by Natalie Whipple
Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.
House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple drew me in with its beautiful cover and a sample of the first paragraph. A curse has been haunting the Hemlock witches, and when a stranger appears at their door the trouble begins. Mini review: While aspects were enjoyable, it was predictable and more suited to a MG audience.
• From the first paragraph, I was drawn into the story, and it rippled with possibilities. The premise is quite good from the Shadow elements to the witches. I loved the enchanted house and land. I was intrigued by the curse and the Hemlock history.
• Josephine Hemlock is a likable character. She was clever and smart with her craft. Her Nana was fierce and at times humorous with her love of pudding.
• The history of the witches was interesting, and I liked Whipple’s take on them. I found myself all excited by the possibilities that lay before us.
• We meet characters whose intentions we are unsure of. There is Winn; the boy Jo is crushing on and Levi, the dark boy who claims he wants to help Jo. There is no love triangle, and the romance was a nice, light and awkward (along the lines of a first crush).
• The spells and magic were fantastic and oddly weird. I loved their house, the attic wards and the spells they conjured. They travel through magic doors and had old enchanted books.
• House of Ivy & Sorrow had the potential to be dark and intense. The opening paragraph made me tingle and the elements were exciting but instead it stayed very Disney. I would have liked a darker, intense and suspenseful tone to the story. The elements were all there but skimmed over like it had been dubbed for a PG audience. Not that I want to be grossed out or terrified, but you cannot be happy and joking when removing a fingernail. Seriously? No.
• Josephine was clever, but her behavior was along the lines of a 12 year old and not the junior she is supposed to be. Her friends were the same way. A little too giddy and boy crazy even in the midst of danger. Some of her thoughts regarding Winn and Levi had my eyes rolling in the back of my head.
• We don’t really get to know many of the secondary characters beyond their interactions.
• There are animal sacrifices..crows, frog eyes, spiders and the like. If this upsets you, this may not be the book for you.
• We build towards this climax and poof it’s over. I felt cheated.
• The tale was cute making it perfect for a MG audience but I fear its tone will disappoint those who enjoy the YA genre. Where was the Gothic vibe, the darkness and the depth?
While House of Ivy & Sorrow left me craving more depth I would happily pass it along to my middle school niece. Aspects where wonderful, but for me as a reader this was a huge disappointment.
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