3.75-4 / 5 stars
I feel like it is impossible to review this book without mentioning the drama that erupted over it about a year ago (not sure exactly when). I also do not remember WHO started it, or WHY they started it for that matter.
Then hundreds of people started jumping on the band wagon by condemning this book without even reading it (gasp!! I know, I know...) and it just became a whole big mess - which frankly is probably the most embarrassing thing I've ever seen a community of readers and intellectuals do. Embarrassing! If you want to hate on the book just because somebody else told you to - then maybe you shouldn't be reading books at all. Because books are for people who have their own opinions.
I've also seen so many people pull quotes out of the contest and use them to "prove" their negative points about the book. That's just messed up, and you know it.
The book was labeled racist, ableist and some other vile things. But I am here to laugh into all of those people's faces - because it's not. I do see how it could be mistakenly viewed as one (if one wants to skew the reality and see only what they want to see), but there is a big difference between a book being racist and a book being set in a racist, close minded, prejudiced world. Just because the book talks about those things (and goodness those things NEED to be talked about!) doesn't mean that the book IS those things. How somebody couldn't make that distinction is beyond me, but I digress - let's talk about the actual book!
I've seen The Black Witch being compared to Harry Potter and I definitely see why. The magic school setting, the pure bloods vs. everybody else, the white wand and many other things are definitely similar. The lessons that those books are trying to teach are very similar too - prejudice, choosing your own friends, the magic community wanting to be pure blooded and so on.
I could also definitely see why so many people gave up on the book very early on - the society in which Elloren finds herself is beyond toxic. Yes, the society is racist! Yes, it is prejudiced! Yes, it is absolutely horrid and cruel and mockingly pure blooded. It's like being in a company of many Hitlers and many Malfoys - at all times. But it is also shockingly, and sadly, similar to the society we now live in.
Also, if you thought that Harry Potter got bullied a lot - wait till you read this. Elloren gets bullied on another level. It's quite painful.
Elloren comes from a very sheltered village, where she lived a beyond sheltered life with her gentle uncle, who hid a lot of things from her. Then she finds herself in a world of which she knows nothing, except things that her exceptionally cruel aunt tells her. It takes Elloren a long time to realize what really is going on. It takes her a long time to see the lies she's been fed, to see the truth beyond all of those shimmering facades. She makes many mistakes, and many bad decisions - but her journey is a beautiful one. Elloren is flawed, Elloren is confused and scared, but despite all of that she denies the life of privileges because the price is not what she wants to pay, and finds her own way to the truth.
I gave the book 3.75-4 (I really couldn't decide) stars because I didn't realize it was going to be set in a magical school setting. While I do enjoy those, I also think that they are a bit overused and just don't do much for me. Sure, it was fun in Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but sometimes enough is enough. I wanted something more grown up (I know this is ya, but still). There was also way too much "glaring" from a certain character for me - he literally "glared" at her about 100 times, and that just gets old, people.
But there were so many things that I loved! For example, when Elloren finds out about how her clothes are made - this fantasy book actually talked about ethical fashion! I literally whooped with happiness because I was so pleased. Ethical fashion is very important to me - fair wages, fair working environment, no child labor - I refuse to shop at the malls and "fast fashion stores" such as forever21, because of how horrid they actually are. If you don't know the horrors of fast fashion please google it - you will never look at your clothes the same ever again. So to have it talked about in a fantasy book was amazing - more people need to be aware what they are supporting with their money.
Animal abuse, interracial marriage, underage marriage, arranged marriage, unfair working wages, favoritism, corrupted politicians - this book has so much to say, and it saddens me that so many people chose not to listen. There was also a heartbreaking example of how parents corrupt their children with their prejudiced views.
There was a lot of girl power in this book, which I loved - my favorite side character was Diana - a super strong, confident girl who didn't give a flying shit about what anybody else thought. Every scene in which she was present was hilarious. I definitely need more Diana in my life, or to be more like Diana. There's a lovable bookworm, who goes through many transformations and her journey, while similar to Elloren's is beautiful in its own way. A lot of side characters are really good, but some could use a little more dimension.
The Black Witch has a lot to offer - the plot, while not very original, sure has many things that make it very appealing. The writing is phenomenal, if you ignore few words that definitely got overused here and there - the script is absolutely beautiful. I cannot believe that this was Forest's first book. She absolutely has the talent!
The book also makes you think - it throws you into uncomfortable situations and makes you draw parallels with the real world - who would you believe, what would you do, what would you change?
I thoroughly enjoyed The Black Witch and will be reading the next installment, The Iron Flower very soon (was very lucky to get an ARC of it, whaaaaat). There are so many ways the story could go and I cannot wait to explore it.