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Review: Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

WARNING: If you haven't read Once a Witch, the first book in the series, then you probably shouldn't read this review.

Always a Witch
By Carolyn MacCullough

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Release Date: August 1, 2011

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: NetGalley/ARC
Purchase: Book Depo. | Amazon | Kindle
About the Book:

The adventures of Tam and Gabriel continue with more time travel, Talents, spy work, and of course, the evil Knights.

Since the gripping conclusion of Once A Witch, Tamsin Greene has been haunted by her grandmother's prophecy that she will soon be forced to make a crucial decision—one so terrible that it could harm her family forever. When she discovers that her enemy, Alistair Knight, went back in time to Victorian-era New York in order to destroy her family, Tamsin is forced to follow him into the past. Stranded all alone in the nineteenth century, Tamsin soon finds herself disguised as a lady's maid in the terrifying mansion of the evil Knight family, avoiding the watchful eye of the vicious matron, La Spider, and fending off the advances of Liam Knight. As time runs out, both families square off in a thrilling display of magic. And to her horror, Tamsin finally understands the nature of her fateful choice.
Maybe I'm still not off the high caused by the recent Harry Potter movie, but I'm a bit disappointed that I didn't get my magical family square-off like I'd expected. Perhaps it's possible that I misinterpreted...? But then: ...both families square off in a thrilling display of magic... I was preparing for this huge battle, practically jumping up and down in my seat, but it didn't really happen the way I imagined.

Don't get me wrong! The sequel was still great. One of my not-so-secret wishes was fulfilled: more romance for Tamsin and Gabriel! Every time they got all gooey or sexy on me, I sported this ridiculously wide smile. I adore them together. And I'm glad that, despite the present (or should I say past... hehe) circumstances, MacCullough didn't totally cut Gabriel out of the book, only giving him moments in the very beginning and the very end. An added plus was the time-traveling. Tamsin going back to the late-1800s--one of my favorite time periods, by the way--brought out a familiar, yet refreshing feeling. Familiar because I've been taken to this time period by several different books, but each time it's unique and in Always a Witch it's no different. I was a little fearful that MacCullough would be lengthy and dull in her descriptions, but, gratefully, I was spared any boring, several-pages-long descriptions that I would've presumably skipped over. It was anything but boring being in Old New York, and in the Knights' residence no less. These wicked, bloodthirsty witches that everyone is so scared of and horrified by.

I admire Tamsin. She has a healthy sense of what's right and wrong, but even she is forced to make decisions, is put into situations where she's capable of making mistakes. And she does. I'm not just saying that. Her judgement can be impaired; she's flawed. But not in a Too Stupid to Live kind of way. She's feels... authentic, genuine. Like a real teen, a real person, and not in a totally annoying way. And Gabriel complements her well. If she tries to pull the whole I'm Super Powerful Because of All My Cool Powers And Therefore I Will Be In Less Danger So You Should Stay Behind to Stay Safe routine, he's all like Don't Even Think About It, You Don't Get to Make Decisions for Me And I'm A Guy, What Did You Expect? Their banter, Gabriel's innuendos always give this book that wonderfully addictive comical flair that breaks the tension and tugs a much-needed laugh out of me.

With the addition of characters like La Spider, Liam, and Jessica Knight and the Greene family ancestors, I enjoyed the range of emotions that each of them invoked. La Spider really permeated that spine-chilling, creepy atmosphere throughout the book. And Liam was no better. A mask of lazy good-humor and charm hiding the inner-cruelty and murderous tendencies that come with being apart of the aforementioned bloodthirsty family. Sympathy coursed through me for Jessica, and I started to feel protective of her, to wish happiness unto her. I don't know how such a sweetheart ended up in that greedy, devious family, but... I'm glad for her...and that's all I'm going to say. The Greene family ancestors lacked the depth and dimension that their descendants possess in the future, but, their personalities and Talents were completely intriguing. I was just disappointed not to be able to get to know them a bit better.

And all of the events encompassing both books lead up to the heartbreaking decision that's been plaguing Tamsin's conscience, her grandmother's warning/prophecy echoing constantly throughout the book as an insistent and mysterious reminder. MacCullough did an excellent job wrapping up Tamsin's story, making sure to come full-circle and tie up the loose ends. Really making sure that the reader understands everything and anything that has caused questions up until the ending. And the ending itself was a satisfying closing that makes me sad to see this series go. I'm definitely going to be missing the Greenes, Tamsin and Gabriel. I hope to catch a glimpse of them in MacCullough's future books, unexpected cameos that would undoubtedly make me super happy!

"Mmm," I say, licking icing from the corner of my mouth. "It's so good. Even if it probably is poisonous. Go on, I dare you."
Gabriel narrows his eyes at me, then takes the remainder of the cake from my fingers and eats it in one gulp.
"Some of it," my mother answers, inspecting a fork. "And stop hanging on that door," she admonishes absently. "It'll break again and I'm tired of having Chester fix the refrigerator. The last time he fixed it, sang 'I'm a Little Teapot' every time I opened it, it drove me insane."
Gabriel inhales on a laugh, then begins choking on cake crumbs, alarmed, my mother whirls around. "Which one did you eat?" she cries.
"The chocolate flower one," I say. "Will he live?" I help myself to another cake, this one covered in sugar violets. "Is this one okay?" I ask, and then pop it into my mouth.
My mother closes her eyes briefly. "Yes."
"Yes I'll live or yes the second cake that she just ate is okay? It's kind of important that you be specific here," Gabriel says.

"You're not smarter than me," I blaze, looking up at him. And sure enough, he's laughing at me. "How dare you! How dare you laugh at me!"
"Wow, you're even starting to talk like you're from the 1800s. Are you going to stamp your foot now and toss your head at me?" And he starts laughing even harder.
"No," I mutter, but I'm trying not to smile now. "Jerk."
"And may I say you look pretty damn hot in the maid's uniform. How come you never dress up like that for me?"
I roll my eyes. "I take it you've forgiven me."
"You take it wrong," Gabriel says lightly, and then closes the distance between us again. "But you can try to persuade me to."
I lean back in his arms, tilt my face up to him again, and flutter my eyelashes in exaggerated manner. "I thought you said we weren't going to kiss and make up."