The War of the Witches by Maite Carranza
|The War of the Witches by Maite Carranza|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: This is that old-hat story of a young girl who doesn't realise her witch-origins, nor her place in a great mythical struggle, but done almost to perfection. Highly recommended, especially to a female audience.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: February 2009|
|Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing plc|
The Spanish Pyrenees, the present day. Young Anaid wakes up one morning from a nightmare to find her mother missing. She's just vanished – leaving money, ID, car keys. This is not a total novelty for Anaid, as a year ago she had the horror of her gran dying while wandering in the woods nearby. But this might just be the start of a further and much bigger nightmare.
Soon a 'family' of women gather round her, from teacher to distant aunt, but this isn't ideal – they seem strangely conflicting, and it takes a lot of bickering on their part and grit on Anaid's part to find out the truth. All these adult females are witches, and Anaid has been brought up as a minor player in a major conflict, foretold by legends of old, between the two halves of the witching sphere.
What follows is an awakening in Anaid's self-knowledge, as she finds just what the truth is, and what just might be destined to happen. This burgeoning self-awareness, complete with references to first bras and periods, might twist the audience of this book to the female-only side of things, but on the whole I think anyone would find a lot to enjoy in the saga that follows.
There is a strong sense throughout of an author fully revelling in her creation. There is a slight hint of the Countess Elizabeth Bathory in the nasties, but a lot that is Maite Carranza turning the dawning of a young witch trope to her own tastes, and creating her own perfectly realised world. Or should that be worlds plural, for with a change of scene half-way through we see just how she can turn her hand to fitting plot with location with character – all coming across powerfully – and can fit into one reasonable-length book what lesser authors would pad out to two volumes.
Anaid is a great character, and while there is not a huge amount of novelty in her training herself up and rebelling against her superiors in learning too quickly, it is all done with a strong sense of mystery – the goodies might not all be goodies, the baddies might be more fully disguised than they at first appear to be. The depth of the magic available in the world is trickled down to us across the pages so even when we get transformations to other species, flying, otherworlds, they all seem acceptable.
With just a little extra twist to some scenes, and a further spark to the actual writing at times, this would have come across as a perfect fantasy. It's still a very strong blend of the magical with the grounded reality of the young girl jealous of others' birthday parties and driving skills. By the end we have had a very pleasant time in this fantasy world.
I strongly hope that the four years this has taken to appear in English since its original Spanish publication means the remaining books in this trilogy can join this on our shelves in translation soon. This wraps itself up perfectly to be self-contained, but with a depth to the setting and narrative such as here, who would want to stop at just this first story?
We at the Bookbag must thank Bloomsbury for our review copy. For those countless people wishing to see something at a crossroads between A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin and the series ending with The Crossing of Ingo by Helen Dunmore, this must be a hit.
You can read more book reviews or buy The War of the Witches by Maite Carranza at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy The War of the Witches by Maite Carranza at Amazon.com.
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