Summary - 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.
Review - The premise of this novel grabbed me a few months back when it started popping up on everyone’s Waiting on Wednesday posts. The idea of coming from a successful witch family and not being bequeathed a Talent is a fact of life we can relate to whether is looking different, lacking a family ability or just being different. Of course this witch, Tamsin, who is initially established as a thoroughly “ordinary” (aka wears jeans and has a clumsy streak) isn’t powerless for long and it’s this development that disappointed me no end. A study of a family where one child is without the generational power could have been a complex and thought provoking read. Instead, we are handed the all too common power struggle between two warring supernatural families where our protagonist has the power to affect who wins.
More concerning is Tamsin’s power once it manifests or should I say re-surfaces. It’s remarkably like Bella’s “shield” in the Twilight series, with elements of Peter’s power acquisitions (Heroes). It’s simply been done before, and recently. The areas of the plot that are more involving, that of the family interactions and the notion of the Keeper, aren’t explored in enough to outweigh the two dimensional aspects. Any element of the novel that involved the family was stronger for it. Although anytime time travel is brought into a story there are numerous issues – time travel quite often is an author or screenwriter’s worst enemy. Clarity is lost and while meeting one’s relatives is exciting there are questions that are bond to arise.
The romance is one of those where the guy (Gabriel) has loved her since they were children. He’s come back after a decade away and immediately starts with some pouting, innuendo and then finally romancing Tamsin. The development of this relationship was far too automatic to allow the reader to have a stake in it other than knowing that Gabriel is aesthetically pleasing. It’s fun filler.
No doubt the critical nature of this review implies that this novel isn’t good. It’s not the case, it was a fun read with good use of conflict and family melodrama. You can’t help but wonder if another hundred pages would have allowed the author to flesh out all the characters so that the reader’s attachment could be more than superficial. MacCullough has a great voice for YA and some great snappy dialogue; it’s just that Once A Witch could have been so much more.
Published: September 14 2009
Format: Paperback (ARC), 272 pages
Published: Clarion Books
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