I have always been very interested in stories about witches. My Halloween costume for about ten years straight was a witch. Well, technically a witch or a vampire — I had a black robe, and worse similar makeup for both. It was pretty much up to the people passing out candy to decide which one they thought I was, once I’d lost my witch hat. I think part of my interest is that witches are just unusual enough to appeal to my interest in fantasy, but also almost realistic enough that they seem possible to exist in the real world. They also tend to be a lot less scary than other supernatural beings, so some books involving witches were creepy enough without haunting me like most horror books do.
I was surprised to find how few books involving witches I’d actually read considering they are some of my favourite characters. Actually, one of my earliest favourite books was No Such Thing as a Witch by Ruth Chew, a book about two children who believe their next-door neighbour might be a witch. I loved this book and read it so many times, and I especially loved how the magic in it revolved around animals. Maggie, the witch in this story, gave the children enchanted fudge which let them understand animal language and even turn into animals themselves. I used to think it would be so much fun to have those abilities!
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
I think this is completely a cliched and obvious choice for this week’s topic, but I just couldn’t write about my favourite books involving witches without including my true favourite. Aside from the absolute wonder of the wizarding world and how intricately that was created, the witches in this series are incredible. Aside from Hermione, you have amazing characters like Professor McGonagall, Molly Weasley, and even the horrific Dolores Umbridge, easily one of the scariest villains I’ve ever read. The witches in this series are powerful women, and this series is also a prime example of how easy it can be to believe that these people might really live among us.
2) Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
I actually like the stage version of this story better than the book, but it is still a very interesting retelling/prequel of the Wizard of Oz, focus on Elphaba, a green-skinned child who will grow up to become the Wicked Witch of the West. This book backtracks to her early childhood to show us how she became so “wicked.” The book consists of quite a bit of political and social commentary, and it is very different from the stage version. I was actually very hesitant to see the musical in the first place. A friend once had an extra ticket and invited me along, and I very reluctantly accepted. At the time, I knew very little about the story and had no interest in seeing it. I’m so glad I decided to go, since it is now one of my all-time favourite musicals! The book is a lot slower-paced and a lot more intense to get through, but still a very interesting story.
3) The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
This was another of the earliest witch stories I’ve ever read, and one of my first favourite books. The White Witch was such an intimidating villain when I first read the book. I’m sure most of us are familiar with the story, but on the off-chance anyone is not, this book is about a group of four siblings who discover a world called Narnia through their wardrobe. This world is currently stuck in a permanent winter due to The White Witch, and one where Christmas is never celebrated. She establishes a cruel reign over her subjects, turning them into stone when they disobey, and banned humans from Narnia due to a prophecy that she would be overthrown by two girls and two boys. I thought The White Witch was such an interesting villain, and especially how she tried to use her influence to capture the children. I still really love this book!
4) Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult
I wanted to include this book because it covers a different kind of witch story, more along the lines of the Salem Witch Trials. While there are no “true” witches in this book, there are teenage girls who have an interest in the occult and consider themselves witches, experimenting with Wicca. The book is about a teacher named Jack who has been falsely accused of an inappropriate relationship with a student, and who moves to Salem Falls for a fresh start after serving his sentence. His past quickly becomes public knowledge, and the girls take an interest in him, eventually accusing him of sexually assaulting one, Gillian, during a Beltane celebration. This book was interesting because it was a modern take on the Salem Witch Trials, a period in history I’ve always found fascinating.
5) Uprooted by Naomi Novik
I debated for a while whether to classify Agnieszka as a witch, but I think she could qualify. This book takes place in a village surrounded by a corrupted Wood, which is protected by a wizard known as the Dragon. Every 10 years, the Dragon demands a young woman to be handed over to serve him in exchange for protection from the Wood. Agnieszka was such an amazing character and I thought the magic system in this world was really creative and well-done. I love stories about characters who are learning to use magic and finding out about how their spells work. This has definitely been one of my favourite books of the year so far.
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