***This review is slightly spoilery!! You have been warned.***
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Fantasy, 346 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by Hodder Children's Books
It took me awhile to get around to writing this review, in part because it took me forever to read the book, and in part because I just felt like I didn't have a lot to say...
It's a very typical YA. Girl moves to small town. Girl sees pretty boy. Boy has a girlfriend (and is dogged by rumors of violence and rages), but girl falls for boy anyway. And (oops) puts a spell on him that makes him lover her, too. Did I mention the girl is a witch? No. It's okay, she didn't know either until she was able to do, um, everything, so it's cool.
We've seen this before.
It's been done.
And maybe if I was younger and was ever the type of girl to be wooed by insta-lovey swooneyness - I wasn't - this would have won me over. It's a quick read, certainly, so it's not like I had to drag myself from one swooning-and-sighing perilous encounter to the next. Though I guess that's not entirely true: I couldn't for the life of me muster up the desire to pick this up most of the time; took me ages. Partly I think this was because everything felt like a foregone conclusion, so it felt like a waste of time - I knew what was going to happen, so why waste the couple hundred pages getting there? - but I also think it may have felt like a quicker read than it was because when I did pick it up, I sometimes resorted to skimming. I just could not make myself want to read Anna's thoughts. There were times when I just had no choice but to skim through her anxieties and woe-is-mes and flutterings, and just get to the next plot point or bit of dialogue. It was skim or give up, and I chose to skim.
But it just all just feels VERY young, and very almost silly in it's emotions and Mary Sue-ness (Here comes Miss Powers Out the Ass to bungle everything up, and maybe, if she can get it together, save the day). There was just not enough development or slow-burn to anything, so I knew exactly where it was going from page 1. Everything was laid out and obvious. Yes, it's a fantasy, and yes, Winter is an interesting town with a really interesting history. And yes, Anna has powers, and now she also has questions, and those could have all made the book something special, a tale of discovery and and secrets and intrigue. Instead it was very much a book about a girl's inexplicable love for a guy she doesn't know, and then his unfortunately explicable love for her (he's under a spell - and then he's not, but he still super-duper loves her), and it just doesn't ever get past that or turn into anything more than that. I think if this had taken a different turn, if it had delved more into the history of Winter, and had a more slow-slide into Anna's discovery of things, I could have actually liked this a great deal. But it didn't.
Its one saving grace is that it does pick up at the end, and Warburton is not so flowery and sentimental a writer that she won't give her characters legitimate consequences. This is HUGE for me, because when a book has really high stakes and a ton of really crazy super-powery stuff or mega-villains or Good vs Evil, etc., and all of the characters are in danger all the time, I expect something legit to happen. If all the good guys come through unscathed and all the villains get crushed into oblivion or escape with their tails between their legs, Imma be pissed. (And no, for those of you reading this in the UK, I do not mean I'll be drunk, but after all that, I'll want to be.) FORTUNATELY, the last 1/4 of the book or so moves along at a very brisk pace, and actually had some pretty enjoyable moments, and FORTUNATELY, it does end up having some good consequences that made me glad I did stick it out and finish the book.
UNfortunately, I don't think even that is enough to make me want to pick up book 2...
But this will find a rabid, happy audience in young girls and those looking for a light throwaway read.