Monday, October 21, 2019

The Black Witch - Laurie Forest

Summary: A new Black Witch will rise…her powers vast beyond imagining.

Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to hate and fear. (Summary and pic from

My Review:  It’s been awhile since I’ve read a straight up YA fantasy—magic, dragons, different races of fantasy characters (who don’t get along, of course), good overcoming evil in a epic, world-blowing way…ya know. The usual. It’s pretty great for the season, right? Can’t have Halloween and fall without leaning into that which makes it the season.

When I first started this book, I wasn’t sure what to think. I have to admit that I’m not a huge high fantasy reader, and I think that this book could qualify for some high fantasy. However, being as it is YA fic, it wasn’t bogged down with many of the things I don’t like about high fantasy, one of those being a million characters and plots that are very difficult to keep track of, many whose names are so foreign (because they’re made up) that it’s hard to delineate between who is who without a character guide (which they’ll have, but I don’t want to read a character guide). I’m a simple person, what can I say? This book did have many characters, don’t get me wrong, but there were just enough that I could keep track and knew who they were without having to read up on them every time a new name appeared (or appeared again, but I couldn’t remember).

I think one of the strengths of this book was the world and the back story. There were some pretty great historical happenings going on, and because of the way things progressed in the story, there was opportunity to explore opposing views of history as well, which was, of course, very interesting. The history had enough similar characteristics of our civilization’s history that it was relatable. I think this works for a YA book—it gives the readers opportunity to evaluate their own culture while viewing another. I think it’s a great way to teach YA readers how to listen to history critically i.e. who is telling the story of the historical event and who benefited of that telling versus another opinion of what happened and how it impacted other members of the population.

I enjoyed the story in this book. It was interesting and has a lot of room for future installments, which I’m excited about. The even better part of this is that because this book is a few years old, the next book is already out! There are a few adjacent eBooks available as well, which, depending on how the second book goes, I may have to read to placate myself while waiting for the third book.

I always enjoy a good story about destiny and characters realizing their strengths and abilities. This book is a slow burn in that way, and even at the end of the first book, we don’t know all what’s going to happen or whose destiny will be realized and how it will all play out. There’s definitely some room for growth from many of the characters and, like all good books with a sequel, leaves quite a bit to be discovered and ends on a cliffhanger.

The first part of this book was not as quick-moving, but once the story got going, I read it quite quickly, even though it is a large book. It was quick reading. The characters are relatable and there are lots of interesting plots and subplots, which I enjoyed. Because it takes place at a magical school, it had some Harry Potter-esque feelings about it, which are always fun, but it is quite different and I wouldn’t say that it’s a rip off. However, I think that it may attract readers who enjoyed the Harry Potter series in a similar manner.

My Rating: 4 stars

For the sensitive reader: There is some sexual innuendo, including same-sex attraction.

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