Always a Witch: Enchanting, quick-moving, spooky duology

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fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsCarolyn MacCullough 1. Once a Witch 2. Always a WitchAlways a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Alone among her relatives, Tamsin Greene grew up believing the family’s Talents had skipped her over, and learned to get by without magic. But in Once a Witch, Tamsin learned that she was far from powerless. Rather, she was one of the strongest of the Greene witches. Always a Witch concludes her story.

Tamsin is still getting used to having magic, and her sister Rowena is annoying her with her bridezilla antics. These concerns take a backseat when the family learns that the sinister Alistair Knight has altered the past and restored his ancestors to power. Tamsin travels back to the Victorian era to set things right, excluding her boyfriend Gabriel from her plans because she believes he’ll die if he comes along. Once there, Tamsin is hired by the decadent, sadistic Knights as a lady’s maid, a position that gives her an inside view of their schemes but also puts her in great danger.

The time-travel element here is stronger, in two senses of the word, than in the previous book. There’s more of it (Tamsin spends the vast majority of the book in 1887), and it works better. And the Knight house, though populated by creepy people, is a fun setting filled with secret passages — and maybe a few new allies as well.

Tamsin works out what needs to be done to stop the Knights once and for all. She learns the nature of the terrible choice that was prophesied in Once a Witch. This did lead to a slight “how did that happen?” moment, since according to the spell’s logic, I think it should have affected more people than it did. Yet the scene is an effective dramatic moment, heroic and bittersweet. Afterward, we learn the real reason the family kept Tamsin’s Talents a secret.

Though I was occasionally confused by the way some of the magic worked, I would gladly recommend Once a Witch and Always a Witch to young adult readers. This is an enchanting, quick-moving, spooky duology with a likable heroine.


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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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