Thursday, March 17, 2011

Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Title: Always a Witch
Author: Carolyn MacCullough
Publisher: Clarion Books
Release Date: August 1st, 2011
Pages: 276 pages (Adobe Digital Editions copy)
How I Got the Book: From the publisher through NetGalley (and thank you so much for it!).

Since the gripping conclusion of Once A Witch, Tamsin Greene has been haunted by her grandmother's prophecy that she will soon be forced to make a crucial decision—one so terrible that it could harm her family forever. When she discovers that her enemy, Alistair Knight, went back in time to Victorian-era New York in order to destroy her family, Tamsin is forced to follow him into the past.

Stranded all alone in the nineteenth century, Tamsin soon finds herself disguised as a lady's maid in the terrifying mansion of the evil Knight family, avoiding the watchful eye of the vicious matron, La Spider, and fending off the advances of Liam Knight. As time runs out, both families square off in a thrilling display of magic. And to her horror, Tamsin finally understands the nature of her fateful choice.


Tamsin Greene once thought she was a Talentless girl in a family of Talented witches and wizards/warlocks/whatevers, but she now knows that she isn't. She has the power to keep others from using their Talents and copy someone's Talent if it is used against her three times. After the dangerous events that hurt her sister and led to Tamsin discovering her powers, all Tamsin wants is to take part in her sister's wedding in peace. Too bad she can't. Alistair Knight, member of the Knight family that rivals the Greenes, has traveled back in time to warn his family against what the Greenes will do to them and using the Domani, Tamsin follows him back in time. Getting a place as a lady's maid in the Knight home, Tamsin must stop their plans and may have to make the greatest choice of her life.

I read Once a Witch earlier this year (review here) and loved it for being a fast, entertaining read. I wasn't sure that a sequel could improve on what I liked there, but Always a Witch managed to be even better than its predecessor. Who says that sequels are never as good as the original?

The pacing is much tighter and instead of spending much of the book's opening setting everything up and developing suspense the way the first book did, Always a Witch was able to jump right into the action. By chapter three, it was going full speed ahead. The solid plot was handled well, making me wonder at time if everything would work out well or not. I can count at least three occasions where the combination of the wonderful writing and emotional scenes made me start tearing up. It took the third tearjerker scene, the ending, to finally make me cry.

Tamsin's family was as delightful as they were in the first book (except for Rowena, of course, but I did like that she cared at least a little bit for her sister), but I wish there had been more pages devoted to Tamsin's interaction with her family. The big secret was finally out that Tamsin had Talents after all, and they were very powerful Talents. How did this affect her interactions with her family? I would like to think that such a huge change would do something to the family dynamics.

Tamsin's depth was still being explored and another character I had a soft spot for, Jessica Knight, had her touches of depth too, but pretty much the only character who got any development or depth was Tamsin. In a few ways, Always a Witch reminded me of an action movie. They both move at a frantic pace when at their best and you can't stop watching. To keep that pacing, time that would be spent fleshing characters out is instead spent on action and big scenes. I see many movies where characterization is sacrificed for the sake of plot or time constraints and Always a Witch is pretty much just like that. If it weren't in Tamsin's point of view, she would probably have less development too.

And I'm sorry, but while I did find the book suspenseful and interesting and unstoppably readable, the mood never stayed serious for long. Why? Lavinia "La Spider" Knight, the Knight family matriarch. Her name ruined it. La Spider as a villain name is just so... well, it's silly! Each time someone mentioned her name, it made me want to giggle rather than feel fear. Even something as small as a character's name can set or ruin a mood. when you give an intimidating, evil, and scary character like her a name like La Spider, the contradiction hurts the mood.

This book was so close to a perfect rating, but fell just short for two reasons: a name that ruined the mood of the story each time it was said and a continuing lack of depth for characters that aren't named Tamsin Greene. A few other little reasons niggled at me like how perfectly Tamsin picked up 1880s life, but they were not enough to really bring down the rating by themselves. I don't expect to see a sequel for this book (though I wouldn't refuse to buy one if it came into being) and that's fine with me. Always a Witch ended on a fantastic, if sad, note. It and its prequel Once a Witch are worth a read, especially for any fellow witch fans.

4 stars!

What am I reading next?: Lost Voices by Sarah Porter

1 comment:

  1. I loved this book. I cried at the end too. I really wanted another chapter to see how life had changed after the big show down. Great review!


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