by Eva Ibbotson
I found this cute-looking book and thought I would try it, see if I could take any of Ibbotson's other stuff. I'm still not sure.
Which Witch is billed as something fans of Harry Potter will like. It does have witches and wizards in it, but they're depicted in a very different way, a way that, though humorous and fanciful, may give certain parents good reason to object to exposing their kids to it. In this story a very handsome, bachelor wizard named Arriman the Awful, who since birth has been groomed to be a great dark wizard, begins to grow weary of smiting and blighting. He would like to give it all up and retire to write a book, but he feels a certain responsibility toward the powers of darkness, so he doesn't feel he can quit unless another evil wizard shows up to take over for him. So he goes to a gypsy fortune-teller and she tells him that the wizard he's looking for is on the way.
Well, he waits for about nine hundred ninety days, and then takes his secretary's advice (his secretary is a man named Mr. Leadbetter who is perfectly ordinary, except that he has a tail). He decides to take a wife and produce an heir of his own. He invites all the local witches to a contest to see which of them can do the most powerful and darkest magic, sort of like a Miss Witch pageant, in which the winner (scored by 3 judges) will be his wife.
Of course he wasn't counting on most of the witches being hideous, nasty hags. And one of them is an evil enchantress who wears the molars of her previous 5 husbands on a necklace. But there's a beautiful white witch in town, too, named Belladonna, who is so white that everywhere she goes flowers spring up and songbirds appear. She has healing powers and can talk to animals. That kind of witch, and she's in love with Arriman.
Belladonna enters the contest, already brokenhearted because she knows she'll never win, she'll never be able to do a piece of dastardly dark magic powerful enough to win Arriman's love. She's determined to try, but what really keeps her going is her desire to comfort Arriman who is increasingly stressed out by the marriage prospects before him. But along comes a little orphan boy named Terence whose pet earthworm, Rover, seems to give Belladonna tremendous dark powers...
It's a witty, ironic story in which all those nasty old crones have a certain niceness about them, down deep; in which, for all their enjoyment of hideously dark magic, only one of the characters seems truly and dangerously evil; in which people who love each other are frustrated at their inability to do bad things to win each other's heart; and in which good people feel guilty about being good and hope to become more evil in the future. The sort of thing, in short, that can make children laugh and adults squirm at the same time.
It also has some cute monsters in it, including a three headed sea lion that should be on anti-depressants, a sword-swallowing ogre named Lester, a baby Kraken who squeaks "Daddy!" and slops water all over Arriman's house, a genie with a head-cold, a cataleptic ghoul, and a ghost who wanders around hitting himself on the forehead, tortured with guilt over the 7 wives he murdered. The story includes some wicked spells, such as a bottomless pit and a family that gets sealed up inside three trees, old auntie mermaids, an affectionate octopus named Doris, romance, poetic justice, and lots of humor.
Recommended Age: 12+
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