The Black Witch by Laurie Forest
A new Black Witch will rise…her powers vast beyond imagining.
Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.
When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.
As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to hate and fear.
Review: 5 Stars
The Black Witch was an incredible read. All of the characters were multi-layered and by the time I was done reading I felt as if I knew them all personally. The world building is phenomenal, combining reality and fantasy in a way that felt tangible and possible. The plot was great and was truly a testament of how hate can be rampantly spread and how it is possible to have eyes opened to racism and genuinely change.
“People see what they expect to see,” he says sharply. “Through a filter of their own hatred and prejudice.”
In the beginning of the novel I really hated Elloren with her conservative views and racist thoughts towards everyone who was different than her. Throughout the course of the novel her character changed immensely and I grew to love her. This story, while a fantasy, reflected on aspects of real life. Countries that have histories of warring against each other are full of citizens who hate each other on principle, even though the individuals have never hurt each other. This book showcases prejudice and racism at their extremes and shows how they can be turned around.
“This Yvan Guriel doesn’t even know me, I lament, glaring resentfully at him out of the corner of my eye. He has no right to be so hateful.”
All of the characters are developed with so many layers. I grew very attached to so many different characters. I hated some of them in the beginning and others I liked right away. There are about 12 characters that I feel like I got to know really well, but they were introduced slowly enough that I never felt like I needed a glossary. I loved reading about them so much that even though this book was nearly 700 pages, I wanted to read more. Thankfully I also have the sequel, because I needed it as soon as this book was over.
“Real education doesn’t make your life easy. It complicates things and makes everything messy and disturbing. But the alternative, Elloren Gardner, is to live your life based on injustice and lies.”
The world building was so well done and detailed. There was a variety of different magical races. There were witches, elves, werewolves, winged Icarals and many more. Nearly every magical race hated the others. Each race had their own intricate religion, believing that their religion was the only right one. The story also got into the politics of the different countries that were all on the verge of war, but the book mostly focused on the politics of Gardneria, the country trying to dominate the others. It was quite the intricate magical world and it was so fascinating to read about.
Trystan’s eyes take on a dark, mischievous glint. “I don’t know about you two,” he whispers, still grinning, “but I’m in the mood for breaking cages.”
I don’t often read novels that are over 400 pages, because they take a while for me to finish. After reading The Black Witch I found myself wanting to read more long novels. Books that are this long provide the opportunity for the author to deeply develop the characters. As much as I enjoy plot driven stories, character driven stories with well developed characters tend to be my favorites. When I love the characters I want to follow them through the series and I will continue reading because I’m attached to the characters. As much as I love plot driven novels, I am less likely to pick up the sequels because I am not nearly as attached to the characters.
“All right, Elloren Gardner,” Yvan relents, his eyes steady on mine. “Let’s see exactly how much trouble we can all get ourselves into.”
The Black Witch is the kind of YA fantasy that I beg for. Set in a world that is intricately built, full of multi-layered characters with an interesting plot, this story captured me and kept me reading for over 600 pages. I am deeply impressed by Laurie Forest’s debut and am thrilled to continue on with the rest of the series.