(Review by Reecey.)
So, when I wrote that editorial about Hermione in June (Why I Liked Hermione Granger (And Why I Hate Her Now)), I mentioned Old Magic. I also said I might review it one day.
Today is that day.
First, a quick note, I said the protagonist lived in New Zealand, actually, it was Australia.
To be fair, it was a long time when I last read this book through to completion. Although, I read my physical copy into tatters, so you may still judge me harshly if you wish. You have that right.
Let’s begin with the most important thing about this book;
Kate Warren is an absolutely horrendous person.
She is one of the most bitchy, shallow, judgemental and (worst of all as far as I’m concerned) pretentious characters in fiction.
She has, as previously stated, a grand total of one friend. No one else likes her, and that’s because she’s a total cow!
Kate claims she has no friends because everyone in the community thinks her grandmother is a witch and are ‘guessing’ that she’s one too.
Reading the book makes it totally apparent that most people in the town either don’t care about her and her gran, or are mostly fine with them.
The only people we hear really talking smack about them are all Kate’s age.
As in, they’re all in her class at school and probably grew up with her.
Yeah, they hate her and have taken to bad mouthing her gran because they know it upsets her.
The whole witch thing is probably born of Kate running her mouth as a child, and since she’s so judgemental and convinced she’s better than literally everyone around her they never saw the need to let it go.
Oh, and one of the things that Kate is intensely bitter about is people apparently thinking that Jillian will curse them.
By the way, she thinks about cursing people (including her only friend) a startlingly large amount.
So, yeah, I’m willing to bet that she’s the reason why anyone would really think that in the first place. She probably threatened to curse someone when she was little and no one ever let it go, because she’s awful.
Hell, she thinks about cursing people so much that I bet she threatened to do it all the time as a child and was, generally, incredibly creepy.
Still is, if the nickname ‘Scary face’ is anything to go by, since the book really wants you to know how pretty she is.
(By the by, the book really wants you to think she’s exotic with her black hair, pale skin and almond shaped blue eyes. But, well, swap out blue with green and that’s just the standard description of Harry Potter without the scar. Seriously. Also, remember what I said about partially liking Hermione due to physical similarities between us? Yeah, arguably applies more here.)
Everything about this girl screams ‘I’m an awful human being and that’s why no one likes me’.
Particularly, and while this criticism usually makes me want to barf it’s especially apt here, she’s not like other girls.
She hates almost every girl she meets or mentions. The only two she doesn’t are her friend Hannah (who is pitiable because she’s poor) and a random girl named Dia (who is pitiable because she’s stupid).
It feels like most of the first half of the book is dedicated to her issues with other girls. Heck, Murphy looked up reviews of this book on goodreads and one of the quotes made him physically recoil so badly I could hear it over skype.
(Editor's note: I did. I did physically recoil. It was terrible.)
But enough about her for the moment, let us consider the plot.
Kate first meets our leading man, Jarrod, in Chemistry, where resident jock (is this a thing that really exists in Australian schools? I am sceptical, I watched Neighbours, I don’t recall this) Pecs pisses him off to such an extent that he inadvertently summons a localised storm. One that causes him to get his forearm sliced up by a piece of broken glass.
The teacher tells Kate to take him to the medbay, to where actual members of staff would treat his wound. But no, instead she drags him all the way out of school (how the hell she managed that I don’t know) and halfway up a mountain to see her grandmother.
I think this is the most bafflingly irresponsible behaviour I have ever seen in fiction.
I did first aid at school, and let me tell you, ‘head into the rainforest to find a witch’ was not one of the first pieces of advice that they give you when it comes to deep wounds. No, it was more like ‘put pressure on the wound, have them hold it above their heart if possible and walking tours of the Australian countryside are generally a bad idea’.
So, I was saying earlier that Kate is incredibly judgemental and really quite creepy, right?
Well, just after this dragging an injured boy to the forest, she takes him to the place she was conceived! On purpose!
Because isn’t that what you want from medical treatment? Way, way too much information about the weird girl who calls herself a witch and whose grandmother shrieked at you the first time you met? (Kate was, of course, totally unsympathetic to that freaking Jarrod out. Because she’s the worst.)
Anyway, to cut some overwrought eighties US high school drama short, it turns out that Jarrod is a magical boy with great potential (he’s essentially a god) and his family was cursed eight hundred years ago by some intensely powerful sorceror.
There are two ways of dealing with this, killing the guy who cursed him or going back in time and preventing the curse.
They try the latter and end up doing the former.
That’s it, really. That’s your plot.
Okay, sure, there’s other stuff in there, like the villain, Rhauk.
Oh, Rhauk. Never has there been a character that has ‘I am vaguely aware of the character of Edmund from King Lear, but don’t understand why he exists or what he means as a character’ written all over him in such large glowing letters.
He is, and I kid you not, the bastard son of a lord who turns on his own family for disowning him. He also can turn into a crow, curses people into perpetuity, wears all black, has a red fake lightsaber and unironically calls the protagonist ‘my pretty’.
He’s also apparently clever enough to outwit Kate at every turn, but also not smart enough to realise that she’s not actually together with the guy he twigged she wasn’t together with the first time they met?
Honestly, I think the only reason he doesn’t follow that train of thought to its logical conclusion is so he doesn’t sexually assault Kate.
Their relationship could have been interesting, instead it’s incredibly ham fisted and comes with several layers of implication that may be cleverly obscured, or totally accidental.
I’m gonna go with the latter to be on the safe side, though.
Look, I have more to complain about here, but I’m running low on the old word count, so consider this first part the review and the second part will be an editorial about a specific part of Kate’s character with a catchy title.
Final thoughts; really bad, don’t read it unless unexamined jealous streaks and generally being awful are what you look for in a protagonist.