The Apprentice Witch – James Nicol

  The Apprentice Witch – James Nicol, Chicken House, 9781338118582, 2017

Format: Paperback ARC

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre:  Fantasy

What did you like about the book? This is the story of the apprentice witch, Arianwyn Gribble.  All Miss Gribble wants is to become a real witch and use the 6 approved glyphs to create spells and banish dark spirits.  The country needs witches; dark hexes plague the land and witches are needed desperately to fight back. But, on the day of her witch exam, the testing device lands our main character with an “ungraded” result.  So, rather than getting promoted to Witch and assigned to a town; she keeps the status of Apprentice Witch and is sent begrudgingly and in disgrace to the remote town of Lull which has long been without a witch.  There are dark things in the great woods around Lull and things are not at all sleepy or boring.  Arianwyn finds her footing in the town bit by bit, aiding in various magical tasks, all the while repressing a secret: that she keeps seeing a secret, mysterious seventh glyph, though each time it comes to her, dark things happen.  There’s magical hijinks and budding friendships and a nemesis and a thirst to prove oneself that brings to mind many great YA novels.

Anything you didn’t like about it? It takes a chapter or two for the book to find its footing, the world building is limited with much of the magic and is it is very much a Book One; lots of open threads which are mentioned but left for (presumably?) future books to address.  Such as: “battle of witches versus dark spirits” left unexplained; and the strange use of steampunk-esque spirit-camera which was really emphasized at the start of the book gets dropped at some point and never gets mentioned again. There’s no diversity to speak of or celebrate in this one.

To whom would you recommend this book?  The writing is zippy and encourages reading so it could be a nice read for lovers of magical fantasy looking for a quick beach read that promises to be a longer series.

Who should buy this book? Public Libraries

Where would you shelve it? YA (Fantasy) Fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: April Duclos, Hudson Public Library, Hudson MA

Date of review: 7/11/17

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