Genre: Upper middle grade fantasy
Word Count: 65000
Thirteen-year-old Simon makes electricity with his fingers. Sounds good, right? Not really. Sparks crackle from his hands when he’s nervous, when he’s angry, when he loses control, and since he lost his mum that happens almost every day. He’s got to get a handle on this ‘normal’ thing everyone else seems to manage, because sooner or later someone’s going to figure out he’s a freak.
It won’t be his grandmother. For weeks she’s spent her days sneaking off to ‘book club meetings’ with her entourage of servants in tow – and so far they’ve neglected to take a single book on any of these excursions. Then one night she announces she’s got to go and right then and there she ships him off to stay with her friend Rawdon Abbington – a guy who’s virtually a fossil and possibly out of his gourd. But he’s not stupid. Simon’s sure he suspects something, and far from learning to control the sparks, they’re starting control him. When Rawdon finally catches him out, Simon learns the sparks are magic. Rawdon promises to train him.
That night Simon finds Rawdon lying in a pool of blood and learns his brother, the renegade sorcerer Cyril Abbington, is holding his grandmother hostage. He knows his power might be his only advantage – he must control it now if he wants to save his gran. But the Universe has other ideas. Before she died, Simon’s mum had a job to do, and now the Universe expects him to finish its dirty work. It may not consider ransom demands a matter of cosmic importance, but Cyril's not going to wait to wait. Simon must face him soon, or his grandmother is going to die.
The signpost was cracked and sun-bleached and looked likely to crumble in a stiff breeze, but if you squinted you could still make out the words announcing this was Tallarook Station, for anyone who cared to know. Simon doubted anyone did. The place looked like the surface of Mars. He pressed his nose to the back window, peering out as the chauffer parked the car. A handful of crispy, miserable weeds had tried and failed to survive. A blistered payphone loomed over the scrap of shade where a wallaby lay, either sleeping or dead. There was no platform. He didn’t even notice the train at first glance, and no wonder. It was so filthy it looked like another part of the endless red grit sea.
It was a passenger train, but if anyone ever travelled here, where did they go? Where could they go? He glanced at the horizon. Dark, indistinct somethings shifted through the heat haze until he ordered himself to stop being stupid. There’s nothing there but nothing.
When the door opened he almost jumped out of his skin. The chauffeur’s eyes flicked to the nose-print on the inside of the otherwise pristine glass. For a moment he looked like he was wrestling a compulsion to break out his Windex, then he bowed and said, ‘It seems we’ve arrived.’ He trotted off without waiting for a response.
Simon shuffled out of the car. The heat sucked all the sweat from his skin. He couldn’t help thinking the air was still thirsty.