The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

Man, so sorry for that little impromptu hiatus I took there. The end of the semester got the best of me. But now, I’m caught up on school, caught up on my work work, and now I can get back to blogging. I actually missed it quite a bit, and I have quite a few books that I need to publish my reviews on.

 

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So this review might be a little confusing. I gave this book 3 Flames because I liked it. But I actually really liked the story, which would normally be a 4 Flame rating, but…….

……be patient with me, I’ll do my best to explain.

The Black Witch tells the story of Elloren Gardner who is the granddaughter of The Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner who was a hero to all of Gardneria (did you catch the name there? Because I didn’t. The people literally loved her so much that they named their country and therefore their populace after her. #goals), but a villain to the rest of the world (#notgoals). Elloren has two brothers, Rafe and Trystan, and they all live with their Uncle Edwin in the remote town of Halfix –  far away from Valgard, the capital of Gardneria – because their parents died in the rebellion that was led by her grandmother, or something along those lines. Well, Elloren lives with Uncle Edwin. Rafe and Trystan both attend Verpax University. Elloren has been trying to convince her Uncle that she should attend as well, but up until now, he hasn’t been for it. Until Aunt Vyvian shows up. Aunt Vyvian is on the Mage Council and she is extremely interested in having Elloren wandfasted, which is like the Gardnerian version of a marriage. Interestingly enough, you don’t need to have magic to be wandfasted. The fasting is more about permanently binding you to someone else for the rest of your life, with dire consequences if you were to betray your partner.

get out wtf GIF by Get Out Movie

#GetOut is right. #GetOutNOW

This would be fine, if they weren’t forcing these unions upon girls at the ripe old age of 13. But luckily, in Gardneria, the men get to decide the fate of women. Uncle Edwin doesn’t want Elloren wandfasted and he doesn’t really want her to go to Unviersity, but he does agree to let his sister take her to Verpax University so she can learn the apothecary trade because he sees it as the lesser of two evils. But Aunt Vyvian wants Elloren wandfasted to one of the most powerful Level 5 Mages to serve in the Gardnerian military, Lukas Grey and she is not giving up easily. Elloren, the one with no magic. Too bad that Fallon Bane, another Level 5 Witch whom everyone thinks is the next Black Witch, thinks that they belong together. On top of dealing with her Aunt’s interests, interacting with both Lukas Grey, when he knows that her aunt wants them wandfasted, and Fallon Bane, who hates Elloren because she’s trying to take Lukas away from her, Elloren arrives at Verpax University where everyone hates her because of the atrocities her grandmother committed. Everyone except the people just like her. The Gardnerians. Sound familiar?

And that’s actually one of the things that I really liked about the novel is the way Forest seamlessly wove racism in to the story in a really stark way that makes the reader question why it even exists in the first place. When Elloren first sees a Fae or an Urisk, she is struck by how beautiful their skin is. They are these striking shades of purple and pink. And then she learns that the Gardnerians look down on them just because their skin is a different color and she’s surprised. They’re very beautiful, why are they not celebrated? And as a reader, when you’re confronted with such stark racism, although in this case there is also a little bit of species-ism in there too, you’re like, ‘Wow, yeah. I never thought of it like that. We should celebrate our differences, not make people feel less than because they’re different.’  Or, at least, you should feel like that. IF you’re a decent human being.

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Forest takes it a step further with all of the characters that Elloren ends up having in her #squad by having them discuss the best way to effectuate real change in the Mage Council. How else other than voting? So then Elloren and Yvan set about to learn about the potential candidates who could end up on the Mage Council and educate themselves on the actual policies that the Mage Council is trying to implement, and just…..be still my nerdy little heart….

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So those were two areas of the book that I really liked. And though it seems like it would come off as preachy, it didn’t. It was just the right mixture of story and lesson. Now I can turn to the things I didn’t like so much. Aunt Vyvian was hell-bent on Elloren being wandfasted, to the point where she was sabotaging her ability to perform well in school to get her way (what parental figure does this?). She made sure that Elloren had Icaral Demons as roommates (the most despised creature in Gardneria), she withdrew her food allowance, and told Elloren that she would have to work in the kitchens to pay for her tuition since Vyvian would not pay a cent towards her education unless she was wandfasted. Aunt Vyvian is a character that we’re supposed to hate. We’re not supposed to like her, and Forest does a good job of making that easy. But damn Vyv, you need to calm tf down.

This book just left me with a lot of unanswered questions. And I get that this is only the first book in the series, but like, shouldn’t we at least know if Elloren has magic?

  1. What is the white wand for?
  2. Does Elloren have any magic? There have been fairly obvious hints that she does, but I find it really difficult to swallow that a book about the descendant of a great witch ends without confirmation that said descendant even has any powers….though to be fair, Forest hinted throughout that see Goodreads for spoiler.
  3. What happened to her parents?
  4. What was the incident in the woods about that started the book? Was her Uncle just testing her or did he want her to do magic for him? Because, I gotta tell you Forest, if you’re hoping to bring back the opening scene of Book 1 in the finale scene of Book 3, ain’t nobody gonna remember that…

I don’t think I would be so upset with all of these questions if there wasn’t such heavy-handed hinting going on. I mean, the Prologue of the book hints that Elloren has magic!!! How do you then spend the entire book skipping over that part? And these are all little stories about her background, which if you’re going to spend the first book giving us background and building up her character, we should know these things. Because I can guarantee you that when I read the second book, I won’t remember all of the loose ends in the first one so any reveal will lose its importance.

Despite these drawbacks, I definitely want to read the second book in the series. I’m hoping that we’ll actually get in to the nitty-gritty.

 

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