A review by Maria.
I received The Witching Elm from author C.N. Crawford for a honest review. I was excited to read this book because it sounded like it fit right in my reading niche. It was well worth the read, I couldn’t put this book down!
Main character Toby is from a duplicate world with magic, shape-shifting, royalty, and evil. He’s sent to today’s Boston to escape the evil Rawhed, intent on killing sorcerers -or philosophers as Toby prefers to be called- like him. Crawford did wonderful world-building, giving readers a glimpse of this universe before bringing Toby over to Boston. It was a terrific blend of Toby’s world, Maremount, and the contemporary one. He ends up at Mather Academy where he tries to blend in, but Toby can’t help doing magic and something follows him from home.
The magic is intense with many spells, rhymes, and poems being featured. I liked that some of the magic hurt to accomplish. Changing shape from a boy to a crow wasn’t an easy or painless process. It was amusing as Toby tried to keep his magic under wraps when people were inviting him to séances and such!
The Witching Elm gives a gothic feel to Boston and the boarding school Toby and his friends attend. However, instead of the usual boarding school trappings – boredom, romances, schoolwork – this book managed to keep focused on the magic and fantasy. It was unique and refreshing.
The history was amazing and well-researched. Many historical events and figures were mentioned, such as the Puritans, Salem Witch Trials, and King Philip. Historical items like hangings, wars, and Native American culture appeared in this book. Some liberties were taken, but they only enhanced the story.
This novel features three Points of View (main characters Toby, Fiona, and Thomas) and stays in each character’s viewpoint for multiple chapters. It was disconcerting at first because each new narrator wasn’t clearly stated, but revealed in the body of the chapter.
Toby is an extremely likable character. He leaves his world behind and survives in a very different one with only his wits and spells. His backstory is astounding; he was a peasant -or Tatter- not allowed to learn or do magic. Toby’s father taught him to read, even though it could get them all killed. Watching him attempt to blend was entertaining because he claimed to be from England but he didn’t have an accent or knowledge of his supposed homeland. Eventually, his new friends begin to learn the truth about Toby, but evil beings -bone wardens, Harvesters, and Rawhed himself- come after them and they create a coven to learn magic, protect themselves, and try to get Toby home.
Fiona is an interesting, intelligent female lead. She is wicked smart, almost genius at times, remembering things she hears only once and being the first to know anything. She is fiercely loyal to her friends and easily adapts after learning Toby’s identity and that magic exists, and displays courage in times of danger.
Thomas is a college professor with a reputation for researching history and magic. Fiona seeks him out when she suspects Toby isn’t what he seems. It was great getting into Thomas’s head, watching him start to believe in the unimaginable. He turns into a wonderful resource for Toby’s group and transforms from book nerd to brave hero.
Life or death situations start early on until gruesome showdowns happen in both worlds. So even though this is a YA book, I wouldn’t recommend it to very young teens. But the fantasy and history make this book a captivating read and I can’t wait for the next book in this series!
My rating: 4/5 stars.
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