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Tilly Wallace

Shadow Schemes

Shadow Schemes

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A lost child will uncover old secrets….

After her triumphant performance as Queen of the Night, Sera is instructed to stay out of public sight by the Mage Council. She is tasked with settling a restless spirit, roused by the fate of a descendant. A noblewoman stands accused of orchestrating the sad fate of her daughter, and the ghoul will not return to her grave until Sera does something.

Sera journeys to the countryside in pursuit of evidence to free the woman, but finds a gothic manor harbouring secrets within its walls, and a lord intent on being rid of his troublesome wife. Did the noblewoman truly do away with her daughter, or was a more sinister hand responsible?

As Sera struggles to reveal the truth, doubts invade her mind. Will her efforts see the mother walk free, or to the gallows?

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London, Autumn 1788

Like a summer rain drenching parched land, Seraphina Winyard’s magic returned and filled every part of her. She drank up the tingle running from the roots of her hair to her toenails. For all that she worried about depleting herself, she rose from bed each morning more powerful than ever. Just as a regularly exercised muscle becomes stronger, so her magic relished being used and pushed to its limits.
Not surprisingly, in her correspondence box awaited a summons to appear before the council.
“I am to be told off, no doubt, for besting their show pony,” she muttered as Elliot held her hat and cloak.
The council believed Lord Tomlin to be the best and brightest mage in all of England, and Sera had doused his light as he sought to outshine the sun in a recent performance for the king and queen. Not to mention the fighting that had broken out in the city that night, as Londoners argued over what her victory meant to them.
“If they lock you up, do we still get paid for the whole month?” Elliot asked.
She dug deep to find a weak smile for him, but no retort came. Worry gnawed at her. While she had no regret over her actions, nor in proving her greater ability, there would be consequences. Only now did she consider what they might be. Harsh words couldn’t harm her—they could yell and bluster all they wanted and it would be but wind blowing at a mountain. But what if they curtailed her freedom?
By the time she reached the mage tower in Finsbury, anxiety swirled inside her. Mentally, she clad herself in armour, both to protect herself and to confine her temper. Sparks danced along her skin and under her clothing. Her ability was jubilant at being tested and urged her to do it again and again. A seductive voice whispered that the more she pushed herself to the limit, the more powerful she would become.
The oak she had grown in the courtyard rustled in greeting, and Sera murmured to the sapling. A jolt of excess magic surged through the tree’s trunk and into its root, adding nutrients to the surrounding soil. Before her eyes, it grew at least two inches in girth and six inches in height. At its base, autumn crocuses pushed through the grass and added much-needed colour with their vibrant purple flowers. The appearance of the bulbs proved that once the soil was nurtured, all sorts of things would flourish.
Sera swept into the council chamber and nodded to the assembled mages. Only Lord Pendlebury greeted her with a returned nod and smile. A grimace was plastered on Lord Tomlin’s face as though he was either in pain or attending the meeting under duress. His complexion had a dull grey cast to it. Sera suspected he had not yet fully recovered from their performance.
As the clock chimed the hour, the mages shuffled to their seats. Sera’s bottom had barely touched the padded chair when Lord Ormsby, Speaker of the Mage Council, launched his attack.
“Lady Winyard, your recklessness and inability to follow simple instructions nearly resulted in the death of Lord Tomlin and caused a riot along the banks of the Thames.” To emphasise his point, he thrust out his arm and drew a circle in the air before her.
Sera drew a slow, deep breath and centred her thoughts. She had anticipated this accusation on the journey to the tower, and had considered a hundred replies. Now the moment had come to choose one. “Lord Tomlin and I were tasked to entertain the king and his honoured guests. From the reaction of King George and the accounts in the newspapers, we achieved our goal in grand fashion. Were the people not entertained?”
A deep red flush bloomed over Lord Ormsby’s face. The raised arm swung to point at Lord Tomlin. “It would have been on your head if England lost its most powerful mage.”
“If Lord Tomlin were truly so powerful, how is it he could not best me in the performance?” she asked. “Why, even now, he looks as though you dragged him from his sickbed, whereas I suffered no ill effects.”
Spluttering came from around the table, and Lord Ormsby’s face turned from red to puce. Lord Tomlin stared at his hands, a tight set to his jaw. This was one unfortunate outcome of Sera’s revealing the extent of her power, then—any overtures of friendship between them were ended for good.
“Surely, gentlemen, we can now admit we were wrong in our assessment of Lady Winyard’s ability?” Lord Pendlebury said. “She amply demonstrated that she is a force to be reckoned with and the equal of any man at this table.”
“You perverted my schedule of events to your own selfish ends.” Lord Tomlin’s hand curled into a fist.
“Night should never triumph over the light. It upsets the natural order of things.” Lord Gresham glared at Sera.
An odd comment from him, given his preference for wearing black like a storybook evil sorcerer.
“Why are so many people afraid of the dark?” Sera asked. Light and dark were not inherently good or evil. That was defined by actions. She had enjoyed channelling the persona of the goddess, but yet again, the idea of a powerful and shadowy woman struck fear into the hearts of many. People had rallied to her defence that night—did the council believe they had only swelled the ranks of her dark army?
The newspapers contained conflicting accounts of her. Some drew comparisons to how Sera’s existence disrupted the order of things for the council and that perhaps a change was long overdue. Others prophesied that, like her portrayal of Nyx, darkness would sweep over England if Sera were not curtailed.
“In Europe, they confine women mages to institutions of learning. The question has been raised in Parliament that England should follow the example set by our European colleagues.” And with that, Lord Ormsby gave voice to Sera’s worst nightmare.

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Sonja Marwood
A delightful continuation of Sera's story

Shadow Schemes is an endearing fantasy novel that immerses readers in a world of intrigue and magic, showcasing the remarkable resourcefulness of its female protagonist. Sera is developing into her powers and it can't happen quick enough, since the missions the Mage Council give her test the boundaries of her emerging powers.
Her cunning and quick thinking take center stage as she navigates treacherous political schemes and perilous situations with adaptability and a sense of fairness. The book's masterful world-building and intricate plots kept me on the edge of my seat since I enjoy each new "unnatural" that Tilly Wallace introduces into the world.
The greater plot of Sera's place in the magical world, and if anyone on the Mage Council is acting against her, doesn't move forward much in this book. Nevertheless, the blooming relationship with Hugh is charming, as is the development of Sera's other relationships of friendship with the Countessa and Elliot. Sera's compassion and fiery resilience make her a likeable heroine. She thrives on her wits and draws on the resources and cleverness of her companions to bring about a fair outcome which, if convenient, may fall within the boundaries of the law.
An excellent addition to Sera's story, and it makes me eagerly reach for the next book in the series. As always, Marian Hussey is an absolute joy to listen to.