Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Once a Witch is the kind of book that only every now and again takes you by surprise. I got this after reading some very good reviews of it, but half expected it to just be a rehash of the sort of book that I've read over and over again. It isn't- it's very unique and cool.
Tamsin has grown up in a family of very powerful witches- the only Talentless one in the family for centuries- despite her grandmothers prediction at her birth that Tamsin would be "a beacon for us all". She feels like an outsider, and escapes as much as she can to her dorm room at prep school. When a stranger walks into the family bookshop and mistakes Tamsin for her older sister, Tamsin doesn't correct him, and agrees to try to help him, determined to try and prove herself somehow. This mistake leads to her sister being put under a spell, and a whole series of catastrophic events. Tamsin discovers that her family has been feuding with another family of witches for generations, and that she does have some power after all...
There is also a great cast of characters in this book. It is impossible not to dislike Tamsin's powerful older sister with her superior attitude- especially in contrast to Tamsin who is clumsy and always says the wrong thing (but I like quirky characters). Tamsin is at first desperate to escape her crazy relatives and leave for college and a normal life. She spends as much time as she can with her bizarre school roommate. When Gabriel and his mother return to live with the family again after a period away the story really starts to pick up. Gabriel has turned out well from the little boy who used to tease her, and together they try to fix what has been done. I would have liked to see a litle more between these two and more build up, but I think there will be a bit more romance in the second book Always a Witch as there is now more of a story to build upon.
Overall this is an enjoyable short read. I loved the idea of this big witchy extended family playfully using their powers on each other, and dancing around a bonfire on halloween. It was great to read about a large family that felt united, and that love and support each other (even with the sibling rivalry!). Coupled with bitter rebellious Tamsin, a bit of time-travel, and cute Gabriel thrown in to the mix as well this makes for a fun story.
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