‘The Apprentice Witch’ is a wonderful, enchanting debut from James Nicol about a young witch called Arianwyn who will weave her magical powers over you and capture your heart. Sent off to the remote town of Lull after failing her witch’s assessment, Arianwyn is filled with uncertainty but thrilled at the thought of being close to the magic of the Great Wood. Armed with only a present from her grandmother a faded old book ‘The Apprentice Witch’s Handbook’ she feels that she has everything to prove and much to lose. Unknown to the outside world she is struggling to contain a mysterious magic within herself, which will unexpectedly make an appearance and is beyond her control. Then just to complicate matters her arch-enemy Gimma makes a surprise appearance in Lull and appears determined to make her life difficult. Arianwyn begins to question if she will ever become a proper witch? Little does she know that there is much more than this to worry about, as dark forces are on the horizon.
James Nicol has created a completely believable world of magic and witchcraft. When you read Harry Potter you know that Diagon Ally and Quidditch are real and they just become part of the story, you don’t question their existence. Or when you watch a film with amazing special effects and the story is so brilliant you don’t focus on them they just complement the experience. For me this is how I feel when I read ‘The Apprentice Witch’. I’m so involved in the story that I totally accept the premise there are four cardinal glyphs used by witches when they create spells, I know that this must be true. All of the details feel genuine and authentic, it’s not an actual story but in fact James is allowing us a glimpse into a world we haven’t yet discovered.
The characterisation in the story is excellent and totally wonderful. Arianwyn will totally steal your heart, she’s incredibly brave but flawed she struggles with her belief in herself and trying to control the magic within her. James has assembled a great cast of characters from the bumbling mayor Josiah Belcher, to the mean and spiteful Gimma and the strong matriarchal figure of her Grandmother. It is a tale of friendship, bravery and the power of believing in yourself, delightful and entertaining I absolutely loved it.
We are left feeling at the end that Arianwyn is just at the start of her adventures, so I was thrilled to discover that there are two more books in the series to come. You can hear James talking about ‘The Apprentice Witch’ on his book trailer and if you’re feeling intrigued by this review you can enjoy a sneak peek of the first chapter.