The babies were born as the clock struck twelve. A bat fell from the air mid-flight. A silver salmon floated dead to the surface of the river. Snails withered in their shells, moths turned to dust on the night breeze and an owl ate its young. The spell had been cast.
Poppy Hooper has managed to deceive her father into believing that there is nothing mysterious or unnatural about her. He ignores the cats that find her wherever she goes, the spiders that weave beautiful lacy patterns for her, even her eyes – one blue, one green with an extra black dot orbiting the pupil.
Ember Hawkweed is a pitiful excuse for a witch. When the other girls in her coven brew vile potions, Ember makes soap and perfume. Fair and pretty, Ember is more like a chaff than a witch. One of the Hawkweeds will be queen of the witches – but everyone knows it won’t be Ember.
When the two girls meet, Poppy discovers her powers, and finds out the truth. Bound by their unlikely friendship and the boy they both love, the girls try and find their place in the world. But the time of the prophecy draws nearer – and the witches won’t give up the throne without a fight.
DNF @ 30%.
Unfortunately, this was one of those YA books with little cross-over appeal for adults, at least in my opinion. The synopsis intrigued me, and the prologue had me hopeful that this would an edgy, creepy read, but sadly I found it riddled with cliches and very much aimed at a teenage audience. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course – it’s the risk you take as an adult who enjoys a large amount of YA – but in this case, it didn’t work for me.
We have a girl who always knew she was different. We have another girl whose traditionally attractive traits make her “ugly”, a device which annoys me no end.
To fit in with her clan, you had to be strong and coarse like rope – but Ember’s curves were plump and soft as pillows. And if you wanted to fit in with the night, your hair had to be dark. Ember’s was like a lamp, lighting up her inadequacies for all to see.
There’s a sadistic, over-the-top villainous teacher:
Mrs Walters smirked at her, enjoying Poppy’s discomfort….Poppy shrugged. She stared at Mrs Walters, perched on the table so condescendingly…Mrs Walters rolled her eyes at the class in an exaggerated expression of exasperation…The teacher gestured to the heavens despairingly, an actress on her classroom stage.
And the writing is incredibly frustrating. Eye-rolling is a known gesture of exasperation. You don’t need to tell me that!
I was also unimpressed with the amount of naivety displayed by the characters, despite their age. Ember, who is supposed to keep the existence of her clan a secret, spills her guts at the first opportunity. Poppy meets a strange dude in the street, he appears outside her house the next day, and she’s completely cool with it, and invites him in. Self-preservation is lacking here. And then there’s the typical instal-connection, with sparks and electricity and the whole shebang. There’s a cringeworthy scene over the pizza:
They both went for the same piece and their skin touched accidentally, and he could swear he felt a charge of electricity and she felt it too as she sprang back. He took the pizza slice and gave it to her, then grabbed her wrist and held on. Her eyes fixed on his but she didn’t pull away. Slowly she put the pizza down so their hands could entwine.
Honestly, I felt more chemistry with the pizza than anything else.
Finally, there’s a love triangle, but at that point I had neither the energy nor the inclination to read further. Definitely not a book for me.
ARC received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Quotes taken from uncorrected proof and may differ from final publication.