Title: The Witches of Willow Cove
Author: Josh Roberts
Genre: Fantasy / Middle Grade
Publication Date: 26 May 2020
Six teenage witches. One mysterious stranger. A secret that could destroy them all.
It’s not easy being a teenage witch. Seventh grader Abby Shepherd is just getting the hang of it when weird stuff starts happening all around her hometown of Willow Cove. Green slime bubbling to life in science class. Giant snakes slithering around the middle school gym. Her best friend suddenly keeping secrets and telling lies.
Things only begin to make sense when a stranger named Miss Winters reveals that Abby isn’t the only young witch in town–and that Willow Cove is home to a secret past that connects them all. Miss Winters, herself a witch, even offers to teach Abby and the others everything she knows about witchcraft.
But as Abby learns more about Miss Winters’ past, she begins to suspect her new mentor is keeping secrets of her own. Can Abby trust her, or does Miss Winters have something wicked planned for the young witches of Willow Cove?
The Witches of Willow Cove was a journey of magic, friendship and mysterious disappearances. Roberts’ writing was reminiscent of J.K Rowlings in Harry Potter (BIG statement… but let me explain) in regards to building young adult characters that had a bravery, curiosity and maturity that defied their years (but was also believable).
While the cover and synopsis of this story seemed to hint at a darker theme, the sudden disappearance of characters throughout the book made me uncomfortable. It seemed as if integral members of the community had suddenly gone missing… and no one noticed. Usually the disappearance of a character in a small town is easily noticed and is followed up with a sense of panic. The lack of this had me uneasy as a reader. Roberts created a foreboding atmosphere without having to resort to dramatic means.
The main characters in this story, Abby and Robby (yes, the synopsis only states Abby as the MC but it felt like they were equally as important) had a youthful friendship that brought back a feeling of sentiment for me. Their ‘BFF’ label was an innocent sort that hadn’t been tested with conflict. This book’s exploration of their friendship amidst a sea of secrets and lies was fascinating to read. I enjoyed following their friendship as it cracked under pressure and then slowly built again to become something able to stand the test of time. Roberts expertly dealt with youth-like emotions in a way that was relatable for an adult reader. Oftentimes the emotional arc of an MG story can feel a bit angsty or become frustrating to follow but that wasn’t the case with The Witches of Willow Cove.
The only downside to this story was its predictability. There were aspects of the plot I predicted from a mile away and yet there remained a few events toward the end that had me smiling in surprise. As this is pitched for a younger audience it’s to be expected that some predictability is present.
I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.
*ARC kindly provided by Owl Hollow Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*