AUDIENCE: New Adult, Young Adult
WORD COUNT: 100-120k (average/long)
The Witches of Armour Hill: Switch by Alyssa Cooper is a YA offering that ventures into the realm of covens, dark witchcraft, and teenagers trying to find themselves. It tells the story of Maggie, an apparent orphan, bounced around among distant family members and disliked due to the strange happenings that seem to follow her. When she moves to the unwelcoming home of her cousin in a new city, she is befriended by a strange girl, Rhosyn, and a stray cat, Elowen.
Rhosyn leads her to a coven where Maggie is accepted as a “lost strand”, a witch, but one who has no past connection to the coven. Maggie is permitted to live in the coven house, and as she makes friends and discovers new powers, the house leads her to a diary through a series of very real-seeming dreams. The diary appears to be that of her sister, Lillith, whom Maggie was told died in the fire that killed her parents. But nobody in the coven will acknowledge ever having heard of or meeting Lillith.
Convinced that Lillith is still alive, Maggie and her new friends work to find her and unravel the secrets of the coven and the house. Their quest leads them down a dark path with many consequences.
The Witches of Armour Hill: Switch has many compelling elements. The mystery of Lillith, and Maggie’s determination to find her, drives the plot forward and keeps the reader engaged. There are many delightful details in the herbology and magic, and the history of the witches is rich and well imagined. The writer does not shy away from darkness and the potential for a less-than-savory underbelly to witchcraft is a thought-provoking theme running through the book. The book would, however, have benefited from a tighter copyedit. There were some mistakes in word use that were distracting, and the overuse of adverbs to describe how characters said or did things took away from the characterization, particularly in the first few chapters. The character motivation was also sometimes questionable, with characters behaving in unpredictable ways and flicking from deep sadness or anger to apparent happiness at the drop of a hat. There was also too many side characters who had backstories that were alluded to, but never resolved, and were often confusing. Overall, this could have been really great. There is lots of really strong potential here with the dark story and world Cooper has created. Once fully into the rising action as the story drew to a close, Switch was really good, but it took a bit long to get there. Tightening up the story a bit would improve the pacing and make it superb.
The Witches of Armour Hill: Switch was a good YA read. It had lots of darkness, action, and coming of age angst and explores the challenges of being alone in the world with an edgy heroine who will likely appeal to teens. It offers great new world of witches that will likely only get better with additional books.
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Jennifer Ellis is an environmental researcher by day, writer by night, and skier whenever she has a spare moment. She’s written two novels, A Pair of Docks (2013), and In the Shadows of the Mosquito Constellation (May 2014) with more on the way.
Visit Jennifer Ellis‘s website.