An insecure young witch comes into her own in this pleasantly old-fashioned fantasy debut.
Arianwyn Gribble desperately wants to serve in the Civil Witchcraft Authority. But after blowing up the testing device at her official evaluation, she is granted only a remote assignment with provisional certification as an “apprentice witch.” Soon Arianwyn discovers that even sleepy little villages can harbor terrifying challenges. This world feels like an alternative mid-20th-century England, where everyone is default white and, despite the (apparently) exclusively female CWA, traditional gender roles hold firm. The story has a similar vintage vibe. The “glyph”-based magical system is coherent and consistent (if not particularly original), with little impact on ordinary life. Arianwyn is quite likable: brave, kind, and competent despite her almost crippling lack of self-confidence. While apparently old enough to live on her own and hold a responsible position, she reads as barely adolescent, providing all the more satisfaction as she gradually builds faith in her own abilities and wins the respect of the townsfolk. The remaining characters are simple stock types, nonetheless comforting in their familiarity. The narrative comes to a solid conclusion but with sufficient hints of a wider world—and deeper magic—to justify further adventures.
Not every fantasy has to be epic, grimdark, or startlingly new; this one is as cozy as a teapot and as comfy as old slippers. (Fantasy. 11-16)