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Review: Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Once a Witch
By Carolyn MacCullough

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Release Date: September 6, 2010

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: borrowed/Public Library
Purchase: Book Depo. | Amazon | Kindle
About the Book:

Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.
That's not the cover that was originally published, but I like this one so much better!

I received Always a Witch, the sequel, a few months ago for review from NetGalley, and I haven't thought of it since. Well, other than it's immensely attractive cover (like a sexy guy (or girl) you saw in passing awhile back--a fleeting image that gets called up every now and then because of the appealing, yummy outside) I haven't. But, recently a few reviews have cropped up, and I was intrigued. So I went to the local library and picked up its predecessor, Once a Witch.  And I was mightily pleased to discover that this book is as incredible as it was rumored to be!

It's been awhile since I've actually sat down with a book about witches. Psychics, yes. Humans with super abilities, also a yes. But witches, I haven't had the pleasure recently. And it felt wonderful and refreshing to delve into the story of Carolyn's impressive, fun witch family, the Greenes. Not only was it fascinating as I navigated my way through all the simplicities and complex rules, the reinvented witch lore, but the Greenes themselves, their dynamic, are entertaining, amusing, and relatable. The wise, old grandmother, the flighty, scatterbrained great aunts and uncles, the nosy relatives, the bunches of cousins, the Golden, picture-perfect sibling, the outcast, black sheep... I swear there's at least one family member that could be the clone of one of your own. I know I thought it while immersing myself in the intricacies of this family.

Tamsin Greene is one such outcast, and what evoked my deepest sympathies toward this girl lay in the fact that she did nothing that truly forced her into that mold. Other than being born for greatness, and, apparently, ending up a disappointment to everyone. You see, it was proclaimed by the matriarch of the family, her grandmother, that she would be a "beacon" for them all, a great witch. And on her eighth birthday, she turned up with nothing special. In fact, she turned up with no magic at all, Talentless. This automatically set up a wall between her and her family, a block that prevented her from participating and bonding with her family. Any childhood friends made within the family forsook her because of her lack of Talent, including--or so she thought--Gabriel, her best friend and a very distant family relation. I could understand why Tamsin was bitter about her family, resentful toward her perfect older sister, whose Talent surpasses many, and distant. I know I wouldn't want to be where I felt like I an alien, like something was wrong with me, like I didn't belong and wasn't wanted.

Going along with Tamsin around NY, to school with her bff Agatha, to her family farm with the rest of the Greenes, to a local club for Gabriel, and, best of all, to the past, was so much fun! I loved seeing the closeness, that strong bond between Tamsin and Agatha, Agatha being that best friend you wish you had during your teen years. I want an Agatha as a gal-pal, that's for sure. And as Tamsin and Gabriel reconnect... well, I was mentally nudging Tamsin closer and closer to Gabriel, forcing her to realize how he feels about her. And how she, deep down, feels about him. She blushes enough times for it to become pretty obvious, at least to the reader, and, oh, Agatha. I was cheerleading for Gabriel, growing frustrated with Tamsin, and that almost-but-not-quite-there-yet aspect to their blossoming romantic relationship kept me on my toes and my nose firmly in the book.

My only concern was the faint connection I felt with Tamsin. Yes, I sympathized with her. She's had it rough up until this point. BUT, I felt like Tamsin erected a wall right from the beginning, separating us. And, unfortunately, I didn't feel like it came down at all. There was that faint, but traceable distance between us, a gap that needs to be closed come the next book. Otherwise, I don't think I'll enjoy this series as much as I potentially could.

Surprisingly, I'm not as disappointed with the plot/adventure as I thought I'd be once I finished. Because, I reasoned with myself, this is the intro book. A prelude to the magical face-off fast-approaching. I'm GLAD things happened the way they did. Time-traveling back into the past is one of my bookish pleasures, and so I was delighted to find that I got a great blend of both time-travel and magic. The best of both worlds. And that feeling that worse things are about to happen, that darkness and evil and battles (oh, I can't wait!) are coming, had me trembling with undeniable anticipation. There's absolutely no other way to describe it. I thought because I wanted more magic, and maybe a fight or two, that I'd be discontented with what was given to me, and I realized, by the time I finished, that I was utterly wrong. Any more and it probably would've resulted in overload, which DEFINITELY would've turned me off. So that race-against-time feeling combined with the hard search for the Domani (you'll have to read the book to find out what that is!) both satisfied me and makes me yearn. Yearn for what I know is going to be an incredible finale.

"I'm going to keep a few feet between us. Maybe about six."
"Sorry," I murmur as we walk toward the house. My bike is making little clicking
sounds that can't be healthy. And just then it occurs to me that I've forgotten to
pick up the ice cream. I try not to sigh too loudly. My only consolation is that
Rowena will have expected me to have forgotten. Which isn't much of a consolation at all.
When we reach the porch, I lean my bike against the rail, turn
to him, and open my mouth to say something like I'm sorry again, but the words
evaporate in my throat. The guy standing next to me is undeniably beautiful. He
has dark shoulder-length hair, dark eyes, and a lean face. His long, supple
mouth quirks up in a smile as he says,"Who knew you'd turn out to be so klutzy, Tamsin?"
I make a futile swipe at the mud crusting along my forearm while staring at the blue moon tattooed on the right side of his neck. Who knew you'd turn out to he so hot? I swallow and say only, "Hi, Gabriel." (25)

"Would you not be such a guy about this? You can't 'take' him because he's
not. . . normal, really. He's evil. I shouldn't have to explain this to you, of all
people." I take a breath. "Please. I don't want him to know that you're . . . important to me. He can't know that." The engine mutters and skips beneath us and I stare at the green blinker light flashing on the dashboard. And then without warning Gabriel turns to me, grips the back of my neck with one hand, and pulls me to him.


Liz. R said...

I really want to read this one! Glad you enjoyed it - I've been spotting a few reviews around for Always a Witch too, and it got me interested in the first book! I'm glad the romance kept you on your toes, that's really important to me! Thanks for the review, I'm definitely going to have to read this.

A. Knight said...

You're welcome! It's really good--entertaining, suspenseful, and full of romantic potential! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. :D