Reviews of Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween
Benjamin Franklin Gold Medal, Children's / YA Audiobook 2023
Readers' Favorite Gold Medal,
Young Adult Horror Fiction, 2023
BookLife, by Publishers Weekly, EDITOR'S PICK
Kirkus Reviews, Our Verdict: GET IT
Gracely’s riveting debut young adult horror novel brings together a group of misfits—both human and magical—who must save their town, and magic in general, by stopping the most powerful wizard in the world from achieving omnipotence. In a town called Sparksville, young teen Goff Grahm accidentally stumbles into the world of magic while writing a research paper, setting in course a chain reaction that starts when Harkland Mathers, the rich and creepy new man in town, instantly becomes his sworn enemy. When Harkland’s intentions to steal Sparksville’s magic become clear, Goff is the only one with a chance at stopping him—by collecting the magic himself. But when Harkland kidnaps Goff’s dog as leverage in ensuring Goff promises not to cause trouble, the hero and his misfit cohort quickly finds the stakes are higher than they could have imagined. Each character—both magical and human—stands out in an engaging way, ensuring relatability for young readers. Kids who normally can’t get along end up working together to save their town, and the real magic of this story is Gracely’s skill in showing readers that anyone can be a hero. These misfits’ antics are equal parts bewitching and entertaining: a skeleton from science class comes alive, Goff’s best friend is a stuffed cat that’s resurrected at night, and readers will adore Goff’s friend Majesty, who gives him magical abilities, although she isn’t too well-versed in how to do it. Gracely ensures the story never slows, with constant action and new developments hidden around every corner. Goff and his friends don’t just fight a bad guy; they also solve the mystery of who he is and how the past can help them save the future. Whether it’s running from scary henchmen, seeking advice from gargoyles, time traveling, or figuring out why the adults in town are disappearing, Gracely manages to sneak in friendship alongside the adventure. Readers will be drawn in quickly and never want to get out.
"...action-packed adventure...remains entertaining throughout…"
Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween is a tense supernatural thriller that teens will find compelling and hard to put down. Fred Gracely builds a story based as much on the nature of personal transformation as it does on the possibilities of forces that lock down the adults in his town and place Goff in the role of being Spraksville and humanity's only salvation. "Something was wrong about this place...very wrong." Goff's ability to "feel like a warrior for the first time in his life" will resonate with those who have played victim to bullying and have yet to come into their strengths. Young adults will find much to like in Goff's character: like Harry Potter, he moves from being an underdog and victim to a role in which he identifies and makes the most of his strengths, developing new friends (and enemies) in the process. Young adults who choose Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween for its excellent magical intrigue will find more simmering in its cauldron of possibilities, and will enjoy reading about a character who rises above his teachings and circumstances to not just accept new possibilities, but step into new abilities. Libraries looking for magic-based horror and fantasy stories that hold underlying lessons for teens will find Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween an excellent acquisition.
Indie Reader APPROVED
"A warm and lively young adult fantasy....echoes of Harry Potter, The Graveyard Book, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Goff is a mist orphan living in a small American town, where he’s bullied both at school and in his horrible foster home. He has one chance of escape—a writing competition that could win him a place at an elite boarding school. The only trouble is, he has an unexpected new identity as a wizard to contend with—plus has to face off an evil force that threatens to destroy everything and everyone he knows. With echoes of Harry Potter, The Graveyard Book, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, MISFIT’S MAGIC: The Last Halloween is an entertaining and likable young adult fantasy that sometimes struggles to come out of the shadow of its inuences. Which is not to say that author Fred Gracely isn’t a talent in his own right—he clearly is, and when he trusts in his own vision the writing is at its strongest. Take his enchanting, Bradbury-esque descriptions of a small town in autumn, ‘The air smelled of rotting apples and wet earth. The store windows glowed with Halloween colors...’ or ‘a breeze rustled the leaves dangling over the gravestones. An owl hooted in reply, serenading thin clouds sliding in front of a low, large moon like a ock of ghosts.’ There is a sense that Gracely didn’t quite get to the deeper heart of his story, as its disparate notes don’t always sing in harmony. If this were a potions class, you might say that while the ingredients are right, they don’t always froth and bubble. For instance, the main villain feels cliched and at, while Goff’s sojourn into wizardry comes off as a little forced and contrived. Plus intriguing plot threads get dropped abruptly, including Goff’s attempt to raise the dead, his tentative friendship with a cheerleader, and his unresolved foster family relationships. These examples and the lack of background detail on Goff’s dead parents suggest that a lot might have been held back for sequels which, if so, does this book a disservice. It would have been better if Gracely had aimed to tell a complete, intact story. That said, there are a couple of walloping twists and reveals around two of the magical characters, proving that the author knows how to spin a surprise-lled yarn. Gripes aside, this is a genuinely touching tale on the power of friendship, love, and courage. And by the end, Goff feels like a friend whose adventures you want to keep following. Undoubtedly, Gracely is an engaging storyteller and a talent to watch —and hopefully, he’ll get the plot cauldron frothing and bubbling in his next book. A warm and lively young adult fantasy following a teen wizard and his oddball friends as they confront an evil force threatening their small town, Fred Gracely’s MISFIT’S MAGIC: The Last Halloween has enough anarchic action and surprises to keep reader’s turning the pages. ~Deborah Martin for IndieReader
James Farlow, The Book Commentary
"...a gorgeous treat to fans of urban fantasy. Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween is a pure delight. " Set in the imaginary town of Spraksville, Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween by Fred Gracely follows Goff, a young misfit who wants nothing but to be far away from his town. Before being transferred to Spraksville, he has been to many foster homes, had difficulty making friends, and been bullied far too much for his age. His dream has been to get a scholarship to Amworth Academy where he hopes to find a home. But when gargoyles start talking to him in a town that has a history of magic, his life is upturned in ways he never imagined. Thirteen generations ago, Spraksville was threatened by a powerful dark wizard intent on performing an ancient ritual that would render him invincible but he was stopped by Goff's ancestor. Now, Harkland Mathers XIII is determined to perform the same ritual and it falls to Goff to stop him. With unlikely allies and friends, they must race against time to stop a wicked wizard from becoming unbeatable. The stunning thing about this novel is the fact that misfits — both human and magical — and kids who do not normally get together, are bonded in the fight against a powerful wizard. This fun read reserves unexpected surprises for readers and the plot is chockful of interesting elements. The characters are quirky and they possess traits that will startle readers sometimes. For instance, a skeleton from the science class comes to life, and a stuffed cat resurrected at night becomes Goff's best friend. The characters are magical yet relatable; they are genuinely flawed and instantly arrest the attention of readers. It will be interesting to watch as Majesty struggles to give Goff magical abilities. In this quirky, spellbinding fantasy, unusual and seemingly ordinary characters must rise up against a powerful evil. If they fail, their town is doomed. The beauty of Fred Gracely's prose combines with the intriguing characters to offer a gorgeous treat to fans of urban fantasy. Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween is a pure delight.
Franklin Bauer, The Book Commentary
"...Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween is a winner for fans of fantasy. " Fred Gracely's Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween follows an unlikely hero and his friends as they set out to defend their city from a power-mongering, wicked wizard. Goff is a misfit, a young boy who has lived in foster homes. He doesn't make friends easily and has been so often bullied. The last place he wants to be is Spraksville, but then gargoyles start talking to him and he knows the city is in danger. It was in this same city, thirteen generations ago, that Goff's ancestor stopped a powerful wizard from performing an ancient magical ritual that could have made him invincible. Harkland Mathers XIII is about to perform the same ritual and his plans are more sinister than those of the wizard before Goff's time. Goff is the only one to stop the wizard, but he doesn't have enough time to harness his powers. Fred Gracely's hero is deeply flawed and the kind of character who instantly attracts the attention of readers. Being one who hasn't been aware of the role he might play someday in liberating his city and also being someone who doesn't particularly love the place he is fighting to protect are two strong elements that establish the initial conflict in this character. Now he is discovering his potential, each layer at a time, helped by unlikely friends and magical creatures. The author's gift for humor is exemplified in this tale and the quirky characters become great companions on a rollicking ride. The setting in the imaginary town of Spraksville is expertly written. Readers will love the pace at which the tension builds up and the author's ability to write relationships that are real. Overall, Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween is a winner for fans of fantasy.
Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers’ Favorite
Fred Gracely’s middle-grade novel, Misfit’s Magic is an engaging page-turner of an adventure that will appeal to young readers who love stories full of magic and mayhem. The plot follows young Goff as he begins his research while fending off multiple bullying attacks from his peers until he’s confronted with the challenge of whether to accept the gift of magic. The story unravels in a concise and explicative way through the use of descriptive narrative and compelling and engaging dialogue. Young readers will instantly feel empathy for Goff as he faces one bully after another. As the adventure intensifies, young readers won’t be able to put the book down. Halloween approaches and magic, good and evil, clashes until the real magic of finally making some friends prevails. Goff starts to gain self-confidence and believes in himself and his self-worth. An important message that’s important for all young people to learn.
The Children's Book Review
What to Expect: Magic, history, family, heritage, self-determination. Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween is about a young person learning to take control of his life and future and thus learn who and what he will be in life. Goff is the last person anyone would expect to be a hero. In and out of foster homes his whole life, he is a boy with no family, no connections, no destiny, and no prospects. None of those matters, however, when he is transferred to a home in historic Spraksville, where a history of witchcraft and black magic hang over the town—and the gargoyles start speaking to him. It turns out Goff does have family, connections, and destiny after all—he is the direct descendant of the hero who saved the town from a dark curse centuries ago, and now he is destined to do the same. Unfortunately, he has about as much magical ability as a teaspoon. With dark wizards and soul-sucking ghouls ranged against him, will Goff even get the chance to grow into his new identity? From the bullying he faces at school to his determination to win a scholarship and his tentative moves toward a first relationship, Goff is a relatable character whose self-doubts and internal dialogue are sure to endear him to readers. At the same time, the story is atmospheric and exciting, transforming a familiar small-town American setting into the backdrop for black magic, rituals, and battles between good and evil. Readers may want to be aware that the story does contain some mildly strong language and demonic imagery. Overall, Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween is a captivating read and a thoughtprovoking coming-of-age story, perfect for horror and fantasy fans.
Online Book Club
Are you looking for another fantasy novel to satiate your appetite for a fantastic read? Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween by Fred Gracely is just the book for you! Goff is a kid of about 13 who is constantly bullied by his foster siblings, Pam and Ben, and every other kid in school. He is the typical loser American junior high school kid with no friends. He lives in Spraksville with Frank, his foster father. Spraksville is a historic town decorated with several gargoyles (beneath which are mysteries unknown to many who now live there). Things take a dramatic turn for this young lad when he embarks on research capable of helping him win the Journalism Scholarship to Amworth Academy—his ticket out of his 'cruel, moronic foster home' and Spraksville's kids' bullying. Pushed by this determination to get out of his pitiful existence, he ventures into the Spraksville cemetery adjacent to Frank's house to perform a spell as part of his research. He does not believe in magic or this spell, but he does it anyway to ensure his paper is laced with some authenticity. What he discovers stretches him, tests the limits of his friendship and changes his life forever. How does he respond to this twist of fate? I love nearly everything about this book. Is it how the author brings us into and keeps us in the mystical world of magic? Or is it how Goff transforms beyond the loser that even his destiny fashioned him to be? It was all fantastic. Gracely's use of scientific jargon showed the depth of research he conducted to actualize this work. I learned new words in the process. His constant reference to the moves made in the game of Chess makes me consider him very intelligent. Each chapter has a unique title—another indication that the author put a lot of effort into structuring the novel. The twists at different points in the narrative are also great. This is what makes it truly interesting. Just when you think Goff has no way out, a way suddenly appears, and the story goes on, completing a bigger intriguing picture. The sketches at the beginning of each chapter are also clear and soothing. Themes of friendship, hope against the most hopeless of situations, courage, deceit, trickery, and lies permeate the plot. Life as an orphan and foster child is also illuminated (the Social Service has so much work to do). It also emphasizes that anyone can become something significant, even if they come from a long ancestry of failure. The story progresses very gradually, but it did not slow down the fineness of the book for me. The main character (Goff) is adequately developed. The other characters are also developed but not as much as Goff. Halstrom is one intelligent character who is worthy of note. I wouldn't say I liked that I found many of the chapters' titles in the body of the narration. It felt a little too obvious. We can easily deduce the title from the situation that produced it. I felt Gracely could have let us decide, say, decipher or figure out where the title came from in the course of the narration in each chapter instead of slipping it into the dialogues of the characters or mentioning it. I was also perplexed about what happened to Mathers and Geoff Von Grettel at the end. I get the whole cliffhanger thing in books, but this was sacrosanct for our knowledge. It left me feeling that Goff had just saved everyone temporarily, even though he had access to the most extraordinary magic ever. Apart from this, the book was wholesomely interesting. The book was professionally edited because I found only two errors in it. And they did not hinder my comprehension of the narrative in any way. It also contains minor profanity. From the bottom of my heart, I rate this work four out of four stars because of the points mentioned above. I recommend this book to readers of adventure and fantasy novels. It would also be a good read for teenagers who have faced bullying, intimidation, or extreme teasing. They certainly have a lot to learn from Goff.
Liz Konkel for Readers’ Favorite
Fred Gracely delivers a world that is humorous, quirky, and original with darkness that lurks underneath in the fight between good and evil. Discovering magic gives Goff the opportunity to escape by giving him a purpose that teaches him to believe in himself. The story has an element of irony in how Goff's biggest desire was to leave Sprakville, only to discover that his story actually began in this town with his ancestors playing a prominent role in keeping it safe. The story puts a unique spin on the idea of magic and wizards with original elements such as Maxim (a personified concept of magic that has attached to a cat), the lady of the tree that delivers the truth behind his origins, and the ominous reaping. Gracely has a lighthearted writing style that weaves in subtle but vivid details such as a thin finger of silver fog creating a vortex and the ghost children floating over the ground without quite making contact. Goff begins the story running from various bullies including his own foster family but by the end, he's surrounded by a variety of characters that assist him in his destiny. Magic's Misfit is a fun action-adventure that places a unique spin on wizards and magic with a charming protagonist, quirky characters, and an epic battle against evil.
K.C. Finn for Readers’ Favorite
I had a wonderful time with this story which painted an intense but charming picture of magic leaking into the otherwise ordinary life of a boy living on the outside of society looking in. Author Fred Gracely’s skill as a world builder is on show right from the very beginning as he masterfully introduces the rules and norms of the magical world as it seeps into the world we know. This robust establishing of the fantasy trappings is helped in no small part by protagonist Goff whose perspective on the events of the narrative gives the whole book a fresh and accessible feel. It’s a difficult task to write a compelling opener to a series, laying the foundations for the saga that is to come whilst also telling a complete and satisfying stand-alone story, but The Last Halloween accomplishes this goal with aplomb, creating a memorable tale with plenty of room for growth in future installments.
Kristine Zimmerman for Readers’ Favorite
Fred Gracely has written a thoroughly engaging story that captured my attention from the first page. Goff is a character you root for throughout the book as he struggles to maintain his sense of ethics through many trials. Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween celebrates the value of friendship and the power of good to triumph over evil. All the characters that Gracely has created are well-rounded and complex. The banter between Lydia and Halstrom is believable and provides some comic relief. Gracely also does a marvelous job of describing the town, from the menacing gargoyles to the autumn landscape. Misfit's Magic: The Last Halloween will delight fans of Harry Potter and Septimus Heap. It is an original tale filled with wizardry and a great coming-of-age story.
Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers’ Favorite
Misfit’s Magic: The Last Halloween by Fred Gracely is a great read, a fun story filled with magic and mystery. It’s not just about kids fighting evil though; it’s about dealing with bullying and finding a way to believe in yourself and your powers. Our main protagonist is wonderfully well developed and you’ll love his sidekicks – a group of other slightly misfit kids, a talking skeleton, and a taxidermy cat, a cast of characters that will delight you as they battle to save the world from evil. Fred Gracely has a talent, a way of bringing words to life on paper to make you feel you are there, facing those talking gargoyles and walking with Goff as he forms strong and unbreakable bonds with new friends. There is plenty going on in this story, with the short chapters making it easy to read. Be warned, though, each chapter ends leaving you wanting more and you won’t put this book down until you’re done. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, and I hope there will be a sequel. I feel that Goff and his friends should go through many more adventures together.
Rowan Creech, goodreads
This is an adorable tale of a lost boy finding his way through magic and paranormal events. It was a lovely story from beginning to end and very entertaining.
Jen D, Reviewer NetGalley
This story is a magical adventure through time in which a young boy and his outcast friends battle black magic with the help of an animated skeleton and a lively taxidermied cat. There is a rich cast of characters that seem to come to life off the page. Our heroes face insurmountable odds, but they never give up. Their determination to do what is right does not go unnoticed, and they garner help from unexpected places. Although written for a young audience, the book is entertaining for everyone. The story draws you in from the start, and you won't want to put it down until you know how it ends. I found the book to be a fun, humorous and exciting read!
This author did everything he set out to do. He wrote a terrific underdog story with heart being the secret weapon agianst evil. Goff could have been male or female. That is not the agenda here. Goff is like a modern Charlie Brown character. Kind, akward, clueless at times, but he continues to try even though he will probably fail, because he knows the only way to truely fail is to stop trying. Kindness, cleverness, and compassion are forms of real world magic. Don't let it's spark go out, is my take away from this uplifting story. During a time of personal sadness, these few pages gave me an innocent escape from my own fears and sadness. At first I thought the main character's name was a typo and that really annoyed the bookworm in me. Like a splinter in my reasoning and grammar bits, that an author would do something like that! This was later insinuated as an intensional part of Goff's character and even to the plot in a sly, almost fourth wall moment. His friends are also loveable nerds and he didn't give up on friends who seem to have left him, continuing to make Goff's heartness shine even brighter. Thanks for this all around wonderful story. I will look for more Fred Gracely tales.
Loved Goff And His World! I genuinely found this book to be a satisfying and entertaining read, from page 1 to page 402. The characters, the plot line, the location, are all presented in elaborate precision. You can vividly picture the characters, the small town, all in great detail.