This novel is the second in the author’s Witches’ Chillers series of teen mysteries. I reviewed the first one in the series, Witches’ Night Out, for Spiritualitea a few months ago, and was promptly criticized in the Forum for my negative review. So why did I even pick up the second one in the series, you might wonder, if I gave the first one a no-star rating?
Well, chalk it up to idle curiosity. I am fond of series books; I like to see how an author develops her characters from title to title. So when I spotted this book recently, I couldn’t resist sitting down with it for a few hours. It’s written for teens and pre-teens, so it’s short (less than 300 pages) and easy to devour.
I am relieved that I won’t have to write another no-star review for this book. I had been quite disturbed by all the cursing in the first book, and this sequel didn’t have anything like that in it. Bethany Salem, the heroine of the story, does disturb someone else’s spell, though, with the deliberate intent of interfering with the spell’s purpose. But at least there’s discussion about the repercussions of choosing to interfere, before Bethany acts on her decision to interfere. And she did choose to interfere because she thought the spell was blocking someone else’s safety and well-being. So there’s definitely some signs that our heroine is maturing in her magickal knowledge from the first book to this one.
The story lines are absorbing, and deal with aspects that many teens can relate to: first love, a widowed father starting to date someone his daughter doesn’t trust, not getting enough attention from a parent, and bullies in school, for instance. The author has created a circle of friends from many backgrounds and races, which is nice to see in a world of mostly white book characters from other authors. And Bethany is having potent visions and is doing rituals and spells with her coven and teacher that could make this book interesting and meaningful to a young witch.
I wish the author had been more careful in the final editing of the book,
though. There are several clues that are laid out that go undetected by the
reader because of bad editing. I don’t want to give away any of the story
line, so this is not the real clue but a similar example. At one point in
the story, a “yellow ball” is introduced as a clue. In the final twist and
turns of the story, a “green ball” leads to an identity, and Bethany bemoans
the fact that she didn’t put two and two together earlier about the “green
ball” connection. Too bad nobody in the editing department at Llewellyn
noticed the original “yellow ball” reference in the text should have been
I wish some of the dead-end clues had been explained too. In one scene,
one character refuses to go to a place where she would meet up with another
character, leading one to conclude that there is some fear or bad blood
there. In reality, it is revealed that they are good friends and on good
terms with each other. So why go through all that drama in the first place?
RavenWolf never offers a theory.
I wonder what teens will pick up about Wiccan practice from this series.
Bethany’s teacher is a French-Creole black woman who gets her spiritual
supplies from a botanica. While the author doesn’t say the woman practices
Santeria or Vodou, she seems to imply it with these details. Yet the
French-Creole woman teaches Bethany and her friends Wiccan practices. Is
RavenWolf trying to say that Santeria and Vodou are Wiccan? Similarly,
there is a Native American character in the story that they want to get into
the coven; since he is Native American, goes the thinking, he’s already
familiar with Wiccan practice. Adults who have studied Wicca for a while
will be aware that Native American practices are not Wiccan, and Santeria or
Vodou is not Wiccan, but will the teen audience of her novels know that?
So, while I found this book to be entertaining for a few hours, I don’t
think I would recommend it to a teen unless it was someone who had read a
lot about Wicca already and could discern between the good and the dubious
in this book. I think there is definitely a need for teens to get good
information on Wicca and its practices, but I hope they will not be turning
to these books to get that information.