Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 330 pages
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal and Historical Fiction
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release date: February 7, 2012
Series: The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1
Reviewed by: Lili
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.
Witches, in my opinion, are some of the most interesting creatures to read about, but they seem to be widely absent from the young adult literary scene these days. Because of this, I was very eager to get my hands on this book and once I was able to successfully trade for it, I dove right in upon its immediately arrival at my doorstep. I was very pleased and easily immersed myself into this story thanks to Spotswood’s amazing writing, historical references, and alternate United States where the traditions and beliefs were incredibly interesting.
Cate Cahill is the oldest of three daughters born to a witch in hiding and a scholarly father. With her mother’s passing, Cate became the female head of the household and thus had to protect the witchy secrets that her sisters kept so that they would not be tried and possibly killed or sent to an asylum. She manages all of this while nearing the age she is expected to marry and fighting with the decision to do what is expected of her by her society or to follow her heart. Because of this, there was a lot of secrecy, intrigue, and plot twists in this book regarding her family’s fate as well as her love life that easily kept me flipping the pages.
As I sit here and reflect on this amazing novel, it’s hard for me to grasp the fact that this is Spotswood’s debut. It was written so beautifully and the characterization was absolutely superb. Even the characters that I disliked were fully fleshed out and well rounded. They were all three dimensional and important, and I found myself connecting with many of them for different reasons. No two characters were alike and such a thing fascinated me. Having Cate as the heroine, a girl who is somehow managing to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders without collapsing, was pretty awesome too.
It’s hard for me to find anything negative to say about this novel, but I can say that it was slightly hard to get into. The secrets that the Cahill girls kept due to their pasts were so complex that they required a lot of explanation and world-building for the rest of the book in the very beginning. At times the beginning dragged on. Once I was a little less than a third through and the plot truly picked up, I blasted through this story easily. It’s a quick and easy read, though the beginning is perhaps a little too slow compared to the excellent pacing of the rest of the novel. And that ending! It breaks your heart and excites you for book two all at once, which I take as a good sign as a critic but an anxiety inducing realization as a reader.
Spotswood’s debut novel is not one to be ignored. Recommended to nearly everyone for its beauty, creativity, imagination, and intrigue, I can’t imagine anyone disliking Cate’s desire to protect those close to her and her willingness to go to great lengths to insure the safety of those important to her.