Books and book reviews

‘Witch and Wizard’ wasn’t Wonderful (Review)

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[amazon_link id=”0446562432″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ][/amazon_link]As Young Adult Literature goes, Witch and Wizard by James Patterson is pretty doggoned good. As Harry Potter inspired urban fantasy, also pretty doggoned good (and enough different that I’m almost being unfair). As Mary Sue and Gary Stu lit, it’s right up there with the best of fanfic. But see, that was the trouble for me.

I really wanted to love, love, love Witch and Wizard. The Perpetually Grounded Son kept selling me on it as being the best book ever (or of the week he read it, anyhow) and I wanted to validate his taste. I can – sort of – but there were flaws (big ones) in the book that kept my enjoyment from being complete.

First, the good stuff. Great concept for a universe, great concept for a dystopian political system (essentially a one-world techno-religious fascism), and likeable characters. The brother and sister of the title, Whitmore (Whit) and Wisteria (Wisty) Allgood are 17 and 15 years old, love each other, and complement each others’ viewpoints throughout the book. The prose was not beautiful and lyrical, but it was workmanlike and effective.

Now, my issues with the book. Let’s start with Mary Sue and Gary Stu. (These are fanfic terms that refer to a main character that appears to be author wish fulfillment of uber-perfection) Wisty and Whit start out the story ‘ordinary’ (though very attractive) teens, but every single chapter, they develop new special powers to help them out of the very problem they just ran into.

I don’t mind a little railroading to get the characters into the meat of the plot – but railroading through the meat is lazy writing. I’ve not read a lot of James Patterson’s books, so I don’t know if he always does this or if success has gone to his head and he didn’t bother with his best.

See, this is the thing. It’s fine for your main characters in a fantasy story to be exceptional in terms of supernatural abilities. That’s what makes them main characters, sometimes. But if in every other way they’re, well, a little on the dull side… you know what they say about polishing a turd, right? Not that Wisty and Whit are awful. They’re not. They’re just boring.

And one other note. Put some flipping foreshadowing in if you’re going to have a major plot turn around a character’s out of character behavior. You’re not O Henry. Mystery and suspense writers should know better – readers get pissed if they get no hint and are taken completely by surprise.

So, yeah, pick up Witch and Wizard at the library and read it. It has a great hook, and the story is interesting to keep the pages turning (I read it in about three hours). But no, I probably wouldn’t jump up right now and run to the store to make sure I got the sequel.

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