Monday, July 24, 2017

ARC Review: The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol
The Apprentice Witch
By James Nicol
Chicken House
Format: Print ARC
Source: Publisher
Publication Date: July 25, 2017

To Sum It Up: After failing her evaluation to become a full-fledged witch, Arianwyn Gribble remains an apprentice. She is assigned to the town of Lull to assist the residents there with any magical needs. Lull isn’t as quiet as its name implies, though, as something dark seems to be lurking in the surrounding Great Wood. Not only does it appear more and more likely that Arianwyn will ultimately have to face whatever is out there, even as an apprentice, but she’s also troubled by a mysterious glyph that makes her spells go awry.

Review: It’s quite difficult for me not to compare every middle grade magic book I read to a certain series that turned 20 this year about a certain boy wizard, especially when it comes to its appeal to readers of all ages. I try to keep my mind as open as possible, otherwise I probably wouldn’t be able to pick up books about witches, wizards, and the like again, and there’s just something irresistible about the possibility that magic exists.

Poor Arianwyn Gribble flunks her evaluation exam to be recognized as a fully qualified witch and is stuck at the apprentice level. Although she receives an assignment to help the town of Lull with tasks like dealing with unfriendly magical creatures, it’s not much of a consolation to Arianwyn, especially since her grandmother is a very prominent witch. Arianwyn is a very relatable heroine; she tries so hard to prove that she’s ready for the next step up in rank, but fate just keeps seeming to throw a wrench in her efforts. Readers will quickly find themselves cheering her on to succeed.

One of my favorite aspects of The Apprentice Witch was its magical creatures, even the pesky ones like snotlings. The vivid descriptions of the creatures were also one of the novel’s strong points; they were what truly made me feel like I’d been whisked away to another world.

Unfortunately, another area of the world-building was not quite on the same level. There’s mention of a war going on and Arianwyn’s father is off fighting in it, but the book doesn’t go into further detail about it. Lull is the novel’s focal point, and that’s fine, but I couldn’t help being curious about what was happening outside of the town.

Something else that became a bit distracting was the book’s quite liberal use of exclamation points in the dialogue. After a while, they lost some of their effectiveness because they kept popping up.

The book’s plot is fairly straightforward and doesn’t deviate much from its projected path. There is a certain charm, however, in watching Arianwyn gradually settle into her new life in Lull and into her new duties as its apprentice witch. Anyone who’s ever searched for a sense of belonging is sure to find a kindred spirit here in Arianwyn.

All in All: Younger readers will likely find Arianwyn’s adventures thrilling, but for me as an adult reader, they were missing a little something to make them as compelling as some other middle grade books have been.


  1. Hy! New visitor here :) Omg I totally understand about comparing middle grade book to Harry Potter! I do that all the time :P I compare MG books with Percy Jackson series too! HP and PJO are according to me, two of the best MG series ever written :) Oh I'm sad about the kind of poor world building but yay for all the magical creatures :) The premise interests me despite the little shortcomings..great review :D

    1. Thank you! :D I've only read the first Percy Jackson book, but I immediately understood why the series has so many fans! This book wasn't quite up there with HP and The Lightning Thief for me, but younger readers probably won't mind some of the things that I did.


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