Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Born Wicked

Author: Jessica Spotswood
Author's Website: http://www.jessicaspotswood.com/
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin)
Editor: Ari Lewin
Agent: Jim McCarthy
Released: February 7, 2012
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Series: The Cahill Witch Chronicles (Book #2, Star Cursed, June 2013)
Source: Library
Challenges: 2012 Debut Author Challenge, Witchy Books

Cate is a witch, at a time when the Brothers have an iron grip on society and sentence girls and women to cruel fates for the merest suspicion of independence or witchcraft. Not only that, her mother was a witch and two sisters are witches, too, and after she finds her mother's diary revealing a secret that could mean her life is even less hers than she thought, Cate is more determined than ever to keep her family together and safe from the Brotherhood and the Sisterhood. She has her personal affairs to deal with too - her old friend Paul who wants more than friendship and her confusing but exhilarating feelings for the gardener Finn, her new friendship with the most sought-after girls in town. But navigating it all may come at a price too high to pay.
I love the world of Born Wicked. Okay, no, I hate it - it's cruel and evil, with the controlling Brotherhood. But it thrills me to read about all the secrecy. It's like when on TV a character has a secret she must hide from another character, and my stomach is in knots the whole episode waiting for her to slip up and spill the secret. The whole book was like that - heart in my throat with each interaction, each time Cate decides to share a secret with someone, wondering if it's the wrong move, if this is the time she confides in the wrong person and gets turned in to the Brothers.

Cate herself is a wonderful character. She obviously cares about others a great deal, especially her sisters, and it's both heartwarming and heartbreaking to watch her try to keep them together and united, against so many forces, including her sisters themselves. But she also wants things for herself, and she's not totally swallowed up by her feeling of obligation to her sisters - which Maura accuses her of at one point. True, she does consider the effects of her decisions on her family first and foremost, but when it comes down to it, she does think about herself. She's a strong girl, with just enough weakness and vulnerability to soften her that I felt for her completely, got mad right along with her, cried when she couldn't stand it any longer, cheered for her when she got her kisses.

And those kisses... Her romance with Finn is absolutely amazing. It develops so beautifully, from her initial involuntary noticing him to her admitting she loves him. Finn himself is the perfect guy. He's possibly a bit of a klutz, though that may be Cate's fault, but he's introduced as somewhat incompetent because he doesn't actually know anything about gardening and intends to learn about it from books! A complete contrast to Cate, who prefers to learn by experience than from books. Paul points out that he and Cate are a good match because they're exactly alike. Finn and Cate are very different, but they're perfect for each other because they balance each other out that way, with Cate's outbursts and slight moodiness, and Finn's steadiness and constant calm. Though Finn has his moments too.

I love how good and evil are so mixed up in the book. You're never sure, first of all, who's on which side, who's a witch, who sympathizes with witches, and who's a witch hunter. But beyond that, once you do know, hardly anyone is either pure good or pure evil. Some are, but  most aren't and it's hard to tell. Every time you think you have it figured out, something changes.

That's a big part of what makes this book so good - the constant surprises. Just when everything seems to be falling into place, everything is shaken up and thrown upside down and Cate has to figure it all out all over again. Which leads to the very shocking ending...

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