Goodreads | AmazonThis book was one of the most surprising I've read this year. I went into it not knowing what to expect at all...and ended up with a nice surprise.
Following years of persecution at the hands of Vivica Vance, Daphne Downing levels the playing field wielding her No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil as she belatedly enters the world of witchcraft. Daphne becomes part of the Mysterious Girls’ Secret Bathroom Society and finds out that the politics governing witchcraft are daunting and sometimes deadly. She realizes she is aligned with the Charmers in this political battle with the Spiters led by her nemesis, Vivica. Along the way, she discovers that witches do not perform magic or witchcraft but a differentiated form of physics that only some women have mastered. The story deepens as she learns about the long history of witches’ domination and annihilation of wizards.
This book was the most surprising read I've had this year. I thought the pitch was original and the author was very good at developing his world. It wasn't necessarily the most believable urban fantasy I've come across, but I can (probably) safely say that the idea has never been used before and I applaud Robert Shields for that, particularly since so many plots and ideas and worlds are reused and recycled every day (in this context, the 3R's are bad things).
Unlike many other reviewers, I actually got into the book very quickly. I found it quite entertaining especially the first few chapters, and I liked the pace of the book for the most part. Like I mentioned in my post of BeSwitched, what I love about middle grade fiction is that they are generally short, light reads.
The world is also very interesting. Although I don't fully get why wizards can't practice magic/physics, I thought the author did quite a good job of developing the idea. I mean, witches doing physics is just cool, admit it.
The characters weren't really fleshed out that well. I get that Daphne doesn't like Vi too much, but there isn't a lot of reason behind this dislike apart from the fact that they just don't like each other, which might be a good enough reason in real life but not quite in fiction. I did, however, like the part where Daphne was able to 'become' Vi and find out more about Vi's burden of responsibilities. There was also no real personality behind any of the characters--as far as I could tell, Daphne didn't really have defining characteristics, and neither did Vi's hoard of friends. And that was a huge flaw.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn't the hugest fan of the writing. There were far too many info-dumps, and some of their conversations were just used to plaster piece after piece of information onto readers until I got bored and started skipping pages. Otherwise, the author's writing style itself was quite enjoyable, but all the info-dumps just really distracted me from fully enjoying the text. While I understand that, to some extent, it is necessary to feed readers a lot of information when you're going to introduce a whole new world, I think many authors should let readers discover for themselves what the world is really like through interactions and snippets of conversation instead of pages of information.
Although I was told that this book was MG bordering on YA, I thought that the story would be most appealing to 10-13 year-olds. However, there were a few vulgar references/slang in the book which would not be appropriate for that age group, so I'm a little torn as to who to recommend this book to.
And although I know that this is completely irrelevant to the content of the book, which is what I'm meant to be commenting on, I think the cover would benefit from a re-designing (e.g. making the cartoon figure's hair neater, attaching the hat to the hair, and making the font more appealing). Despite what we say about not judging books by their covers, humans are very visual and vain creatures, and I think that the cover is a huge visual barrier that might prevent prospective readers from picking up the book.
Overview: This book was quite an interesting read and I loved the concept of physics being witchcraft. However, I think the characters were a little flat and there were so many info-dumps that I really need to take a star off for it. All that aside, the characters were a little flat and I'm having a hard time recommending this story to a particular age group. However, the author should be commended for their highly original idea. Two and a half stars.