Author: Max Candee
Genre: Supernatural, Children (Tween)
Publisher: Helvetic House
First Published: January 1, 2016
First Line: "Dear Uncle Misha, how are you?"
Book Description from GoodReads: What do you do when you discover you’re a witch... And that using your new powers destroys your soul a little each time?
Set in the Swiss countryside, this story blends ancient folklore with a coming of age tale about a young witch on the brink of womanhood.
Anna Sophia has always known she was different. She didn’t know just how different until now.
On the eve of her 13th birthday — in the orphanage where she’s spent most of her childhood — Anna wonders about her past. She never knew her parents, doesn’t even know where she came from. All she has to go by is an unbelievable fairy tale her uncle used to tell: that she was found as a baby, tucked among a pack of bear cubs in the wilds of Russia.
To make matters even more complex, Anna has discovered that she can see and do things that no one else can. So far, she’s kept her powers a secret, and they remain strange and frightening even to her.
It’s only when Anna receives a letter from her mother — a mother she will never meet — that she discovers some of the truths about her past, and begins to uncover the possibilities in her future. As Anna continues to learn more about her secret abilities, she finds out that her neighbors are hiding something of their own: a plot to harm Anna and her friends.
Can Anna Sophia use her newfound supernatural powers to stop them? Can she fight back, without endangering her own soul? And maybe, just maybe, is her own secret tied up with theirs?
Through a story of otherworldly magic, Anna Sophia finds a sense of real-world belonging. With its cast of strong characters, inventive setting, and engaging storyline, this fantasy adventure is a relevant novel for middle grade children or young adults.
My Review: Initially I was tempted to read this book based on its premise and its beautiful cover. This middle school supernatural adventure novel follows a 13 year old girl as she learns about her newfound power as a witch. An orphan who learns of their magical powers while at a boarding school sounds familiar but Candee brings his own twist to Anna Sophia's powers and his plot.
I wasn't smitten with this book right off the bat. The plot was a little slow to start, the writing felt overly simplified and I didn't have a good connection with Anna Sophia, her powers or her rather
But I stuck with it and I'm glad I did. About a third of the way through the pace picks up and the writing was much more engaging. There are some great action scenes that had a rather nepharious and eerie feel to them due to the addition of some sinister adults and a faster moving plot. There is some violence in the book but I feel it fit the plot well and really upped the eerie feel of the book without being gory or over the top.
There were some nice sketches of scenes and characters scattered throughout the book which young readers will enjoy and the overall moral of the story regarding using your powers/strengths for good and never for revenge or harming others is a good one.
Readers are left with a bit of a cliffhanger which wasn't frustrating but made me eager to find out more about Anna Sophia's mysterious family and past. It has some good moral lessons about friendship, loyalty and doing what is right. This was a solid start to a new middle school supernatural/suspense series that, while it took me a bit to get into, I feel it will engage older tween/young teen readers and is a great way to introduce kids to magical/supernatural reads.
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Disclaimer: My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Helvetic House for providing me with a complimentary e-book copy in exchange for my honest review.