The Witch’s Boy

Sometimes, a book is not merely a book. It is a Book.

The Witch’s Boy is, unfortunately, not one of those books. But maybe that’s okay.


The Witch’s Boy

  • Author: Kelly Barnhill
  • Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
  • Year: 2014
  • Genre Vibe: Fantasy, adventure story, bandits and thieves and kings and magic
  • At a Glance: Ned’s brother died that day they tried to build a raft to take them to the sea. Ever after, Ned can’t speak without a stammer, read without the letters flying off the page, or smile. Until Plot Stuff starts to happen, that is.

If there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s excitement. So when the Usual Suspect (aka Snifferblog) practically exploded over this book (he’s fine, by the way), I couldn’t help but see what all the fuss was about.

The catch: I cannot do middle grade.

The exception: This book is not something that belongs in that section.

The worst part: This book truly belongs in that section.

Let’s face it: The Witch’s Boy is beautiful, on the outside. Cover-for-cover, it’s amazing. It promises depth, color, and richness. It promises story. It’s incredibly pleasing to hold in your hands. The problem? That’s most of the reason I was able to finish it at all. The Witch’s Boy is…dull.

Here is a thing you probably know about me: I enjoy books that spill their freaking guts. This is a thing that follows all of my favorite books around.

However, it is not a requirement for a good book. This facet of literature is so subjective and far-fetched that it’s not even something that can be adequately talked about. And if every book were like that–well, that’s pretty obviously a bad idea.

The Witch’s Boy does not spill much of anything besides some blood. It is, for a middle grade, kind of intense. But it’s more the idea of intensity than anything else. That’s the thing that stuck with me out of this book–the idea of a lot of things in here are truly incredible. The magic genuinely scared me at times. The ill-raised boy-king broke my heart. The way the main characters grew up was fantastic.

But I only saw it happen. I didn’t really get to experience it. The atmosphere that, I think, is an inherent quality for a YA story wasn’t there, because this isn’t YA. And while I think the story suffered for its sort of underrepresentation, so to speak–this book was great.

The ingenuity of Witch’s Boy is something I haven’t seen in a long time. The bending of character tropes, the ideas behind it all, the feeling that Barnhill truly knew what she was talking about. It all made for a truly wonderful journey that I think a lot of people can get excited about.

So while I may have merely been an observer for The Witch’s Boy–I’m not the person this book was written for: it was written for people like Snifferblog. I’m proud to know that, and glad to have it on my shelf.

Because, really–it’s easy on the eyes.

So, overall:

  • Rating: 3/5 stars
  • Recommended to: Adventurers of all ages that can see the beauty in simplicity and have a roaring imagination to fill in the gaps.
  • Lasting Impression: Oh the age of the stones. Oh the things they have seen.


If you didn’t like this post for either

a.) Its overuse of colons and em-dashes

b.) Its opinions

Check out Snifferblog’s, because it is superior.




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