"I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us."
- Franz Kafka
Once a Witch
Author: Carolyn MacCullough Pages: 312 Publisher: Harcourt Publishing (an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing) My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Summary (from the author's website):Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him.
The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.
I really, really enjoyed this novel. It was a refreshing change from the stuff I usually read, and the writing was really easy to get into - I found myself immersed in the world of Talents (magical powers) right away. Tasmin, the main character, is also really easy to identify with. She's always felt like the 'outsider' in her family, being the only one without so much as a drop of magical power. Reading the summary on the back, I couldn't help but be reminded of the 'Squibs' from the Harry Potter Series (people born into a family of witches having no power of their own). You immediately begin to feel for Tamsin when she describes her family; especially her older sister Rowena. Rowena is the prettier, more powerful older sister who is set to take over the role of 'head of the family'. She is constantly rubbing in Tasmin's face the fact that she has no Talent and that she is the more powerful one.
I picked this book up (honestly) because of the beautiful cover art. I love in Canada, and the canadian version of the cover art is really pretty (the picture used for this post is the canadian cover, although it doesn't really do it justice). After reading some of the reviews, I decided to buy it because people described it as a 'light read'. To be completely honest, I thought it was a great book with great characterization and a complex, intriguing plot, so I have no idea why people call it a 'light read'; I, personally, was so enthralled by the story that I didn't stop reading until the sun was up and I'd read it cover to cover.
Some things I really liked about this book:
There was a lot of stuff that I enjoyed about this book. The first was the way the author wrote the family dynamic and the relationship between Tasmin and her older sister. Having an older sister myself, I know what it's like to feel overshadowed by somebody else's achievements (I'm sure anyone with an older sibling knows what I'm talking about), and Tasmin's large extended family reminded me a lot of my own family. Secondly, I really liked that the characters were real - Rowena was jealous of her sister (and vice versa), Tamsin was witty and sarcastic (and also a smoker), Gabriel made sexual jokes constantly, Uncle Morris was constantly drunk... the characters seemed really believable, and the dialog didn't seem forced at all, which tends to happen in YA novels.
All in all, I really enjoyed it (how many times have I used the word 'enjoyed' in this post?!). I think it's worth picking up, and I'll definitely be pre-ordering the sequel, Always a Witch. Hopefully (fingers and toes crossed!) netgalley will accept my request for an ARC and I'll have a review for you guys before it's released.