The Apprentice Witch- James Nicol

This post is participating in #KidBookBingo organised and hosted by @AnnalieseAvery on Twitter. Every day there is an opportunity to post a review of the book of the day.

Ok I know I’m like 18 months, three books and tv/film rights late to the party but OH MY.

This book was a little bit of self care for me Saturday early evening, and it lifted my heart and spirits with its tale of Arianwyn who doubts herself so much, is downtrodden by shady mean girls and only finds how wonderful, strong and gifted she is through courage and struggle. Retrospective wise I can see a bit of the self-doubt that belies an awesome power of Eleven (Stranger Things) in there and I LOVE it!

Book Cover for The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol
Cover illustration by Daniella Terrazzini and Design by Steve Wells

Thanks to a combination of an exploding assessment machine, a secret symbol and a pushy grandmother Wyn finds herself on probation in the rural town of Lull fixing charms and eradicating snotling infestations.

But then the girl who made her life miserable arrives mysteriously and messes everything up and a rift brings a Darkness to the woods and town with only Arianwyn left in between the darkness and certain doom.

There were legends about the Great Wood, about ancient spirits that retreated there to escape the intrusion of the human world… the Great Wood clung tightly still to all its secrets.

This book has a style that feels like slipping on a comfy sweater, there’s a cosy nostalgic flow to it with echoes of the coming of age and finding oneself of Kiki’s Delivery Service (With the vintage feel to boot) but it’s still a fresh narrative and a great magical system with its elemental and summoning/vanishing glyphs marrying the concepts of High Magic Of Enochian and angelic sigils with Witchcraft of poppets and charms- I loved it.

There’s a feel of the world building of both Terry Pratchett and Joanne Harris within the story. This coupling seems odd, but there is a fantastical element of bogglins and more than a touch of Lancre about Lull and Weatherwax and Aching about the witches coupled with a nostalgic whimsy about Lull a town trapped away from much of the modern hubbub. In addition Wyn’s arrival and the Mayor reminded me of Vianne arriving in Lansquenet bringing a new mysterious practice to the town, with some suspicious, others dismissive and others very curious.

There’s also a feel of the 1940s in the book, a vintage feel to the tone, clothing, institutions and the war element makes you feel you’re in an alternate yet vintage world a little early on in Captain America: The First Avenger, a dash of the sentiments in Pullman’s Northern Lights but with a witchy overview- you can almost hear that propaganda style voice over in the sections saying how witches are doing their bit. I totally adored this facet of the story and it allowed my imagination to anchor in and fire up and away into the narrative.

I flew through this fun story and immediately made plans to read the following books. I have read A Witch Alone too and about to embark on the final!!

It took me awhile but James Nicol, you have won a fan in me and I’m so glad I have these stories for the Fae when they are ready- oh and Tinyfae said ‘OOOH witches mummy’ when I was reading this so we’re halfway there already.

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol is published by Chicken House and available online and from bookstores.

As with participation in #KidBookBingo reviews or edits thereof are also cross-posted on Amazon, GoodReads.

3 thoughts on “The Apprentice Witch- James Nicol

  1. This is a real favourite of mine. I love the plot and how the world feels that bit safer and lighter than some of the middle grade fantasy. With adults reading MG, we forget how young the target audience really are.

    Liked by 1 person

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