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Title: Born Wicked. Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. 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. 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.
Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other. When her mother dies, fourteen year old Cate Cahill is faced with an enormous responsibility. Cate has promised her mother that she will take care of her two younger sisters, protecting them from the watchful, dangerous notice of The Brotherhood. While many women simply disappear or are arrested under baseless accusations, Cate has an even greater reason to fear the Brotherhood — because she and her younger sisters Maura and Tess are all witches of extreme power.
As Cate nears her seventeenth birthday, the danger facing her family reaches a frightening peak. You see, before turning seventeen, each girl must formally declare her intent to marry and announce her husband , or her intent to join the Sisterhood the devout female counterpart of the Brotherhood. For Cate, the thought of leaving her brash younger sisters behind unprotected is just as terrifying as the thought of marrying — even if she feels attraction towards two eligible young men.
Born Wicked is a strange mix of a book; a melange of genres and ideas. On the one hand, it is a young adult novel set in an alternate version of post- Crucible -esque New England, playing on the familiar Hawthorne themes of gender and sexuality, and religious zeal and witchcraft. On the face of it, I love the idea of Born Wicked and this intoxicating blend of themes and issues. In practice, however, Born Wicked falters in execution, making one of the common errors in the new wave of YA dystopias: being thematically simplistic and obvious.
The themes of oppression and power and the examination of such a misogynistic society could have been wonderful, engaging food for thought, but there is no subtlety or grace in the presentation of this society. We are told over and over again that The Brotherhood is twisted, hypocritical and evil; we see women arrested and incarcerated without due process. These are all great points and fodder for discussion, but the hamfisted way these ideas are repeated in the book comes off as clumsy and obvious.
This explication of a society in which people are behaving in absolutes is not achieving anything new. Readers — especially young adult readers! We can pick up on subtlety. Beyond the dystopian-esque elements, however, there are also the historical and fantastical elements to the world.
And, while I like and appreciated the diverse cast, I am disappointed that while people may have been Japanese, for example, they are oddly bereft of Japanese culture, language, or religious beliefs. And then, of course, there are the characters and the storyline overall. My largest complaint from a storytelling perspective is how nothing happens in this book.
I wish there could have been less time spent on tea parties and requisite love-triangle-ing, and more time spent on the actual meat and potatoes of the story. The most compelling character arcs, in my opinion, are the tensions between Cate and her sisters. THIS is what saved the book for me, especially in the later chapters. I love that the bond between sisters is portrayed as a volatile, complicated thing — even for those sisters that love each other.
Cate is so doggedly determined to protect her younger sisters that her lack of trust in them hurts their relationships, and there is going to be hell to pay in the next volume. This tension, together with a few nice twists at the end, save this book from banality and nudge it up into entertaining territory.
Tess runs ahead of me, heading for the rose garden—our sanctuary, our one safe place. Her slippers slide on the cobblestones, the hood of her gray cloak falling to reveal blonde curls. I glance back at the house. Tess is safe. She waits ahead, kicking at the dead leaves 21SR1Lbeneath a maple. The Brotherhood would probably ban autumn if they could. Too sensuous. Tess points to the clematis climbing up the trellis.
Their petals are brown and crumbling, their tired heads bowing toward the ground. I realize what she intends a scant second before she acts. Thea James is half of the maniacal book review duo behind The Book Smugglers.
By day, she does digital operations things over at Penguin Random House. Thank you for your rant about the sledgehammer technique. As soon as a book YA or otherwise pulls it out, I want to throw it against the wall. Readers — teenagers, kids, adults etc. Well, unless your idea of engagement is to throw books against the wall which I do not condone. Think of the WALL. Poor things have enough problems. Thank you! I was so looking forward to this book and I love the premise, but the execution and Cate led me to put this down unfinished.
The world building also really grated on me. You stated it perfectly. I completely agree with you! Around the world, teens and young adults are doing the same, and have been for a long time.
Small Review — Thanks so much! Hopefully the next book will be better? We shall see. I cannot express enough how much I love […]. Is there really going to be a movie about this? I really hope so. Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed. Review: When her mother dies, fourteen year old Cate Cahill is faced with an enormous responsibility.
I miss her. Especially about my sisters. For now. By Thea. March 23, at am YES! Small Review March 25, at pm Yes! Thea March 31, at am Thanks for all the comments, folks! And sorry for being late to the party…again Katherine H — Thanks for the rec!
I will check it out! The wall is in pain, people! Book Review: Silence by Michelle Sagara The Book Smugglers May 2, at pm […] different animal, posing questions and leaving them tantalizingly unanswered, trading the overt sledgehammer technique for a more subtle technique. Follow booksmugglers on Instagram Unable to communicate with Instagram.
'Born Wicked' trailer from Jessica Spotswood
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