Author: Laurie Forest | Publisher: Harlequin Teen
The Black Witch was rather hit and miss for me. There were so many things I absolutely adored about the book, but I found it a little slow going and a little immature in parts. That being said, I hadn’t realised The Black Witch was teen fiction when I picked it up. If I had, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with it. Teen fiction is usually categorised that way for a reason, after all. And I am way past my teenage years! Obviously, there will be some things which might appeal to a younger reader which I simply won’t “get”. I had to cut it some slack from that perspective.
I thought the worldbuilding was fantastic. Every facet of history, culture, geography, and place was detailed and creative. It had enough reality in it to make it feel real, and yet enough difference to fascinate and capture the reader. I enjoyed the way the author developed the magic and the political challenges in the world, which set up the plot for the story. I thought it was clever, and I liked the way we saw the world through the eyes of the protagonist. It was almost tactile in its reality, which I really enjoyed.
The start of the book is great. You’re immediately sucked in and attached to the characters. I thought it did a great job of introducing the reader to a complex new world. The plot is easy to follow and interesting enough to hold your attention throughout. That being said, it’s a little slow at points. The story arc was interesting enough to make me persevere, but I did find my attention wandering.
I think my main criticism would be the characters. The protagonist, Elloren, is impossibly naïve at the beginning of the book. She just blunders around trustingly, and I find, perhaps from my jaded adult perspective, that a little hard to understand. She was a bit frustrating. I liked her better by the end, but in the beginning pretty much just wanted to slap her and tell her to stop being so stupid. She was a bit weak sauce in general, really. Again, better by the end, but still. And some of the characters seem to just disappear, no explanation, they sort of fade out midway through. That frustrated me.
There’s a fair bit of focus on the romances going on in the book. I’m not adverse to a romantic storyline, but everyone falling in love with someone from a different species, which is forbidden, and “wahhing” about hard their life is… It got old pretty fast. There was just no depth to most of it, and it all seemed a little childish. Again, teenagers would probably feel differently. To my adult mind, I couldn’t help but thinking it wasn’t the end of the world if your first relationship didn’t work out. They should all just suck it up and move on. And where were the adults to tell them this? There are literally no adult role models, it’s just teenagers running amok and making a mess of things. That school would not get a good OFSTED report…
I sound like I have a lot of complaints, but I actually did enjoy The Black Witch. It was entertaining, fun, and well written. I liked the world Laurie Forest created a great deal, and I thought the way she used fantasy as a vehicle to explore racial tensions, the role of mainstream religion in society, and LGBT issues was, if not new, certainly smart and well fleshed out.
This isn’t one I would recommend to someone my age, but I might see if my 17 year old sister wants to give it a go…