The Heartstone Smoke and Mirrors Book 2 by Helene Opocensky Genre: Middle Grade, YA Fantasy
Corbin, a powerful shapeshifting young mage, is just beginning to learn to flex and harness his magical powers. When he hears that a young witch, who doesn’t know that her strangeness is due to magic, has run away for fear of being institutionalized for a second time, he knows that he has to help his friends find her so that she can learn to celebrate what makes her different rather than fear it.
What he doesn’t know is that finding her will snowball him into a position where he again feels obligated to his scheming former mentor, Max Grobian. Nor does he know that Max will, once more, try to manipulate him into betraying her daughter Lorelei, a girl Corbin feels heart-bound to, yet fears to fully love.
Corbin sat with his legs dangling over the crumbling wall of the crenellation that topped the remains of the ruined castle overlooking, with an ominous presence, the magical sanctuary of Hexenheim. He heard a quiet “Hi, Cory” behind him. He turned around to see who it was. “Hi, Karl,” he answered smiling, glad to see the big blond boy. Karl wasn’t that much taller than Corbin was himself, but he was bigger boned and heavier than Corbin. He was better looking than Corbin as well, with honey blond hair, a straight nose and large brown eyes, but Corbin had a charm about him that, despite his large nose and bristling black eyebrows, drew people to him more so than Karl Heinz’s handsome good looks. That, among other things, had irritated Karl Heinz, and when Corbin originally met him, they had gotten off on the wrong foot. Some of that, Corbin admitted, was his fault, but when Corbin saved Karl from being turned into rabbit stew, they patched things up between them.
Over the past few months, however, things had become strained again. Before Max sent Corbin to Hexenheim, Karl considered Lorelei to be, even though she never thought so, his girlfriend. Then Corbin came along and the two of them, Lorelei and Corbin, fell in love. They both tried very hard not to, but love, they found was not anything that could be controlled. When they told their friends, including Karl Heinz, what the situation was, Karl got miffed and quit hanging out with all of them including Rolf and Maggie, who were com- pletely unaware of what Corbin and Lorelei were up to and totally blameless.
“Lori here?” asked Karl sitting down next Corbin.
“No,” answered Corbin, “not yet anyway. I got out of classes early. The rest of them should be here soon.”
It was the last day of school before the start of the summer holiday, and the young mages of Hexenheim had only a half-day of school – no afternoon magic school session. Because Corbin was very advanced in math and science, most of his morning classes were private ones. Today neither Magus Eule nor Magus Spacek kept him long and dismissed him while his friends were still in class. It was a bright warm June day, and, not having anything else planned, he had made his way up to the broken-down old castle where they had all decided to have a picnic to celebrate the last day of school.
“You still mad at me?” Corbin finally said not look- ing at Karl Heinz, instead keeping his gaze fixed on the vista before them.
The view was sensational. A good hundred feet below them, spreading out like an open fan against the cliff that held the brooding presence of the castle, they could see the entire medieval town of Hexenheim with its red-roofed buildings, many of them half-timbered, shepherded together into a tight group, neatly separated from the outlying countryside by a completely intact protective stone wall.
Karl Heinz shook his head. “Not anymore.”
Corbin nodded and said, “Good.” He was glad. He hated to be on the bad side of anyone, and he and Karl Heinz had definitely had their history.
Again, an awkward silence settled between them this time broken by Karl Heinz. “You mad at me?”
“Mad at you?” answered Corbin continuing to stare at the town instead of the boy sitting next to him. “Why should I be mad at you?”
“For being a niggling idiot,” replied Karl Heinz his eyes also glued on the scenery before them.
Corbin shrugged. “You’re not,” he said with a quick glance over at Karl, letting bygones be bygones. “I under- stand why you were ticked off. I’m the one that stole your girlfriend.”
Smoke and Mirrors Book 1
How could Corbin possibly do what he was supposed to do?
After Corbin’s mother died, Maxim Moritz Grobian took him, penniless orphan that he was, under his wing and taught him the magic that was their heritage. Corbin owed Max everything, and now Max had given him a mission. Corbin was to bring Max's estranged daughter to New York. Lorelei was the only one, Max insisted, that could use the Heartstone, a crystal of phenomenal power, to keep mages safe from the Inquisitors that hunted them and allow mages to finally take their rightful place in the world.
A worthy goal, thought Corbin initially, but now that he had actually met Lorelei all he really wanted to do was to run for the hills. Both afraid of hurting her and endangering himself, he needed to stay away from her, not befriend her to do Max’s bidding. Besides, his instructions were more than to just befriend her. He was supposed to make her fall in love with him.
There was no way, absolutely no way he was going to do that – not after what she had told him.
Helene Opocensky was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States as a child.
After college graduation, she worked for an insurance company for ten years but, after filing a sex discrimination lawsuit against them, she was hired by her law firm and encouraged to attend law school.
After graduation, she worked for many years in the child support department as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Connecticut.
A Q&A with Helene Opocensky Author,Smoke and Mirrors: The Trueheart
Question:What is it about the magical realism, fantasy genre that appeals to you as a writer? Helene Opocensky: I've always been fascinated by magic. My grandmother used to read Grimm's Fairytales to me when I was little, in Germany where I was born and lived until I was seven. In German, the stories, the märchen, don't start with the phrase "Once upon a time." Instead, they begin with, "Dar war einmal." It means, "There was once." I was three or four years old then, and when my Oma said "There was once," I believed her. So, for me the things that happened in Hansel and Gretel, Aschenputtel and Sleeping Beauty were real. They were once, just like she said.
When I was a little older and had learned to read, I threw myself into reading and explored on my own the stories in my grandmother's books, hunting to find the time mentioned in the fairytales, the once that was. I read history, looking for that magical time, and though I found many interesting things that happened, things that enthralled me, things that fascinated me, I never found the particular time that was. So, I thought that perhaps the time referred to in the tales wasn't a particular time in the past, maybe it was all time, maybe even my own time.
I had evidence of that possibility at age five, when the circus came to our small medieval town of Leutershausen, Middle Franken. Back in those days, we children could wander around on our own even when very young, and my brother and I often did just that. When the circus arrived, we, along with every other kid in town, went to the field where it was being set up and watched, amid brightly colored wagons and strangely dressed people, as the men hoisted the giant tent. The atmosphere there was exhilarating. It had a sparkle to it, a kind of allure, an enchantment. I could hear it in the roaring of the lions. I could smell it in the scent of the elephants. I could almost taste the adventure of it all in the air. To me, it felt magical, and when my family went to the performance I found that it was magical. It had actual magic in it, real magic, a genuine magician who could make things appear and disappear at will. I was entranced. The magic in my grandma's stories was real. It was real in the time that once was, and, I believed then, real in the time I lived.
Of course, I grew up and learned that the magic of the circus, the illusionist's flimflam, wasn't real at all. It was parlor games, a trick disguised by smoke and mirrors. So, I put childhood fantasy aside and went about my life. I eventually became a lawyer and worked to help secure financial stability for children.
However, hidden within the logic of my adult mind, within the recesses where the little girl still lived transfixed by the conjurer's tricks, the magical world that I never stopped searching for, the one hidden behind the smoke and mirrors, continued to exist. It is still something that could be, something once there was, something that is. This series, Smoke and Mirrors, is that world.
Q: Can you describe your writing process for us? Opocensky: The most important part of writing fiction for me is knowing how the story ends. Once I know that, I know what my goal is and what the general idea behind the story is. The most difficult part is where to begin it. After I decide that, the rest of it flows. All I have to do is describe what happens. As I move along to the ending, I keep asking myself what happens next so that I can get to where I'm going. I learn more and more about my characters as the story unfolds. Sometimes I feel as if they are telling me their stories instead of my making them up. Sometimes I'm surprised by what happens. Often, I have to go back and rewrite because of something one of them told me.
Speaking of rewriting, I do that a lot. I edit continuously, and by constant editing, I flesh out the story and learn more details about what happens. Sometimes I feel like the story writes itself.
Q: What do you think readers can most relate to about your characters? Opocensky: That their differences make them special instead of odd.
Q: What was your favorite part of creating the magical world in Smoke and Mirrors? Opocensky: The back stories of the world and the characters. I know a lot of back stories that don't make it into the books.
Q: What books or authors have inspired your writing? Opocensky:Harry Potter (of course), J.R.R Tolkien, Charles Dickens, Leo Tolstoy, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle, Katherine Kerr, Elizabeth George, Guy Gavriel Kay, Sue Grafton, Garth Stein, Patricia A. McKillip, Robert Graves, etc.
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