Marie Blackwood lives in a world that contains magic and fear of those who have access to it from those who do not. Although witch hunts are no longer happening as often as they had, and the Church is working with the witches that remain, Marie understands that she is unwanted by most of the population. Because of this she survives on the fringes of her Edinburgh society. Alone until the Church delivers a teenage boy into her care. Theo is delivered in chains and is described as having the “blood of righteous anger.” He has also been alone for most of his life and doesn’t understand his abilities.
His first lesson happens almost immediately after the Church officiants leave. Marie explains that magic is the ability to see and negotiate with spirits. Theo also quickly learns that his power is extremely attractive to spirits, who will try to pressure him into making deals with them for access to his power. Marie is not only teaching him about his magic but also helping him socialize in a variety of social settings. From interacting with a non-magical optician, to eating breakfast in a busy pub, to visiting Paris for a magical convention, Marie and Theo encounter new experiences together along the way.
This did not feel like a first volume of a new series. Although it did explain some of the magic system and provided some historical context for world building purposes, the character development and explanation of key phrases (e.g. blood of righteous anger), when most of the characters clearly know what it means, did not support the plot in an engaging way. This felt more like a spin-off where the author expected the reader to have some knowledge of a different plot or cast of characters and was trying to build on that. However, I did some digging and did not find any related media.
Since I’ve only read the first volume, I’m not sure where the plot or character development spins from here, but I’m hoping that the author focuses on something quickly to keep the reader engaged and wanting more of the story. I did enjoy the magic system and world building that the author shared, but I am more interested in the characters and their growth than just the background they interact with. I do enjoy the art style though, and it is a large component of why I want to read at least volume two. The line art is delicate but strong enough to support a depth of detail that enhances the world building and character design. It feels whimsical enough to support magic effects while holding enough weight to feel like the real world.
This story would appeal to teen readers who enjoy Witch Hat Atelier and The Ancient Magus’ Bride. Based on some of what was presented in the first volume, I expect the story to cover darker themes at some point.
Witch of Thistle Castle, Vol. 1
By John Tarachine
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)