Books & Literature

Book Review: A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic, by Shivaun Plozza

MIDDLE-GRADE: Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service meets Cressida Cowell in this funny, quirky middle-grade fantasy about Willa, who must unravel a witchy mystery to save her city, her friends and herself.

Witches, mystery, covens, crazy spells and a girl all combine to deliver a quirky, sometimes ridiculous story involving raining frogs and magic bubbles.

Shivaun Plozza is an Australian children’s and young adult writer. She was awarded a CBCA Notable Book award for her debut novel Frankie and is also known for her critically acclaimed book, The Boy, The Wolf and The Stars.

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic is the story of 12-year-old Willa Birdwhistle who lives in the woods on the Isle of Dreary just outside the city of Bad Faith. One year ago, her parents were stolen by a Clouds-away curse and she hasn’t seen them since. Two warring witch covens exist either side of the city and their wayward spells cause all sorts of havoc for the poor inhabitants as they land on unsuspecting residents.

But Willa doesn’t feel right. Others suspect she may have her own magic but Willa could not think of a worse fate. This means she would have to choose which coven to join before she turns 13 in a year’s time. If she doesn’t make a choice by then, she will explode.

Choosing a coven to join also has its own problems. Both are more than a little weird, from their names, Silverclaw and Irontongue, to what they look like and what they eat.  In all this craziness, Willa must also discover who the rogue witch is before the entire town and its population are destroyed.

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic is more than a bit ridiculous. The spells cast by the witches get crazier and crazier. Not to mention the royal decrees, tests, and forms, and the names of the books in the library! For example, The Long and Thoroughly Ordinary Tales of Pearl B. Purcep, an Explorer of Little Note. There are many laugh-out-loud moments. Each character has their own particular quirkiness.

The story is dotted with fun things like spells and how to work them (wriggle like a monkey with a bee sting on its bottom) and the library which has jam oozing from the walls. It feels like every ridiculous thing passing through the brain of the author has been put into this book.

Readers who are able to make sense of all the craziness will thoroughly enjoy the story, but unfortunately it becomes a bit repetitive which caused it to get bogged down in places rather than move along. The ending was somewhat of a letdown after all Willa’s adventures as it was written quite matter-of-factly, which clashed with the rest of the story.

Unfortunately, there are also no responsible adult role models and the children have to go at it alone. The parents she misses terribly were always critical of her and trying to change her which is not a good reason to love someone.

A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic is about friendship, belonging, perseverance and bravery, but the overriding theme throughout the book is that our choices in life are unlimited and we have to be true to ourselves. If you enjoy a funny, heart-warming adventure with mystery, then A Reluctant Witch’s Guide to Magic is perfect for you.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Penguin Books Australia
Released: July 2022
RRP: $16.99

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