Manuela’s Review of “Curse of the Night Witch” by Alex Aster

By: Manuela Soares

“He had always wanted more-and look where that had gotten him.” Tor, Ch. 13.

This is a story chock-full of adventure, friendship, and reflection.

I think that everyone at some point in their lives has questioned the path they’re on in life; that’s part of being human. On Emblem Island though, the bulk of people don’t question that because the majority of people are born with emblems on their bodies that dictate what their future will hold. Oh, some are born without emblems and those who destroy them to choose what path they’ll take in their life, even those who kill and take other’s emblems for their own. But for the most part, people are set according to their emblems.

This story focuses on Tor Luna and his two friends Engle and Melda (Grimelda). Tor is the son of their village Chieftess and, like Melda, was born with a leadership emblem. Unlike Melda though, Tor doesn’t want to be a leader; he wishes for a different emblem more in line with his interests. This society has a holiday/tradition called Eve where every year villagers of a certain age can write a wish on a piece of paper and then throw it in a bonfire and hope it comes true. Tor makes a wish for a different emblem and surprisingly, he gets his wish, in a way. His leadership emblem becomes cursed, and he unknowingly curses Engle and Melda. It’s here that the adventure begins and the three children set off to find the Night Witch and the cure for the curse.

There’s a nice little twist when Tor gets to the Night Witch that certainly makes things interesting for the next book(s).

One of the things I love about the story is the author’s inclusion of The Book of Cuentos stories that are inserted before each leg of their journey. The Book of Cuentos is a collection of stories, myths of curses and creatures, similar to our Grimm’s Fairy Tales, that was written by the storyteller. These stories are what the characters use to find the Night Witch’s layer. I love reading things like this because they add to the word building and overall storytelling.

This is a solid middle-grade book that’s suitable for nearly all ages, there are a few parts that might be a little spooky to the 6 and under crowd. That being said, this has been marketed more as a young adult book, like for teenagers rather than late elementary/jr. high, so you have to keep in mind when reading that these characters are children, I think they’re 12 or 13, and that the choices that they make are partially influenced by that invincible feeling most of us had as kids and the feeling like we knew everything and how could we be wrong? Kids’ common sense and adults’ common sense vary a bit, so what stands out to me, an adult in her early 30s, as ridiculous could make perfect sense to 12/13 year olds. So, keep that in mind if you’re reading this book as an adult.

This was a solid 3 star read for me. I did enjoy it, the concept and world-building are fantastic and I look forward to seeing how it evolves in the next book(s). There were some parts that I didn’t enjoy as much, which I think can be chalked down to my mindset when I was reading it, but overall it’s a decent book.

This review is also posted on Goodreads.

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