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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Magical Monday Review: A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton

Fabulous witchy novel set in a realistic small-town community.

Author: Ruth Warburton
Title: A Witch in Winter
Series: This is the first in a trilogy.
Genre: Romance/Supernatural (YA)
Publisher: Hodder Childrens
Published: 5 Jan 2012

Source: purchased on my Kindle

Find it at Amazon UK or Goodreads

The blurb says...
Anna Winterson doesn't know she's a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her - but if it is her magic that's controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain.

When love is tangled up in magic, how can you be sure what's real?

My verdict: A great read for fans of magic and mystery in 'real-world' settings.
This is a skilful debut, creating a town with a long history with magic, and a group of realistic characters. It will be enjoyed by many YA paranormal romance readers, whilst offering them something slightly different.

The story is narrated directly by Anna, so understanding why she does things is effortless and we easily root for her. The novel begins with her move to a new town, Winter, into a spooky and dilapidated house, following family financial difficulties. We bond with her as she struggles to settle into a new place - a small-town community where clearly everyone knows everyone else's business, ensuring our sympathies are well-established with her before magic is brought into the story. And when it is, her reactions feel realistic and human, and we see her moral goodness through her horror at the spell's effect.

Seth is an interesting character, and the reasons for him and Anna to be drawn to one another (aside from physical attraction) are established, alongside some funny-but-disturbing scenes of spell-induced stalkerishness. I felt that (witchcraft aside) their relationship was a believable construction, and that the central barrier (can she ever be sure he isn't just bewitched?) was a really good one to unsettle the relationship.

The setting worked brilliantly in several ways: the realistic and modern sixth-form experience that Anna gets at school; the intriguing nature of Winter itself and its relationship to magic (which I hope we'll learn more about in books 2 and 3) and the glorious gothic ramshackle nature of Wicker House with its 'witch's house' reputation and general creepiness. Again, I'm sure there's more of the house's history to be discovered in later novels. The setting (and the dialogue) is very British, which was very welcome after reading a few US YA novels recently. There's something really comforting about the familiarity this offers, even when that familiarity is shot through with magic! As a language geek, I also enjoyed the Old English style spells, suggesting something ancient that's always been there, hidden.

The plot moves along effectively, and (other than questions of history/background) everything is resolved in this volume. The tension creeps up steadily before the spell is cast, as Anna is simply trying to settle into a new place and there is no explicit suggestion of witchcraft - but of course we know that this is where the story is going to go. The stakes are raised rapidly after this, and we're quickly into much bigger conflicts.

Overall, this was a book that I really enjoyed and would definitely recommend. The second in the series came out this month, and the third will be out early next year.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I'm glad you liked this one as well, I was very pleasantly surprised. Before my reading slump kicked in, I was in the middle of reading the second book and was really enjoying it as well!

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