A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic
Publisher
Age Range
8+
Release Date
July 19, 2022
ISBN
978-0358541271
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Willa lives in the Wild, in a city squished between two warring witch covens. The non-magical Wildians spend their days dodging wayward spells—from raining frogs to dancing chickens—all because of the witch war raging around them.

Being stuck in the middle of a magical war means the Wildians hate witches—none more so than Willa, whose parents were turned into clouds by a misplaced curse. Willa spends her days with her army of cats, dreaming of an end to the war and her parents’ return.

So when Willa is accused of being a witch after witnesses catch her accidentally stopping a spell midair, she's certain there's been a mistake. She can't be a witch! Yet Willa is dragged to the palace, where she's given one year to master her volatile magic and choose a coven to join. If she doesn’t, she’ll explode.

But her attempts to control her magic are interrupted when a rogue witch begins nefarious spells against the Ordinary Folk. What does the witch want and what does it have to do with Willa? She must unravel the mystery to save her city, her friends, and herself.

Editor review

1 review
You can’t make a swan quack.
Overall rating
 
4.3
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
Reluctant witch is an appropriate title, since Willa is slow to accept her magical ability. Despite witnessing her thoughts causing things to happen, she doesn’t want to stay in the king’s castle to learn about magic. In one year, she’ll be forced to decide which of the two covens will become her home, and choosing from opposing sides isn’t unique in children’s novels. However, in this case, Willa will blow up if she doesn’t make a choice, and that is truly peculiar and imaginative. The two witch covens have been at war for years, casting spells back and forth at each other, with an area of Ordinary Folk living in between. The focus of the plot shifts from Willa’s problem to mysterious spells being cast directly at Ordinaries, a violation of the laws of the land.
Willa is an orphan, and she dreams of being reunited with her parents, victims of a spell that changed them into clouds. This is a bit strange, since most of the memories describe them as being critical and trying to suppress her undiscovered magic. Willa hasn’t felt like she belonged with anyone since her parents left, so she’s excited to meet Gish, a messenger for the king’s clerk, and Marceline, a princess looking for adventure. Together, the story describes their efforts and escapades to find the rogue witch terrorizing the Ordinary Folk and to help Willa. There must be a way for her to not choose one of the creepy, disgusting covens without exploding when she turns thirteen.
The author makes humor a big part of the descriptions. The opening scene finds frogs literally raining down from the sky, and other spells cause people and animals to dance until they drop or capture their voices in floating bubbles. The king is frightened of magic and is often found behind plants hiding from his constituents. The prince takes over and becomes obsessed with finding witches which makes him an irritating character, if not an actual antagonist. Willa searches the library for help with her magical problem, but a mischievous, rogue book constantly torments her and thwarts her efforts. Spell-casting by the two covens involves dancing, spinning around, and repeating nonsense words, and Willa’s attempts frequently result in unpredictable incantations. An inner voice of wild magic wants to be released, so Willa frequently has mental clashes as she struggles to keep the power under control.
What didn’t work as well:
The silliness of the magic sometimes overshadows more important moments. It’s awkward to have critical confrontations or investigations while strange-looking characters or errant spells are involved. However, the whimsy and playfulness of the book are keys to its appeal. It has a clear, engaging conflict that is enhanced by the author’s wit.
The Final Verdict:
You can’t make a swan quack. Learning to be who you’re meant to be, not what others try to make you, is an important lesson. The mystery of a rogue witch stirring up war and a main character who might explode offer compelling problems to entertain readers. The addition of humor is icing on the cake. I highly recommend you give this book a shot.
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