An orphan witchling struggles with school bullies and the likelihood that the mother she’s never known betrayed her coven in the launch of Adams’ (The Santa Thief, 2017, etc.) YA fantasy series.
Like all 9-year-olds in the realm of Orkney, Abigail begins her training in witchery at Tarkana Witch Academy. Friends are hard to come by, especially as Endera, daughter of powerful High Witch Melistra, targets Abigail for ridicule. But Abigail fortunately befriends Hugo Suppermill, a scientist-in-training at the Balfin School for Boys. The two are together—outside of their respective schools—when Abigail first uses witchfire. Though she no longer needs to worry that she’s a magicless “glitch-witch,” Abigail is perplexed by her blue witchfire—everyone else’s is emerald-green. She and Hugo soon learn that this unique color could mean she’s the daughter of Lissandra, a Tarkana witch and reputed coven traitor. With Endera using spells (courtesy of Melistra’s spellbook) against Abigail, it’s hard enough for Abigail to avoid expulsion from the academy. But in the swamps outside of Tarkana Fortress, Abigail will face menacing creatures, such as the giant, wolflike viken, while resisting a new, insistent voice in her head that’s trying to turn her toward dark magic. Adams’ entertaining novel is a prequel to her previous series, also set in Orkney. As in her earlier novels, this series’ first installment is rich in Norse mythology, including references to Thor and Asgard. But it’s the main characters that truly boost the narrative. Abigail and Hugo are particularly strong, two devoted pals who seemingly take turns saving one another. The author’s chiseled prose and speedy pace are complemented by Stroh’s (The Raven God, 2017) sharp illustrations, which create memorable images, most notably pigtailed Abigail in a defiant stance. While subplots are resolved, series arcs are likewise established; Abigail, for example, may be part of a dark prophecy with the threat of war—another tie to Adams’ preceding series.
Bright, brave characters star in this exhilarating tale of magic and mystical creatures.