Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Review: Always a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Since the gripping conclusion of Once A Witch, Tamsin Greene has been haunted by her grandmother's prophecy that she will soon be forced to make a crucial decision—one so terrible that it could harm her family forever. When she discovers that her enemy, Alistair Knight, went back in time to Victorian-era New York in order to destroy her family, Tamsin is forced to follow him into the past. Stranded all alone in the nineteenth century, Tamsin soon finds herself disguised as a lady's maid in the terrifying mansion of the evil Knight family, avoiding the watchful eye of the vicious matron, La Spider, and fending off the advances of Liam Knight. As time runs out, both families square off in a thrilling display of magic. And to her horror, Tamsin finally understands the nature of her fateful choice

This book is a good example of what happens when one tiny little thing almost ruins the whole thing.

The first book ‘Once A Witch’ is one that I reviewed in May. I loved it – hell I more than loved it, it was exactly what I was looking for at the time – so I went straight out and pre-ordered the next book ‘Always a Witch.’

It came, I squeed, I ignored the slight feeling of trepidation at the fact that there would be a more substantial amount of time travel in this book, and I plunged straight in.
The first part was great, I loved it, it was just what I wanted and remembered loving about the first book.

Then we got to the time travel bit, and this shows how carefully you need to research if you’re going to wander off into the 19th century randomly. One very small detail made me slam the book shut in disgust.

A butler is never, I repeat NEVER referred to by his given name. He is always called wither Mr (whatever his surname happens to be) by the servants, or he is called by his surname only by the family of the house. So when one of the members of the family casually refer to the butler in this time travelling fiasco by his first name, I’d had enough. Something so simple is one of the big things that help to create the illusion of 19th century life. And it’s ridiculous that something that small could irritate me and mar a good portion of the remainder of the book. But it’s true. People who write 19th century fiction need to research to make sure that they create a believable portrait of life – otherwise they can lose the reader in an instant over the tiniest of things.

So I was incredibly grumpy, but I did keep reading, and apart from that one thing the rest of the portrayal was pretty accurate, which was a relief. So often if something like that is wrong, it means a hell of a lot else is going to be wrong too.

My only complaint with the rest of the book was the over abundance of clichés. If people aren’t waving their hands lazily through the air as though swatting a fly, then their words are cutting through the air like a whip, and their eyes are shooting daggers. Whilst it was irritating to pick up on these, there seemed to be carefulness to not overuse each cliché, so that at least I wasn’t ripping my hair out in frustration over the same ideas and images being used repeatedly.

For all my ranting though, by the end of the book I’d fallen in love with the idea all over again. I love the characters and the concept and the writing, and it reminded me why I’d loved the first book so much. The ideas from the first book were picked up and melded seamlessly into a fascinating and tense conclusion. It really was a brilliant end to the two books. But it does highlight an interesting point, that sometimes it can take the smallest of things to completely shatter the illusion for a reader. And not all readers, just some that pick up on that sort of thing.

So if you are picky over your 19th century etiquette, then go into this knowing that will happen, and enjoy the rest of the book. If you’re not fussed, then you’ll probably love the book regardless!

No comments:

Post a Comment