A witch has power, but in some cases only as much as her commander allows.
Age: Young Adult
First Published: 12th September 2012
Date Reviewed: 29th October 2012
Emmeline has always lived in a secluded area with her father, a father who tells her very little about anything. Longing for friends, she runs to the window when the sound of horses approaches their house, but her father tells her to run. Soldiers have come to take her away, and by the time Emmeline decides that obeying her father would be a good thing she is too late to avoid capture. The soldiers have come to escort her to the neighbouring country’s palace to wed the Crown Prince, an arrangement agreed at her birth, in order to protect her country. But no one will talk to Emmeline at the palace, the prince isn’t there, and Mahlon, the captain, isn’t quite as kind as his words suggested. Emmeline is apparently a witch, but she never knew it before and has certainly never experienced any power – so what is there to protect her from, and how long will she be able to continue to visit the King’s gamekeeper, Erick?
The Last Witch is a fantasy, set in a faux-medieval period, that deals with a somewhat unique idea: witches who have limited power and can be controlled. It is obvious from the book’s title where Emmeline comes in, but a lot of the plot is about how she starts to experiment and discover what she can do.
The premise and storyline are strong, but unfortunately haven’t been developed enough to make up for the speedy narrative. The book is disjointed, events happen very quickly before moving ahead a few paces, and there is not nearly enough detail. For example the reader does not witness Emmeline being reprimanded for escaping when the threat was heavy, and she escapes again the next day, as though she was allowed to come and go at will.
The writing is sometimes very good, but at others out of place. There are unnecessary question marks and suffixes that appear to be the result of an erroneous search and replace, and many grammatical issues. At times otherwise good dialogue is spoiled by a reversion to present-day colloquial terms, such as “I figured”, “gotten”, and “I sure did”. Whilst it’s not a bad thing overall for characters in fantasy novels to speak in a different dialect to the one associated with their history-based location, when not used consistently it sounds jarring. There are also episodes where plot threads get forgotten, however these are minor threads. The main issue is the narrative speed and lack of detail, which is a pity because the book would benefit rather than be hindered by a couple of hundred more pages.
Given that the book would benefit, it is not a surprise that the overall fairy-tale atmosphere is compelling. The book at times seems like a rewrite, though it isn’t one, and the basics of it are the sorts of elements that many modern readers look for. Perhaps best of all is the way Dee deals with predictable plot points. The book is largely predictable, but Dee uses this to her advantage, providing contexts and explanations that mean you are far less likely to be put off than you would be otherwise. And whilst Emmeline seems weak a lot of the time, this is for the most part fully explained, the necessity of development causing a slow transformation of Emmeline’s inner strength.
It doesn’t mean, however, that Emmeline is always understandable, and the reader may find themselves wishing she would put her thoughts into action once she has grasped the essentials of her power. Hard to read, too, is the character’s acceptance when people will not tell her what she wants to know. But the way Emmeline struggles with her wishes for friendship and people, balanced with how she feels when she gets that wish, is well written and devoid of the discomfort that could have occurred due to her never having met anyone – Emmeline is new to the world, but Dee doesn’t spend too much time on Emmeline’s thoughts. This may sound strange, and to begin with it may seem peculiar that Emmeline gets on so well with Erick, but as you read on it feels natural and doesn’t detract from the story – if anything it makes it better.
There are not many secondary characters so the reader comes to know all of the characters well, and there is time for wit and romance. To go back to the predictability, there is one element that may divide readers in regards to whether or not they pick up on the suggestions. This element is worth a mention because of the way Dee continually causes the suggestion to be clear and then hazy. It may at heart be easy to guess, but Dee isn’t going to let you go without a fight.
The reader should know that there is a lot of violence in the book, most of it alluded to, that is quite horrific on paper yet is appropriate to the situation.
The overall concept of The Last Witch is very good; the angst is strong but not overbearing, and the romance well written. The story races by too quickly, however the last couple of scenes, which are lengthy, demonstrate that with a little more time for description – other than world-building because a lot is spent on that to good effect – the book would be up there with the popular Young Adult recent releases. It’s good that there are more books to come, The Last Witch doesn’t end on a massive cliffhanger, and the set-up for the future is promising. And it’s good because for all the negatives, it is incredibly difficult not to like what Dee has created.
I received this book for review from Sage’s Blog Tours.
November 2, 2012, 4:39 pm
Interesting — sounds promising!
November 6, 2012, 11:07 am
Audra: There is a lot of promise in it :)