Book Review: A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton

Publisher: Hodder

Published: 5th January 2012

Format: Paperback

Pages: 346

Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, YA

Recommended Reading Age: 16+

Rating: 7.5/10

Amazon/Goodreads

Anna Winterson doesn’t know she’s a witch and would probably mock you for believing in magic, but after moving to the small town of Winter with her father, she learns more than she ever wanted to about power. When Anna meets Seth, she is smitten, but when she enchants him to love her, she unwittingly amplifies a deadly conflict between two witch clans and splits her own heart in two. She wants to love Seth, to let him love her – but if it is her magic that’s controlling his passion, then she is as monstrous as the witch clan who are trying to use her amazing powers for their own gain.

I have always, always loved stories about witches and witchcraft, especially historical novels about witchcraft. When I realised A Witch in Winter was a contemporary, I was momentarily a little disappointed, but Warburton creates quite a rich, historical atmosphere with her setting that there was no chance of this becoming too Sabrina-like. I like my modern-day witches to have a strong connection to the past and A Witch in Winter definitely achieved that.

A Witch in Winter is a fun read, a strong debut and definitely my kind of book. I loved how English this book was, with its fantastic setting, evocative of an old Cornish town by the sea, held up over the centuries by the various spells and enchantments placed by the witches who have lived there over the years. The old, crumbling house Anna moves in to with the witch marks carved into the wood, and the old grimoire found in the fireplace, these were highlights of the book for me. It was great to read about a secondary school where the kids are studying their A Levels (although oddly, I still didn’t recognise some of the classes Anna was taking). I loved all the British insults and it made me smile to hear phrases I’ve heard all my life instead of American ones.

It also made a nice change to have a fairly average protagonist. Anna won’t go down as one of my favourite heroines of all time, she’s too pale to make that big of an impression. But I really appreciated how she reacts to the knowledge that her inadvertent love spell has caused Seth to fall in love with her. She knows it isn’t real, she knows it was a terrible thing to do to someone, is horrified how it makes Seth act and is determined to undo it, no matter how she feels about him. Since I like my heroines a little more feisty, it was Emmaline I particularly liked, and who I hope to see far more of her in the second book, but Anna felt like an everyday teenager, which isn’t a bad thing

Warburton has created a romance that I can see a lot of readers rooting for. Seth seems like a genuinely nice guy (apart from a few overly possessive moments). It is an example of the dreaded ‘insta-love’ but in this case there is a more plausible reason behind it. I liked that neither Seth, Anna, or the reader, can be sure if the growing feelings between these two are real, though I had a few issues. I personally didn’t find Seth all that interesting (I far more intrigued by Abbe). Seth was a bit too much of a ‘golden boy’ and the growing romance between him and Anna got a little too sappy for my liking. Seth also forgives her far too quickly and it just seemed too easy that the boy she barely knows and accidentally casts a love spell on turns out to be the right guy for her anyway. But this is still the first book in a planned series, and Warburton has definitely set up more than one obstacle for these two to be together.

A Witch in Winter isn’t just about a love spell gone wrong. There are darker, more dangerous sides been drawn in this first book and the beginnings of a quite exciting premise that sets the tone for the series nicely. There are more witches and warlocks converging in Winter than Anna realises as she finds herself right in the middle of a powerfully dangerous society.

A Witch in Winter sets just the right tone for Young Adults Paranormal Romance that I think younger and older readers will enjoy. I would have liked a grittier story with more practiced witchcraft and was desperately hoping Warburton would tell us more about the grimoire and the original witch who owned it, but I cannot complain. There’s nothing overly unique here but A Witch in Winter is fresh, atmospheric and has plenty of action, mystery and romance. Though it’s a series and there are some unanswered questions, there’s no major cliffhanger and it works as a stand alone novel. I’ll definitely be picking up A Witch in Love this July.

Check out my interview with the author here.

*Many thanks to Hachette Children’s Books for sending this in exchange for an honest review*

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