FICTION

Curse of the Night Witch

Sourcebooks. (Emblem Island: Bk. 1). Jun. 2020. 352p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781492697206.
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Gr 4-8–Tor Luna has always known how his monotonous life will go. In his home on Emblem Island, people are born with their lifelines written on their hands and an emblem (a gift) on their skin. Tor’s leadership emblem and smooth-fated lifeline motivates him to ask the wish-gods on New Year’s Eve for a new power. Instead, Tor is cursed with a wicked marking that drastically shortens his lifeline. Teaming up with his best friend Engle and clever classmate Melda, Tor begins a journey across the island in search of the one person who can change his fate, the Night Witch. Aster kicks off a new series encompassed in a Latin American myth-based world. The story line is embellished with excerpts from The Book of Cuentos, Emblem Island’s ancient text, to expand on the islanders’ lore while subtly foreshadowing future events. The vibrant detail given to each village Tor travels through (like a phosphorescent jungle or formidable Amazonian giantesses) provides rich scenery that is a delight to imagine. Embedded in Tor’s cross-island trek are a multitude of life lessons, such as accepting failure, asking for help, practicing humility, and finding honest people. Discerning readers may spot the final twist early, though this won’t dampen the ending as it unravels.
VERDICT A fast-paced island adventure with enough quirks to entice most young fantasy readers.

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