*The Apprentice Witch is available Tuesday, July 25th!*
The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol. Chicken House, 2017. Hardcover, 336 Pages.
As most of you probably know by now, my book taste is fairly wide-ranging and I always have my eye out for great middle grate fantasy. Thus, when The Apprentice Witch arrived in the mail one day, I was understandably excited to see this one arrive int he mail. The Apprentice Witch centers on a young girl named Arianwyn who wants nothing more than to pass her exam to become a witch. Unfortunately, things don't quite as planned and she is sent to a remote town called Lull as an apprentice - still.
I think my favorite thing about this book was the setting and the story set-up. I love the little town of Lull, which was a nice small town, but also equally dark, mysterious, and somewhat creepy at times. Everything felt magical and there seemed to be many layers within each spell and creature introduced. The magic system itself was a very unique one that I haven't really seen, consisting of the drawing of glyphs to cast spells. I was somewhat reminded of Brandon Sanderson's The Rithmatist, which uses a similar idea of drawing spells -- this actually made me really excited, largely because I find the entire concept really interesting, and Nicol executed it in a fascinating manner. I really hope that the next book explores this entire notion even further.
I really loved Arianwyn's character. Her youth and inexperience definitely showed, which led her to making some mistakes, and this is also what endeared me to her so much. Arianwyn felt that she had to prove herself (and she sort of did), and thus she had to work extra hard to be mature and take care of both herself and pretty much the entire town from the dangerous spirits and creature the inhabit it.
I also really appreciated Arianwyn and Salle's friendship. It was lovely and felt like an authentic relationship, full of ups and downs and, ultimately, loyalty. I actually found her relationship with all of the character's entertaining. Lull is full of a wide array of people, some of whom are glad to see Arianwyn and some who are not - such as the mayor himself. The way Arianwyn navigates her job and her desires to become a full-fledged witch is a journey that takes the reader through the struggles and insecurities that we all face and strive to overcome. Arianwyn is a wonderfully stubborn girl who, despite the odds often being stacked against, doesn't really let herself every truly give up, and I think that notion is at the core of this book, alone with the importance of friendship and looking out for others.
I'd also like to give a little shout out to Bob, Arianwyn's moon hare, who made me fall in love with it from the moment it appeared in the story.
The only qualms that I had with this book was that I just wanted a bit more in the development area. I wanted more about the magic system, the dark creatures, the history. More character development and narrative. Regardless, I definitely plan to continue with the next book to see what's in store - I feel as though this will only get better.
Overall, I give four stars to The Apprentice Witch!
*I received a physical ARC of The Apprentice Witch courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This is no way impacts my enjoyment of the book.*
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