The Book of Witches by Margaret Ann Fisher

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Megan Conroy thinks she has problems; she’s struggling to pass math and with only one year of high school left she still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She certainly never thought she’d become a witch. A near miss from a speeding car triggers an inexplicable rush of power within her, leading to strange, recurring dreams and encounters with even stranger creatures. After being saved from a demon by her classmate Finn, she finally starts getting some answers. Meg, he explains, is now an awakened witch; a person whose dormant magic has been brought out by trauma. Real witches, she learns, are nothing like the broomstick-riding figures she’s used to from movies. The descendants of an ancient tribe who made an alliance with the Fae, Witani are born with magic and have the ability to see the spirits who oversee the natural world. She receives another shock looking through study abroad brochures when she finds a picture of the same standing stone from her dreams. This prompts her to choose Scotland as her destination, where the stone is located. As she’s drawn ever deeper into the secret world of magic and Fae, she wrestles with the dilemma of whether or not to tell her parents about her new life. But it’s not long before she has far more to worry about. Her arrival in Scotland sets a series of events in motion that will change her forever; bringing with it new friends, love, and danger.

My Review

I was given  an Audible copy of this book for an honest review by the author. This was a tough one for me. I loved the premise: Meg, a girl who discovers she’s a witch after a near tragic accident. She goes on a school exchange program to Scotland and discovers a whole family and society she never knew existed (including fae princes and all sorts of mythical creatures). But the story itself was a bit of a disappointment.

Meg, the main character, turns 18 just after the book opens. The author emphasizes she is 18 but in Grade 11. This timeline needed to be explained since most students in Grade 11 are 16 or 17 at most and since this is young adult novel, young readers are going to question this. Now maybe Meg was home schooled or held back … but that should have been mentioned. Meg goes on an exchange to Scotland and (without giving away any spoilers) makes a decision about her future which is pretty unrealistic to a reader who is familar with youth today. While Meg is a strong character there are flaws in her development, which make the reader question her authenticity.

The story line has lots of adventure and romance but there were two issues I found that really pulled me right out of the story. The first was stylistic/grammatical. As a university instructor who teaches writing, I admit I may be overly sensitive about such problems but when the errors keep pulling me out of the story I just get frustrated. I love fantasy and I like to be carried away by the books I’m reading (or listening to in this case). This manuscript just had too many problems that a good copy editor could have eliminated. But part of the problem was stylistic. This was really obvious in the dialogue where there was too much telling and not enough showing. The author also had the habit of referring to the protagonist and her friend as “the teenager” instead of simply saying “Meg” or “Finn.” No youth will refer to themselves as “the teenager” and by doing so the reader is suddenly aware that an adult author is writing a story about supposed teenagers. There were also several instances of eyes floating across the room or following a character (eyes can’t do those things on their own … if they do it is usually in a horror story).

The other major problem I had was the quality of the Audible narration. Everyone who listens to audio books knows the  narrator can make or break or story. In this case, it felt like the narrator was not very familiar with the story. She stumbled over the words at times and in other places she overly emphasized the wrong words or slipped into a singsong adult voice reserved for silly kids.

I don’t like to write negative reviews and I truly believe that if the cosmetic errors were cleaned up with this book, it would be a great story albeit with a bit of a cliched love story. The other world that Fisher has begun to create is intriguing and has real potential but this book didn’t do it for me.


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