This is exactly the sort of book that is guaranteed to tick all my boxes, so it’s no surprise that as soon as I learned of this book’s existence, I ordered it! The Apprentice Witch is a lovely coming-of-age story about a young witch finding her feet in a new town – it reminded me a lot of the feel of Kiki’s Delivery Service, so was an obvious hit for me.
Book: The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol
Read before: No
Ownership; Paperback from Amazon
When Arianwyn fails her assessment to become a fully-fledged witch, she’s given the consolation prize of an apprenticeship in a small town in the middle of nowhere. As she struggles to fit in and prove herself, she learns a lot about herself and her craft – it’s a classic story, but one that really works. As I say, the premise reminds me a lot of Kiki’s Delivery Service, which is my favourite Ghibli film, and The Apprentice Witch, while it has more action and more pace, has a similar hopeful tone about becoming the best witch/person you can be.
Arianwyn’s a great character. From the very beginning you are rooting for her, and I was genuinely disappointed for her when she didn’t pass her test, even though it says she won’t in the blurb! I really liked that her frustration and self-esteem issues were apparent, but she was determined to work through them and prove people wrong – it made it easy to fall in love with her, since she was flawed but working hard to improve herself. I really liked watching her find her place in amongst the people of her new village – she makes friends and enemies, of course, and these characters are also well-sketched, particularly her friend Salle and the horrible Gimma. Arianwyn’s kindness and persistence make her a great character for kids to identify with, and I know I would have worshipped her if I’d have met her as a younger reader!
I really enjoyed the magic system here – the idea is that witches are able to cast spells by using elemental glyphs to channel their power. It’s got just enough freedom that all sorts of fun things can happen, but just enough restriction that it makes Arianwyn’s discoveries really interesting. Hopefully we’ll get even more info on the truth behind the magic in the next book! The creatures that Arianwyn encounters are really fun, and lead to some very exciting scenes – I particularly like Estar, who again proves that Arianwyn’s thoughtful kindness is the best way forward.
Overall, The Apprentice Witch is a perfect witchy MG read, with a loveable, realistic heroine and a great storyline. I can see this easily becoming a classic of children’s fantasy, and I can’t wait to read the sequels! Five out of five cats.