Mapping literature: Tyne and Wear

By Eve Burns

Translated into 27 languages, The Doomspell does not receive the limelight it should. With a humble beginning, Cliff McNish never planned on becoming an author. He felt no motivation nor saw the potential in writing, but merely started by creating short stories up for his children. As a result, fatherly entertainment ignited the construction of a new fictional universe.

Including characters so aptly named from the surrounding areas in Tyne and Wear, such as Morpeth the Witch, this book ended up as a favourite tale of mine from childhood. It placed McNish, in my eyes, amongst the likes of C.S Lewis and Lewis Carroll. McNish’s ingenuity lies in scaring and engrossing readers of all ages with this captivating trilogy of witches and magic.

He gives nuance to his fictional creations so seamlessly that this book becomes addictive.

Although this book follows the well-known trope of children embarking on an adventure to defeat a dark force, McNish embraces this and manipulates the familiarity of the traditional. He gives nuance to his fictional creations so seamlessly that this book becomes addictive. Arguably yes, it may not be the most unique of plots, but it is memorable. Its folklore template echoes the spooky stories you’d tell to frighten each other as children, or local tales of haunted houses and boogie men, and inspires the same level of fear.

By using these memorable plots to his advantage, it makes his witches seem more horrific and makes the journey of Eric and Rachel seem that much more treacherous. It engrosses readers of all ages, although they may pre-empt the story arch, they just can’t put the book down until they know the protagonists are safe.

McNish made me obsessed with the endless flow of fiction the world has to offer.

Bearing this in mind, The Doomspell has had a large impact on my reading choices as an adult. I have never strayed far into the world of non-fiction, for McNish made me obsessed with the endless flow of fiction the world has to offer. Likewise, his strong underlying themes of horror and dark magic led me as a teenager to the worlds of Stephen King and Laini Taylor. Similarly, others such as Katherine Arden and Naomi Novik mirror the folklore essence of stories which I have grown to find completely fascinating.

This book means a great deal to me as not only did it help me discover my literary interests, but it subtly showcases off the area of Tyne and Wear. Especially as my local area is rarely portrayed in fiction, it is charming to see McNish giving his and my hometown a nod of recognition in his work. As a result, I could not recommend this book enough. It acts as both a staple from my local area, to my personal library and is a truly wonderful and magical piece of literature.

Photograph: Glen Bowman via Flickr Creative Commons

One Response

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  1. Cliff Mcnish
    Sep 10, 2018 - 01:55 PM

    Hi Eve,

    I was delighted to read your article, and touched that the Doomspell Trilogy had such an impact on you. You may like to know I do sometimes talk about my fiction in schools and also perform workshops at schools and with adult students (I recently did some teaching on the MA course in Children’s literature at Winchester Uni). So if you’d like me to come up and talk to students drop me a line. In any case, thank you for reminding me about Doomspell! Cliff Mcnish

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