THE WITCH TRADE by Michael Molloy


Age Range: 11 - 13
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A novelist for adults tries for a younger audience with a condescending, thinly disguised pastiche of classic and recent fantasies. Two children, doughty Abby and Spike, an amnesiac foundling who (of course) turns out to be a prince, help rescue their captive parents, plus a group of kidnapped children who are being forced to mind magic Dust (“Snow Dust”) from a subterranean Antarctic land. Along the way, the pair meet Captain Starlight, the Ancient Mariner himself, with his oversized albatross companion Benbow, an irascible librarian with a staff of elves, monsters, and ancient machines that respond only to the good of heart, and a positive array of witches. There’s bluff Sea Witches; pompous but well-meaning Light Witches; and fetid, bat-cloaked Night Witches plotting to exterminate their rivals with a mixture of Fairy—er, Snow Dust and toxic sludge. The author leaves no doubt about whom to hiss and whom to root for as, along the way, the good guys Save A Whale and participate in a performance of Peter Pan in which a traitor is unmasked by his refusal to clap for Tinker Bell. Attempts to inject wonder, surprise, and humor into the tale fall as flat as the climactic battle, in which the chief bad guy stands by wringing his hands as Abby heals an immense serpent with Kindness, then vanishes (sequels, anyone?), leaving his evil cohorts to blow up at the least whiff of Snow Dust. Wyatt supplies pen-and-ink sprays of twinkling stars, and Jules Verne–like spot illustrations, some of which recur. There’s not much here for fans of J.M. Barrie, Joan Aiken, Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and the like beyond a sense of déjà vu. (Fiction. 11-13)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-439-29659-5
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2001


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