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Review: Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

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Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
Young Adult, Time Travel, Witches
Hardcover (CLARION BOOKS, 304 pages, $16.00)
ISBN# 0547223994
Tamsin Greene comes from a long line of witches, and she was supposed to be one of the most Talented among them. But Tamsin's magic never showed up. Now seventeen, Tamsin attends boarding school in Manhattan, far from her family. But when a handsome young professor mistakes her for her very Talented sister, Tamsin agrees to find a lost family heirloom for him. The search—and the stranger—will prove to be more sinister than they first appeared, ultimately sending Tamsin on a treasure hunt through time that will unlock the secret of her true identity, unearth the sins of her family, and unleash a power so vengeful that it could destroy them all. This is a spellbinding display of storytelling that will exhilarate, enthrall, and thoroughly enchant.
Author Site:

Likable but something's just missing... (4 stars)

Living up to a family legacy of magic isn't easy for Tamsin Greene. Upon her birth her grandmother claimed she would be one of the most Talented witches the family had yet seen. Until her eighth birthday came and went without her Talent manifesting itself. She sees herself as an outsider among the very gifted witches in her family, particularly her elder sister Rowena who has the ability to control others with her voice. Attending a boarding school in New York City is a welcome escape from the constant reminder that she is the family pariah except for her summer vacation where she returns home to help out at the family bookshop. When a strange but compelling man comes to the Greene family's bookshop hoping to hire one of them to find a missing family heirloom Tamsin decides not to reveal that she has no Talent. If she can somehow find this object maybe she can prove useful to the family.

Getting her childhood friend, Gabriel, whom she hasn't seen in several years, to help sends the two back through time to retrieve the missing item. But when their plans go awry and the heirloom proves to be more than just a beloved trinket Tamsin puts herself and those she loves at risk. She will learn family secrets and unravel deceptions that could be a blessing or a curse depending on how she uses this knowledge and ultimately comes into her own.

If you love witch stories like I do, Once a Witch isn't one to easily pass up. Though certainly not in any way truly comparable to the much beloved Harry Potter series there is a certain flavor about this one that I found reminded me of them. Like the Weasley family of Potter fame, Tamsin's large, eccentric family of gifted magic weilders is easy to fall in love with. Tamsin's kooky Aunt Beatrice in particular provided comic relief and charm. Seeing them through Tamsin's eyes, however, and her feeling of being rejected for her lack of Talent will have most readers wondering just what went wrong.

I did anticipate that time traveling would play a slightly larger role in this plot based on the premise. These scenes are well written but not as involved as I would have liked to have seen. This is one area where the book fails to deliver to my satisfaction. Where this is made up for in my opinion is in the fact that on the whole the plot isn't completely predictable. I often catch on to the twists before they happen and with this one I was able to get surprised which was really refreshing.

Overall, I didn't love this book. It had some flaws that detracted from the storyline in ways that frustrated me and left me feeling as if there should have been much more to the book. But it was generally enjoyable and if MacCullough continues to write about Tamsin or her family I would be happy to dive into their world for another!

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