Diving into the Known is a new series contributed by the new addition to the YomM team, Ozhasbooks. Oz will dive into the countless popular books that came out throughout the ages from different genres that surprisingly enough, he didn’t even bother to read yet! Can you believe it? What a dork ;p
A new Black Witch will rise…her powers vast beyond imagining.
Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.
When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.
As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of misfits…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to hate and fear.
My Rating: 3/5
Warnings: Xenophobia, racism, homophobia and religious fanaticism to sexism, bullying, and physical and mental abuse.
“Real education doesn’t make your life easy. It complicates things and makes everything messy and disturbing. But the alternative, Elloren Gardner, is to live your life based on injustice and lies.”
I remember I bought it ages ago when it was on sale, probably back in 2018 I think and didn’t read it. 2018 was kind of a busy year for me, I was finally getting released from the army, my grandma passed away, my father’s girlfriend/partner died and reading became a bit of a escape but also a burden too. I didn’t kept on with the drama of the book world, I couldn’t deal with it so I came a bit late to the party surrounding this infamous little title. How fortunate to me while I was on my vacation in New Zealand and wanted to finish a lot of reads I didn’t manage to do before that one rose up above the others. I was remembering getting it and decided to check people opinions about it, especially my friend, Ruthsic.
The thing is I trust Ruthsic’s taste and word like a bible. She and I are like psychic twins but in this certain topic I wanted to try it regardless of thinking of the implications. I needed to know what was all the fuss in 2017, why people were harassing this author, why ratings were dropping and where all this negativity came from and how come in other platforms then Goodreads like Amazon and other retailers. Something didn’t add up to it all, cause if there’s undeniable hate on this book there has to be a reason, correct? But reviews simply were rated 1 star with no actual reasoning, people didn’t even read the book and just took the word of someone who reviewed it on the net. Now as an actual person who reads books without reading reviews jumping blindly into things I gotta say, IT IS NOT THE MOST ATROCIOUS READ OUT THERE AS PEOPLE MAKE IT TO BE.
Sure, you might be clicking away from this review thinking, “what the hell he knows, he is not hurt by it. It’s offensive because it discuses and encourage toxic notions!” First of, no this book does not support any of those ideas and second did you even read the book? I feel like people immediately judge the Black Witch without giving it the proper chance. You could always try it and DNFed it or just not read it and not start to besmirch it. Laurie Forest clearly wanted to write a tale about a person coming from a sheltered extremely privileged and religious society and learning later on through her time at university and her pursue of education that her world views might not be correctly as she think and her behavior and treatment of other communities and minorities is downright appalling. The book wanted to deliver a good message and simply mishandled it due to the pacing.
Elloren journey was long and reading it was harsh which is exactly the point. You don’t suppose to like her at all. She was grown to be simple minded bigoted that her short upbringings is insulting. Elloren later cross a line and of course learns the error of her ways and tries to become a better person by learning how the real world works, other people culture and history and doing the work. Now all that is good but she still haven’t learn a lot and regardless of how woke she say she is she will never be able to be fully clean of being a Gardnerian (Her people who originally were oppressed and now are the oppressors). Elloren still get moments here and there where her earlier ideology pops out because it is a habit and that makes it more real to me. I do not like Elloren but I see her change and it’s going to be a long run.
The Book is 600 pages and has a basic fantasy plot with a prophecy, politics, people trying to harm Elloren, love triangle, you name it. It is a fine YA Dark Fantasy but I think what I love about this book were the secondary characters. They were all misfits of their own authenticity and each was more complex as Elloren and each with their own problems and Laurie Forest didn’t shy from addressing them. What also helps was how the camaraderie between all of them was growing and the humor, god I don’t I laugh for so long since Aurora Rising. I truly believe Laurie knows how to write, how writing is very detailed and she knows how to create this somber atmosphere this book need.
Now I think the only flaws this book has is of course the material in question and the world building. I’d like to think that originally as a 900 pages book (yes it was planned as a 900 pages book before her editor suggested to split it into the next book; watched an interviewof her explaining that, you should check it out on Crossroad Reviews) and it feels like a major unfinished story, like we needed more time to fully see what will happened. Also I didn’t really feel how dangerous our villains were?? If you going to make a force threatening you have to show it. Hopefully the next book will fix that. As for the religion and racism it truly hit the mark but I think if the company hired sensitivity readers and advised on how to approach these subjects respectfully it would have benefited the book .
The big question is would I recommend The Black Witch? Yes, if you love reading a fantasy book with interesting world lore, compelling characters and complex read then sure. Would I recommend it to someone who might be offended by it? Absolutely not. If you feel uncomfortable to read PoV of a character like Elloren and moments that will strike you too real, then I highly advice you to read another book because it might no be the right cup of tea for you. I’ll suggest for those who are willing to read this book and unwilling or hesitant to check out to read my kindle highlights and notes on Goodreads. Perhaps it will convince you to give it a chance, maybe it’d make you to try away but in the end of the day it’s all your choice and remember, don’t hate a book because of what a community says.
Ruthsic’s take on the book
I have already reviewed this and generally put it out of my mind, but when Oz had highlighted quotes in his Kindle copy, GoodReads notified me (and all of his friends who have the books on their shelves) so I got to kinda skim it all over again (Oz made a LOT of highlights and I didn’t even have to look at my own notes!) It is more an infamous book than a hyped book, but it also makes for a good discussion!
On reading those highlights, my irritation about issues against the books were re-ignited. Like, it reminded me how whiny and privileged I found the protagonist, who was, yes, socially conditioned to believe all the prejudice against the other races, but who also took A WHILE (300 pages, ugh, I could have read another book in that time) to think that ‘hey, maybe most of the other people of my race are dicks’. That hasn’t lessened my hate towards the main character, even if she was slightly reformed by the end of the book.
About the fantasy plot and the world-building, I have already pointed out the plot holes and the lack of direction to this unnecessarily long storyline (oh god, I didn’t know it was supposed to be a 900 page book, I would have so NOPED out and DNF it), so I don’t really need to reiterate that, I guess. Yes, the underlying message is that people are complex and can be better, but white savior tropes or the reformed oppressor who should be lauded tropes are tiresome in a publishing industry that is predominantly white, especially when so much of the world-building in the books relates to real-life history.
The issues in the industry are nearly the same from the time that this book was published to now. Hell, this book got sequels and adequate publicity from the publishing house – resources that could have been directed to more diverse authors. Since then, other PoC authors who had problematic books got cut, re-edited, pulled off the shelves, etc. (which I don’t think was unfair because problematic books should be challenged) but what was unfair is that the same treatment didn’t generally apply to problematic books by white authors. White and privileged authors writing problematic books have kept getting passes (recently see: American Dirt) while possibly awesome fiction by diverse authors who can provide a better perspective of the issues are being sidelined. Sure, it may not be the worst of its kind (I still gave it two stars, soooo) but it is an example of a systemic issue, and so I can’t recommend it.