Monday, May 23, 2011

Once A Witch

Once a Witch

Written by: Carolyn MacCullough
Softcover: 312 pages
Publisher: Graphia
Language: English
September 2010, $8.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Young Adult

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.


The young adult urban fantasy is blowing up. Its not just for teens anymore and any fans of Twilight, Hunger Games or other popular series will attest to that. I wonder why we are drawn to the genre. Is it because in YA UF you cant have too much of the romance and therefore focus on the plot and character development? Is it due to the fact that they are short quick reads? Or maybe we like the levity so many of them bring as well. Not that there are not some heavy hitters out there such as the Hunger Games or even Carrie Ryan’s series starting with The Forest of Hands and Teeth.

I blame Finn (that other bookaholic) on my new love for YA Fiction. She forced me to join her young adult book club and when I say forced, I mean she asked a time or two. The books have been hit or miss for me as has my attendance. The last book I read for the group did not impress me at all as it was too juvenile and bubblegum-my for me. And well I am not a teenaged girl anymore to appreciate it for its fluffiness.

So when she gave me this one, I was understandably a bit gun shy. But it wasn't too bad. Tamsin comes from a long line of witches with extraordinary talents and even though her grandmother foresaw that she would be the most powerful of them all, her powers never decided to show up. She grew up as an outcast envying her older sister Rowena and the life she thought she was supposed to have. When a stranger walks into her work and mistakes her for Rowena, Tam goes along with it because for just a moment she feels like she belongs. But maybe things are never what they seem.

Things I loved: As I said it wasn't too bad. There are a lot of things I enjoyed. I enjoyed that Tam wasn't a goody two shoes. She chain smoked, she was bitter and she makes mistakes. Oh and she wasn't in high school. I know its young adult and so the protagonist is going to be young and probably in high school, but having her out of the high school setting was refreshing. I liked Gabriel as well and the budding romance between them. They can relate to each other. Gabriel wasn't allowed to use his powers because his stepdad would not allow it. Tamsin has thought that she had no powers her entire life.

While yes, Tamsin kind of screams Rogue from the Xmen, in fact you could have easily swapped Witch for the word Mutant, I didn't care all that much (though I will say I wish that being a witch was more than just having a nifty power and though I know there is more involved such as potions, rituals, etc, it is never really talked about in the book at length). And it did get me thinking about what would I like as my witchy power. While Tam has two parts to her power, what if you only had one or the other. Do you want to have someone use their powers on you three times before you get it or do you just make sure that no one can use their powers on you. Personally I love her cousins power of what is essentially glamour. It would make choosing an outfit, redecorating and so many other parts of my life so much fun. Then again so would being able to control the weather.

Another thing I liked about the book was dealing with time. Its fun. And dangerous. Maybe thats why I love Doctor Who and the timey wimey, wibbly wobbly ball that is time. I think we will discover in the sequel the real repercussions of messing with time, as small as those might have been.

Things I didn't love so much: I did not get emotionally attached to any one of the characters, except maybe the grandma which is odd since she is not really in it. While Tamsin could be a great character, I felt like they glossed over so much. I mean how pissed, depressed, etc would you be if you discovered your entire life had been a lie? I would liked her to deal with it for more than a couple of paragraphs. I mean her family is the family that on her birthday when the big power was supposed to manifest and it didn't left her inside with her birthday cake while they went outside to go do a ritual. Harsh really and instead of rebelling, instead of feeling bitter or hurt, it was more a ‘oooh yeah now I can belong’ which seemed artificial to me. I thought it was bit odd that she went from calling her home the Hell Crater to Yeah now I will save you all despite everything that you did to me.

And Rowena? Seriously I know there is sibling rivalry, but wow...kind of a bitca. To be honest I didnt really care whether she lived or died. yes, she was that mean and bitchy. And even after all of that she gets to run the family...still? Even despite Tam’s powers. How does that work? So many of the other characters were also a bit one dimensional. Mr Leech is bad, yes we get that, but what is his motivation? Maybe we will find out in the sequel, but it frustrates me that books cannot apparently do character development unless they have multiple books.

In the end this was an ok book. There were some great moments, great ideas but when the motivations of the characters fall flat and unrealistic, it brings the rest of the book down. Sure, things might be developed in the next book, but are people really willing to buy the next to see if they do? As an author you need to capture the audience in the first book whether you mean to do a series or not. As an avid reader I will forgive a lot of things if there are enough happy bits to make me want to read more. I am not sure that this did it. In fact I would probably only pick up the second book because we decided to do it at book club.

Buy or Borrow: Borrow.

Part of: A series. Almost a Witch comes out later this year

Also Recommended: I would recommend The Hunger Games for some great young adult fiction, Doctor Who which involves the complexity of time travel and probably the Xmen comics.

3 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

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