Title: Witch & Wizard
Author: James Patterson & Gabrielle Charbonnet
Genre: Fantasy, Thriller, Young Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown (US)
Publication Date: December 2009
Hardcover: 320 Pages
Stand alone or series: Book 1 in an ongoing series
How did I get this book: ARC from the publisher
Why did I read this book: I’ve actually never read a James Patterson novel, for all his bestsellers and apparent domination of the thriller genre, so when we received an ARC of Witch & Wizard, I have to admit I was very curious. I hadn’t read a good thriller in a while, and the synopsis of Witch & Wizard sounded delightfully fun…
Summary: (from amazon.com)
The world is changing: the government has seized control of every aspect of society, and now, kids are disappearing. For 15-year-old Wisty and her older brother Whit, life turns upside down when they are torn from their parents one night and slammed into a secret prison for no reason they can comprehend. The New Order, as it is known, is clearly trying to suppress Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Being a Normal Teenager. But while trapped in this totalitarian nightmare, Wisty and Whit discover they have incredible powers they’d never dreamed of. Can this newly minted witch and wizard master their skills in time to save themselves, their parents–and maybe the world?
and the Great Wind – The One Who Is
THE ONE –
let it be known that as of
NOW. THIS MOMENT. or
TWELVE O’CLOCK MIDNIGHT.
whichever shall arrive first, following the
SWIFT TRIUMPH of the ORDER of the
ONES WHO PROTECT, who have obliterated the
BLIND AND DUMB FORCES of passivity and
complacency PLAGUING this world,
ALL CITIZENS must, shall and will abide by
THESE THREE ORDERS FOR ORDER:
1. All behaviors NOT in keeping with N.O. law, logic, order, and science (including but not limited to theology, philosophy, and IN PARTICULAR the creative and dark arts, et cetera) are hereby ABOLISHED.
2. ALL persons under eighteen years of age will be evaluated for ORDERLINESS and MUST COMPLY with the prescribed corrective actions.
3. The One Who Is THE ONE grants, appoints, decides, siezes, and executes at will. All NOT complying shall be SEIZED and/or EXECUTED.
by THE ONE WHO IS THE ONE
N.O. The New Order has seized control of the country, and no one is safe – especially not Wisty Allgood and her older brother Whit. One night, N.O. goons march down the Allgood’s street and force their way into their home, apprehending the Allgood children on account that they are a Witch and Wizard. Whit and Wisty are enraged and terrified – there are no such things as witches or wizards, after all, so why should they go along with these horrible soldiers? Overpowered and with their parents’ safety threatened, the two teens have no choice but to be taken into custody…but soon they realize how hopeless their situation is. Without a proper trial, without due process, Whit and Wisty are convicted as GUILTY by The One Who Judges, and are thrown into a maximum security prison (that is actually a mental institution) with “power dampening” spells to stop the teens from using their magical abilities.
But then, they actually discover that they DO have magical powers. Wisty is able to transform objects, people and animals, and when enraged bursts into flame. Whit is incredibly fast and strong, impervious to weapons like stun guns. Together, the brother and sister must figure out a way to escape their prison, and to bring to fruition a prophecy – a certain prophecy that foretells their rise to power and make right the wrongs of the world.
From a purely theoretical standpoint, the actual story for Witch & Wizard is freakin’ fantastic. The absurdity of the New Order (so poetically reduced to the word “N.O.” on flags and insignias) is pure gold, and the concept of an all-powerful dictator on a determined witch hunt is social satire at its best. The concept of two very powerful siblings, oblivious to their significance to the world as protagonists is also solid gold, and could have made for some fascinating character development.
But, unfortunately, as wonderful as all these concepts seem, they wre never brought to life on the page. There is no soul to this book – it’s written in an entirely simplistic manner with absolutely no skill or subtlety. The entire book, told from alternating viewpoints of Whit and Wisty, is written in episodic, extremely brief 1-2 page chapters. The overall impression I was left with was that Witch & Wizard read like a really bad made-for-tv movie; the ridiculously short chapters equivalent to reading ADD. Heck, in one of the later chapters, Wisty actually gives a bullet point recap of the novel so far. Seriously.
In addition to the simplistic writing, there also was a sad lack in terms of character development (beyond the fact that Wisty is the smart-alec younger sister to Whit’s golden boy/hunk persona). This is probably due to the fact that the chapters were so very short, and entirely focused on the next chase scene. The plotseed of strain between the siblings’ relationship evaporates almost as soon as it is mentioned, and you can forget about any deep, soul-searching thoughts about their newly developed powers or any questioning of the New Order world they live in. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed.
Overall, Witch & Wizard had a great core concept and an intriguing potential for plot and character development. A Great Idea, but really shoddy execution. Top the bad writing with a really crappy, sell-out of a cliffhanger, and you’ve got some frustrated readers on your hands. Perhaps I’ll give Mr. Patterson’s Maximum Ride books a try, but Witch & Wizard disappointed me on so many levels. I’ll give book 2 a read, but there’s a lot of ground that has to be made up to win me over.
Notable Quotes/Parts: The Prologue…
YOU’RE NOT IN KANSAS ANYMORE
IT’S OVERWHELMING. A city’s worth of angry faces staring at me like I’m a wicked criminal—which, I promise you, I’m not. The stadium is filled to capacity—past capacity. People are standing in the aisles, the stairwells, on the concrete ramparts, and a few extra thousand are camped out on the playing field. There are no football teams here today. They wouldn’t be able to get out of the locker-room tunnels if they tried.
This total abomination is being broadcast on TV and the Internet too. All the useless magazines are here, and the useless newspapers. Yep, I see cameramen in elevated roosts at intervals around the stadium.
There’s even one of those remote-controlled cameras that runs around on wires above the field. There it is—hovering just in front of the stage, bobbing slightly in the breeze.
So there are undoubtedly millions more eyes watching than I can see. But it’s the ones here in the stadium that are breaking my heart. To be confronted with tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands, of curious, uncaring, or at least indifferent, faces…talk about frightening.
And there are no moist eyes, never mind tears.
No words of protest.
No stomping feet.
No fists raised in solidarity.
No inkling that anybody’s even thinking of surging forward, breaking through the security cordon, and carrying my family to safety.
Clearly, this is not a good day for us Allgoods.
In fact, as the countdown ticker flashes on the giant video screens at either end of the stadium, it’s looking like this will be our last day.
It’s a point driven home by the very tall, bald man up in the tower they’ve erected midfield—he looks like a cross between a Supreme Court chief justice and Ming the Merciless. I know who he is. I’ve actually met him. He’s The One Who Is The One.
Directly behind his Oneness is a huge N.O. banner—
THE NEW ORDER.
And then the crowd begins to chant, almost sing, “The One Who Is The One! The One Who Is The One!”
Imperiously, The One raises his hand, and his hooded lackeys on the stage push us forward, at least as far as the ropes around our necks will allow.
I see my brother, Whit, handsome and brave, looking
down at the platform mechanism. Calculating if there’s any way to jam it, some means of keeping it from unlatching and dropping us to our neck-snapping deaths. Wondering if there’s a last-minute way out of this.
See my mother crying quietly. Not for herself, of course, but for Whit and me.
I see my father, his tall frame stooped with resignation, smiling at me and my brother—trying to keep our spirits up, reminding us that there’s no point in being miserable in our last moments on this planet.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m supposed to be providing an introduction here, not the details of our public execution.
So let’s go back a bit….
You can read more excerpts from Witch & Wizard online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: If you’re looking for a simliar series about two young protagonists fighting a totalitarian nightmare of a government, I *highly* recommend you check out Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.
Thought-provoking, intelligently written, and with enough depth to satiate even the oldest, most seasoned readers, His Dark Materials is amazing. Start with The Golden Compass (UK Title: Northern Lights), then go on to The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. If you’ve seen the movie adaptation and are (understandably) hesitant, please do not be! The movie was NOTHING compared to the book’s greatness; it was a mere paramecium to the book’s complexity.
Verdict: Excellent idea marred by truly horrendous execution. Witch & Wizard is all action with no soul – a skelleton of plot with no muscle, sinew or flesh to cover it. Perhaps dedicated James Patterson fans will enjoy this book, but it was a disappointment for me.
Rating: 5 – Meh
Reading Next: A Rush of Wings & In the Blood by Adrian Phoenix