The Black Witch – Book #1
I debated on waiting to review this book until I was done with book #2 and review the series together. I finished the book yesterday and immediately got the second book and started reading it. I decided that I probably should review the first book now and the second when I finish the second so we can all have my ideas as I formulate them.
There are some things about this book which I very much enjoyed and there are some things about this book that I didn’t particularly care for. I think Laurie Forest’s creates a very interesting world and develops it in front of the reader in a way that is not too full of description nor missing any of the necessary information.
The story follows Elloren, the granddaughter of the most powerful black witch in the land. Elloren looks exactly like her grandmother with one small detail missing. She has no magic. Elloren’s parents died in battle when she was young and she and her brothers were raised by her uncle who as an eccentric raised them to be removed from magic. Elloren never owned a wand and she’s learned to build violins which is something women in her tradition/culture as not allowed to do.
At the start of the story we Elloren’s aunt, a very powerful and wealthy Guardnerian who wants her to become Wandfasted (married) which goes against what her uncle wants. Her uncle decides to allow Elloren to go with her aunt to the city to enroll and join her brothers at the University and only after she finishes her studies will he allow her to Wandfasted. Before she leaves he makes Elloren promise him that she will wait until she finishes her studies. Which she does.
At University she’s exposed to a variety of other cultures and magic systems. Especially the “evil ones” with whom she’s forced to room since she’s not willing to be Wandfasted to the boy her aunt wants her to be Wandfasted to.
After picking up the book I found out that there’s a whole lot of controversy surrounding it. Although a fantasy book, it covers some very deep subjects the most prominent of which is a cultural one. How different cultures see each other and the falsities we learn about each other which become harmful to society.
The story includes dragons and elves and sea creatures. All the things a good fantasy book must have in order to make the story complete and each creature comes with it’s own history and the reasons for their existence in the story.
What I didn’t like about the book
I think Laurie did a great job at showing how what we believe about each other can cause pain if we don’t take the time to get to the know each culture for what they are. However, although I know that the novel is a young adult fantasy novel I was not prepared for the lectures on the evils of some of the cultures. I get the reason for them to be in the book but perhaps they could have been handled different.
I don’t want to spoil the story but there is a part in the book where students are talking about what they believe and it just felt very childish to me. I could have done without that part and have instead action explain why some believes were prevalent.
Another thing that seemed like a stretch to me was that with every different culture, Elloren seemed to know immediately what they were. I get that some cultures are easier to spot than others but there a whole lot that are not. That did not seem to be present. She and all the other students seemed to know the background of every student just by looking at them. The exception were the fae who are able to change their appearance. I found this to be a bit jarring.
What I liked about the book
I enjoyed reading about the different magic systems. I particularly enjoyed how the Lupine who are the werewolves (for lack of a better description) were written. From where I’m standing they seemed to be the ones who are able to overlook the differences in everyone else and accept the differences. I enjoyed seeing the development of those characters.
I enjoyed how the romance was written. It was not too much in your face but it made a point. It was descriptive without being too much. There is one small thing about one of the love interests that could have been developed better. At one point he goes to military training (it appears that most of the boys go through military training) and only at the time that he’s about to return to we find out that he and Elloren have been corresponding regularly. This was not mentioned before and I thought this could have been flushed out a little more.
How I feel generally
I really enjoyed the book. I think it’s a perfect read for the winter time – Yes, I pick most of my books by season. I enjoyed the description of the school and the magic system was well developed. Some of the story at times felt a little too young but that’s not the book’s fault as this is, in fact, a young adult novel.
I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads because the book kept me interested and the ending was interesting enough that I bought the next book immediately after. I would recommend this book to a younger audience or someone just getting started in Fantasy.
Looking forward to her other works.