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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

A special middle grade debut of magic and courage in a world of witches, written with the charm and enchantment of Circus Mirandus and The Apothecary. Arianwyn has flunked her witch's assessment: She's doomed. Declared an apprentice and sent to the town of Lull in disgrace, she may never become a real witch-- much to the glee of her arch-rival, Gimma. But remote Lull is not as boring as it seems. Strange things are sighted in the woods, a dangerous infestation of hex creeps throughout the town, and a mysterious magical visitor arrives with his eye on her. With every spirit banished, creature helped, and spell cast, Arianwyn starts to get the hang of being a witch--even if she's only an apprentice. But the worst still lies ahead. For a sinister darkness has begun to haunt her spells, and there may be much more at stake than just her pride . . . for Arianwyn and the entire land.…

The Apprentice Witch

by James Nicol

Overall Book Review:

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol is a nice mixture of quirky, funny, and heartfelt, with a lot of humor and character growth thrown in. It boasts a really nice friendship story, refreshing to read after so many stories harping on romances of one sort or the other, and contains a really nice moral about second chances and trusting in yourself, despite what other people might think or say about you.

I quite liked the magic system. Instead of arcane language or wand-waving, witches use “glyphs” to harness the magic surrounding them. The glyphs help them channel the magic into specifically useful elements; for example, sketching Ardra allows a witch to harness the power of fire, while sketching the glyph, L’ier, opens a magical rift that lets a witch banish any truant spirits back into the void where they belong. I also liked the detail that there were perhaps more glyphs available than most witches knew about. It opened the door to an intriguing sequel.

For the most part, I quite liked the main character, Arianwyn Gribble. She occasionally acted out toward her grandmother like a modern teen when particularly angry or hurt about something, which I found a bit jarring in the fantasy setting. Other than that, she was a good female lead. I liked the twist that she is presumed to be an incompetent failure because of her poor test evaluation on the power of her witchcraft. But even though she doesn’t earn the coveted silver star that would proclaim her a fully licensed witch, she does receive the little bronze moon brooch which gives her the status of apprentice witch. She is also given an “easy” assignment in the township of Lull, a dreary little place where apparently nothing really happens.

Despite her low status, Arianwyn basically rolls up her sleeves and gets down to business with whatever magical jobs roll her way. She might be an apprentice witch with huge doubts about her abilities, but she’s the only witch Lull has. And she’s determined to make a difference.

The Apprentice Witch is the kind of story that would like appeal to readers of Trenton Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society, and J.A. White’s The Thickety.

This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Scholastic

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  1 religious exclamation.

Violence/Gore:  A character is taunted by a clique of girls; a character is plagued by the power of a dangerous glyph; occasional recollections of a parent’s death; characters sometimes engage in verbal arguments; characters discuss the loss of their parents; in an extended scene, characters are menaced by a frightening magical spirit, use fire glyphs to obstruct an attack, and escape with some injuries (not overly violent); a character is so startled he falls backward and hurts himself; a toddler hits a sibling with a toy; characters are attacked by sharp-toothed creatures; a child is bitten; a character accidentally kills a spirit with too-strong magic; a character occasionally stumbles across dangerous hex marks; a creature is found wounded and in pain, with some description of injuries; a character is threatened if she does not dispose of a supposed demon; a character falls off a chair; a crowd is terrified by a creature growling and slashing out; characters are confronted by a serpentine water spirit; a character is almost drowned; a character’s magic goes out of control; characters occasionally report being attacked/threatened by magical spirits; a character suffers from a severe magical reaction; characters accidentally release a dark-magic creature into a wood; a character is reported to have faked her way to success; there are a few reports of something seen lurking in a wood; a young boy is attacked and injured by a dangerous spirit; a character is accused of mismanaging magic; a character is determined to use the power of a hazardous glyph; a female character knocks another female character to the ground; two female characters fight; in an extended scene, a character confronts a malevolent spirit and uses a dangerous glyph’s power to subdue and destroy it; a character is described with a broken leg and a bruised face.

Sex/Nudity:  A character carries a picture of his wife; a fairy creature is reported genderless, like a snail or a worm; a male and female character shake hands; a male and female character hug; an adult male character hugs a teenage female character (not sexual).

Mature Subject Matter:

Death of family members, war, deceit, lying, trickery, betrayal, racial prejudice, cheating.

Alcohol / Drug Use:


Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

Fantasy is my bread and butter. I read and write it. I’m obsessed with world-building and fascinated with lyrical prose. I love that I can contribute to the writing community by recommending good books that can actually make a difference in a person’s life.