Tuesday 23 April 2013

Review: Weather Witch by Shannon Delany

Weather Witch by Shannon Delany
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Source: Publisher via Netgalley

Synopsis from Goodreads:
In a vastly different and darker Philadelphia of 1844, steam power has been repressed, war threatens from deep, dark waters, and one young lady of high social standing is expecting a surprise at her seventeenth birthday party–but certainly not the one she gets!

Jordan Astraea, who has lived out all of her life in Philadelphia’s most exclusive neighborhood, is preparing to celebrate her birthday with friends, family and all the extravagance they might muster. The young man who is most often her dashing companion, Rowen Burchette, has told her a surprise awaits her and her best friend, Catrina Hollindale, wouldn’t miss this night for all the world!

But storm clouds are gathering and threatening to do far more than dampen her party plans because someone in the Astraea household has committed the greatest of social sins by Harboring a Weather Witch.

This story is set in an alternate version of 1844 Philadelphia, where steam power has been rejected in favour of harnessing the power of witches. It's a very unique and magical ride, and I really liked the witch-hunt idea turned into using them as a source of power. Families reputations could go down depending on whether magic (*gasp*) is found in a family member.

The bad points
I thought that the book had a fantastic concept but I would've liked a little bit more explanation and world-building, as the reader is just dropped in the middle of events in this unfamiliar setting, and I spent a large portion of the book feeling very confused and trying to work out what was happening and who everybody was.

I would have liked a little more explanation, especially with the unfamiliar terminology. Bran is a Maker- but I couldn't tell you what this really means. We are told that Jordan is Fifth of the Nine which is important, but I'm not sure why, and there are sea monsters called merrows which are introduced as a threat part-way through the story and then disappear.

There are also multiple Points of View which took a bit of getting used to as well. This made the story even more confusing to me, as it often felt very disjointed. I never really felt any attachment to any of the characters either. In terms of character development I just never felt like I got to really know and understand any of them because the story jumped around too much.

The good points
What I did like however, was the magic and the mystery in a uniquely almost-fantasy historical setting.  Any books about witches I'm pretty guaranteed to read, as I love the idea of people with special powers and that sense that anything can happen. And this book mixes magic and an alternate vision of the past with an underlying sense of mystery very well. You get the impression that things aren't what they seem, so you want to keep reading to find out the truth.

Main character Jordan goes through such an emotional journey throughout the book- from spoilt rich girl, obnoxious and privileged and superior, to defiant prisoner- and I grew to really admire her bravery. Many of the characters seem such a mystery, but I also grew to like Rowan, who in a very gentlemanly way journeys out to prove Jordan's innocence, and his flawed rescue mission is very endearing. I even rooted for initial bad-guy Bran, whose character alters for the better when he discovers he has a little daughter. It was these little details that helped give the characters that humanity and made everything have a purpose. Parts of the book are very sweet.

Part steampunk, part witches, part historical, part fantasy, Weather Witch has a bit of everything! The ending of this book never completely explains everything or is properly resolved. Nothing is wrapped up at the end which leads me to believe that this is only the first installment in a wider story still to be unravelled.

Magical, atmospheric, and very fresh and different I'd recommend this one to fans of the paranormal, or historical fantasy.

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