Clare Wilson’s debut novel The Long Staff is the first book in the Staff Wielder series about the adventures of thirteen-year-old Tom MacKay. Published by Olida Publishing as children’s fiction with a Scottish flavour, it is a magical adventure book touching upon Scotland’s oral and written storytelling heritage.
While visiting his grandfather in the Highlands, unlikely hero Tom discovers that he has magical powers. He is subsequently warped into the past where ancestor Torean asks him to fight off evil with the help of his magical staff. The daemon, described as an evil disembodied lord, is hiding in a book of dark magic and hopes to rise with the help of a faithful servant… Sounds familiar? Perhaps, but although The Long Staff shares themes with those famous wizardry books, it would be unfair to dismiss Wilson’s first novel solely on a few similarities – so I won’t.
In the Staff Wielder series, one magical staff is passed down from father to son. Its magic only works in the Cairn Holme valley and as a result the MacKays are people “who have to belong to a place rather than a time”. As location is limited, Wilson uses time travel as an appealing narrative tool to secure future adventures. The promise that one day all MacKays, including Tom’s deceased father, will stand alongside each other to fight all evil will keep readers eagerly awaiting future instalments.
As Tom’s magical abilities grow, so does his confidence that he will, with the help of his family, be able to destroy evil. While Tom’s male relatives are depicted as strong and determined, most female characters (with exception of Naithara and Lizzy) are portrayed as tea-pouring wives who do not contribute much to the adventure. That being said, servant Lizzy is arguably the most heroic of all, as she risks her young life to spy on Naithara and the daemon Eiric.
The Long Staff has one major flaw which spoils the book to some extent: it seems to have hit the shelves unedited. Despite this drawback, The Long Staff boasts some original features and there is scope for more MacKay adventures in Cairn Holme.