talking any dragon at all. Could be a movie dragon, a book dragon, you name it.
GW: Here’s the thing, I don’t know dragons very well. As a kid, my father’s dragon was the only one I met. I did like the strange animals in the Fantastic Beasts with Eddie Redmayne. Does one of them count as a dragon? Also, the series finale of the TV show Angel ends with Angel saying he’ll slay an off-camera dragon, so I like that one.
BB: Were you much of a fantasy reader as a kid?
GW: It totally depends on how you define fantasy. I really disliked Lord of the Rings and The Wind in the Willows, but I LOVED Mary Poppins (the books, not the sickly sweet movie), Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series. The most interesting readers and writers I know (across all genres) LOVED/LOVE fantasy, so I’ve always felt badly that I’m not a full on fanatic. Start talking about hobbits and I leave the room.
BB: So what would you say was your favorite fantasy novel?
GW: I read Trumpet of the Swan so many times that my parents took it away. The runner up would be all of Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, but especially “The Little Match Girl” and “The Red Shoes.”
BB: Any more kids’ books in your future?
GW: No question. Writing for readers who unabashedly love reading is the best!
Many thank to Garret for answering my questions so patiently and to Lara Starr at Chronicle for setting this up.
And now, the moment you’ve all be waiting for . . . the cover (by Katie Harnett)!
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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