Thursday, May 23, 2013

REVIEW: Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb

Witchstruck Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I vacillated between 3-stars and 2-stars for this book.

+ why 3-stars

The book deserves 3-stars because the plot was always in motion and awash with political intrigue. I was pleasantly surprised that the book began in media res where Meg, her witchy aunt, and the imprisoned Elizabeth were conducting haruspex to divine Elizabeth’s future, specifically whether or not she would become queen one day. Right off the bat, readers immediately encounter the first of many conspiracies. I liked that the first few chapters were fast-forward telling of how Meg met and became part of Elizabeth’s inner circle instead of pause-the-present flashbacks. I liked it because it kept the focus on the present and not on the past which would have otherwise sluggish the story.

I liked that part of the suspense was always the fear that Meg would be discovered as a witch because then she would be burned at the stake. I was surprised when it actually happened and that it happened in the middle of the story as opposed to near the end. It was just one of the many examples of how the plot did not dilly dally moving towards important, crossroad scenes. The book never failed to convince me that the stakes were high and that it only takes one oopsy for everything to crash and burn (puns intended).

The book executed the political intrigue very well in the sense that things were in shades of gray, barring the few outright bad guys. I empathized with Elizabeth’s plight but I also empathized with her opponents’. I liked the fact the book kept things neutral, e.g. the Spanish and Catholic were not all invaders/bad guys and the English were not all pitiful oppressed citizens/good guys. The book left readers to decide for themselves. I also liked the fact that even Elizabeth’s family were split on the political issues because it added another level of realism to the book. Suffice to say, the book was no fluffy YA historical with a paranormal twist. The danger was real, the issues presented were serious.

Finally, I liked that there was no real love triangle. The book did flirt with the trope, to the extent that there were 2 love triangles by the end, but it was an obvious plot device to force Meg and Alejandro to face the fact that the dopes love each other and should stop kidding themselves. There was never any serious rival that could throw their burgeoning relationship off track.

+ why 2-stars

While there were many reasons to like the book, there were many other reasons that kept the book a few steps short of the goal. The biggest reason was Meg, who can be frustrating at times. The girl had a tendency to let her emotions get the better of her and make poor decisions. I liked that she’s aware of it, but I didn’t like that she didn’t do anything to prevent it. Admittedly, Meg does try to fix her mistakes but had she simply set aside a couple minutes and think things through she wouldn’t have made the mistakes in the first place. It was not as if Meg was a stupid girl. In fact, she was bright which was why she disappointed me so much. Meg was not a weak heroine, but she was not a particularly strong heroine either. The only thing that managed to somewhat redeem her in my eyes, that stopped me from being indifferent to her, was that she at least accepted help when she sought to fix her mistakes and that she didn’t take long to realize her true feelings for Alejandro.

Speaking of Alejandro, I also had an issue with him. His characterization was slippery. I could never get a firm grasp of Alejandro’s reasons for doing things even though he revealed them at the end. His reasons raised more questions than they answered. He was such an odd character to the extent that he didn’t felt like a character; he felt more like a vehicle of the plot.

I also didn’t care for Meg and Alejandro as a couple. He’s a priest-in-training and Spanish. She’s a witch and English. He’s cursed by a witch. Her blessing as a witch can be a curse. The couple reminded me of Romeo and Juliet; I despise such romance.

Finally, there was a deus ex machina near the end of the plot. Meg almost got killed and but by chance saved herself at the end with her peerless witchy power. However, there were witnesses, of which she made enemies. What did she do to fix things? She cast a wide-area amnesia spell. Now, I wouldn’t have minded the deus ex machina had Meg simply cast the spell a couple chapters ago because then she would have fixed the problems sooner and NOT almost got herself kill and rely on chance to save herself at the last minute. Not to mention saving the people she wanted to save which was why she almost got herself killed. FFS.

In Conclusion

I rate Witchstruck 2-stars for it was okay. It was good book, but here’s the thing — it could have easily been a great book. That said, I still recommend the book because it’s one of the better Young Adult books I have read.

Goodreads | Amazon

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