Monday, 11 July 2016

The Apprentice Witch - James Nicol

Published: 7th July 2016

Source: owned

Format: paperback

My Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

The Set Up:

Arianwyn has fluffed her witch’s evaluation test.

Awarded the dull bronze disc and continuing as an apprentice – to the glee of her arch-rival, mean girl Gimma – she’s sent to protect the remote, dreary town of Lull. 

But her new life is far from boring. Turns out Gimma is the pompous mayor’s favourite niece – and worse, she opens a magical rift in the nearby Great Wood. As Arianwyn struggles with her spells, a mysterious darkness begins to haunt her – and it’s soon clear there’s much more than her pride at stake …
(from the back cover)


After James Nicol appeared as a guest on my podcast and I first heard about this book, I've been dying to read it - and it has seemed a very long wait. The book finally turned up a few days ago on my birthday and today I actually had time to sit down and read a few pages. That was the intention anyway. Just a taste. Now it's several hours later and I've read the entire book. I sincerely hope there's going to be another one in the not too distant future!

The Apprentice Witch is one of those books that transcend time and age group - very much as Harry Potter or Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials do. There is something here that will resonate with anyone who has ever felt 'no quite good enough' or been wracked with self-doubt or just felt they haven't measured up against their prettier more popular peers.

Arianwynn is taking her witch's evaluation now that she is fifteen. She loves her Grandmother, who has raised her, but is also secretly embarrassed that she is apprenticed to a relative - not the done thing anymore, that her Grandmother is an Elder working with the counsel, that she's not really fashionable and doesn't fit in. So getting her qualification and a Real Witch's post is very important to Arianwynn, who sticks out like a sore thumb and feels awkward and inept most of the time. However her plans take a nose dive when she fails and she's awarded what she feels is an embarrassing 'apprentice continuation' status and a posting in a quiet, out-of-the-way place near the Great Wood, in the town of Lull. Despite its name, Lull is not the tame backwater its reported to be. Dark spirits and strange creatures creep out of the wood. And just as Arianwynn starts to get her feet under her, shadows start to creep into her own magic. If only she could stop seeing that glyph...and if only she could get rid of her pretty, popular and snobby rival, Gimma Alveston, maybe then spells would work the way they are supposed to and she will be a proper witch at last...

I loved this story. The world building was great with tantalising hints of a much larger world and a seamless blending between modern and old fashioned devices. The book is peopled with great characters - Arianwynn especially but I also loved Ms Delefield and Colin (who I hope we'll see more of in future books *fingers crossed*) The magic system is well imagined and evoked, and I loved all the different spirit creatures. Nicol really makes you feel for his MC so that by turns you are embarrassed, frustrated, amused and finally cheering her on to a grand finale. 

This was one of those rare books where I found myself smiling as I read it. Well worth the wait. Highly recommend this to fans of Harry Potter, Diana Wynne Jones and anyone who loved Kiki's Deivery Service. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds interesting, I will check it out.