Sunday, June 5, 2022

A Witch Alone

A Witch Alone
by James Nicol
Recommended Ages: 12+

Arianwyn has completed her apprenticeship and is now the official witch of the village of Lull, on the edge of the Great Wood where spirit creatures frolic – and from which attacks by their dark cousins are on the increase. The Four Kingdoms are at war, and evil magic is somehow involved, and Arianwyn may be the only witch who can get to the bottom of it – thanks to her unique ability to see the Shadow Glyph, which she used to think was a curse. Apparently, there is a whole book of unknown glyphs like it, somewhere on the other side of the Great Wood ‐ if only she can find it. But her expedition to locate the Book of Quiet Glyphs ends in disaster when she and her colleagues encounter a plague of hex, a deadly sort of magical fungus.

Back at home in Lull, Arianwyn goes through a period in which the title of a book her grandmother gave her, A Witch Alone, seems oddly thematic. She has to put up with the mayor's snooty daughter, who is repeating her apprenticeship year, and a hostile government witch who has been assigned to her working group, and a heavy case load of magical pests that need to be put down. She has a falling out with her best friend, and another falling out with her young man. And the feyling friend she's been counting on to bring her the Book of Quiet Glyphs turns up badly hurt, needing more help than he can provide. It's a lonely time to be a young witch, but when the village's danger comes to a head, it's Arianwyn's heart to care for one even more lonely and hurting that turns the tide.

This is the type of magical adventure that proves the surprising power of compassion and understanding, rather than a swift comeuppance or a brisk telling-off. It shows that even magical talent doesn't put one above responsibility or stress or strain. And although I felt my progress through the book running alarmingly fast – sensing that it was going to be over too soon, with too little resolved – it does a good job of setting the hook for the next installment.

This is the second book of the "Apprentice Witch" trilogy, between The Apprentice Witch and A Witch Come True. James Nicol's novels for young adults also include The Spell Tailors, which apparently becomes available on Aug. 29, 2022.

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