Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Antidote by Shelley Sackier

The Antidote

by Shelley Sackier
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: February 5th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
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Magic is not allowed, under any circumstances — even if it could save someone’s life. Instead, there are herbal remedies and traditional techniques that have been painstakingly recorded in lieu of using the mystical arts. Fee knows this, so she keeps her magic a secret.

Except her best friend, Xavi, is deathly ill. He’s also the crown prince. Saving him is important, not only for her, but for the entire kingdom.

Fee’s desperation to save her friend means she can barely contain the magic inside her. And after the tiniest of slips, Fee is thrust into a dark and secretive world that is as alluring as it is dangerous.

If she gives in, it could mean she can save Xavi. But it also means that those who wish to snuff out magic might just snuff her out in the process.

Shelley Sackier grew up in a small farming community in Northern Wisconsin continually searching for ways to grow warm. Realizing she would never be able to enjoy ice cream like real people should, she left the state and lived the blissful life of a traveling musician. Discovering her stories needed more space than two verses a bridge and a chorus could provide, she began storytelling in earnest. And then in Virginia. Which is where she lives now and continues to write. 
Her first novel, DEAR OPL (Sourcebooks 2015), is a tale about a snarky, overweight thirteen-year-old, who suffers from loss everywhere in her life except on her body. 
Her next novel, The Freemason's Daughter (HarperCollins, 2017) is a story about a 16 yr old Scottish girl living in 1715 who's raised entirely by six burly Scotsman--and they're all smugglers. The Antidote (HarperCollins February 2019) is a YA novel about magic and medicine, and the witches who wield them both. 
To learn more about Shelley, visit shelleysackier.com where she blogs weekly about living on a small farm atop a mountain in the Blue Ridge and how it’s easiest to handle most of it with homegrown food, a breathless adoration for tractors, and a large dose of single malt scotch.

Can you briefly describe the world in The Antidote and their main characters?

The realm of Aethusa hugs four separate kingdoms—Fireli, Gwyndom, Oldshire, and Thornbridge. Long ago, whenever an Aethusian was born, it was not unusual to find a child that possessed magic, and those born with it knew they were the progeny of a hereditary line of great goodness or greed. But many people suddenly grew fearful of those who held sorcery, and Aethusa, driven by panic and alarm, slaughtered anyone with supernatural skills. Any remaining witches were driven underground, and only surfaced once they’d discovered how to keep their skills from getting them killed: they became healers.

The Antidote focuses mainly within the two kingdoms of Fireli and Gwyndom—where Fee, an apprentice healer who does not know she is from a magical line—lives with the only other young person in her kingdom: her best friend, and Fireli’s soon to be king, Xavi. Ten years earlier, Fireli had been ravaged with a terrible plague, killing half the kingdom, and as a result, drove all the youth into safer kingdoms until Fireli’s quarantine (to protect the rest of the realm) would be released.

Xavi is kidnapped, and soon Fee escapes Fireli in a desperate attempt to save Xavi, employing Xavi’s younger brother, and her childhood sweetheart, Rye. She must navigate the awe-inspiring and intimidating kingdom of Gwyndom with the aid of her mentor, Savva, and a coven of emerging witches, as the clock ticks closer to the determined assassination of Xavi. But those behind the abduction are unaware that Xavi holds the key to the survival of all of Aethusa. If he perishes, they all do.

Who would you say is your favourite character from the story and why? 

Definitely Savva. I’m a massive fan of her. She’s such a complex individual—a person who allowed me to flesh out a wide swath of human traits. She is strong but incredibly vulnerable. She possesses power, but exercises self-imposed restraint because she is honorable. She holds the most valuable asset in her world—omniscient knowledge—and protects it with her life, for the safety of others. Savva is an unreliable narrator, and this makes her far more interesting to me as to why.

How did The Antidote story occur to you? Did you find inspiration anywhere?

I come from a long line of self-proclaimed witches, seers, astrologists, and chefs. (I put that last one in because I think we all know just how magical food is if touched by kitchen wizards.) These women used to fill my ears with the most eye-widening tales about who they were, but surprised the bejeebies out of me by insisting that I, too, was just like them. I just didn’t know it yet.

For years, being far too embarrassed (or Catholic—it could be both) to believe in such a thing, and far too wary (and Catholic—I can definitely hear the nuns now) to engage in such a thing, I simply ignored them during their visits and tried making a wide berth. But the world is a tricky little thing, and if you, like countless others, support the argument that we have no free will, then the inevitability of my old aunties’ and elderly female relatives’ soothsaying premonitions were not unexpected. 

Wonky things happen to me all the time. And just like The Antidote’s heroine, Fee, you cannot squish down the true essence of who you are. Things leak out.

If you could choose one song to describe your book, which one would it be?

Likely, it would be Bruno Major’s On Our Own. There is so much pain, a desperate desire to understand the world and why things happen and how we can cope. But in the end, there is resurrection, there is insight, there is clarity, and it is a heart-wrenching grasp of meaning. I adore the piece—every inch of it.

But also, as a bonus, I provide you with a playlist for the book, so you too can hear this piece of musical art. Enjoy!

If the book was a movie/TV show, who would you imagine representing your characters?

In truth, I’ve had no one come to mind for any character apart from Mistress Goodsong—the healer from the Kingdom of Gwyndom. If I had my druthers, Claire McCaskill, the United States Senator from Missouri would be my first choice. I know. She’s not an actor, but she’s retiring from the senate and is wonderful on camera. Maybe? Senator??

If you could choose one magical power, which one would it be and why? 

I wish I had the power to say the perfect words, to everyone, all of the time. To know exactly what another person needs to hear at precisely the moment they need to hear it. To be distinct and pithy and unambiguous. To be persuasive and convincing. Truthfully, I think most people just want the words, “I hear you,” to be the ones you utter—and mean it. This is wholly magical in a most transformative way.

Can you recommend your readers any other books in case they are left hungry for more once they finish The Antidote? 

Absolutely! I’ve literally just finished reviewing my top favorite thirty books—yes THIRTY—in great juicy detail on BookBub. You can find those recommendations right here.

What’s next for you?

Pen to paper, pen to paper, pen to paper. More YA fantasy, or contemporary humor, or imaginative fiction. Oftentimes, I leave the decision up to my hound. He’s a fabulous beta reader.

Bonus Content: The Antidote Playlist - Google Play or The Antidote Playlist - Spotify (both just music) and The Antidote Playlist Details (with spoilers!—song descriptions for where they fall within the book).


  1. this premise reminds me of one of my favorite TV shows--Merlin. This book sounds fun as I love the idea of having magic and having to keep it a secret.

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