Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Weather Witch by Shannon Delany

Premise: It's 19th century America and the world of magic occupies a precarious position. Electricity is created through magicians held in slavery. This makes witches essential, but the presence of a witch in one's family devastates a family's honor. Now Jordan, a wealthy teen, has been accused of witchery.

Title: Weather Witch
Author: Shannon Delany
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Fantasy (Steampunk-ish)
Stand Alone or Series: This is the first book in a new series
Content appropriate for: Grades 9-12
Format: Digital ARC from St. Martin's Press via netgalley.com

3 adjectives that describe this book: difficult, confusing, dark

I'm sure you can see from my adjectives that this book has some serious problems. I think the cover is fabulous, though, and should attract lots of interested readers. I fear they'll be quite disappointed, though. Don't get me wrong, Weather Witch has some great elements. I loved Rowen, a teenage boy who knows how to break the rules just enough that he doesn't actually get in trouble. Meggie, the creepy little girl character, was wonderfully creepy and made my insides squirm. And the subplot focused on bringing people back to life - Whoa!

Unfortunately, these terrific elements don't do enough to redeem Weather Witch of its problems. The biggest problem in Weather Witch is that Delany's magic-based early America is grossly underdeveloped. Here are a few examples:

  • Apparently there are weather witches. But after reading 336 pages, I'm still not quite sure what a weather witch is. I gather that it has something to do with the weather. I'm not sure what, though, or how exactly that works. Or why they are bad. Or if there are different types of weather witches. I know nothing!
  • Society is organized into a strict hierarchy. Jordan is a "Fifth of Nine." Apparently that's pretty high in the hierarchy. How high is it? I don't know. What difference does that make for her? I don't know.
  • There are scary magical creatures. They are called merrows. They live in the ocean. They eat horses. The existence of these creatures seems totally random to me. How do you explain that everything else about the natural world is the same?
  • Witches have to be Made. What does that mean? I don't know. How is a witch made? I don't know, but I think it's painful. Apparently there are tools used for "being Made" and they are sharp. I was never clear if the witches were tortured, raped, or injured. Something was happening, I just don't know what it was.

Overall, the plot of Weather Witch had the potential to be interesting, but the world of Weather Witch made the entire text super confusing. The frequent switching among the HUGE cast of characters didn't help.
2 stars

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