Monday, September 14, 2009

Review: Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Tags: YA, paranormal, magic, witches, family secrets

Rating: 4 out of 5


Tamsin Greene has lived under suffocating familial expectations her whole life. Upon her birth, her grandmother prophetized that she would be the most powerful witch their family has ever known. Instead, Tamsin’s Talent never revealed itself, and she’s forced to be the embarrassment of her family, forever watching her perfect older sister Rowena get all the attention.

When a stranger, a professor at NYU, comes into her family’s bookstore and mistakes her for Rowena, Tamsin realizes this is her opportunity to prove to the world that she she can live up to her family name. The stranger asks her to locate a long-lost prized family heirloom, but the deeper Tamsin goes to find the object, the more she discovers that the stranger’s intentions may not be all that benevolent, and that he is somehow tied to her family’s past…


ONCE A WITCH is a fast-paced and engaging story filled with magic, danger, and family secrets. It’s easy to get caught up in this extremely readable novel.

Tamsin is a charming protagonist, simultaneously determined yet vulnerable. She narrates her family’s story with an ease that draws us into her world. Similarly, all of the other characters are subtly introduced and developed, so that we never feel as if the Greene family’s world is contrived, but rather as if they could be living among us.

The plot is a little unsteady but still ultimately satisfactory. It was horrifying to see how some characters changed as a result of contact with the villain—but, like I said earlier, I appreciated its naturalness. Most events in the novel flowed like they had to happen under those circumstances.

That’s not to say, of course, that there aren’t some aspects of ONCE A WITCH that felt overdone or clich√©. These include Tamsin’s sidekick and love interest, Gabriel, the time travel scenes, and the way various characters occasionally prophetized to explain backstory. These minor slip-ups are easy to overlook in light of my larger enjoyment of the whole book, though. Those who like a little magic and mystery in their books will love ONCE A WITCH, and even those who don’t normally delve into urban fantasy/paranormal fiction will find Tamsin’s story an easy and delightful read. It seems like there is a good chance of there being a sequel, which I will definitely be looking forward to!

Similar Authors
Amber Kizer
Kelley Armstrong

Writing: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Plot: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Cover discussion: 3.5 out of 5 - Nothing too mindblowing or anything, but at the same time inexplicably compelling and appropriate for the tone of this novel. I love the purple tones and blurry background. The cover, along with the synopsis, would make me pick this book up at the bookstore or library!

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Clarion / Sept. 14, 2009

Thank you, Jenny, for sending me an ARC for review!


  1. Great review, Steph.

    I actually didn't like this one as much as I thought I would - I found it quite slow, and somewhat hard to get into. I still bought a lovely finished copy, though :)

  2. This book sounds great! After reading your review I'm adding it to my massive TBR pile!

  3. i haven't pick up a book like this since Harry potter. It look interesting add it!!

  4. Interesting - wish I had half your knowledge of books out there or time to read them :D

  5. I have really been considering buying this book, and now after your review, I think I made up my mind! Great review. :)

  6. This was my WoW pick a few weeks back and I can't wait to read it! Fab review. :)

  7. Great review, I haven't read a good witch book in ages.

  8. This book gets a lot of positive reviews. I think it's time for me to hunt for a copy. Thanks for the review, Steph.

  9. Sounds interesting. I like books with a good narrators voice.


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