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Witch by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié

Witch by Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié
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Book Name: Witch
Author: Nancy Holder and Debbie Viguié
Publisher(s): Simon Pulse
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audiobook / Ebook
Genre(s): YA Paranormal
Release Date: October 1, 2002

She must be rich, Holly thought. Then, for the first time, she realized, I’m rich now, too.”

Readers, I rolled my eyes. Your parents were going to get you a horse for your eighteenth birthday. What can you call that but rich?

I may not have been quite that bitter at reading those sentences, but I was surprised at how I didn’t remember Holly Cathers’s wealth when I first read Witch. Of course, when I first read it, I was in early high school at the oldest. (The book came out when I was nine, but I’m sure I didn’t read it then.) I wouldn’t have paid much attention to socioeconomic class or how closely the magic in the book hewed to realistic practices. I cared about two things: excitement and romance. To tell the truth, I was much more interested in the excitement. Romance was all well and good, but I had a rather vaguer understanding of it back then, raised on the largely romance-less fantasy and sci-fi works of old as I had been. What I wanted was an epic battle between good and evil, and Witch delivered.

But does it still? Would what worked for an adolescent work still for a college graduate struggling to pay her bills?

Yes and no. Nostalgia’s a fickle creature.

On the one hand, I’m just as interested in the plot. Holly Cathers is about to turn eighteen and enter her senior year of high school alongside her best friend Tina. She’s got a lifestyle that she clearly doesn’t think of as rich but is at the very least comfortably upper middle class. Fortunately for the reader, life isn’t entirely perfect: her parents are arguing, and all through a rafting trip, Holly can’t get their disagreement out of her head.

Her life suddenly takes a turn for the worse when a storm leaves her the only survivor of the trip and she must move to Seattle with her aunt Marie-Claire and her twin cousins, Amanda and Nicole. She’ll have to deal with grief, a new school, and a generations-old feud between her family and the Devereaux warlocks, despite her not realizing either the feud or magic at all exists. In the midst of this battle, she and one of the Devereaux men will revive an ancient romance, one that began centuries ago when two French noble houses tried to intermarry to increase their magical power.

That marriage turned into a betrayal, and that is exactly the sort of thing I couldn’t get enough of when I was younger. Romance on its own may not have interested me, but forbidden passionate romances that end in death and destruction? That, to use internet vernacular, was my aesthetic.

To tell the truth, it still is a little. The relationship between Isabeau Cahors and Jean Devereaux, the lovers who worsened the feud, strikes me just as much as it did when I was younger. Part of that may be nothing more than nostalgia, but it’s also a fun trope that gets my heart racing when it comes up. For that alone, Witch would still have my loyalty.

But there’s more! There are some gay minor characters who live to the end of the book, even if their characterization is mostly just “cool witch friends”. Jeraud, the black sheep of the modern day Devereaux family because he isn’t all that keen on evil, has a grad student girlfriend who isn’t set up just to make Holly look good by comparison. (I mean, she does, but she’s got some actual depth to her too.) The family feud also has a male vs. female aspect, which is something that’s intrigued me ever since I was a little girl and learned conflict between the sexes was a thing. Most importantly, Isabeau Cahors is not the medieval witch princess I read about when I was younger. She may sometimes shrink back from her mother’s spells, but she is no squeamish shrinking violet. When the time comes for her to act, she is willing to torture and kill. To my younger self, this was a revelation.

However, the book is far from perfect. The description in the first chapter is rather overdone, though thankfully it eases up once the reader is comfortably settled in. I can overlook its odd pacing in some places (Holly takes ages to learn about magic) because it’s the first of a series and was never meant to be a standalone. Some of the scene shifts are a bit jarring, especially toward the end, and there are parts of the book I wish I could have read, such as an escape from a house surrounded by the undead or some of Holly’s magic lessons.

And then there’s the end, where the actual devil appears, and that seemed to come so far out of left field that I stared at the book in disbelief. Except for that one scene, the book had me completely, or almost. With it, I’m no longer sure. It was a fun trip down nostalgia lane, but it’s definitely not what I remember. It’s so much more intense, but that intensity isn’t always what I’d want.

But what do I want? Witch wasn’t written for women who have to worry about budgeting for toilet paper. It was written for teen girls slipping into that curiously common fascination with the occult. While I don’t know that description applies to most readers of this site, you may well know a girl just at the right point in her life to delve into witchcraft and forbidden romance. If so, I’d recommend this series for her. If memory serves, it’s a most satisfying roller coaster.

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