“People see what they expect to see,” he says sharply. “Through a filter of their own hatred and prejudice.”
The Black Witch is the debut YA fantasy novel by Laurie Forest, released last month, that brazenly tackles extremely polarizing topics such as racism, bigotry, homophobia, and prejudice. There has been a humongous amount of controversy which I feel is overblown and unwarranted. This is a positive review based on my enjoyable experience reading the book.
Elloren comes from a powerful magical bloodline, but has been raised in the woods and sheltered by her well-meaning Uncle. When it comes time to go to University, Elloren meets her Aunt, who is an elite member of a ruling mage council made up of ultra-conservative religious zealots who are intolerant of other species. Her people are called the Gardnerians and they view the Lupine (wolf shifters), fae, selkies, and Icarals (a winged species prophesied to bring about the apocalypse) as inferior, and in most cases, “less than” human.
All in all, this is not so different than your typical Young Adult fantasy. A powerful, tyrannical group threatens the freedom and will of other oppressed groups. Originally, Elloren is mesmerized by her Aunt’s glamour, beauty, power, and attentions. She blindly agrees with her views and is desperate for validation from a female member of her family (both parents died and she was raised with two brothers by the aforementioned Uncle). But slowly, Elloren begins to see how wrong her Aunt and the mages are and chooses to fight back.
If you’ve read any of the following books, you know the type of story portrayed here:
Yes, some of the characters are racist, homophobic bigots. However, the entire point of the story is about a young girl who transcends her roots and learns that racism is WRONG. She befriends many people who are NOT Gardnerian.
I thought the author was brave and handled Elloren’s growth well. She realized her views were ignorant and that she was wrong. Her beliefs were shaped by her upbringing and extremist community. She came from a very conservative background with relatives that were hateful, war-mongering extremists. Her uncle tried to raise her away from all that, but when she went to University, she was confronted by the shocking knowledge that she knew nothing, was woefully unprepared, and that what she was taught was wrong.
I found this to be an exciting first book in a series and I can’t WAIT to read the next one!
Elloren is not a Mary Sue or a Special Snowflake and is bullied by several characters. In my view, that was harder for me to read than any extremist behavior by other characters. Although I will not disagree that there are some heavy themes addressed here that will most likely make you uncomfortable.
We can see that the world is about to be shaken up massively and there is HOPE to be found. Several characters fall in love and most of them do not agree with the ways they have been taught.
The supporting characters are fantastic. There is romance and a rag-tag band of diverse friends that forms, and each and every one of them stole my heart. I am looking forward to seeing the revolution and the new world that will inevitably be formed by these trailblazers!
I implore everyone to make up their own minds about any controversy by doing the research and not just blindly accepting the words of a reviewer, blogger, or person they follow on Twitter.