A Witch in Winter
By Ruth Warburton
January 5, 2012
Hodder Children’s Books
Review Format: e-book
Anna Winterson doesn’t know she’s a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her – but if it is her magic that’s controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain.
My interest in A Witch in Winter sparked by a recommendation on Goodreads.com and my decision to purchase it was based upon many high reviews and ratings. I was very intrigued by the plot so I decided to take the risk and purchase this mystery novel. Normally I try not to buy books on a whim. I know well in advance what I’m getting into when I put my own money on the line. Unfortunately, in the end the reviews led me astray. I was expecting a story that would blow my mind but instead I got a story that I only somewhat enjoyed.
A Witch in Winter is about a teenage girl named Anna and her father who move from London to a small village called Winter. They move into a mysteriously beautiful home that resides on top of a hill that overlooks the ocean. The rundown mansion has a history of harboring a real witch many years ago. No one has lived in the house since its previous tenant was run out and executed because of who she was. But of course Anna doesn’t believe any of that “hocus pocus”.
While doing some renovating to the home Anna’s father finds what he believes to be a simple cookbook. Later that night while Anna and her buddies are having a sleep over they examine the book more closely and realize the book is not a cookbook. It’s a spell book. The girls find an incantation that puts a spell on the ‘object of their desire’ and makes them fall desperately in love. Anna is skeptical but decides to play along. The next morning, the boy she’s been crushing on at school professes his undying love. Can Anna finally come to grips with the knowledge that magic exists and that she’s a witch? Can she learn to control her power before something bad happens? Can she find a way to undo the spell that she has placed on Seth? Does she even want to? What happens when other witches and wizards, some good and some evil, discover who Anna is and decide they want her to play on their team? Whom will she choose?
Although the plot was intriguing it wasn’t executed very well. Occasionally, the story would follow a path that churned my stomach. To be honest, at times it was just frightening. I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of this girl messing around with a magic book and accidentally conjuring a demonic creature that attacks her. I’m a firm believer in that if you meddle with dangerous things than you’re bound to find trouble. It hit a soft spot with me so if you’re sensitive to that kind of content as well than I’d think twice about reading this book.
The plot hooks you in and keeps you reading but it isn’t developed nearly enough as it should be. To be frank, the entire novel felt like one big prologue to me. I was reading the book on my Kindle and was enjoying it until I realized I’d nearly read the entire novel and nothing really major had happened. As it stands right now, I don’t have much incentive to continue the series because the author failed at completely hooking and reeling me in. I feel like a fish that fell for the worm, got hooked, but fought back and snapped the fishing line. Now I’m forever stuck with a hook in my mouth, but hey, at least I’m not dinner.
Another aspect of this book that most definitely needed some more thought and development was the relationship between Seth and Anna. One of the biggest questions a reader will have while reading this book is: Are Seth’s feelings genuine? At the beginning, we understand that Seth is under a spell. So thankfully this is not another horrible case of “insta-love” that befalls most YA authors. As the story continues we learn that Anna tries several times to break the spell that Seth is under but the situation never really has a conclusion. Is he or isn’t he still under a spell? Based upon my own opinion, and the opinion of several of the characters in the book, the spell is eventually broken. But deep down I’m hoping it isn’t because if it is then I take back what I said about there being no “insta-love” in this book. If the spell is broken, this book has the absolute WORST case of “insta-love” I’ve ever come across. Their love has no structure or foundation. It’s built upon nothing. They barely speak two words to each other before they apparently fall in love…gag.
Character development also needs some serious improvement (not surprisingly). After finishing the book and looking back I honestly feel like I don’t know the characters at all. They don’t stand out to me. They just slip away and get lost in a sea of hundreds and hundreds of characters I’ve read about over the years. I want to know who these characters are. What are their interests? How do they act around others? What are their hobbies? What are their personal characteristics? If I were an actress trying to portray the character of Anna I wouldn’t even know where to start. I honestly don’t feel I know her. One thing I hated was that Seth smokes, drinks, and is sexually active. Some might not find any of that offensive but it struck a nerve with me, especially since he’s only 17. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a British thing.
The setting is nothing extraordinary. Majority of this novel takes place either at school, at Anna’s home, or at a friend’s house so to be honest it’s pretty dull. It was fun imagining the mansion though. If anyone has seen the movie Casper with Christina Ricci and Bill Pullman that’s the house I pictured while reading this book. I do give the author props for her extraordinary ability to describe things. Check out this blurb from the book:
“The heavy front door swung shut, and suddenly the house was full of small sounds, almost as if it was waking up, stretching, yawning. A clock ticked; pipes expanded, clunking and dinging; floorboards creaked; the wind shushed and moaned in the maze of cavernous chimneys. The house was coming to life.”
I would be lying if I said I didn’t skim here and there while reading this book. When I skim it’s a guarantee my interest has wavered and my interest wavered a lot during this book, especially during the middle. The beginning was exciting and the end is where all the suspense happens so that kept me hooked. The middle, however, was a struggle. There just wasn’t enough going on in this book.
I questioned the author’s choice of content quite frequently throughout this book. I didn’t approve of a lot of things. I didn’t approve of high school kids smoking. I didn’t approve of teenage girls having a slumber party and drinking three bottles of wine and a bottle of whiskey. I definitely didn’t approve of the fact that it was Anna’s Father who recommended such beverages to drink at this party.
At times the author’s dialogue was very repetitive. I’ve learned the author’s favorite word is “Oh.” “Oh (character name)” and “Oh please” came up a lot. The author utilized colon marks a couple times which didn’t make any sense to me. For example the author would write something like, “Later on:”(continues with story). What’s the point of the colon?
Well, it’s hard to summarize a book like this because I feel the biggest problem with it is that it doesn’t stand out enough. As of right now I haven’t added book two to my reading list and who knows if I ever will. We’ll just have to wait and see. Maybe someday I’ll be desperate for a read.