Goodwin (The Wolf of Winterthorne, 2016, etc.) launches a new YA series with this tale of a novice witch trying to stay alive.
Tessa Egan’s 18th birthday comes with some unexpected life changes. An orphan from age 11, Tessa has been told by the ghost of her father that she will become a witch on that day, which, in her small Pacific Northwest town of Massa, means that she is likely to be abducted or murdered. “While most seventeen going on eighteen-year-olds would be excited about cake and presents,” narrates Tessa, “I wait alone in an eerie darkness prepared to battle some unknown monster.” Tessa has trained for this moment and, with the last-minute help of a stranger named Alec Findlay, is able to fight off the entities that come to kill her. Alec is a guardian, a protector and guide who has information about Tessa’s transformation, such as why her hair is suddenly turning blue from the use of her magic. From Alec, Tessa learns that she isn’t just a normal witch, but one with extraordinary powers, which means the forces pursuing her will come at her relentlessly until she’s dead. Tessa will have to hone her skills with the help of Alec and his dissimilar brother Josh, both of whom she finds herself strongly attracted to for different reasons. The only way she can fulfill a prophecy and save the various factions of her world from an impending calamity is to fight back. Goodwin’s prose is laden with urgency and moves a mile a minute, bouncing from event to event at a propulsive pace. There’s a lot of background information crammed into the first few chapters, but readers familiar with the rhythms of YA fantasy should catch on quickly to the prophecies and ancient conflicts that characterize Tessa’s milieu. The book hews closely to genre tropes in a way that keeps it from becoming too surprising, and Tessa and her friends are not the most complex characters ever put on paper. Even so, Goodwin hits the requisite beats to make this a serviceable first volume in a planned series.
A taut, if not entirely original, fantasy novel.