Book Review: The Black Witch

Synopsis from Goodreads: Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of rebels…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to fear. 

The Black Witch is a YA Fantasy and is the first in a series. Books 1-4 (and an prequel to book 1) are published; book 5 is in the works. This is book 14/20 for the 20 Books of Summer challenge and book 2/2 for this month’s Completely Melanie challenge where the theme was to read a book set in an academic location (school, college, etc.)

I have had this book in my TBR pile for a while and I was glad to have it fit a prompt for a reading challenge so I dove in. This book leans towards high fantasy/epic fantasy, but also is definitely in the YA fantasy camp. The main character, Elloren Gardner, is lovely. A kind young lady but one who has lived a sheltered life with her uncle and 2 brothers in a rural area, despite their family’s powerful Mage bloodlines. The world of the University is beautifully detailed with rich descriptive passages and I would love to sign up for classes there, especially those for Apothecaries!

The plot tension slowly builds as Elloren begins to questions things she thinks she knows, about the Gardnerian culture, her family and herself. My biggest complaint about this book is the fact that it leaves you on a major cliffhanger. There is absolutely NO resolution of any of the plot twists or developments the author has introduced as the book unfolded. (At least with long series like ACOTAR there’s a major battle or other plot point that occurs so you can feel like the characters are getting a bit of a break while you’re waiting to read/reading the next book. This series doesn’t have that at all and it drives me crazy.) I enjoyed the supporting cast of characters. Lukas Grey, who appears to be Elloren’s main love interest, is a bit of a mystery and he’s got a small role in this book, but I suspect a larger one in the books that follow. I’m also hoping that the story will expand on Elloren’s affinity for trees more.

I was a little bit confused by the sudden turn-around of one of the adult characters/teachers at the school that occurs at the end of the book. It seemed a bit forced to me and an easy way to tie up a few of the problems that had been thrown in Elloren’s path, especially since this happens about 25 pages before the end of the story and I felt like we could have had more backstory or explanation of why this particular character did a 180 (other than that it was convenient to solve some of the tension).

Overall, I enjoyed this book, its characters, and the world-building quite a bit. I will probably dive into more of the series at some point in the relatively near future. It’s an entertaining summer-reading type read, and would recommend it if you like epic-style YA fantasy with an interesting magic world to immerse yourself in.

Rating 4/5 stars.

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