The Witch’s Kiss

The Witch’s Kiss was written by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr and first published in 2016. It is a contemporary set fantasy story, which focuses on a teenage witch who discovers that she has ties to an ancient curse. The novel forms the first part of The Witch’s Kiss series and is followed by The Witch’s Tears (2017). A third novel – The Witch’s Blood is due for release later this year.

Merry has been having a hard time. When her mother forbade her from learning witchcraft, she took it upon herself to learn a few spells. However, after a terrifying incident with a friend, she has been left with a fear of ever using her powers again. Unfortunately, her life is not so simple. Her untrained powers have been running wild and it’s getting increasingly difficult to hide.

When Merry and her older brother, Leo, hear a mysterious knocking in the attic, the two quickly discover a box which contains some ancient magical artefacts. Not long after, Merry has an odd encounter with a sword-wielding boy and knows that she has no choice but to approach her Gran’s coven for answers.

What Merry learns shocks her. Centuries before, her ancestor made a promise that her family would one day find a way to defeat a great evil. As the heir of the family, Merry has inherited this responsibility. The evil warlock Gwydion and his monstrous servant – the King of Hearts – are starting to awaken from their enchanted slumber. Only Merry can find a way to destroy them forever. However, she is young and untrained. What chance does she have against someone who has studied the dark arts for years? 

While I did find The Witch’s Kiss to be a little slow to find its feet, it was a promising opening to the series and decent debut for Katharine and Elizabeth Corr. However, I would say that it’s a novel that you have to stick with. While the opening chapter sparked my curiosity, the book takes a long time to fully explain itself and is certainly not one that I’d recommend to readers who prefer their stories to be a bit more action packed. However, it did get there in the end. As the story gradually unfolded, I found that it caught my interest as more about the legend of the King of Hearts and Gwydion’s unrequited love was revealed.

The story will appeal most to fans of faerie stories, as it certainly had the feel of a modern retelling of Sleeping Beauty at times. It featured ancient pacts, people being placed into enchanted sleeps, a villain with a very dark modus operandi, and the day being saved by true love’s kiss (in a manner of speaking). And I felt it did this very well. Like all good faerie tales, it’s a little depressing and gory but the novel did not ever truly dwell on these aspects. They existed to make everything feel a little creepier, while never causing the story to be too violent or heavy for younger readers.

Yet, at the same time, Merry’s character development is firmly rooted in the now. While Gran’s coven follows strict rules, the book also explored the way that magic could be abused by a modern teenager. While this book only really scratched the surface of how magic worked, Merry soon discovers that the penalties for abusing her power are pretty hefty. As Merry gradually comes to understand this and learn how to cope with her mistakes, her opinion on magic slowly starts to shift. This left me very curious to see how Merry’s relationship with her power will develop over subsequent instalments as her training intensifies.

In terms of structure, I did have a few issues. The novel tries to create a dual timeline which allows the reader to both witness Merry’s actions in the present and the events leading up to Gwydion’s imprisonment in the past. While this is a neat idea, I didn’t think that it was integrated quite as well as it could have been. The story of the King of Hearts is largely told in one big chunk which takes up several early chapters. After this, we only really see brief glimpses into his past and it takes a long time for the reader to fully understand exactly what happened. While this does finally become clear in the climax, I was left unsure for a while exactly where some of the scenes with Jack and his maid were heading.

I also felt that the story’s biggest problem was that it often fell foul of telling, rather than showing. This is something that’s quite common to debut novels and isn’t a huge bugbear of mine, but it does serve to disconnect the reader from what is going on. Merry was frequently not present for important events and therefore had them related to her at a later date. A good example of this happens towards the end of the novel, where Leo describes to her how he had a fight with a former friend. This could have been great development for Leo if it had happened on page, but instead it came across as just a casual aside.

However, nit-picking aside, I really did enjoy the climax of the book. The final few chapters were incredibly tense and the story’s ultimate twist came as a great shock. No spoilers here, but I can honestly say that I was not expecting the novel to go there at all. While the novel certainly leaves a lot of scope for a sequel, it also was a complete story in its own right. It wrapped up this part of Merry’s adventure quite neatly and could definitely be enjoyed in isolation.

The strongest aspect of this novel by far was its characters. I adored Merry. It’s very rare to find a novel that manages to craft a completely believable sixteen-year-old English girl. If you strip away Merry’s magic, she is absolutely ordinary. She makes mistakes, falls out with her friends over daft things, and has crushes on cute boys. I was very quick to get attached to her because she felt so realistic, which makes a change from the paragons of virtue that you often find in young adult novels. Merry had a duty that she never asked for – one that she would gladly avoid and is scared to death of – but slowly comes to realise that she has to overcome that fear to protect people innocent people from harm. I could really get behind her complex feelings and certainly didn’t want anything bad to happen to her.

The supporting cast was also brilliant. I loved the way that the story focused on Merry’s relationship with Leo. He is an awesome big brother – loyal and loving, but still not afraid to tell Merry the things that she does not want to hear. Gran was also a very strong character, as she was formidable but still a pillar of support for Merry. My only disappointment was how little she appeared in the story. Hopefully she will feature more in the sequel, as Merry starts to get more involved with the coven.

The only place that the characterisation felt a little weak was the villains. While Jack is sympathetic, I did feel as though a lot of his development occurred off-page. As we don’t witness a lot of the time that he and Merry spent together, his sudden deep attraction to her felt incredibly abrupt. Gwydion also felt a bit extreme. While it was possible to feel pity for him, his reaction to a broken heart just went far too far. It took a relatively small event to flip his evil switch and send him veering into destroyer of all love mode.

All in all, The Witch’s Kiss is not a perfect novel by any means but it was definitely a very promising start to the series. The characters in particular were really strong and I’m looking forward to see how they develop further in The Witch’s Tears. I am certainly eager to find out when I get to this novel in a couple of weeks time!

The Witch’s Kiss can be purchased as a Paperback, eBook or Audio Book on Amazon.co.uk

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Witch’s Tears | Arkham Reviews
  2. Trackback: The Witch’s Blood | Arkham Reviews
  3. Trackback: YA Shot 2018 Tour – Featuring Katharine and Elizabeth Corr | Arkham Reviews

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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