Sunday, September 19, 2010

Book Review: Once A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Once A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Reading Level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Clarion Books
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0547223994
ISBN-13: 978-0547223995
Source: Bought from Borders
Cover: I really love this cover and I think it has a lot to do with the rich purple mixed with that beautiful teal blue. I wanted to know about the girl gripping that old, ordinate book and I like that she's somewhat out of focused. I was also intrigued that she's looking behind her shoulder like she's trying to get away from something. This is a YES for me!
First Sentence: "I was born on the night of Samhain, when the barrier between the worlds is whisper thin and when magic, old magic, sings its heady and sweet song to anyone who care to hear it."

The Mini-review: I'm not sure what I was expecting but I know I wasn't expecting to be blown away by this novel's magic in every word.

Tasmin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and on the day she was born, her grandmother proclaimed she would be one of the most Talented among them.
But Tamsin's magic never showed up.
Now, seventeen years later, she spends most of her time at boarding school in Manhattan, where she can at least pretend to be normal. But during the summers, she's forced to return home and work at her family's bookstore/magic shop.
One night a handsome young professor from New York University arrives in the shop and mistakes Tamsin for her extremely Talented older sister. For once, it's Tamsin who's being looked at with awe and admiration, and before she can stop herself, she agrees to find a family heirloom from him that was lost more than a century ago. But the search-- and the stranger-- prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the past sins of her family, and unleash a power so strong and so vengeful that it could destroy them all.

The Review:

Sorry to be punny but I get that way when I'm in love. So here it is: This book is beWITCHING! It SPELLS wonderfulness! Seriously, I ate up every word and when I got to the end I wished there were a thousand more pages to go. I liked so many things about this novel that it's going to be hard for me to put my thoughts into coherent paragraphs but I'll attempt to since that's what should be done.

The first thing that was fabulous about this novel was the voice. I think pacing helped a lot with this but the writing read so smoothly and kept me turning the pages. Even in the bits that weren't important to the plot, I found myself honestly enjoying the downtime with such a wonderfully pleasant lead.

I picked up this book because the premise sounded really interesting. I love the idea of lead being Non-Talented in the midst of an entire community of Talented people right under regular society's nose. It's so great being considered the "weird one" because the main character is actually normal. It helps me, as a normal, Non-Talented reader, relate to Tam as a person and her unique situation. I can't imagine the pain of knowing everyone around you is extraordinary and being barred to from experiencing what should be rightful yours with them. There's a scene in the book that demonstrates this perfectly: on Tam's birthday (Halloween) the family always has a big party to celebrate their magic and Tam stays locked up in her room almost every year because she won't be able to join them. It's so heartbreaking and really puts into perspective what she has to go through and why she feels she doesn't fit in.

Tam is a pretty epic heroine. She wants to prove herself and that gets her into a little trouble but she doesn't run away from her problems. She faces them head on and while she's scared, she never shies away from fixing what she started. I really respected her for that. Plus, I loved that she realized the value of a good thrift store and was able to see beauty in discarded things.

Gabriel was the male lead and he was just, well, HOT. It wasn't so much his appearance, though the dark hair and eyes and lean strong arms helped, but more his dialog that made me love him. He was witty and just the right amount of dangerous. Couple that with his love of music and the fact that he's an uber powerful wizard that can find ANYTHING in the world and time travel and you got a man made after my own heart.

I think one of my favorite things about these two as a couple was trying to figure out their relationship. It was hard to pin it. When they first run into each (literally) they're kind of snappy and rude so I thought it was going to be an opposites attract thing. Then we find out that they were BFFs when they were little and Gabriel moved away and I figured it was a reconnection sort of thing that was going to happen. But THEN we see him with another girl and I changed my mind to either Tam thinks he has a girlfriend when he really doesn't story or he does have a girlfriend and they're going to have to fight to be together story. But even that's dropped. I just really liked being wrong about there their relationship was going page after page of the book.

Time travel is really tricky to write about and if a writer's not careful they'll get too caught up in "rules" and completely lose their audience's interest. I love that this novel didn't. Without so many rules it felt light instead of weighed down and the author was able to have fun with the time traveling scenes.

One of the things I liked best about this novel is that the plot was pretty much laid out from the beginning. I wasn't guessing who the "bad guy" was or what he wanted to accomplish. I knew both of those things and just had to go along with Tam as she figured out a way to stop him. This is how I tend to write plots and it was nice to see it done in a printed version that I loved so I know it works.

Cassandra Clare said this book was "a fantastic urban fantasy with an enchanting romance at its heart" and she pinned it down perfectly. This book is great through and through and had me gripping the edges of the book until it ended. I highly recommend it and am eagerly awaiting the next novel by Carolyn MacCullough.



  1. I just saw this at the book store and was too hesitant to pick it up! I'll make sure to do so next time! Thanks for the review. :]

  2. This really does sounds fantastic! I knew I needed to pick this one up!

  3. wow!! sounds like this one is awesome!! i've never paid too much attention to this one, but no i think i need to check it out!

  4. You loved it, I can tell. Great! I have heard of this one before and sounded okay. But now that has changed, I want to read it. Great review.

  5. I haven't read this one, but it definitely sounds good! Great review! :)


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