When I first herd about this book, THE BLACK WITCH by Laurie Forest, it was not in the greatest of lights. In fact, if you google the THE BLACK WITCH I can almost assure, you will come up with equal parts hate and love. But the real question, did I love or hate this book? A little of both.
For the first… almost 50% of this book, I hated it. I chose to read it for two reasons. I’m a firm believer in doing research before making a decision about something. How could I possibly weigh in on the Black Witch debate if I’d never even read it? I hate when people form opinions without doing the research or the work to have an opinion and if there’s one thing I hate more then that, it’s hypocrisy. So I decided long ago, I would read this book. The second reason is why I actually finished the book. Nearly half way through and I didn’t want to finish it. It’s vial, racist, I can’t stand the main character, and I’m nauseated by all the bigotry and hate. BUT my new book club has picked this as their first book and since I’m not a hypocrite, I must finish this book in order to attend and have fully formed thoughts on the story. Otherwise, I wouldn’t go, because I know not having read the whole book, I wouldn’t have the whole picture. No matter how much I despised the book.
It straight up took me more then half way through the book before I felt like there was a small turning point and the main character (of whom I never grew to like) starts to see her world without her bigotry glasses on. I’m being facetious. There no such thing in this book, but it feels like there might as well be. Even though the change is slow, it is there. I do feel like even in the last twenty pages, some of the racism still lingers on Ellorin’s lips. Has she changed? Of course. There’s a huge arc in her character and I don’t hate her by the end of the book in the same way I did through the first half. I do believe that it took too long for her to change. Painfully so. The action and story fluidity picked up pace as her thoughts changed about her fellow students. As she realized she’s been taught wrong by her people. But it’s a slow change that takes 300 pages before we even see a glimmer of it.
What about the magic and world building you ask? Oh well, if you follow my blog, you’ll know I’m not a huge fan of world building. I tend to gravitate toward magical worlds based in our own reality. Not because I greatly dislike those which are fully formed in their own worlds, but I don’t like info dumps. In fact, I despise them. They are a huge turn off in a book for me. Patrick Rothfus, author of THE NAME OF THE WIND, is the perfect example of an author who can pull you into a brand new world without dumping a ton of info on you, leaving you to swim in a sea of information you don’t know what to do with. It’s one of the main reasons I tend to shy away from Epic Fantasy.
In this book, it took me a solid three chapters before I didn’t feel like I was being shit on by information I’d quickly forget. But again, I’m a woman of my word and so I powered through. I did find the dumping puttered out to a small much more appropriate trickle where I was able to learn info as I needed it. The world is quite vast. Although magical, it was complex and layered with politics and relationships mirroring our own world closely. Often in painful ways. There was one moment where the torture of Fay was being described and I was reminded of the Holocaust. Heartbreaking.
I will say this, this book is not for the light of heart. It is not for someone who is easily triggered as it deals with a lot of tough subjects, including: racism, homophobia, assault, rape, consent, caging, and I’m sure a slew of other things I’m not listing off the top of my head. I wouldn’t recommend stopping half way through reading this book. The first half is hard. It’s brutal and will only leave a bad taste in your mouth if you don’t make it through the whole book. In fact, it might still leave a bad taste in your mouth even after you finish it. But it might also open your eyes to some of the things going on in our world. It might make you think twice about using hateful language and saying something to those who do. Standing up for those who do wrong. I know if there is one thing this book has done, is infuriated me more. It’s a sharp reminder that injustice and hate are prevalent and standing by watching injustice occur is not okay.
Will I read book 2? Book one is left open. Like WAY WAY open. If we truly are at a turning point in the raciest view point of the main character (it’s told in first person), then I’d be inclined to read it. To find out what happens. I found a couple of the side stories very heart warming and I’d like to find out what happens to those characters in particular. In fact, some of the side stories pushed me to keep reading. There’s a whole Romeo and Juliet thing happening and not to the main character. Which for the record I appreciated.
I’m left with a lot of mixed emotions about this book. I don’t think I liked it but also I didn’t not like it. This might take some time, sitting in my own thoughts before I’m able to definitively say how I feel about this book.