Thursday, August 6, 2020

MG Fantasy review of The Blue Witch by Alane Adams, illustrations by Jonathan Stroh

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The Blue Witch by Alane Adams, illustrations by Jonathan Stroh
Series:  Book One of the Witches of Orkney
Format:  Paperback
Publisher:  SparkPress
Number of Pages:  216
Published:  October 23rd, 2018
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Opening Line: "The two riders raced through the woods shrouded in mist and hanging moss."

The prologue begins with a moment reminiscent of the movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone where Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall are worrying over Harry's future.  In The Blue Witch, Odin and Vor, the goddess of wisdom come upon a witch who has been killed and a baby crying in the woods.  Odin sends the baby to Old Nan,  a witch from Creche to keep her safe.   At the age of nine all witchlings of Creche begin their training at the Tarkana Witch Academy.  Abigail is excited to be starting her training and a little concerned because her magic hasn't seemed to come in yet.  Does that mean she might be a Glitch-Witch?  A witch without magic like Calla?  On Abigail's first day at the academy she has a run in with a trio of bullies, Glorian, Nelly and Endera.  Endera is the most horrible of all the witchlings in the coven and she has made it her goal to make Abigail's time at the academy miserable.  She does everything in her power to keep Abigail friendless and will pull every evil trick in her spell book to get her kicked out for good.  Then one day Abigail meets Hugo, a boy scientist from the Balfin School for Boys.  Hugo drops from a tree and intervenes when he see's Endera trying to bully Abigail once again.  The two escape the trio by running into the swamp where they come under attack, to save them Abigail calls upon her magic and is able to protect Hugo.  However, Abigail's magic is unlike any other witches in the Tarkana Witches Academy, her's is blue not the usual emerald-green.  Unsure of what this means, Abigail and Hugo vow to find answers but there search leads them to more questions about just who Abigail's parents are and why her magic is different.               

The Blue Witch is the first book of the prequel to The Legends of Orkney series.  It doesn't appear that you need to have read the Legends of Orkney prior to reading The Witches of Orkney, as some of the events are alluded to in the prologue and provide enough of the backstory to allow you to flow into the current plot easily.  The black and white illustrations by Jonathan Stroh are lovely and really add to the story, the cover is a really good example of his style.      

There are quite a few similarities between The Blue Witch and Harry Potter that I really enjoyed.  There's a magical school, teachers and classes in potions, magical creatures and spells.  Although, I personally would have loved to read more about the classes and the magical system.  There's an orphan who knows nothing about their parents and doesn't have any magical abilities to begin.  There's a prophecy and a hinting at a war to come.  At first you think that the bullies have the upper hand, but then Abigail and Hugo figure out some defense spells.   Abigail struggles with trying to be a good witch, she knows her heart is supposed to be made of stone, but she craves having friends.  Calla's motives at the beginning kind of threw me off at first, I was never really sure whether she wanted to help Abigail or get her into more trouble.  Abigail appears to be destined for great things, and like Harry there's a pull to have her join the dark side.  Abigail learns in the end that she needs to make a choice, what kind of witch does she want to be?  Will she be merciful and kind or slip into performing more dark magic?  I quite enjoyed this introductory book to the series, sure it has Harry Potter vibes, but there's still a whole new set of magical beasts and the subplot with Odin, the prophecy and the revelation of who Abigail's parents were was interesting and kept me wanting to read more.  The story moves along at a good pace, has some hints of Norse mythology and a fun budding friendship between Abigail and her scientist friend Hugo.  I'm looking forward to reading The Rubicus Prophecy next.   ** Thank you to SparkPress for the review copy**

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