Book Review

The Witch of Nightmares

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Witch of Nightmares: Book 1 of The Trouble With Hedge Witches Series by Sarina Dorie is billed as dark fairy tales of mystery and magic. I wanted to ring in the cooler temperatures heralding fall with a spooky book. This hit the spot with just a hint of dark fairy tales while keeping it innovative and fresh and female-empowered!

It’s a short book that took me about an hour to finish. I am a pretty fast reader, but the short chapters and fast-paced story definitely helped. It’s got smatterings of the Hansel and Gretel story – a young girl and her little brother are in the forest, waiting for their older brother Niall to return from trying to find their parents, who have disappeared mysteriously. Of course, there’s more to this story than that played out old fairy tale.

This one has Abigail MacQuillan, a smart 14 year-old girl who knows her fairy tales, and is willing to fight to protect her little brother Emmet, who’s only 8. And Abigail has magic. She’s certainly no Gretel waiting to get eaten by a witch. She knows a little something about the horrors lurking in the forest: the witch waiting to snatch up kids who try to eat her delicious gingerbread cottage, and the treacherous Fae, who drain people of their magic and then eat them. She’s just trying to keep Emmet safe until Niall gets back to get them to a portal that will take them to a safer place – the Morty Realm, where they won’t have to fear witches or Fae any more.

Of course, it’s the conflict that makes the book so exciting. Niall hasn’t come back yet. The portal is closing soon. Abby doesn’t exactly know how to get to this portal. She really been taught how to use her magic just yet, and the last thing her parents told her and her brothers was to “stay away from witches and magic, be a good person, and take care of your family.”

Of course Abby’s powers tend towards herbomancy, which have to do with harnessing the power of plants, including for medicinal purposes. If you’re a reader of any kind of books involving magic, you know that there’s always a good and bad side to it, and that practicing without training can be dangerous. And when you’re lost, alone, hungry, thirsty, and afraid, it’s even harder to figure out if there’s anyone you can trust out there. Can Abby save her family and stay on the good side of her abilities?

I loved the parallels to fairy tales, while putting a much more modern spin on it. The time frame of the story is unspecified – sometimes it seems like it takes place in the distant past, while at other times, there’s mention of more modern events, like The Little Mermaid, and electricity becoming commonly used in people’s homes. However, it also states that time in the Faerie realm passes differently. Regardless of when this took place, there is a definitely girl power vibe to the story, which I’m all about. Instead of the kids being kind of naïve, Abby is pretty aware of the dangers that surround here, even when Emmet isn’t.

There’s some themes here that I wasn’t really surprised to find in a YA book, and they all involve discrimination based on something, most of which people don’t have control over: education level, accent, race (Fae, witch, human), type of magic used (witches, fae, or cunning), and looks.

I think my favorite part of the book was Abby’s internal struggle and personal growth. It’s hard to go from being the middle child to having to be responsible for someone else and making the tough calls. She’s put into some difficult and scary situations, but she doesn’t just take the easy road. She has good moral character, and thinks her decisions through (most of the time). She isn’t perfect, but she grows throughout the story. Her experiences shape her, but it’s too soon to tell what she ends up doing or becoming. I’ll be eagerly reading the next story as soon as I can get my hands on it.

I’m introducing a new rating into my reviews. It’s called the gasp factor. People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit. I wasn’t expecting to introduce the gasp factor just yet, but here it is:

Gasp Factor: 2

This book was extremely well edited, had me turning page after page to find out what happened next, and even included a sneak peek into the next book in the series (I love that). I’m looking forward to the next one. I loved the accents, the interactions between the characters, and the magic that’s threaded through the book perfectly. There’s the perfect harmony between emotion, suspense, action, romance, fear, and magic to balance it all out. If there’s one spooky book (series) to get you in the fall spirit and help you prepare for Halloween, let this be the one!

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