*I received a free ARC of this novel, with thanks to the author, Sourcebooks Kids – Jabberwocky and NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: On Emblem Island all are born knowing their fate. Their lifelines show the course of their life and an emblem dictates how they will spend it.
Twelve-year-old Tor Luna was born with a leadership emblem, just like his mother. But he hates his mark and is determined to choose a different path for himself. So, on the annual New Year’s Eve celebration, where Emblemites throw their wishes into a bonfire in the hopes of having them granted, Tor wishes for a different power.
The next morning Tor wakes up to discover a new marking on his skin…the symbol of a curse that has shortened his lifeline, giving him only a week before an untimely death. There is only one way to break the curse, and it requires a trip to the notorious Night Witch.
Curse of the Night Witch is a fantastic fantasy adventure book for middle-grade upwards, packed with magic, action and a touch of mystery.
Tor and his friends have to go on a journey to try to reverse the ill-advised wish he made, which has brought a curse down upon him. The three pals – a reluctant hero, a big eater and a quick thinking leader respectively – travel across their world, following the clues laid out in a book of fairytales and legend, The Book of Cuentos. Of course, the problem with real-life fairytales is the real-life monsters that come with them, and Tor, Engle and Melda will need to use all of their individual skills, but also learn to work together, if they want to survive the journey.
I really love the world Alex Aster has built in this story. There is a unique magic system of gifts, curses and emblems, and a raft of new monsters and myths to explore too. Some aspects of the story are actually quite dark and haunting (even as an adult!) – the Puppeteer Queen, the Weeping Willow, the emblem thieves – but this is true of all the best ‘grim’ children’s tales… how else would we learn to stay out of the deep, dark woods?
The characters are great too. They start off realistically obsessed with their own personal concerns about school, parental expectations and their dreams for the future, and then set off on their journey of self- and witch-discovery and begin to develop and grown through the trials they face. There are some really good lessons about priorities, thinking of others, and the wider consequences of our individual actions, cleverly woven under the exciting plot.
This is the first book in a series, and therefore all the threads are not tied up with a neat bow. Instead the story leads towards further adventures for Tor and his allies. Personally, I can’t wait!
Once upon a screaming white moon, a Night Witch was born.– Alex Aster, Curse of the Night Witch
As a child, she spoke to the willow trees, whispered to the garden bees, and had a smile so sweet it dripped golden honey. When she brushed her hair, starlight fell to the ground. When she passed by, flowers fell from her fingertips. And when she cried, it stormed.
So sweet she looked, her smile hid the darkness waiting behind it.
She had a gift never seen before. The power to kill with a single touch.
And kill she did.