By Laurie Forest
Published on May 2, 2017
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Source: Around the World ARC Tours
Published by: Harlequin Teen
Source: Around the World ARC Tours
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.
The Black Witch...
The Black Witch was a very dense book! At 608 pages, it is a lengthy book without a doubt, but the story itself made this one an endeavor to read! There is a lot of history, different cultures, a lot of characters to remember. There are new magics to learn, unique words, interesting people. This made it a book I couldn't just fly through, I had to wade in and let it pull me along at its own pace. I finished in 6 1/2 days, which is unusual, especially with a book that I very much enjoyed. And enjoy it, I did!
Elloren has been sheltered almost her entire life. Her mother and father were killed in a war when she was very young. Her uncle took her and her brothers in and raised them in a tiny village, teaching them things that most high-born people would never learn, especially not the grandchildren of The Black Witch. Elloren loves her home and her family, but she dreams of studying to become an apothecary one day, at university with her brothers. With her aunts unexpected arrival, she finally gets her chance. In a whirlwind, Elloren is swept up into a dream.
But dreams aren't always what we expect them to be. Being the spitting image of her grandmother makes Elloren a target for people of different cultures. People in her own culture hold her in high regard, but also loathe that she has no magic of her own. For the first time she experiences what wealth is, with fine dresses made especially for her, servants waiting on her. Fine foods, and beautiful music, parties in her honor. She is swept up in this life, until things take a turn she never expected. Elloren starts to find herself pulled in many new directions, and the choices she makes will shake the entire foundation of her world.
Laurie Forest is an incredible storyteller. Her imagination is endless. Her characterizations are superb, her writing beautiful. And her world-building is just plain phenomenal. There is darkness in her story, there is anger and prejudice and a very harsh world. But there is also light, and new beginnings, and growth. I very much enjoyed reading The Black Witch, and I am already chomping at the bit to continue this wonderful story.
Now, on to another matter that I feel like I need to address. I love Goodreads. I head over to check out reviews before I read pretty much any book. So yes, I have seen the many one star reviews, people stating that they refuse to read the book due to the prejudice contained within. I even read the entire review that seems to have prompted the hate for the story. I almost decided not to review the book because I don't like confrontation. I stay away from as much of it as possible. But I decided to review it for several reasons. One, because I enjoyed it. It was a well-written book that deserved to be reviewed honestly by me. And two, because I want others who want to read and review it to not be scared to do so.
There were many quotes from the book put out there, many scenes from the story talked about, but the problem with that is, there is no context. The quote may be horrible, and the story horrible, but you have no idea what comes before it or after without reading it for yourself. Yes, this story is full of prejudices. There are some heartbreaking scenes that will make you sick to your stomach. Violence against women, violence in general. This isn't a new thing with this book. It sucked and hurt to read, but we see the same things on our tv shows, and in the movies, we read about violence in many of the books we read. It isn't a new thing for authors to write violent, horrible scenes. As unfortunate and shitty as it may be, prejudice and violence is a part of this world we live in. There are cultures all around the world that hate each other because they were raised to hate each other by their parents, and their parents parents, for centuries. There are men who beat women, there are women who beat me. There are people who hurt each other for the hell of it. It isn't something Laurie Frost made up, and she wasn't making it out to be okay. She was showing a truth about the state of our world. But what she also shows is one girls struggle to move past that hate and fear. In Elloren, and her brothers, and her eventual friends, she was showing that it is possible to shake off the impressions made by your past, by your family. It is possible to come to your own conclusions, and reach new understandings. But she is also showing that fighting against something that has been ingrained in you since birth is a struggle. You don't just one day get up and say, "Hey, my entire family, all the way back to the beginning, was wrong about this!". It doesn't happen that way, even if it would be a wonderful thing. Change happens slowly.
Change happened slowly in this book. And yes, there were moments where Elloren regressed a little, but she made huge strides toward understanding these people. She got past her hate, and fought FOR THEM. They got past their hate and fought FOR HER. And that is another point that I think was missed. Elloren and the Gardnerians weren't the only race with prejudices. They weren't the only racists. Each race saw something they hated in the other, each race was wronged by the other. They each had their own histories that ingrained hatred in them.
The Black Witch is a hard story to read, but it is a wonderful story to read. I don't care if you are black, white, purple, brown, yellow, orange, green, scaled, winged, red, blue or whatever you may be. This isn't a book about hate, it is a book about trying to eradicate that hate. And that is a slow progress, but progress is made and by the end, someone might be able to take something from this and start a change in their own lives, and the lives of their own families.