The Black Witch by Laurie Forest
Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Disclaimer: I stopped reading this book, but I read enough of it (about half) to where I felt like had a right to state my opinion.
The Black Witch was a risk for me, and I don’t normally take risks with books. I usually put a lot of thought and research into what I read. I don’t like to waste my time with books. It has to be good (like truly good). But maybe this mentality is holding me back, so I decided to check this one out on a whim. I didn’t read any reviews. I didn’t look at the GoodReads rating. I just checked it out.
And after two nights of reading, I totally regretted it.
Based on the premise, The Black Witch sounded rather promising. Elloren is the granddaughter of the last Black Witch who saved her people from their enemy during the Realm War. But unlike her grandmother, Elloren has no power, so instead she dreams of becoming an apothecary. But when she is admitted to the university –a university that admits all people, including her people’s sworn enemy-, everything she knows and believes is challenged.
Sounds interesting. There’s magic, probably a forbidden romance, and it touches on prejudice. But unfortunately, it was more than a major let down.
Elloren is incredibly naïve. Yes, she was raised in the middle of nowhere. Yes, she’s a product of her society (she’s been taught to hate and she hates rather blindly). Yes, she’s ignorant. And yes, she’s supposed to grow. But she was too naïve to the point where I couldn’t believe it. I felt like she was incredibly unrealistic. She was weak, ignorant, naïve, dependent, and annoying. But at the same time, you’re supposed to feel sorry for her. She has no rights as a woman and she’s bullied by other attractive girls (who, unless ugly, are always the villain). Poor Elloren.
Furthermore, Elloren is a passive protagonist which makes for a rather dull read. This was a huge factor in why I decided to stop reading this book. Not only that, she’s always the victim and she’s always the victim of bullying, especially from the “inferior races” (which only helps to “validate” her prejudice). A quick disclaimer: it’s obvious the author is trying to show that this attitude is bad, but it’s poorly executed. The point is someone is always mean to Elloren. They spread rumors, trip her, beat her up, and yet they don’t even know her. By the time I reached the “30% mark”, Elloren had been targeted by six completely different people. And they were all other women.
That’s another huge issue I have with this book. It villainizes other woman, specifically other beautiful and powerful women. I hate that because it comes off as some sort of revenge fantasy, you know? I don’t know if you all were ever involved in the fanfiction community when you were younger, but I was, and Elloren would have easily been a Mary Sue.
Besides Elloren, the other characters seemed so superficial. Lukas is the powerful mage who tries to get her to realize her power (it’s so obvious from page one that she actually does have magic…really poor foreshadowing there) and who is potentially dangerous and definitely overprotective. Yuck. There’s the guy (can’t remember his name) who works in the kitchen who hates her (glares at her all the time) but when she isn’t around, he’s sweet to children. There’s the super-powerful lady mage who may be the next Black Witch who is beautiful, hates Elloren, and is super mean. And really, the list goes on.
And then there’s the writing. It’s so flowery and definitely attempts to be beautiful, but it’s so forced and cliché. For example, “Lukas’s eyes are as focused as a hawk bearing down on a small rodent as he points his sword at his opponent, a confident smile on his face.” Am I the only person who finds this cheesy?
I know, I know. This is pretty much a rant. I will say there seems to be a lot of people who enjoyed this book . I mean, there are some three, four, five star ratings out there. There are also a lot of one star ratings from people who didn’t even read the book. And that’s an issue that really bothers me.
I get that people are interpreting this as encouraging racism. But it’s clearly not, and I honestly think people who are seeing this way are seriously misreading the text. It’s obviously not the author’s intention to turn us all into racists. I’m pretty sure the point was that this sort of behavior is a bad thing and needs to be addressed. And maybe this isn’t addressed by the end of book one, which I would find a little annoying but realistic because racism isn’t cured overnight. Is this going to be a book where the white savior comes along to save the day? Maybe, and I totally see the problem with that because that’s part of the problem.
But the thing is, you shouldn’t trust someone’s word without reading it yourself. That’s dangerous (and can also destroy someone else’s career), and it’s really disappointing to me that a community of readers would do this. To me, it’s groupthink mentality. And calling for a book to be taken off the shelves? That’s censorship and censorship is a dangerous cycle. Do we really want to live in a world where our speech and art is so closely monitored? I don’t. And if it doesn’t scare you, maybe you should read 1984 by George Orwell or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.
And I guess if you want to see what all the fuss is about, check out this book (who knows, maybe it’s all a big publicity stunt….conspiracy theory right there). But if you’re looking for something that’s well-written, for something that has a strong female lead, an interesting and well-developed world, this book may not be for you because it simply isn’t successful in its execution.
–“And so we beat on, boats against the currents, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”
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