Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood – REVIEW

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
Release Date: February 7th 2012
Putnam Juvenile, 330 Pages
Sub-genre: Paranormal/Historical Fiction
Source: Bought the Audiobook
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

Full Disclosure : Jessica and I are both part of the (totally awesome) DC YA Mafya aka a group of mostly writers (but sometimes bloggers) who live in the DC Metro Area. What I’m trying to say is: we hang out with the same peeps/run in the same crowd, go to the same bookish DC events, and know each other IN REAL LIFE. However, this review is my “professional” (ha!) opinion of her book.

Born Wicked is the story of three sisters and how they deal with late 1800s-ish life after their mother, who was a witch, dies. Their mother’s passing isn’t something new – it happened three years ago but they’re not sure how they should act in their town, which is full of witch-hunters and sentences witches to prisons and hard labor. Cate, Maura, and Tess are trying to hide what they all are – witches.

I’m not usually one for witch tales but I really, really enjoyed this book. Cate is 16 years old, the oldest of the three sisters, and while she is bossy at times I can understand her trying to fill the shoes of a motherly-role. Then there’s 15 year old Maura, who suffers from the worst case of Middle Child Syndrome EVER. She’s rash and bratty and thinks magic is for fun (and doesn’t try to hide it). And finally baby Tess who, at only 12 years old, seems to be the strongest of them all. Cate tries her best to protect them from being revealed as witches by keeping them away from the public, but outside forces such as their nosey neighbor and a menacing new governess have different plans.

This book takes place in a time in which young girls were expected to be brought up a certain way. I was okay with the notion of the sisters having a governess who teaches them “the arts”, such as French and Painting, as well as how to dress like a “proper lady”, and how to take tea with other ladies – all of that seemed to mesh with my thoughts of 1800s America. But I was confused on the actual town that they lived in. The setting was something like a parallel universe (or historical fiction dystopianish society?) of what I think it should have been. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t just up and move away if their father worked a 2-days-journey away? I get that their mother was buried in that town, but since this whole witch thing is a life or death type of situation, I would have thought that they could have taken some perspective and thought “Oh, maybe we should just MOVE.”. Or were other towns as into the Witch Hunting as The Brotherhood seemed to be? That, along with this weird notion of The Sisterhood and all of the religious tones of the novel didn’t seem to jive with my thoughts of 1800s New England, but I admit I’m not exactly a scholar on the subject (I wouldn’t even consider myself “well-informed” about it.).

Other than that, I thought the novel itself was fantastic. The story kept me on the edge of my seat and was well-written. Yes, there is a sort-of Love Triangle, but it’s clear from the beginning which boy Cate is leaning toward, though I did feel for the “Other Boy” (what I like to call the ones who don’t “get picked”). I enjoyed Cate’s discovery of first love and the first kissing scene in the book was perfectingly written. Speaking of love, Huzzah! for same-sex relationships being talked about in this time period.

This book reminded me of The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell. The writing styles are different and Born Wicked is definitely more of a thriller (I enjoyed it much more) but both have Supernatural/Paranormal elements set inside a Historical Fiction-esque type novel. I loved both books’ descriptions of Callers, Tea Parties, and Skirts.

Also, I listened to this on audiobook and really enjoyed the narrator. Audiobooks can make or break a book and this particular voice actor really brought Cate to life for me. If you’re new to audiobooks or are hesitant to try one out, this would make a wonderful first audiobook. I also think this book is a good recommendation for someone looking to test the waters of Historical Fiction and a GREAT recommendation for Paranormal readers.

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