I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I’ve read my share of YA books, even though I’m clearly not the target audience, but this one just didn’t hold my interest. The premise sounded good: A stunning debut tells a bewitching story: two girls, one ancient prophecy. Only one can be queen of the witches.; the reviews on Amazon were glowing, the cover is pretty, and the second book in the trilogy had been touted as just as wonderful. Alas, my adult self was too impatient for the teenage drama that made up a lot of the book.
The prophecy referred to in the title is that the daughter of a Hawkweed will become queen of the witches at a certain date in time. Raven Hawkweed has a daughter, Sorrel, already being groomed for this to take place when her sister becomes pregnant. When it’s clear that this baby is female, Raven manages to switch the child at birth with a different non-magical one being born at the same time. Fast forward a few years, and we meet Poppy Hooper and Ember Hawkweed growing up as proverbial fish out of water in their respective environments.
Poppy manages to cause trouble no matter where she goes, being expelled from schools and finding that animals are mysteriously drawn to her (cats in particular). Ember is doing her best to learn witchcraft, but she’s just not like the other witches and can’t cast a spell to save her life. Sorrel mean-girls her at every turn and Ember really has no friends in the coven. A chance meeting with Poppy sets the story in motion, as they become friends, sharing confidences and companionship in a way that neither of them experienced previously. Ember loans Poppy books on witchcraft, and Poppy gives Ember some of her school textbooks. Ember knows nothing of the outside world, raised in the coven and hidden from mortal eyes, so she is fascinated with Poppy’s world. Strangely there are no men in the coven either, so I’m not quite sure how the women got pregnant – that part is never explained. Divine witchy immaculate conception perhaps?
At any rate, a boy enters the picture then – Leo, a homeless kid that Poppy meets, and is instantly attracted to. She introduces him to Ember and of course, Ember is instantly smitten, driving a jealous wedge between the two girls. Sorrel, who has been following Ember on her mother’s orders, spots Leo as well and (you know it), she wants Leo too. All these girls have so much potential for their story but it’s derailed because of hormones. I think the Ms Brignull could have held off on the romance angle until the girls were more established – it really had no place in my opinion and only served to add silly drama.
On top of these issues, I had other problems with this book – it switches POV a lot, there’s rapid head-hopping and scenes repeated from another character’s perspective which confused me more often than not. Why add the extra pages when it doesn’t add to the story? The witchcraft was rather vague, and Raven was also a shape-shifter in addition to being a witch. There was one rather gruesome bit with Poppy’s cat Minx that I felt was unnecessary, but then as a pet owner, I hate when any animal is abused in books. By the end of the book, I felt that the author had lost track of where she was going with it, and I don’t know if I will bother with book two. My run of disappointing reads continues unfortunately.