Mystic Magic: Not Every Book Is Perfect

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

I have one more book recommendation for the end of the semester. Again, it was a book my aunt gave me, back in 2017 for my birthday. At the time, it was an advanced reader’s copy because it would not be published until later in that month.

The book is Caraval by Stephanie Garber. At the time, it was a much-awaited book, the first of a series. It took me until this year to finally read the book, and it did not live up to my expectations.

From Goodreads, “Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.”

Scarlett has dreamed of going to Caraval since she was a child. She shared this dream with her sister Donatella. However, after years stuck on the island they call home and her imminent marriage to a man she has not met, Scarlett has given up on the dream.

“But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner,” the Goodreads blurb continues.

I will tell you the sailor’s name is Julian, because that is not a spoiler. There is a lot between Scarlett’s kidnapping and Donatella’s kidnapping, though.

Goodreads finished, “Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.”

Of course, there is magic in this story. It is not necessarily the same magic as other books, because the main character herself cannot use magic. In fact, there does not seem to be any clear magic rules, and it is explained away by characters who also do not understand the magic rules.

The book does have some common YA tropes, which is disappointing because it was a more recent YA novel. The main character is annoying for a majority of the book, there is an insta-romance, and there is a lack of diversity.

This is book was a little underwhelming, and definitely not as good as any of the other magic books I have read. There are glaring issues, and plenty of other books worth your time. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is a better, older version of Caraval. The Raven Boys series by Maggie Steifvater that I have touched on. Even the Harry Potter series.

This summer, go out and find a book or a series that has magic, good magic with set rules. Find something that has decent characters, and a world that is complete. Enjoy your summer with an enchanting read, and if it is any good, let me know.

Have a good summer, everyone, and I hope it is magical.

Nerd Factor: Unique Features of Commencement 2019

Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

The 2018-2019 academic year has brought a number of changes to our institution.  It should come as no surprise that the 2019 Commencement ceremonies will reflect that dynamism.  As our graduating seniors should already appreciate, for the first time the ceremony will be split into separate events, with the undergraduate procession on Saturday.  The Nerd Factor would also like to call your attention to some other unique features of the 2019 ceremony.

The summoning of the campus mace: As the campus mace was carved from a limb of the world tree Yggdrasil itself, it should come as no surprise that the ancient symbol of the university is also a potent mystical weapon.  Each year, the longest-serving faculty member steps into the Dell and summons the mace to his or her hand (much as Mjolnir flies into the outstretched hand of the Mighty Thor). As my long-time Critograph column friend Dr. Clifton Potter is retiring this year, we can expect his final summoning of the mace to be particularly symbolic affair.  Dr. Potter will be calling down the lighting and summoning the noble hosts of Valhalla to smite the enemies of the university back to Hell just before the processional begins. Although this moment will long be remembered in song, be sure to arrive early to witness these events yourself.

No hot dog vendors: Due to the shortened nature of the event, hot dog vendors will not be roaming among the students, faculty, and guests at commencement as they have in years past.  Likewise, soft pretzels will not be available. Please visit the campus bookstore for t-shirts and other commemorative items.

A surprise political announcement by President Garren?:  Don’t you think it’s a little suspicious that he’s retiring from the university before the 2020 election season?  Yeah, me too.

A slightly longer look of acknowledgement from that person you knew in that class that one time:  A shorter ceremony will allow an additional 15 sections for this moment.

The extraction of Provost Selden: As you may also know, Provost Sally Selden is also leaving us to join the administration at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.  While we were told this would occur over the summer, sources have told the Nerd Factor that the transition will occur after the very moment she completes reading the names of the students. Students should not be alarmed by the arrival of the SEAL teams. Their presence is ceremonial only.  Since the exfil point is the stage itself, students should also hold on tight to their mortar boards as the helicopter hovering directly over the graduation stage will create a great deal of wind.

The Findin’ O the Professors: In an imaginary tradition that presumably began at Irish institutions in the mid-1800s that this author did not research well, the main highlight of a shortened commencement for the faculty will be more time to interact with the students. We know that you’re heading off on more adventures, but we sincerely hope that you’ll find us one last time before you leave.  

Mystic Magic: Shades of Magic

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

There are plenty of amazing books out there about magic. This week, I want to talk about V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, the first book in her Shades of Magic trilogy.

These books caught my eye every time I went to the Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, but I never thought about them when I had money to buy books. In fact, none of them were on my “To Be Read” list.

When I finally bought my own copy of A Darker Shade of Magic, it took me even longer to start reading it. As college students, we do not have much free time. Eventually, though, I started reading the book, and then I could not put it down.

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Mystic Magic: Raven Boys

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

Recently, I finished a book I have had on my “To Be Read” list for a while: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. My aunt bought me this book when I was 16, along with another book that was signed by Stiefvater, but I had not read either in the past four years.

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Mystic Magic: Importance of Candles

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

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Last week was the official first day of spring, the Vernal Equinox, Ostara. This year, I wanted to do something, a ritual or “spell”, to celebrate and maybe have that influx of creativity that a ritual on Ostara is supposed to send you.

I realized very quickly that I should have done my research before taking on this last minute thing. The few websites I visited called for a lot of different ingredients, from crystals to feathers to herbs, and every single one needed an abundance of white candles.

Now, I am here neither to confirm nor deny candles in my possession, but it seemed to me like these candles were a big deal. Why were so many of these rituals heaven-bent on getting you to purchase so many white candles?

I decided to do a little digging on why candles were so important to rituals and spells. Of course, candles are not just important to pagan rituals, but Christian rituals too. During Advent in December, candles are lit every Sunday to represent hope, light, love, and eventually, the coming of Jesus Christ. In my church, we had three skinny purple candles, one skinny pink candle, and a large white candle that represented Jesus.

In paganism, candles can also represent deities. When placed on altars, they become the physical representation of who/what you are calling on. They are also used to represent the elements: fire, water, air, and earth. One website,, said that “the lighting and extinguishing of candles often marks the opening and closing of rituals.”

My next question was: why white candles? Why couldn’t I use a green candle or a blue candle? This gets more into the color candles that you would use and what those candles represent.

White, for example, represents cleansing, purification, and truth, according to The purpose of an Ostara ritual is to plant the seeds for a coming year. It’s a flow of creative energy, and for some, romantic energy.

One of the sites I visited looking for rituals,, talked about how you planted the seeds that you wanted to harvest throughout the year on Ostara. It’s the time of new beginnings. “There is beauty in the potential of what can be when we allow ourselves to have hope for the future,” the website reads.

This ritual only needed three white candles, but there were other bits I would not be able to gather at last minute, so instead my witch friend said a prayer for me at her own ritual.

You do not need to believe in paganism to use the Spring Equinox as a chance at new beginnings. Set some goals, make sure to take care of yourself, and let your creativity flow this year.

Mystic Magic: What Goes Bump in the Night

Grace Cavanaugh ~ Staff Writer

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There seems to be a rise in popularity with the macabre and mysterious. Certain topics that never would have been touched on or were pushed into the shadows in the past are now on Netflix and in the Box Office.

The horror genre of TV shows and movies has been around since television was invented, it seems. The precursor to technology were creepy books filled with monsters and gore. There is an abundance of horror video games on the market.

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