cover image The Orphan Witch

The Orphan Witch

Paige Crutcher. Griffin, $16.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-25079-737-7

Estranged family, oblique riddles, and a profusion of mechanistic magic systems leave Crutcher’s dramatic, witchy fantasy debut difficult to place. A century earlier, a powerful curse trapped the witches of Wile Isle, N.C. Now 30-something Persephone May—a foundling shuffled between foster homes because of her strange, violent powers—is invited to the island by her new friend Hyacinth Ever. She accepts, desperate to end her rootless social detachment, and finds both family and magic. Persephone is Hyacinth’s long-lost cousin and a rare aether witch who can walk through worlds—and she’s prophesized to free Wile’s witches before they’re lost forever. But to break the curse, Persephone must face down the Way sisters, fellow witches who fear tampering with the status quo; confront her intense attraction to a handsome, otherworldly librarian; and contend with a sinister, invasive magic. The narrative voice, with its simplistic explanations of character’s emotions, feels geared to young readers, while the extensive magical rules and endless taxonomies of mystical secrets become exhausting and never quite connect. Crutcher’s complex worldbuilding is impressive, but fails to save this curiously unmoored story. [em](Oct.) [/em]