Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch, by Julie Abe

I have decided that my one of favorite sub-genres of middle grade fantasy is "kids with magical powers being responsible for a field of care, and their struggles along the way." This is not yet a huge sub-genre.  There's Tiffany Aching, of Discworld, arguably The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane, and The Apprentice Witch series, by James Nicol, The Dark Lord Clementine, by Sarah Jean Horwitz, and now Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch, by Julie Abe (Little Brown, August 2020).

Eva's magic was slow to show itself, and has never been very strong; not nearly as strong as her powerful mother's.  But in a land where magic was growing less common every generation, it was still enough (barely) for Eva to qualify as an apprentice witch.  Like all apprentices, Eva is sent on a  journey to the town that needs her, with a ticket that will let her know which town is hers.  But Eva falls asleep, and when she wakes up, the ships she's on has reached its last stop, and her ticket is gone.  So this ocean town, for better or worse, is going to get her as its witch.

The mayor certainly wanted a witch, one with strong magic who could protect the town against the yearly storms that have been bringing disaster to the country.  She doesn't want Eva, who has to jury-rig her magic by bolstering it with real world things (enchanting seaweed to make boulders slippery enough to be pushed aside, instead of whisking them away with magic).  But she lets Eva stay, and agrees to sign her apprentice papers if she can keep the town safe from this year's storm.

And so Eva acquires a cottage to live in, a flamefox cub to look after, and some friends, and sets up a semi-magical repair shop.  As she desperately tries to think of ways to keep the town safe, she comes to realize that though her magic might not be the most powerful ever, it can certainly do lots when combined with ingenuity, imagination, and a gift for repairing things!

It's lots of fun, with just the right amount of tension to keep things interesting, while still be being a relaxing read. Eva's lack of confidence in her gifts, and her realization that there's no one path to success, is a comfortable message for kids to hear, and they will love her magical fixes.  Eva herself is still middle school aged, and like the target audience is not only working out who she is as a person, but how to be a good friend, making her very relatable.   And her flamefox, though destructive, adds a nice bonus touch of cute!

And like I said above, this is a "field of care" book, so the town and its setting and its people all become very nicely real!  So much so that although I hope there are more books about Eva, I'm a little rueful that they probably won't be set right there again....

Do let me know if you can think of other books of this sub-genre of magical kids responsible for fields of care!  (Field of care  is a term coined by the great humanistic geographer Yi-Fu Tuan (Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. 1977. University of Minnesota Press), meaning that places can't be reduced to their physical landmarks, but are rather made rich and complex and entwinned with people's lives by being cared about, and cared for....)

NB:  Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch is eligible for the Cybils Awards this year in the Elementary/Middle Grade speculative fiction category, and has yet to be nominated!  I can't nominte all the 100 or so I've read so far this year that I really love, so please do go nominate this, or some other great EMG Spec book from the past year!

1 comment:

  1. I have been wanting to read this, and am also really hoping that someone nominates it so that reading it will become a must!


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