The Witch's Boy
The Witch's Boy is written in a beautiful style that is reminiscent of classic fairy tales. The author displays a unique and clever sense of wit that kept me smiling to myself.
"King Ott; benevolent ruler of the Kingdowm of Duunin (of course he was benevolent! It said so on banners and placards and all of the money! He even required his generals to tattoo it on their forearms with an outline of his smiling face hovering above), was in a bit of a snit."
There is an exchange between the bandit king and the king of Duunin, as the later calls the executioner and the former merely smiles, that had me in stitches. At the same time, the author regularly comments on the magic, delight and power of words which is bound to warm the heart of any lover of books and reading.
"A word is a magic thing. It holds the essence of an object or an idea and pins it to the world. A word can set the universe in motion."
I love middle grade stories that do not shy away from important themes and deep symbolism. The Witch's Boy is one of these. There is a continuous thread throughout the novel the reminds of there could not possibly be NOTHING on the other side of the mountain (in fact nothing is a very important word and becomes a refrain repeated by several characters). The author does a beautiful job of extending this metaphor to show that there is never "nothing", even in death. The soul never disappears, it simply moves to the next place - the other side of the mountain.
" 'There is no death,' the Stone said. 'There is only the next thing. A mountain gives way to a river and becomes a canyon. A tree gives way to its rot and becomes the ground. We will let go of our unnaturally elongated lives and embrace something else.'"
The characters also have a magic all their own. By the end of the novel, we see such remarkable growth in Ned as he learns his own power and the strength of his own desires. The magic itself also makes for a very fun character. It has a fantastic voice as it speaks inside Ned's head. It doesn't seem to have the same sense of morality or guilt that a human character would, which makes it much more unpredictable and enjoyable to read.
(Having been asked to heal a bandit)
"We are certain that you meant to say, "painless death." We can say it together: "painless death." Or painful, if you prefer. It's up to you. Please tell us that you simply misspoke."
The plot moves at a decent pace, and is helped along by the changing of viewpoints from Ned to Aine to the King, to the Bandit King, to the Stones and so on. There is a great deal of action that will keep any reader interested and a beautiful thread of friendship that will keep them satisfied.
Bottom Line: The Witch's Boy is wonderful. A phenomenal addition to any middle grade library and well written enough to be enjoyed by older audiences as well.