Return to Svetlana Chmakova's Nightschool with YA Series, The Weirn Books

(Image credit: Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press/JY))

(Image credit: Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press/JY))

Return to the witchy world of Svetlana Chmakova's Nightschool in an all-new spin-off OGN series titled The Weirn Books, debuting later this month.

Coming out from Yen Press' new YA/Middlegrade imprint JY, The Weirn Books, Vol. 1: Be Wary of the Silent Woods focuses on younger set of school-age children - Ailis, Na-ya, and their former bestie turned enemy, Patricia.

Be Wary of the Silent Woods follows Ailis - a 12-year-old witch - as she is sent to live with her grandmother after her parents are called away. Grandma (a.k.a. Julia Thornton, a.k.a. Ms. Thornton TO YOU) runs a magic store, and she - and now Ailis - live above it. 

And yes, that's just as exciting as you can imagine.

So by day she lives with grandma, and every weeknight she travels to Nightschool to learn about all things magic - and of course, dealing with fellow magic-users her age.

With this first book out June 16, Newsarama spoke with Svetlana Chmakova for an inside look at Ailis and her engaging life.

(Image credit: Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press/JY))

Newsarama: Svetlana, you're branching out from your Nightschool series with a new secondary line of title, the Weirn Books. What's it like expanding this world in a new way?

Svetlana Chmakova:  I am actually expanding on a world I already created in Nightschool: The Weirn Books, but now centering the action on younger characters and a different geographical area. It’s so exciting to be back! I missed drawing Astrals so much.

Nrama: So for new and old readers, what's the world like in this new book?

Chmakova: It’s a world of night and shadows and magic lurking in the darkened corners of it all, as well as the creatures who inhabit it. 

Weirns, who are witches born with guardian demon spirits bound to them for life; shapeshifters, who are people that can turn into animals and animals that can turn into humans; cranky mermaids that throw trash back at the tourists, and so on. 

(Image credit: Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press/JY))

The Weirn Books’ world is one where you have to go to your magic school through creepy quiet forests that are strewn with old magic artifacts you really shouldn’t come near, let alone touch... But of course no one listens to the warnings, and trouble starts.

Nrama: This tale is led by a young woman named Ailis. What's her story?

Chmakova: Ailis is a middle-grade age Weirn with her very own Astral, and she is kind of an adventurous introvert. She doesn’t think fast on her feet but has Many Clever Ideas and things she wants to do. 

(Image credit: Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press/JY))

Even though she is technically the main character, the story is more an ensemble cast piece, and the adventure is often fueled by Ailis’s cousin, Na’ya. Na’ya is Ailis’s age, is also a Weirn, and is a character who DOES think very fast on her feet. Together, they’ve gotten really great at getting into all sorts of trouble!

Nrama: Ailis is living temporarily in her grandma's magic store/house. Ms. Thornton sounds amazing to live with - what's it like for Ailis?

Chmakova: Amazing. The magic store is filled with fun and interesting things, you could spend years digging though all the stuff in it and STILL be surprised by something. (Related: Ms. Thornton’s inventory is a barely managed chaos.) There are smells of fresh baked pastries every morning, tons of books and tea and hot chocolate any time of day and night. And Ms. Thornton is constantly busy, so lots of potential for unsupervised shenanigans.

Nrama: I'm told Ailis has an arch-nemesis named Patricia Chow. Can you tell us about her?

Chmakova: Patricia Chow is Na’ya’s ex-best friend and used to be good friends with Ailis, as well, all through elementary school. But once middle school started, Patricia suddenly changed! For some unknown reason she now disdains the cousins and constantly harasses them while always surrounded by her new high social status friends. Patricia also has a secret that she is guarding VERY cautiously. 

Nrama: The title of this book warns me to 'Be Wary of the Silent Woods.' I'm one of those types to not follow directions, but why should I (and the characters in the Weirn Books) be wary?

Chmakova: There aren’t many records talking about the Silent Woods, mostly because it used to just be a regular Night Realm forest, until something terrible happened there. No one knows what it was, other than it was something that caused all the creatures and spirits to fall silent in fear. 

At the heart of the Silent Woods is an old schoolhouse with murky history, in very dilapidated and abandoned state.  Why should people be wary? Well, if an entire forest is terrified of something, common sense suggests maybe people should be, too... But we all know that common sense is not very common.

(Image credit: Svetlana Chmakova (Yen Press/JY))

Nrama: What led you to create the Weirn Books story in the first place?

Chmakova: I love urban fantasy and tales of anything supernatural. I always have, I always will, and to get to build an entire world and a host of characters all my own in that genre is a dream come true. 

Nrama: How many books do you foresee doing in the Weirn Books series, if the first goes well?

Chmakova: There are two more volumes currently being planned for this series, so if people enjoyed this one, they can look forward to those! They can also check out the original four-volume series if they want to learn more about the world of the Weirn Books.

Nrama: And last question - how would you feel about spending the summer with Ms. Thornton?

Chmakova: I would love it, since I would basically live in the kitchen with my nose buried in a book and eating every pastry in sight. What’s NOT to love! Would Ms. Thornton enjoy my stay? HMMM. Maybe if I helped with inventory and kept an eye on her enterprising grandkids.

Chris Arrant

Chris Arrant covered comic book news for Newsarama from 2003 to 2022 (and as editor/senior editor from 2015 to 2022) and has also written for USA Today, Life, Entertainment Weekly, Publisher's Weekly, Marvel Entertainment, TOKYOPOP, AdHouse Books, Cartoon Brew, Bleeding Cool, Comic Shop News, and CBR. He is the author of the book Modern: Masters Cliff Chiang, co-authored Art of Spider-Man Classic, and contributed to Dark Horse/Bedside Press' anthology Pros and (Comic) Cons. He has acted as a judge for the Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards, the Harvey Awards, and the Stan Lee Awards. Chris is a member of the American Library Association's Graphic Novel & Comics Round Table. (He/him)