The Black Witch by Laurie Forest
Welp, you knew this was going to happen at some point. The Black Witch came out and one of our tribe got a copy at BookCon. I know there was a metric fuckton of drama over this book but I like to check things out for myself.
What I drank: wine wine wine wine wine while burning through some DVR. Have you watched Floribama shore? You should, it is GOLD. Oh also The Soup is back and it’s on netflix yoire welcome.
Plot: Uh…older Hogwarts in a made up world? Elloren (Harry) raised knowing exactly dickall about University (Hogwarts), where she makes friends and theres a prophecy that maybe is about her or maybe Cedric (or Neville. Except substitute a girls name) and she frees a house elf. Sorry, I mean a different magical creature that definitely isnt being treated like a house elf. At all.
reviewers next day note: I read THE damning review this morning, after I wrote mine last night. All I will say is shes not completely off base with some of her comments, but a lot of what shes critiquing is a problem through fantasy in general; Black Witch is just an easy target.
Look you’ve allllllllllllllllllllll heard about this book. I started reading reviews and had to stop, bc I want this to be my POV and not just a response to other peoples opinions.
SO. DID I LIKE THIS BOOK? Not really, buuuuut
WAS IT RACIST/HOMOPHOBIC/WHAT HAVE YOU? NO
THE ABOVE AS IT PERTAINS TO ELLOREN? She is at the beginning but she shows change. Slow, uneven, not-enough change, but it’s there.
There are a lot of shitbag racists in this book. Also some kindly misguided racists eyeroll. But it’s not just Ellorens garbage Puritan-esque race, its EVERYONE. Every race in the book has beef, and whether its bc of historical or religious or other reasons, what it comes down to is that shit is real complex and awful. (Btw, the obsession ellorens race has w purity is laughable. Only marrying within a ltd pool? That’s never backfired. Good luck w your hemophilia and hapsburg chins.) Elloren is basically a self-appointed, well-intentioned but ill-informed white savior who finally learned about injustice and is taking wibbly wobblybabysteps to fixing it. Aaq11
Also I know I heard ppl call this book homophobic. For real? There are TWO passages that deal w a gay character interacting with Elloren. It wasnt great, but it was mostly “you have to marry a woman or society will murderface you.” What was offensive was that the character seemed only to exist to challenge Ellorens perceptions, BUT THAT IS TRUE OF SEVERAL CHARACTERS. Homophobia? No. Not great use of your characters? ……. although I’d still take this over any modern YA novel where the gay friend exists only as a cool accessory and never gets to explore their sexuality.
All that being said, the cringey offensive thing for me was the Holocaust being straight up appropriated. I’m sure the intent was to draw a comparison of the seriousness of the issue and had only good intentions, but…there is some heavy-handed borrowing–at one point, a race is described as being “rounded up” and then “showered” in a lethal substance to kill them. That’s literally the Holocaust. It wasn’t a great choice.
SO, the book itself? Problematic. The structure is weird. Part 1, before Elloren goes to Univ, feels so rushed it’s like the author didnt even wanted to deal with that part. Pts 2 and 3 both start with a prologue, which is fucking jarring. Theres so much anticipation and little pay off. Who’s gonna bone down with the forbidden fruit of another race? Is elloren gonna fall for the dirtbag guy she “should” be with? Not even a spoiler we all fixking know that girl has magic eventually and shes stopped up. Eat a banana, itll loosen you up.) Its harry potter book 7, but were not wandering in the woods, were still at stupid school cleaning beakers and peeling turnips. NO ONE CARES HEX A BITCH OH WAIT YOU “DONT HAVE MAGIC.” Some characters seem to only 3xist to further elloren, and some just POOF out.
HOW. THE HELL. DO I HAVE TO GET 90% THROUGH BEFORE I SEE A GODDAMN DRAGON WHAT THE SHIT KAREN.
HOW IS ELLORENS MAGIC NOT RELEASED YET FOR DUCKS SAKE.
Oh my God I totally forgot hahahhahahah oh jesus h christ this is “borrowing” so heavily from history, becuase a charismatic leader rises to power and PEOPLE WEAR ARMBANDS TO SHOW THEIR SUUPORT. And then magic hitler-cotton mather mofo immediately starts enacting all these insane laws against other races and I guess to ensure the purity of his own? I skimmed a bit toward the end shrug.
What I gave it: 2.5 stars. It’s just… I’m not here for this book. Its stealing so much from actual history without changing enough details it’s a little embarrassing.
What I would pair it with: icing on the cake, ellorens people dont drink. SURPRISE SURPRISE. Red wine, Cersei-approved