Monday, January 22, 2018

The Apprentice Witch

The Apprentice Witch
by James Nicol
Recommended Ages: 12+

There's a war on, and everybody has to do her part. So, Arianwyn sneaks out of her grandma's magic bookshop and takes the test to qualify as a full-fledged witch. Unfortunately, the readout on the testing device shows a negative result, meaning she has to do her apprenticeship over - this time, in the backwater village of Lull, hard against the Great Wood. A place where magic runs deep, and terrible creatures of darkness are at large, isn't necessarily the ideal place to assign a young, inexperienced witch who has lost confidence in her abilities - especially when, like Arianwyn, she is plagued with visions of a magical glyph that shouldn't exist, a glyph full of dark power that heralds disaster every time it appears.

Arianwyn has a tough time, starting out as an independent young woman. She has to be nice to her worst enemy. She has to be firm with her best friend. She has to face people after they have seen her making terrible mistakes. She has to protect a community that has been neglected for too many years, and whose charms are all but worn out. And she has to learn to believe in herself. Fortunately, she is under the supervision of a tough-but-fair senior witch who views her with a sympathetic eye. She has found favor, if not with the administrator of the Civil Witchcraft Authority, at least with her cheerful young assistant. Most importantly of all, she has a kind heart, which wins her strange but important friends.

This book is slated to have a sequel, A Witch Alone, released March 1, 2018. Meantime, it is a highly entertaining, emotionally gripping story, featuring a main character who is at least as interesting as the original fantasy world in which she lives. I picture her kingdom of Hylund as a sort of sideways version of England during the era of World War I. It has telephones and motor-cars and a shiny bus whose owner calls her Beryl. It also has spirit creatures of light, dark, and something in between. It will be fascinating to explore further, especially with an inspiring heroine like Arianwyn to provide the point of view.

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