Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Book Review: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

It's been a while since I've had the chance to read a book. Really read it, not chasing through a couple of chapters a night, but actually getting lost in another world for hours on end. I suppose you can say I had a reader's block, and I'm very happy I'm out of it. Thanks to Born Wicked.

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.
Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.
If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.

Cate Cahill and her sisters have always been different. They are witches, like their mother. After her death, Cate has taken care to hide the whispered spells from everyone - including their own father. The burden heavy on her shoulder, Cate misses her mother. Then she discovers her mother didn't quite tell her everything... She didn't only keep her secret from the world, she was also keeping secrets from Cate. Cate works to unravel the mystery her mother's death left and desperately holds on to the only leads she has. However, Cate has only a few months to make a decision, one that will alter her life forever: announce her engagement to a suitor or join the Sisterhood. In this world girl and women do not have freedom.

This story takes place in America around the 1900's. It's not only a historical novel, it obviously has a few paranormal things going on as well. The witchcraft, the magic, it was entwined with the world Cate lives in perfectly. Spotwood's writing fits that world, it has a classy, old and somewhat tense feeling. The story is a bit slow at times, but Cate's interesting descriptions and thoughts kept me interested.

I found Cate to be a likeable character overall. She has promised to keep her sisters safe, silently teaches them magic as their mother would have done. She has developed an aversion of magic due to this constant responsibiliy, middle sister Maura hates her for it. Cate has taken a lot of responsibilities and underneath her calm face a bright and stubborn spirit is visible.
The difference between the sisters is remarkable. Responsible and quiet Cate, she doesn't resemble the fiery and reckless Maura at all. Maura who considers the magic as a beautiful gift and feels trapped. Tess, the youngest sister, is a girl wise beyond her years. She is sweet and eager to learn, always supportive of Cate. Both are intriguing in their own ways and make the reader wonder about their parts in the prophecy. The final chapters really got me by surprise, it also got me thinking. Who is the strongest sister?
Elena, Finn and Paul kept the story interesting. Elena, the governess assigned to find Cate a suitor, appears to be quite different to what Cate had expected. The whole Sisterhood, for that matter.
Finn and Paul, ah. Paul, Cate's childhood friend and suitor. A man she can only love as a friend. Finn, the bookseller's son and Cate's new gardener. The boy she grows to love. Considering Cate's final choice I am curious to see what further role Finn will play in the story. He is a member of the Brotherhood, which means he might be able to get closer to Cate.
Cate doesn't want to be a weapon, and she doesn't want to involve her friends and Finn in the Sisterhood's schemes.
He will be part of it, and look at this message posted by Jessica Spotswood. There's more kissing, so more Finn? I sure hope so, I'm rather fond of Finn as well!
Well, I'm rather fond of it, but also rather biased. I hope it lives up to my goal to be "brutal + awesome, with kissing."

There are some minor things in the plot I would have liked to see differently though. According to a prophecy, Cate is the most powerful witch to walk the earth. If so, how is it possible her sisters have both overshadowed her magic since their talent manifested. Until Cate learns about the prophecy she keeps telling us how her 12-year-old sister can do magic she could only wish for. The change in her power is too sudden after the revelation of the strongest sister.
Also, Cate is warned not to raise suspicion because they are with three, three sisters who are known to be 'different'. A lot of girls have been taken away already, often girls with two other sisters. Why didn't the Brotherhood think about taking these sisters? Is it because their father is a well-respected scholar? Surely that shouldn't change a thing, as witchcraft is still witchcraft and forbidden. I hope I'll get my answers in Star Cursed, Born Wicked's sequel, which will be released later this year.

A magical story set in an older world. It definitely has the fairytale like feeling I love to see in books, certainly a must-read for those who are anything like me. I can't wait to get my hands on Star Cursed!

My rating of this book

ARC kindly provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Other links
Find this book on Goodreads
Visit Jessica Spotwood's website here


  1. Lovely review, Sylke! I've been suffering from "reader's block" too lately. I got a copy of Born Wicked ages ago but never got around to reading it- I'll have to change that now though! Glad you enjoyed it.

    Nicola x

    1. Thanks. Reader's block is terrible, I'm glad I have gotten rid of mine. This is definitely a nice book and got me out of it.
      I hope you'll enjoy it!

  2. Wow, great review, sounds like a fantastic read. Will definitely look it up.

  3. Thank you! It sure is, I hope you'll enjoy it.

  4. Sylke maybe your questions will be answered in Star Cursed, but I did wonder why the girls didn't raise suspicions considering the whole 3 sisters, but from memory I thought that Elena thought they may start raising suspicions and that's when Cate joined the Sisterhood.

    1. I certainly hope so. Elena did say they had to make sure not to attract attention yes, but it's already a miracle the Brotherhood didn't think of them before she arrived. I suppose we'll see what happpens in Star Cursed, the publication date is less that 3 weeks away :)


Thank you for sharing your thoughts =)