ARC Review: Witch Dance by Elizabeth Burgess

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]Rating: 4/5

Release Date: April 26th, 2016 for eBook; April 22nd, 2016 for paperback

Length: 374 pages

Source: eARC from the author

Amazon | Goodreads 

Centuries ago, The Cailleach entrusted the Hopewell Coven with the honor of guiding the Apacik Indians, a Native American tribe hailing from the Mississippi Flatwoods. Natural-born Healers, the Apacik’s innate ability, to either restore the sick or inflict pain upon the healthy, made them vulnerable and desperate for clear direction about how to use their gift. The Hopewells could advise them, instruct them, even befriend them, but under no circumstances could they fall in love. Pure bloodlines were essential to power, and as the Supreme Order of Witches, The Cailleach demanded all their members marry within covens.

Birthed out of the forbidden marriage between an Apacik man and a Celtic witch, fifteen-year-old Starling Hopewell is the only one of her kind. A half-breed. The Cailleach never allow her or her parents to forget it. Because of her mother’s position as leader of the Hopewells, Starling is allowed to train for Elementals, testing that will confirm if she is worthy to enter their Order, but evil lingers. Within The Cailleach—dark magick infiltrates its leader and its Elders—and will stop at nothing to bring the half-breed down.
Four trials. Four elements. Four weeks to master them all.
Embrace Destiny. Face the Fire.

Thank you to Elizabeth for sending me a copy to read and review!

Witch Dance was an interesting read. It started a bit slow, but picked up pretty early on and from that point on was difficult to put down. The pacing is great with enough action to keep you interested, but with slower scenes to help you see the characters and their relationships with each other too.

To me, the characters were more or less the highlight of the story. First of all, I loved having a mixed race main character. I especially loved that Starling draws strength from both sides of her heritage, rather than forfeiting one for the other. Under the circumstances, it would have been easy for her to try to disregard her Native American heritage and just focus on her Celtic side of the family, but she never does this. She doesn’t let the witches in the Cailleach let her feel bad about her heritage either – throughout her training/testing she incorporates aspects of her Apacik heritage, much to the dismay of her grandmother and other fellow witches.

There was so much tension and conflict between the characters which I adored. There are a few characters who are portrayed as suspicious right off the bat by all the characters and others who are sometimes portrayed as suspicious, but sometimes not. Throughout the whole story, I found myself wanting to know who was trustworthy and who was not, what the motives were for characters, what they were up to, etc. (and fear not, the ending is quite satisfying).

As someone who could not get much whiter than I am, I can’t say much about the representation of the Native Americans. I didn’t notice any glaring issues other than that I thought it was a bit weird for Starling to be portrayed as “half-Native, half-witch” because it made it seem as though Native Americans are fictional like witches, which is obviously not the case. I’d be very interested to see what some Native readers thought of the representation, as I am wholly unqualified to make any real conclusions on that front.

Although I did enjoy Witch Dance overall, it wasn’t perfect. The plot was fun but wasn’t totally original. The whole premise of a teenage girl finding out she’s this crucial character at the center of a prophecy and having to go through some sort of test is honestly pretty common. It didn’t bother me very much (or at all, really) but was something that I noticed and figured I would point out for you all. Even though I feel like the whole “trials” plot is common, I still really enjoyed seeing Starling navigate her Elementals and excel with her powers despite people not believing she could be successful.

Similarly, there were a couple of YA cliches in here. Again, the whole “main character is the Chosen one who is the only person capable of completing the prophecy” is a common theme among YA fantasy books. The romance between her and her love interest wasn’t exactly “instalove” (by my standards, anyway) but it was still pretty quick and within a few chapters they were both willing to basically do whatever it took to protect the other (Starling’s love interest more so than Starling herself). The romance between them also just seemed way too intense at times for it to be believable. I’m not really sure how to describe it, but there were a few lines where I literally rolled my eyes. I couldn’t picture a couple saying these things to each after being together for years, much less a couple of only a few weeks.

Oh, one more thing that I liked: there were all sorts of helpful/interesting things included at the end. There was a glossary of Apacik and Celtic words that are used throughout the book, a little “character guide” type of thing, and some other stuff. I didn’t really read through it yet, but I plan on going back and taking a look. I think this would be much more helpful and useful if you had a physical copy rather than an eBook.

This was a fun and often relatively intense read. If you like books with suspicious characters or are a fan of paranormal/fantasy, I would definitely recommend this. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in book 2 (and need to go back and read the excerpt that was included at the end of the book).


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