Book review – The Witch’s Kiss trilogy by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr

Knowing my love of all things witchy, my sister gave me a copy of The Witch’s Kiss for my 19th birthday. I fell in love with Merry straight away. Who doesn’t love a great teenage witch? Katharine and Elizabeth are such a great writing team and wonderful people that I was able to meet via Twitter. Their banter, wit and love for each other shine through the characters they created in The Witch’s Kiss.

‘Witches do not kneel.’

I have read a lot of novels about witches and I think (nearly) all of them have a strongly feminist element. History has handed down tales of persecution of witches as our patriarchal society has attempted to control and subdue women. Witches represent the ultimate rebellion against patriarchy. They are strong, independent women that made the men of history afraid because they couldn’t be controlled. So they killed them in great numbers, even those that weren’t witches (and yes, many men as well!). The Witch’s Kiss touches on these themes with a cleverly executed blend of fairy tale and modern witch story. Katharine and Elizabeth create a world that is completely believable, while retaining classic fairy tale triangle of witches, princes and an evil wizard. Equally believable is the main character of the novel, Merry, a teenage girl in modern England that just happens to be a witch and descendant of the medieval witch, Meredith.

Merry was dreaming about blood.’

Merry dreams, she swears, thinks her brother is a pain in the neck, struggles to finish her homework, is messy, restless, spends hours texting and playing games on her phone, has trouble controlling her magic. I love novels that make you identify with the characters, and Merry’s red hair and quirky ways had me identifying with her straight away.

Gwydion ran his finger under the collar of his tunic, and wished he could stop sweating.’

Gwydion is the evil wizard and a totally despicable villain. But we see he has a vulnerable side as well. The novel reveals the sequence of events that turns Gwydion evil, not that this excuses his subsequent behaviour in any way but helps our understanding. In many ways, the evil character in a fairy tale is a metaphor for bad relationships and the way many men turn to physical or verbal violence when things don’t go their way. Gwydion was the son of a former slave, mocked by the castle’s servants, angry and powerless, scheming for revenge. This is a revenge that plays out over a very long time, eventually centuries. Gwydion is so bent on revenge it twists everything he does until he is so consumed by it the original hurt hardly seems justification any longer.

Jack? Jack!Where are you, lad?’

Jack is the King of Hearts. Forced to become Gwydion’s evil servant he is actually the son of the King and the Queen. Cursed by Gwydion as a baby, Jack is hidden away and raised as a commoner. Of course, he is the love interest for Merry but I don’t feel we really get to know Jack. We are led to believe he has a good heart but all his actions are controlled by Gwydion. Is this just an excuse? Another metaphor for male behaviour in relationships? I think so. Merry, though, falls in love with Jack and sees the good in him. Maybe her love can so him. Poor, naïve girl!

‘Leo was home by early afternoon.’

Leo is a foil for Merry. Her brother is very close to her even though they fight all the time. He isn’t magical but he supports Merry’s journey, having her back all the way even though he is dealing with his own issues. One of those is Leo’s search for love that doesn’t involve a fairy tale prince, but really he is searching for his own prince. He doesn’t find love in the fairy tale world and his issues are firmly planted in the real world. This is kind of interesting because traditional fairy tales didn’t treat being gay as a problem to be overcome but the real world does. When he does find love it just feels so right and natural (sorry, jumping ahead two novels!).

The Witch’s Kiss

The Witch’s Kiss is an amazing young adult novel that creates great characters and a truly believable world. The plot is intriguing enough to make you want to keep turning pages and there are enough twists to keep any teenage girl happy.

The Witch’s Tears

The Witch’s Tears was a wonderful follow-up to the first novel. We get to learn more about the characters and how they dealt with the emotional turns from the events of The Witch’s Kiss. If I had one complaint (and it’s a small one) it’s that The Witch’s Tears reminded me of The Empire Strikes Back. This is often a problem with middle books in a trilogy where the events are setting up the action and climax to come in the third story. I don’t think you could read The Witch’s Tears without having read the first and third novels. Then again, maybe that is what makes a great trilogy.

The Witch’s Blood

Last night I finished reading The Witch’s Blood and OMG!! There is more at stake, it’s possibly more exciting and the end left me crying! Merry knows what she can do now, but should she? Her community is against her and can her actions be justified because she is saving the people she loves? How is that different to Ronan’s actions? There is a blurry moral ground here. I also liked the environmental theme running through The Witch’s Blood. Merry’s magic – like modern consumption – comes at a cost to the land and eventually she has to make a choice.

I don’t usually do this in a review but I want to thank Katharine and Elizabeth Corr for being such wonderful people and taking the time to talk to an ordinary Australian girl. The Witch’s Kiss, The Witch’s Tears and The Witch’s Blood are definitely among my favourite books of all time and I will always treasure them.

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The way of the witch

no more history after blood
no rivals, for it’s who you are
kitchen witch feels and hears
teenage girls wanting to fit in
become disconnected from their bodies
dreams and spells written simply
hidden inside another story
the way of the witch

Every spell begins with a blank page

Every spell begins with a blank page,
connecting me to things I haven’t said;

putting thoughts into my incantation
for they cannot remain in the past,
ghosts of lips on glasses;

I’m not a bad person, I tell myself
I’m just lost with insecurities,
willing to sacrifice
to make my love spell come true.

I wake up with sounds inside me

I wake up with sounds inside me,
rhyming like a childhood spell;

to be a witch I hone my craft,
personal magic to navigate the world;

power – magic – destiny,
I call on that spiritual force;

trust myself to walk the path,
to let myself drift among secrets;

connecting me with nature
for she is who I am.

I believe in love spells

I believe in love spells
dark powers that twist the mind,
braided knot of hair to help me find the way
to creatures of the forest, dreamers,
moonstone and jade

shadows swallow the earth
where secrets die,
a few simple verses
that could turn an army
or win a man’s heart

hands held out – cold, like mine
but burning in the fog,
until there you are, soft of foot,
emerald eyes glittering,
innocent lips parted

I trace the lines upon your palm,
gypsy hair, blowing gently
to your beating heart
until there is just the two of us.

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 36

‘I know what you need, Bea.’
‘What’s that?’
‘A real solution to your problem.’
Bea blinked. She looked at Emily sitting across from her.
‘Which of my problems are you talking about?’
She took a sip from a can of soft drink. It still tasted strange to her. She didn’t know why.
Emily sat at the table with a notepad in front of her.
‘We need to get some things.’
She began to make a list:

Candles – red and black
Flowers
Incense – other magic stuff

Emily wasn’t really sure what she was doing but she was trying to make it up to Bea for dredging into her past. She had an idea but Emily thought if she could sneak in a memory spell as well then everything would be perfect.
Bea sighed. She didn’t believe in any of this magic stuff, but she wanted to humour her friend. Bea thought about Josh. She knew Emily didn’t like him but she couldn’t help being drawn to him. Josh had invited her to hear him play at the Fireworks Spectacular. He said he had been playing for several years but this was his biggest event yet. Bea wondered if what she felt for Josh was something more than just friendship.

Bea talked Emily into going with her to the Fireworks Spectacular. The school band was playing and it was meant to be a huge party. At first Emily didn’t want to go. She said she would feel out of place.
‘It’s not my scene either, Em, but I really want to go. Won’t you please come with me?’
She kept pleading so much that in the end Emily decided it wouldn’t hurt if she went just this once. Gwen was worried but agreed that Bea could stay overnight with Emily and catch the early bus home in the morning.
Bea answered fervently, ‘That makes me so happy.’ She laid her hand on Emily’s and looked cheerfully into her face.
Emily blushed but couldn’t bring herself to pull her hand away.
‘We should get back to the assignment.’
‘Yes, of course.’ Bea couldn’t stop smiling as she pulled the chemistry book out of her bag.
The evening passed quickly until Emily began to get restless again. ‘Would you like something to eat?’
‘No, I’m fine. Thanks.’
‘Okay, well I’m just going to make a cup of tea.’
‘I guess I should be going.’
‘Oh no, please—don’t go.’

The Witch in the Mirror – Part 35

Beatrice decided she wanted to get to know Josh. The way his music moved her—she needed to learn more about this boy. She had found out his name from Emily. Bea had casually asked Emily to tell her about some of the kids in the class.

Emily said she didn’t know much. She usually kept away from them, she said, because they were mostly the children of rich parents—spoilt children whose parents could afford this expensive school. She didn’t have time for any of them.

‘What about that scruffy guy over there?’ Bea had said, casually pointing at Josh. ‘He doesn’t look rich.’

Emily had admitted they weren’t all spoilt. Bea suspected it was a way for Emily to justify her attitude to herself.

‘His name is Josh. His mother is the school librarian. That’s how he can afford to come here and why he’s always hanging about the school late in the afternoon—waiting for his mum I guess.’

The librarian! Bea made a plan.

That afternoon as soon as the final bell went Bea packed her bag and rushed to the library. Sure enough, there was Josh sitting on a bench just outside the library. The cello case was on the ground beside him.

Bea stopped for a moment to catch her breath then walked casually up to him.

‘Hi, is the library shut already?’ She knew it was.

Josh was startled.

He just nodded.

‘Oh, damn. I’ll just have to take these books back tomorrow.’ She had several books tucked under her arm.

Josh was looking uncomfortably at her.

‘Is that your cello? I heard you playing in the music room the other day.’

Josh’s face relaxed a little. ‘Yeah, it’s new. I only got it a few weeks ago.’

‘I think the cello is the most amazing instrument. It produces such beautiful music. It makes me want to sing.’

Josh was amazed. No girl had ever spoken this much to him before.

‘Do you sing?’

‘Not really,’ said Bea, ‘At least—I don’t think so.’

Josh frowned.

‘Do you ever perform in public? I love hearing the cello played.’

‘I’m in the school orchestra. Actually—’ Josh hesitated. He could feel his heart racing. ‘I’m playing at the Fireworks Spectacular on the weekend. Are you going?’

‘I haven’t decided yet. Emily wants me to go.’

‘Oh—yeah—Emily.’

Josh lowered his eyes.

Bea looked at him curiously.

‘Well, I guess I should be going. I have to catch my bus. Maybe I’ll see you at the fireworks on Saturday.’

Josh nodded and Bea smiled as she turned and walked away. Her red hair bounced against her shoulders as she moved and Josh felt a warm glow spread throughout his chest.

He reached into his bag and pulled out a notepad and began scribbling down some music—this piece was going to soar like magic spinning across the sun. He needed to get home and begin practicing it so he could play it for Bea on Saturday night.

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