Due to my recent reading slump I decided to go back to an old favourite, Book of Shadows the first novel in the Sweep/Wicca series, a set of books very dear to my own heart, coming second only to Harry Potter. This is around the fifth time I’ve re-read Book of Shadows now if not more. Behind it’s garish front cover lies a beautiful coming of age tale. I first discovered this series aged 14, and in a weird way, I almost feel like the books chose me. They came to me in a point in my life where I really needed them, and they held for me some key advice and life lessons that helped me deal with several big changes going on at that time. These books are incredibly underrated and in my opinion deserve a much bigger spotlight.
Something it happening to me that I don’t understand. I see things, feel things in a new way. I can do things normal people can’t do. Powerful things. Magickal things.
It scares me.
I never chose to learn witchcraft. But now witchcraft is choosing me.
Morgan Rowlands is a young, conscientious girl of sixteen. She lives with her parents and sister Mary K in the town of Widow’s Vale. Her life couldn’t be more normal, going to school, visiting church and hanging out with her best friends Bree and Robbie. That is, until the mysterious and exotic Cal Blaire breezes into town. His charisma and lighthearted demeanor makes him instantly popular with every social group in the school, and Morgan can’t help but feel drawn to him in a way she has never experienced before. So when Cal invites a group of schoolmates to an unusual party out in the woods, she uncharacteristically accepts.
But the party is not what they expect, Cal is a Wiccan and he has brought them there to celebrate the Sabbath Mabon (the autumnal equinox, a point where the hours of night and day are equal in September). When Morgan takes part in the circle she has an abnormally strong reaction, Wicca calls to her with every fiber of her being, and it is not long before her entire world begins to change.
A group of ten unlikely acquaintances step into the unknown, and their journey is only just beginning.
Now the writing in this book is not what you would consider ‘good’ technical writing. Character descriptions aren’t integrated in a subtle way, they are laid out pure and simple from the first moment we meet each character. There are a few instances of awkward phrasing, and there are no super fancy words. But the beauty of Tiernan’s writing, lies in its simplicity. For every standard description there is also a unique or interesting passage from a narrative voice that is yet to reach its peak. It always amazes me how Tiernan packs so much into only 187 pages, and there is not one dull moment. She conveys effectively what some books stretch into 300 something pages.
Future authors take note.
There is something about her style and turn of phrase I just love, the beautiful imagery centered around nature, the depiction of Wicca, as well as a feeling of genuine sincerity in everything she writes. Of course it also helps that all Wiccan words just seem to look and sound naturally beautiful and interesting, deasil (clockwise) widdershins (anticlockwise) and the altered spelling magick.
The plot is consistently fast paced and there is no unneeded meandering or boring chapters. It brings together a lot of typical YA storylines, two best friends in an unequal relationship feuding over the same guy, teenage insecurities and family fights, yet I feel like it is dealt with in a much less superficial way. It’s realistic and believable. What I also love about this book is that although romance and lusting after a guy is a key plot point, (and is pretty overdramatic) it is not the main focus. Instead it centers more on Morgan’s involvement with the religion Wicca, and through it her own self discovery. I would be lying if I didn’t say the biggest reason I love these books is my genuine fascination with the religion. There are so many interesting concepts and beliefs in it; the appreciation and celebration of nature, the threefold law and granted although this book has many elements of fantasy there is also a hell of a lot of research that has gone into it.
Tiernan also has a knack for creating great vivid characters, some are already noticeable in this first book while others are yet to be developed but there are already hints planted. The lead character Morgan is endearing and believable, and while being highly insecure about herself does not come across at any point as self pitying. Simple little things such as her addiction to Diet Coke make her feel all that more realistic. She’s got spunk, but not in a typically clichéd over the top YA way, and her integrity and the way she sticks to her convictions make her stand out from the crowd.
Bree, who at first seems like the stereotypical sassy boy obsessed best friend found in so many YA books, is quickly given much more depth and complexity. Robbie is sweet and loyal, Cal is mysterious and yet instantly likable. They are all interesting, and remarkably fleshed out for such a small book.
I would recommend this book to…well, pretty much anyone who will listen. 😛 But specifically to females 11+ who love believable characters and stories full of magic and drama who can look over a few rough edges.
I’ll leave you with a little quote; it’s not really insightful or anything, but I just kinda like it. 🙂
“I thought about telling her that I had done a spell for Robbie and that I was waiting to see what would happen. But I couldn’t form the words, and it, along with my feelings for Cal, became another secret I kept from my best friend.”
Writing Style: 4/5
Character Development: 5/5
Would I recommend this book? Yes, yes!!
Book Cover: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/333937.Book_of_Shadows