Monday, November 29, 2010

Review: Once A Witch

ONCE A WITCH (Once a Witch #1)
Carolyn MacCullough
Paranormal Young Adult
292 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Available Now

She was supposed to be the best of them. A beacon, her grandmother predicted when she was born. One of the most powerful witches in their family everyone said, her mother should be so proud. Only when Tamsin Greene turned eight, the age she should have come into her powers, nothing happened. Not the slightest inkling of Talent emerged.

Nine years later Tamsin is still dealing with the repercussions of her perceived failure as a witch. Her family loves her, but they treat her differently, an outcast among blood relatives. So when a mysterious NYU professor approaches her at her family's bookstore and mistakes her for her older and very Talented sister Rowena, Tamsin doesn't have strength to correct him, instead offering her help to assist him in finding an object he's lost.

Luckily for Tamsin, childhood friend Gabriel has recently moved back to town with his mother, and he just happens to have the Talent for locating lost objects. With his help, Tamsin locates what the professor so desperately seeks, but it's retrieval sets into motion an irreversible set of events with extreme circumstances for the entire Greene line, and reveals a long hidden truth about Tamsin herself.

Sweet and endearing with a touch of intensity and intrigue, Once a Witch is an engrossing tale of finding oneself and understanding that who we are supposed to be isn't nearly as important as the people we actually are. Predictions of the future only have credence based on the strength of the belief we put into them; they are not solid and unyielding, but rather viscous, ever-changing and altering with our every action. Laced with humor but counterbalanced with a dark edge of mystery, this tale is one where we ultimately lose track of the pages, finding questionably valid reasons for procrastinating on day to day matters so we can stay in thrall of the story unfolding before our eyes. This isn't a read that will necessarily haunt us with the magnitude of the events or the profundity of it's message, but it is certainly one that solicits our rapt attention, putting us fully under it's spell from page one and not releasing us from it's hold until we've reached the conclusion.

Tamsin is a girl of striking symmetry and balance; a dry wit accompanies a vibrant personality, an intellectual confidence is paired with an innate vulnerability at her lack of Talent, and a desire to prove her worth is paralleled by an admirable loyalty to those from whom she's so very different. No single trait overshadows the others to make her a more dramatic or outrageous teenage character, instead she is a blend of charming and relevant attributes that combine to form a well-rounded heroine onto whom we can so easily project ourselves. We share in her sense of being tainted and an utter failure to her family line, we smile gamely at her witty retorts and snappy one-liners, and we stand resolutely beside her as she attempts to wash away the perceived stain of normalcy and find a place in the hierarchy of witches.

In addition to a truly wonderful heroine, we also get a refreshing break from relationship drama and suffocating teen angst. The romantic element between Tamsin and Gabriel is extraordinarily subtle, one that provides just enough tension a dreamy exhalation still escapes our lips in anticipation of increased affectionate attention, but not so much as to be the very epicenter of the story around which all the other elements revolve. Our appetites are nicely whetted, our toes just breaching the bottomless pool of emotional connection as opposed to being swept away in an inescapable tide of hormones, pheromones, and endless pining. Tamsin and Gabriel are clearly destined for great things, each individually a force to be reckoned with on a variety of levels, and if this story is any indication, it will be an absolute pleasure to watch their strength and loyalty coalesce into something more spectacular than the sum of it's parts. With that in mind, however, an increase in the romance between them will be more than welcome in the sequel.

Once a Witch is an enthralling read, one that hasn't been given due credit up to this point, overshadowed instead by scores of other paranormal young adult books. Make no mistake however, this story is a pop of color amongst a sea of gray, a blissful single voice ringing out amidst a cacophony of sounds, and a steadying hand anchoring us where the teenage drama might otherwise pull us under.

Rating: 4/5


  1. Sounds like my kind of book. It's going on my wish list right NOW!

  2. I got this book as well and plan to read it soon. Great review :) I am super excited to read it.

  3. Excellent review, Jenny! I keep seeing this at the bookstore but glancing over it because I really haven't seen too many reviews of it. I'm in need of a lovable heroine though, so this appeals to me even more :)

  4. Fab review Jenny. Sounds like a great story. My tbr and I thank you. :)

  5. I read about half of this book but it didn't fully grab me. I didn't dislike it, I just wasn't hooked. I planned on picking it up again at some point, and your review is giving me just the motivation I need to do that. Thanks!

  6. I haven't read many reviews for this book, but I really like the sound of it. I especially like that it doesn't have that whole teen angsty-ness. I'll definitely have to give this book a read especially since I love the cover for the sequel... not shallow at all. :P

  7. Awesome review! I really enjoyed this one too! Tamsin's sense of humor rocked, and I loved how the relationship between her and Gabriel was gradual :)

  8. I completely agree with you. This novel was outstanding. I didn't expect anything from it when I finally got around to reading it but was so excellent is was hard to put down. Thanks for the great review!

  9. Wow, this sounds great! You're right, I haven't heard a lot about it. I only first heard of it when I saw the sequel on Netgalley. I may have to check it out!

  10. Slowest - Hope you enjoy it!

    Savy - I think you'll like it, it's a quick and easy read:)

    Melissa - I glossed over it as well and then just decided to go for it. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

    Tori - Welcome sweets:)

    Small - I can see how it wouldn't reach out and grab everyone, but I really enjoyed the overall story.

    Adriana - I read this one right after Crescendo and it was like a breath of fresh air after all the angst of that one. I think that's part of why I liked it so much.

    Lea - I agree, I adored Tamsin!

    ajmitchell - Me either, I had no expectations whatsoever and was pleasantly surprised.

    Ashley - I hope you do!

  11. Oh this sounds like a wonderful read. I think all of us can identify with living up to expectations set by others on us.

  12. The sequel is just as awesome. And you are right, it hasn't received too much attention despite being so beautifully written. But hopefully, your review convinces many people to try it out.

  13. This is one of my favourite books. I remember reading it last year and thinking "why isn't this talked about more??" It's so good. I love the old cover! So pretty!

  14. Oh, Jenny, I was waiting for this review! :) I'm so glad you enjoyed it - I absolutely found it to be wonderful. I'm glad that you mentioned that Tamsin's and Gabriel's romance isn't in the forefront of the story, because that seems to be what a lot of people complain about during their reviews when they read this book. Their romance wasn't MEANT to be first; the plot and Tamsin's "quest" is. And, as always, wonderful review! ;)

  15. Felicia - Absolutely, and I love how Tamsin handles it.

    Bookwurrm - I can't wait to read Always A Witch!

    Katie - It's definitely slipped under the radar which is unfortunate. I'm hoping with the sequel coming out next year they'll be a renewed interest.

    Kristina - I agree, the romance is super quiet so anybody expecting a more romantic YA story will probably be disappointed, but I loved that aspect of it:)

  16. I read this title when I was at the ALA conference in Chicago. It's a cute, quick, and fun read that combines both fantasy, romance, and time travel. I plan on reading the sequel too.

  17. Gosh, I've been ignoring this one because I was never sure just what to make of it. Just goes to show that I'm very guilty of dismissing a book which I could really, really end up enjoying. I will definitely put it on my TBR pile after reading your review :)

  18. A beautifully written review! I haven't even heard of this one, but I'm going to take your word for it and add it to my to-read list.

  19. Rummanah - Me too!

    Tammy - I hope you like it, it's just a fun read.

    Anna - Thank you! This one didn't get much hype at all, but it's quite enjoyable:)

  20. This is the first I've heard of this book-I'm intrigued. Off to see if my library has it. Great review!

  21. Fabulous review! This reminds me that I wanted to pick up this book ASAP - especially since the sequel is on netgalley. I'm definitely looking for a book that you can get lost in the pages.

  22. This book sounds intriguing, I am going to have to check it out! Thanks for the great review.

  23. Colette - Thanks, hope you like it!

    Alison - Thank you! That's why I picked it up as well, I loved the sound of book 2 on NetGalley and figured I should read this one first:)

    Jessica - You're welcome, hope you enjoy it if you give it a try!

  24. Jenny, I had this one on my reading list back in October, but I never got around to it. Now I'm saddened that I didn't. Kick me please!

    "The romantic element between Tamsin and Gabriel is extraordinarily subtle, one that provides just enough tension a dreamy exhalation still escapes our lips in anticipation of increased affectionate attention, but not so much as to be the very epicenter of the story around which all the other elements revolve. " <<< LOVE THIS!

    Surprisingly, I think I'm becoming a BIG fan of this type romance. What you mentioned above was exactly how I felt after I read Heist Society. Subtle yet leave you anticipating. *le sigh*

    Yup, I need to put this back on my reading list... pronto! But then again, I think Always a Witch doesnt come out until Aug 2011. Gah! Will the wait be something I can endure?

  25. Great review! This one has actually been on my wishlist for ages, but I still haven't gotten around to it. So many books, so little time! ;)

  26. Hiya again! Another fantastic review--I'm so glad that you've enjoyed "Once a Witch" and that you liked the unique elements! I think that "Always a Witch" is going to be even better :-)


  27. WTF, I know I comment on this post, damn Blogger eating my comments! Anyway, glad you liked this one. I have it on my shelf & I think Netgalley has the sequel! I'll have to get on it!

  28. Awesome review Jenny!! it sounds like such a great read! adding to my wishlist right now LOL

  29. Missie - I am too! I'm a little burnt out on teen angst at the moment, so I was glad the story was at the forefront of this one:)

    Leanna - Exactly, every time I read one book, 6 new ones find their way onto my list!

    Mollie - Apparently Blogger hates you;) NetGalley does have the sequel, I ended up reading this one because I saw Always A Witch on there.

    Larissa - Thanks! Hope you like it!

  30. I saw this book linked on your blog and thought it sounded really interesting. Your review seems to back up that thought which is good because I put it on my "birthday wishlist" and should be able to get stuck in with it next week :)

  31. Blahahahaha!

    I did read your review! Good times, good times.

    Thanks, I definitely needed that refresher. My brain has been so scrambled as of late... well, more than usual. :)

  32. I picked this one up on my kindle recently, too. It was at a bargain price and I've always wanted to read it. The second book is available at my digital library, but the first book never seems to be.

    Your review was beautifully written. I had no idea,

    " Once a Witch [was} an engrossing tale of finding oneself and understanding that who we are supposed to be isn't nearly as important as the people we actually are."

    Sounds like a great message weaved into an enticing story. I need to read some witch books for a reading challenge I've entered this year. After reading your glowing review, I'm excited to get started sooner than later.