April 29, 2012

A Witch in Winter: A Panoramic Review

"Anna Winterson doesn't know she's a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her – but if it is her magic that's controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain." (from Goodreads)
A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton

In ten words or less: witchy story with unrealized potential.

My reaction: 

Well, throughout the first half or so I was thinking it might be a 3.5 star read. But unfortunately, it started going downhill in the latter part of the book and didn't redeem itself. I feel like this book had potential in several different areas, but fell short. 

Character-wise, I liked Anna at the beginning. She seemed pretty down-to-earth and just generally relatable. My enthusiasm for her lessened as the book went on, particularly once her relationship with Seth changes. I just didn't buy that she could be "in love" that quickly, without spending very much time with him. If it had been downgraded from "love" to "interest" or "attraction" and then have the tension upped gradually, it would have been a whole lot more believable. Seth is no better, suffering from seriously rapid attitude adjustments and the unfortunate fate of ending up rather 'whipped'. And just overall, I felt like the characters didn't have much personality and could have used some more description to help me visualize them.

Plot-wise, I liked the concept of the love spell and its initial effects on Seth. The whole is-he-or-isn't-he-really-in-love-with-me premise is a great hook, and one that I think could have been exploited more effectively. Instead, the love spell storyline is pretty much resolved (in a predictable manner) about halfway through and a whole new storyline is set up to take its place. This fast acceleration of their relationship is too sudden, and love is portrayed in a black-and-white way that fails to fully explore the gray areas.

Now, at first I was okay with this second, more adrenaline-filled, plot. The Ealdwitan were threatening Anna and Mr. Brereton seemed pretty creepy. Plus, there was the question underlying their menacing stance: why do they want Anna so badly? But we don't see enough of the Ealdwitan to really get a sense of who they are or what their motivations are. Consequently, the spell they unleash on Winter just comes off as ridiculously overkill for the situation at hand — and not very well thought-out, either. The question regarding Anna's role is never answered. I suspect it is being saved for the sequel, but not having that pertinent information means the reader is left going, "WHY????"

As for the world-building... the setting of England countryside by the sea — with cliffs and a castle and an old, dilapidated house — was pretty cool. I thought more description could have been used to heighten the atmosphere, but still, the backdrop was fitting for a story about witches. However, the magic system was all over the place. Sometimes spells were done reading from a Grimoire. Sometimes they weren't. Certain witches saw the future, but not consistently. I'm pretty sure there is shapeshifting at a few points. One character conveniently talks to Anna in her mind at a crucial moment. If there'd been more structure and explanation for the different kinds of magic, then I wouldn't have so much of a problem with it, but it just seemed to depend on the individual witch. Anna basically gets no training in magic, but she seems to develop some good instincts once she's told she's a witch. It's like she's sucked up witchy knowledge by osmosis or something. The magic itself isn't articulated very clearly, beyond the generic "threads" or "webs" of spells we've seen many times before in fantasy novels.

Best aspect: I enjoyed Abe's character. He's this older, mysterious, sexy rebel guy (with a faint aura of danger) and you can't always anticipate what he'll do next. I hope he'll figure more prominently in book 2, but I kind of doubt I'll be reading it to find out. (That would be pretty much the only reason I would read book 2.)

If I could change something... I would majorly rehash the magic system to make it logical and straightforward. The storyline would be reworked so it didn't come across as two sub-plots accidentally smacking into each other at the halfway point. And I would keep cheesy emotional declarations to a bare minimum, spicing up the dialogue to make it more fresh, memorable, and authentic.

Spot the allusion? There's one scene that made me think of Romeo & Juliet. I'm not sure if this was intentional or not, but I enjoyed the dramatic irony (and humor!) inherent in the scene. (Spoiler, highlight to read: the part where everyone thinks Anna's dead and she's actually recorded at the hospital as such, but the reader knows she isn't. And then she shocks everyone by sitting up!)

Just one more thing I want to mention: June, Lily and Prue just get dropped out of the story soon after the love spell is cast. I'm pretty sure the only reason they were included was to provide a plausible vehicle for Anna enchanting Seth. Plot device, anyone?

If you haven't read it: if you're really crazy about witches and don't mind unreasonably lovestruck teens, you might like this one better than I did. Just don't expect it to make a whole lot of sense.

If you have read it: Anyone else have a Twilight flashback in the scene with Seth in the tux? 


My breathing slowed. I was almost asleep when my ear caught another sound, something fluttering against the window pane. The noise was stealthy, soft, persistent. I shut my eyes tighter and pulled the sheets to my chin, pushing away the vision of a dry, dead hand, pressed paper-thin, scrabbling against the window, trying to get in.

Final verdict: 2.5 shooting stars. I think the book description is a bit misleading, since the love spell aspect really only has a role to play in the first half of the book. On the whole, I found this one pretty bland and generic, not adding anything new to the genre. 


Disclaimer: I received this book for review from the publisher.

This book counts towards my goal for the Debut Author reading challenge.


1 comment:

  1. It's good that you were able to find some positive aspects even though you didn't quite enjoy this book, it's a shame because I kind of like the cover but witchy books don't always appeal to me!


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