The Destruction of a Coven
Author: Claribel A. Ortega
Since Witchlings, Seven and her friends Valley and Thorn have been forged into a coven. It’s a coven of Spares . . . but still. Their rise to power, completion of the impossible task, and unveiling of a horrible conspiracy have witches everywhere talking about Spare rights. Plus, Seven has now been named the Town Uncle and her powers will eventually be equal to the Gran. Perhaps things in the Twelve Towns are looking up for Spares?
Meanwhile, The Golden Frog Games are approaching. The Olympics of the witch world, the Golden Frog Games encompass a week of magical competitions across the Twelve Towns and this year, Seven’s coven is making history again. Thorn has joined as a fashion design competitor.
Of course, it’s all fun and games until someone turns to stone, and that’s literally what happens on opening night when a spell aimed at Thorn hits the opponent next to her. Thorn was obviously the target, but the small minded in the crowd think that it must be the Spares doing this. Who else would be willing to use ancient, evil, forbidden magic to win a game if not the degenerate Spares?
It’s now up to Seven and Valley to save Thorn from this enemy in the crowd. But a lot of other things are going on. Seven is hearing the Nightbeast calling to her, and her magic is becoming . . . well . . . monstrous. And Valley has a girlfriend and is suddenly unavailable for her friends. Could this be the end of the tight knit coven? Could this be the end of Thorn?
While the first in the series, Witchlings, started off with enough action and emotion to enthrall even adult audiences, the magic is weaker in this sequel. The investigative angle here takes a backseat to the themes of the story, leading to an eventual sloppy revelation that’s just not as tight nor as compelling as the first book.
First, we have themes of sexuality in this book, something arguably not appropriate for the young children to whom it is pitched. We have a drag witch (a fey who made a few guest appearances alongside our favorite ghost in the first book) narrating the games, some witches using they/them pronouns, and then Valley’s star-crossed lesbian love affair. Regardless of your stance on these items, it’s fair to say that they are polarizing and not appropriate for 12-year-olds. They, however, make up the thrust of the story. It’s preaching. Preaching that gets old and is heavy handed. As a Christian myself, these were all worldviews aimed at children that I also cannot support. If you’re interested in the whys and whereofs of that, I recommend a book called The Right to Be Christian in a Gay Rights America by Elreta Dodds.
Once we get past the book’s heavy-handed worldview pushing, the characters don’t feel as warm here. They are literarily floating away from one another, after all that tension and worldbuilding and overcoming trauma that came in the first book. Despite being in the games, Thorn is barely in the book. Seven is keeping some serious secrets, and Valley is too busy with her girlfriend to care that much about . . .you know . . . someone trying to kill her friend. The warmth and friendship that was so hard won is gone, and we’re stuck with a group of strangers again. A group we don’t like very much.
What is interesting is Seven’s new monster calling. It picks up the darkness from the first book, and leaves room for an interesting sequel. I appreciated the softening of the Nightbeast and the proclaimed kindness to animals. I mean, the Nightbeast rocks.
The who-dunnit here is also a bit rushed, and honestly, I couldn’t figure out who the end perpetrator was. I know it was someone we met earlier in the book, but this person seemed more like a side character. I also didn’t fully understand the person’s connection with the original villains from the first book. While I appreciated some of the subterfuge around the perp, the end reveal was nowhere near that of Witchlings and I left confused. Who did what? Why?? It still wasn’t clear.
The conclusion finally ends on a sad note; a very, very sad note. Obviously, it’s going to be picked up in a sequel, but this time it’s too much of a downer. I don’t read middle grade fiction much, but I admit I was looking forward to not being depressed and darn it if they didn’t go and depress me!!
I’ll probably read the next book in the series. The writing is good and there is some imaginativeness here, plus the Audible narrator has some series storytelling skills. However, I don’t think this is a good book for children, based on the reasons above about hardcore pushing of sexual agendas. At the very least, if you have a mature child who wants to read this, you’re going to need to read it with them and have some discussions. Parental discretion advised.
– Frances Carden
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