Friday, October 4, 2019

Sea witch by Sarah Henning

Evie is different from the other children in her village, not just because she is friends with the Prince, but also because she is a witch.  As a child Evie and her best friend Anna were inseparable, and where the two girls were the Prince was never far behind, a dear friend to both of them.  Everyone in the village expected the friendship to fade, for Evie to have the decency to fall back into her rightful place and let Nik find his place as the heir to the throne.  When Anna drowns instead of breaking Evie and Nik apart it seems to draw them closer together.  Neither of them thinks anything of it, but the villagers take every chance they can to remind Evie of her rightful place.

When a stranger rescues Nik after he nearly drowns Evie is startled not just by the quick flick of a tail as the stranger dives back into the water, but also by her resemblance to her lost friend Anna.  When the stranger reappears walking on two legs, the resemblance is so uncanny that Evie has trouble separating her memories of the friend she lost from the young woman in front of her.  Even though Annemette can do magic, something Anna would have shied away from, Evie feels an instant connection to her.  When Evie learns that Annemette has made a terrible bargain for her chance at love with Nik, Evie is determined to help her friend no matter what she has to do to help her.  As the deadline draws closer Evie becomes increasingly desperate, and pushes away her own chance at happiness to help her friend.  But Annemette is keeping secrets, and she is not the only one.

The little mermaid is a classic story that generations have loved - whether it is the more brutal version brought to us by Hans Christian Andersen, or the sappier more child friendly version brought to us by Disney.  Sea witch tells the story of a young witch hiding her powers from her village and the Prince she loves, mourning the lose of her best friend, and trying to learn the secrets of magic - an origin story to explain and develop the history that lead to the cruel sea witch that struck a terrible bargain with a young mermaid who fell in love with a Prince.  This is a story that can stand on it's own two feet, exploring characters and relationships that are real and engaging, a satisfying and consuming read with characters you can't help but like and loath as they each deserve.

As someone who has Scandinavian ancestry it was a real pleasure to find so many references to the culture, not only with names and place names, but with festival and other cultural names too.   Henning kept up the pace of the story, using the technique of having chapters that look backward to bring Annemette's story up to date rather than flitting back and forth between the two storylines - very effective for keeping some mystery and for keeping things moving forward.  There is a sequel called Sea witch rising which I am now very much looking forward to reading.

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Reviewed by Brilla

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