In Mautner’s debut young-adult adventure, a new witch undertakes a dark and dangerous journey to save her mother and herself.
Teenage Astrid is a witch, but she doesn’t think it’s a big deal. Growing up poor in London’s Whitechapel district, she’s much more concerned with her life on the street, where she’s known for being a daring thief and a leader among the other poor kids. Her mother, a witch herself, is known for making potions and remedies for the locals. As Astrid’s 16th birthday approaches, she’s expected to learn magic and help her mother, and on her birthday she gets a new wand, broom and black cat. After her mother disappears—arrested by the Magician’s Guild for being part of the revolutionary organization the Left Hand—Astrid flees to avoid being arrested herself, relying on her friends and her mother’s allies to help her. She’s introduced to the wider world of magic and the magical community of society London—a milieu as alien to Astrid as her new magical knowledge. Soon, she’s determined to save her mother at any cost. The novel offers an intriguing fictional universe that’s relatively unexplored. The Guild, for example, is vaguely presented, aside from its kidnapping of Astrid’s mother and its oppression of the Left Hand. Most secondary characters, too, go underdeveloped, with only one or two characteristics to help readers remember who’s who. However, Astrid is a gem—immature and self-absorbed, but with a pleasant demeanor and a strong love for her mother, qualities that allow her to transform over the course of the book. The novel’s most interesting element is that Astrid’s magical abilities don’t set her apart; in this world, everyone has magic, so she relies more on her friends and her street skills to help her on her journey.
An enjoyable YA read, in a world that could be further developed.