PC013: Spell of the Sparrow

By Jim C. Hines.
Read by Tina Connolly.
Introduction by Erin Cashier.
First appeared in Sword and Sorceress, XXI.

I was in the woods behind our cabin, trying yet again to dissuade my daughter from this wizarding business.

“I _like_ magic,” Mel protested. “And I’m good at it. Remember the spell I made up last week?”

“The spell that changed my daggers into caterpillars?” James and I were still pulling cocoons out of the laundry.

“No, the other one.”

I crossed my arms and did my best to look parental. “The one that sent my undergarments on a mad dash for freedom?”

She covered her mouth, trying to hide a gap-toothed grin. “I got it right the next time. Don’t your clothes smell nicer?”

“They do… those that aren’t hightailing it for the border.”

It was no use. After two years, I knew I couldn’t win, but I kept trying. James and I thought that if we could teach her another skill, something respectable…..

Rated PG. Contains ghost cats, precocious girls, and amorous spouse-stealers.

Please visit the discussion on this story in our forums.

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29 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    George said,

    June 24, 2008 @ 11:05 am

    Two in a row out of the park for Podcastle!!!

    (or in tribute to Euro 2008) Gooooooooal!

    I just love this story fantastic – high praise to Jim Hines for weaving a wonderful spellbinder with a delicious denouement, and kudos to Christiana Ellis for truly excellent reading.

    Having learned a bit more about the behind-the-scenes aspect of podcasting, I also have to say plaudits to the sound editor / engineers.

    Podcastle is definitely on my weekly listening.

  2. 2

    thomasowenm said,

    June 24, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

    Engaging story, Christiana did a superb job reading this story. I normally do not like the podcastle estrogen fest but this did not feel like the previous stories. The world Jim created was one I would want to visit again. Hopefully Jim will move his creation to long form fiction.

  3. 3

    Richard said,

    June 25, 2008 @ 10:28 pm

    You know, this is my favorite one so far. I think because it was more in the fantasy realm that I’m use to. Great read and a great story! :) Thanks!

  4. 4

    Yicheng said,

    June 26, 2008 @ 8:53 am

    Very cute story! I loved it, although I’m not sure if it can be called great. Short, sweet, not too serious, and knows it limitations. I can picture this being a part of a very nice young-adults fantasy compendium.

  5. 5

    Ryan B said,

    June 26, 2008 @ 5:48 pm

    To paraphrase Randy Jackson, “You know, it was just arright for me, dog.”

    For some reason, the story had the feel of an urban fantasy while being set in a medieval-like world. I don’t know if it was the tone of the writing or the tone of the reading, or both, but I found it a little jarring. I kept expecting to see elements of modern technology that weren’t there.

    I also didn’t really get why Bahzie (or however you spell that) stuck around for so long. What was she waiting for? Did she really think James would just come around to her way of thinking without further magical persuasion? How thick can you get?

    I did like the element of the ghost cat and the casual way with which it was handled. I liked that it didn’t really seem aware that it was dead, or at least, if it did, that that fact did not concern it or affect its behavior. That was fun. :)

  6. 6

    The Great Geek Manual » Geek Media Round-Up: June 30 said,

    June 30, 2008 @ 10:06 pm

    [...] Free Fiction: PodCastle is offering a podcast of “Spell of the Sparrow” by Jim C. Hines. [...]

  7. 7

    Kat said,

    July 2, 2008 @ 6:19 am

    I love this – I think this is my favourite Podcastle to date, and the reading was superb. I’ve been a big fan 0f Escapepod and Pseudopod, and it took me a tiny bit to warm to Podcastle but if the standard remains this high then I embrace it gladly. Bravo Podcastle!

  8. 8

    Abbie said,

    July 5, 2008 @ 1:25 am

    I’m glad there were listeners who dug this. The writing was good, and I liked the ghost cat.

    However, it wasn’t my favorite Podcastle story. It felt like a piece of a larger work, and I needed the world’s framework to enjoy and understand the events. So the wife is a thief? That is her profession? Why should I like this person? Is she a Robin Hood stealing from the rich, or does she just take other people’s stuff? She seems able to support her family without doing much crime. Is she a retired thief, then? Why does this family seem to be so isolated from other people? They have no other humans to turn to for help in a crisis? Are they hiding? I was distracted by these unexplained elements in the story.

    Also, I noticed something here which is not a fault of this story as such, but seems to be a new feminist trend in fiction. For years, stories were populated by dynamic, interesting male heroes paired with helpless, ornamental heroines who existed only as a goal for the hero. Now we’re seeing the reverse – dynamic, interesting female protagonists paired with helpless, ornamental men who exist only as a goal for the heroine. I can understand the desire to write these stories as a revenge or balance for the previous material. Male writers are just as capable of producing them as females. We’re familiar with this framework and changing the gender isn’t much trouble. However, I really wish writers wouldn’t do it. Two dynamic, non-helpless people are so much more interesting and have so much more chemistry on the page than a knight of either gender saving a helpless lover. I know the author of this story tried to make James seem appealing, but he really came off as impotent and not very attractive. I found him difficult to like or care about, so I couldn’t sympathize very well with his wife’s distress over his potential loss.

  9. 9

    Dave said,

    July 9, 2008 @ 9:05 pm

    I think I’ve read this story before… maybe in Realms of Fantasy. It was more amusing in text, the reading on this one didn’t quite do it for me. What seemed clever and witty on paper didn’t work nearly as well audibly… not sure if that can be blamed entirely on the narrator, I think it’s partly the tone and style of the story itself.

    All that said, not a bad one. I know you guys do get stuff from RoF sometimes, and I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve read there, so keep that line open for sure, even if this one was from elsewhere and I just can’t remember.

    I’m glad PodCastle finally got on its feet, if for no other reason than that now I have 3 times the story every week. That way, even if one falls utterly flat (not that this one did, I’m just saying), there are still two more!

    Keep ‘em coming, Castellans!

  10. 10

    Archie said,

    July 15, 2008 @ 5:20 pm

    I loved it. Oh come on now – a romance story featuring a ghost cat – that has to be a winner!

    Well of course it doesn’t. It could have been badly written or poorly read which would have ruined it. As it was it was both well written and well read. I loved the interaction between mother and daughter which was very realistic. Right down to the daughters manipulation regarding being able to read her magic books in future.

    Another winner from Podcastle, thank you.

    Archie

  11. 11

    The Fix | From the Podosphere: June 2008 said,

    July 16, 2008 @ 7:40 am

    [...] your husband is the victim of a love-enchantment that threatens to break your family apart. “Spell of the Sparrow” by Jim C. Hines (read by Tina Connolly) seems to be traditional fantasy but lacks any [...]

  12. 12

    scatterbrain said,

    July 20, 2008 @ 8:39 pm

    Hmmm…yes, yeah this is good, yeah.

  13. 13

    Spork said,

    July 21, 2008 @ 8:30 am

    This was another enjoyable and clever story. I liked the bird-magic, and tying the spells to eggs. Really interesting potential there.

    I liked that the audio was clear and I could listen and understand while driving, but I’m not sure the tone of the reader matched. Some comments, such as “I can’t wait until she’s a teenager,” felt a wee bit anachronistic and had the unfortunate effect of pulling me out of the story.

    More on than off, though, and overall I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

  14. 14

    Ogion The Ski-napper said,

    July 31, 2008 @ 3:02 am

    Surely the ending is all wrong. The mother should have eaten a _blue_ egg, fallen in love with the bird-woman, and then they could all have lived happily ever after in a menage a trois.

  15. 15

    Fred said,

    December 17, 2008 @ 1:35 pm

    I really liked this one, but I’m glad that I’m not the only one who saw great potential for polyamory here! (I mean really, why do so many stories set in “other” places assume relationships work exactly as the default setting here and now?)

    Of course the problem with that as set up in this story is that Bahzie(?) didn’t approach them honestly. If a metamore did that to my partner, I wouldn’t be very happy with them either.

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