I knew the moment I first set eyes on the description for Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch that it was going to be exactly my kind of book – a young witch’s journey of self-discovery is something I’m always looking for, and this one is perfect!
Book: Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe
Read before: No
Ownership: Audiobook provided free of charge by author, but I also preordered the hardback for myself. All opinions my own.
Content warnings: Scene of near-drowning.
I had this book on pre-order for the longest time, but the author also offered me the chance to review the audiobook, which I am super grateful for! It was the first audiobook I’ve listened to since school, and it definitely helped me to get into the story when I had my hands full with a sleeping baby. Since I don’t have much experience listening to them, I don’t know how to review the audio itself really, but once I’d adjusted to hearing the story read in an American accent, I found it clear and easy to follow and really liked the musical cues at the beginning and end – they helped make things feel really magical! When my preorder came in, I alternated listening and reading to finish up the story, and it felt seamless.
Eva Evergreen is ready to take the next step to becoming a witch and go on her Novice quest, where she’ll become the resident witch of a town in need for one month and ‘do good all around’. With an illustrious mother, she’s always felt a little inadequate, since her magic seems a bit wonky – spells don’t come easily to her, and they zap her energy alarmingly. But she’s smart, kind, and resourceful, so when she winds up in Auteri, a town that could really use a more experienced witch, she’s determined to prove she’s just as useful as anyone else. It’s a classic coming-of-age story, and one that begs a comparison to Kiki’s Delivery Service, but it somehow manages to be entirely its own magical thing, and is certainly a new firm favourite for me.
I adore this kind of gentle, sweet story. Though there is plenty of peril and drama for Eva to deal with, there’s a wonderful sense of normal life about the goings-on in Auteri – it’s perfect for those looking for slice-of-life fantasy that is observant and character-focused. Eva’s escapades while she tries to do good are funny and sweet, and I loved the way that when her spells went wrong, she always applied herself to think of a semi-magical solution, using repairs and physical items to help direct her magic in more useful ways. There’s a gorgeous theme of how doing the best you can, and working hard to solve things cleverly, can often be more helpful than off-handedly fixing things without thinking about them, which I think is something we all need to learn!
Eva’s journey to believing in herself, and finding people who believe in her, is genuinely touching. The relationships she builds feel genuine, whether they are with town members eager to help, like kind boat-worker Rin, or those she has to work hard to win over, like Soma the pirate or twin shop owners Trina and Trixie (or even with pesky, semi-helpful flamefox Ember, who is adorable, but a whole lot of trouble!). While there’s plenty of actual magic at work, there’s also a real magic in the friendships and acceptance depicted here. There’s a scene towards the end of the book that made me cry with how utterly wholesome it is! I also loved Eva’s supportive parents – too often kids’ fantasy relies on absent or dead parents, but though Eva is separated from her mother and father, they are a constant, loving presence throughout the book, sending letters of encouragement and baked goods. Their love and support is part of what helps Eva become confident in her own abilities, and I think that’s really important to see. This is a book suffused with love and kindness, as well as magic.
I don’t want to talk to much about the plot, because I think it just needs to be experienced as a wash of gorgeous, whimsical magic, but I will mention that under the main plotline, there are hints of something darker brewing. It could certainly stand alone (Eva’s Novice quest is certainly wrapped up satisfyingly) but I’m hugely excited to learn more about the sinister goings-on in the sequel. I can’t believe I have to wait until next year! I’m going to be recommending this to anyone and everyone (probably until I get quite annoying about it!), but especially to those looking for slice-of-life magical tales, optimistic fantasy, and strong, but soft, female leads. Perfect for fans of Kiki, as I mentioned, but also those who love the Tea Dragon books and The Apprentice Witch. Five out of five cats!