Review: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Title: Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1)

Born Wicked

Author: Jessica Spotswood

Publisher: Putnam Juvenille

Publication Date: February 7th, 2012

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Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

As soon as I read the plot synopsis for Jessica Spotswood’s debut novel, I knew it was for me. My favourite genres are fantasy and historical fiction, so when you combine the two it’s basically a recipe for success. The genre coupled with Jessica Spotswood’s writing (which I think is pretty good, especially for a debut author) makes Born Wicked a great pick when you need something entertaining but smart.

Jessica Spotswood introduces us to a reimagined United States of America circa the 1890s: a world where the religious order known as the Brotherhood reigns supreme. Supposedly the Brotherhood came to power by overthrowing witches, who were the ruling caste despite their limited numbers. Kind of a witch oligarchy, if you will. After defeating the witches, the Brotherhood proceeded to proselytize that all witches were evil and should be stopped before they are able to regain their power.

It’s here that our story begins with the Cahill sisters, young women who are just beginning to grow into their own magic. The narrator of Born Wicked is Cate, the eldest of the Cahill sisters; Tess and Maura, the younger two, are Cate’s responsibility in light of their mother’s passing and their father’s absenteeism.  Cate is a young woman with too much responsibility and the weight of the world on her shoulders; she struggles to protect her loved ones, carve out a life for herself, and simultaneously fight against her would-be oppressors. Seriously, it was exhausting just reading about it.

As the story progresses though, Cate is influenced by a certain young man (who is totally one of my new book boyfriends) to let go of her sense of martyrdom and enjoy life more. After that, things started happening really quickly, and she became much more interesting. Tess and Maura initially grabbed my attention much more than Cate, probably because Cate narrates the story and is therefore less of a mystery. my interest in Cate didn’t reach the level of fascination I had regarding her sisters Tess and Maura until halfway through the book. Then again, that could be a product of good writing: Cate is very insecure, and often compares herself to her sisters in an unfavourable light.

The last fifty pages or so are definitely the best point of the whole novel. I literally could not put it down, and that twist at the end BLEW MY MIND. I knew that something fishy was up with a specific female character, but I had no idea how crazy it was about to get. All in all, Born Wicked is a solid first installment in a promising new series. I’m definitely eager to get my hands on the sequel!

Read it if you like magic, secrets, sisters, and swooning. Who doesn’t?!

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