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A Novel

About The Book

Magic abounds in this “bewitchingly perplexing and supernaturally entertaining” (Kirkus Reviews) debut, and “readers of Susan Cooper and Alan Garner will rejoice to find…[a] trilogy worthy of sharing their shelf” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). Don’t miss the whole series—Anarchy and the forthcoming Arcadia!

When Gavin Stokes visits an estranged family member at Pendurra, a distant estate in Cornwall, the last thing he expects is to enter a world where the consequences of an ancient betrayal are being played out. If he accepts the challenge that this new world presents, he must confront an ancient evil and the crimes of the past that have taken the form of ghosts, like Miss Grey, who has haunted him from earliest childhood, and Marina, a little girl who also lives at Pendurra, and Swanny, Marina’s mother, a mermaid. What Gavin soon discovers is that magic is real…and menacingly dangerous.




On a wild night in deep winter in the year 1537, the greatest magus in the world gathered together and dismissed his household servants, wrapped himself in his traveling cloak, took his staff in one hand and in the other a small wooden box sealed with pitch and clasped with silver, and stepped out into the whirling sleet, bound for the harbor and—so he expected—immortality.

All but the city’s most utterly forlorn inhabitants had been driven from the streets by the bitter weather. The remaining beggars and strays were fully occupied with their struggle to survive until dawn, so the magus walked uninterrupted through alleys of filthy slush. Nobody so much as saw him; any lifted eyes would have been stung by the icy rain, which felt as if it blew from every direction at once. Nobody but one.

Some thirty paces behind him, a figure followed, bone-thin as the stray dogs and ragged as the beggars. It looked like little more than a jumble of sticks and scraps of cloth that should have been scattered at once by the ferocious wind; but seen more closely (though nobody saw) it was a woman, gaunt, weather-beaten, but steady. Her eyes were fixed on the man’s back, and never turned away no matter how the sleet blew.

Beneath his cloak, the magus kept a tight grip on the box. Inside it, padded around with wool, was a calfskin pouch pricked out with marks of warding and asylum. Inside the pouch were two things: a small oval mirror in a velvet sheath, and a ring which appeared to be carved of wood, though it was not.

Inside the mirror was a share of the magus’s soul. Inside the ring was all the magic in the world.

He came out of the alleys and hurried as best he could along a broader thoroughfare by a frozen canal, where the wind was at last able to settle on a single direction and roar at full force. He was not afraid, exactly. Since mastering his art he had seen far more than any other living man, and outgrown faintheartedness. Still, the things he carried were infinitely precious to him, and he was eager to be away, across the sea in England.

Even in the foulest weather, a falling tide and a wind blowing seaward kept the wharves from being entirely deserted. He had to break stride to pick his way through the lantern-lit clusters of carters and watermen clumped alongside creaking hulls. That was what made him glance around, and so for the first time notice his pursuer.

His fingers closed tighter on the box.


Her voice made a space for itself in the air, slicing between the weather’s din and the clattering and flapping of the ships. He halted, his back to her.

The moment she caught up with him, the wind stopped. Instead of sleet, snowflakes fell, gathering on his hood and shoulders. In the abrupt silence he felt in his ears the guilty hammering of his heart. The rest of the world around them had gone still. The two of them stood as if alone in the snow, as they would again, long, long afterward, in their last winter.

He sighed, and closed his eyes. “How do you come to be here?” he asked.

“Johannes, turn.” She spoke in Latin, as he had.

“I know what I will see.”

“Then face me.”

He neither turned nor answered.

“What you took from me,” the woman said, “you must now return.”

At this his eyes blinked open. He pressed the box tight to his heart.

She stretched out an arm toward his back, hand open, and held it still. “You cannot bear it,” she said. “Save yourself.”

Still without facing her, the magus raised his voice. “I did not look for you to be here. Let me go.”

“Look for me?” He had never heard her angry before. He had not thought her capable of common passions. The ice in her voice cut as keen as winter. “You never looked for me. No more can you dismiss me. But if you do not turn back, I will go, Johannes, and the end you fear will have arrived.”

For a few seconds neither spoke. The snowflakes made white shadows on the trimming of his cloak, and thawed into cold drops on her upturned face.

He set his lips tight and took a step forward.

She gave a despairing cry, instantly drowned out by the return of the wind. In an eyeblink it hurled away the flecks of snow and spun them into the freezing murk. He looked around, but the ragged woman was nowhere to be seen. She at least had kept her word, and was gone.

A voice bellowed: “Master John Fiste!”

It was how he had given the captain his name. The vessel and its crew were English. He shifted around to put the wind at his back and saw a mariner beckoning, and beyond that, the harbor light glowing through a sparkling curtain of sleet.

Still holding the box tightly concealed under his cloak, he followed the man aboard.

Some hours later the wet abated, and because he had urged haste and paid them extravagantly, the ship put out to sea. The wind was strong but steady, and the crew made light of it. But as dawn approached it grew into a storm. All that day it swept the carrack unrelentingly westward, far past the port where Master John Fiste had expected to begin his life again. When at last they were close to being propelled altogether out of sight of land, with no sign of the storm relenting, the captain resolved to risk an approach to the lee of the English coast, hoping to enter the great harbor at Penryn. As they neared the estuary, the wind squalled capriciously, the ship was blown onto a reef, and captain, crew, and passengers were drowned, Master John Fiste and the rest.

For all anyone knew, the greatest magus in the world had stepped out of his house alone one winter night and vanished. In time, most came to say that he had sold his soul for his art and been called to a reckoning by the devil, snatched off without a trace. It made a good cautionary tale for a more skeptical age. Believing Johannes in hell where he and his practices belonged, even wise men barely troubled themselves with the fact that all the magic in the world had gone with him.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Advent includes an introduction, discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


When Gavin, a fifteen-year-old Londoner, is sent to visit his aunt in the countryside, he finds out that his parents and school administrators were wrong when they told him his unusual visions didn’t really exist. In remote Cornwall, not only does he discover there are indeed others like him, but that the powerful return of magic—once lost to the world—is his extraordinary and dangerous inheritance.  

Topics & Questions for Discussion 

1. James Treadwell has described Advent. as “a story about magic coming into our world and [the characters] being forced to confront it, deal with it and think about what it might mean.” In what ways does the incorporation of magic into the “real” world, rather than in an alternate realm, enhance the story? How does Advent compare to other fantasy novels you have read?
2. How is Gavin a typical teenager? In what ways does his “gift” make adolescence even more difficult? What is his reaction when he learns Nigel and Isabel are not his parents? When he finds out his true destiny, does he see it as something positive or negative?
3. When Gavin arrives at Pendurra he feels as if “he’d discovered the magic wardrobe in the spare room, the rusty gate in the untrodden back alley that opened into another world.” (p. 91) How does the author create a sense of place in Advent. ? Would you consider Pendurra to be a sort of character? If so, how would you describe it?
4. Johannes went looking for the most beautiful woman in the world, but it turns out Helen of Troy wasn’t the one who captivated his interest. Why was he drawn to Cassandra? What did she see and value in him?
5. How are Gavin and Hester treated differently? Would it be easier for an adult or a teenager to admit to their "gift"? The reporter, JP, decides to tell the truth in a radio interview about what took place in Cornwall. How would you respond if you heard JP’s interview on the radio?"
6. Why is Gavin surprised to find out Miss Grey visits someone besides him, and that her other “victim” is an “ordinary middle-aged woman”? (p. 231) Describe Hester and Gavin’s relationship. Why does Hester believe Gavin saved her life?
7. Gavin admits “he’d ignored [Marina], dismissed her the way people had always dismissed him.” (p. 258) Why is Gavin initially so dismissive of Marina? What similarities do the two teenagers share? Why does he agree to stay at Pendurra with her?
8. During Gavin’s last meeting with Miss Grey outside Hester’s house, he realizes he has a choice. He could simply walk away and refuse to take on her burden. Why does he say yes to her request? Does he realize what he is agreeing to? What other pivotal turning points are there for Gavin in the story?
9. “It’s a heavy burden,” Miss Grey tells Gavin. “One took it from me before and could not bear it. The world will find it a bitter weight.” (p. 292) What personal qualities might help bear the burden of magic? Are there signs of those qualities—or of their absence—in Gawain, or in Johannes?
10. Gavin learns that his real name is Gawain and that he was adopted. In what ways do these truths affect him? When does Gavin begin to understand the magnitude of his quest?
11. Why does Horace take an instant dislike to Gavin? Why do you think Horace returns to Pendurra to lend a hand? How important is his role in vanquishing Johannes?
12. After Holly cautions Gavin to run away, he replies, “This is my home. I don’t belong anywhere else.” (p. 462) How does he go from feeling like an outsider at Pendurra to believing it’s where he belongs? How does Gavin change during the time he’s in Cornwall?
13. In the Author’s Note, James Treadwell reveals that the characters Johannes Faust and Cassandra the Prophetess are based on ancient legends. In what other instances do myth and folklore appear throughout the story? How effective is the use of mythology in the novel?
14. What are your overall thoughts about Advent. ? What are the major themes in the novel? Share what you enjoyed most about the book—the storyline, the characters, the setting—with your group.
15. Advent. is the first book in a trilogy. Are you interested in reading the rest of the series? Why or why not?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. According to legend, Dr. Faust was a German scholar and the greatest magician of his age. He dabbled in the occult, conjuring up an evil spirit who offered to do his bidding for 24 years in exchange for the doctor’s soul. Learn more about Faust, the inspiration for Advent’s . villain, and famous works of literature he inspired at
2. Gavin feels empowered after finding out his name is really Gawain; his namesake is a knight and a member of King Arthur’s Round Table. Select an alter ego for yourself from mythology and share with the group why you chose that particular persona.
3. “Under the postcard she had written, neatly, Donatello, Maddalena.” (p. 53) The statue Aunt Gwen thought might look like Miss Grey is Italian artist Donatello’s wooden sculpture of Mary Magdalene. To see a photo of the statue visit Is this what you thought Miss Grey looked like? Discuss your reactions to the sculpture with your group.
4. To learn more about Advent and its characters, read an interview with James Treadwell at

About The Author

Photograph by David Barker

James Treadwell is the author of Advent and Anarchy. He was born, brought up, and educated within a mile of the Thames and has spent much of his life further reducing the distance between him and the river. He studied and taught for more than a decade near the crossing at Folly Bridge, Oxford, and now lives within sight of the Tideway in West London. He holds passports from the UK, US, and Canada.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Emily Bestler Books (April 30, 2013)
  • Length: 464 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451661651

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Raves and Reviews

“A stunning debut.” —Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of A Discover of Witches

“Treadwell makes marvels from the simplest materials—a blooming rose, a rowan walking stick, a traditional carol—and brings his landscape to frightening and fascinating life. Readers of Susan Cooper and Alan Garner will rejoice to find the first of a new trilogy worthy of sharing their shelf.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“Ripe with literary language and classical references, Treadwell’s novel shape-shifts between bewitchingly perplexing and supernaturally entertaining.” —Kirkus

“Its classic story of good versus evil as well as its haunting characters ad rich, inspired imagery will remain with readers long after they turn the final page.” —Library Journal

"A treasure."

– Publishers Weekly

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