The Black Witch
Written by Laurie Forest
Published by Harlequin TEEN (May 2017)
(Cover image courtesy Harlequin TEEN; Author Photo – Beltrami Studios
Confession time – I am a charter member of the “I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie” Club, especially if that doorstop of a book is in the Fantasy genre.
- Maps in the front? Yes, please.
- Lists of characters helping me keep track of who’s who? Bring it!
- “Book One of the Something Something Chronicles?” I am so there!
I did read an advance copy of The Black Witch without the second item – so I made my own list of characters. Even without this tool, Laurie Forest’s debut novel makes it pretty easy to keep track of who is doing what. Teen and adult readers looking for their next Harry Potter or Chronicles of Shannara may find it in The Black Witch Chronicles.
In true “Harry Potter” fashion, young Elloren Gardner has spent her life tucked away in a remote corner of prosperous Gardneria, tending to the plants she feels so connected to. Luckily for Elloren, her uncle Edwin is a marked improvement over the Dursley family.
Elloren is soon whisked away from her sheltered existence to begin a formal education in the apothecary arts at the fabled (and distant) Verpax University. As her education progresses, we learn along with Elloren that the reality of her world, and her place in it, is far different than the comfortable assumptions of her childhood. Forest does an admirable job of drawing parallels between the issues of our world (racism, prejudice, fundamentalism) and the papered over conflicts that simmer beneath the surface of Gardneria.
As the first novel in a series, The Black Witch spends a lot of time establishing the world our heroine lives in – then revealing the hidden (and ugly) truths about that world. Even if I found some of the sections a bit stretched out, I enjoyed learning, bit by bit, the intricate (and interconnected) landscape Laurie Forest has built around her heroine.
It’s a good bet you will as well. Laurie Forest seems like an author who’s put an immense amount of effort in combining a vividly imaged world filled with interesting characters. The Black Witch ends on a cliffhanger (of course!); I for one will be waiting on Volume Two of The Black Witch Chronicles.