Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars -
If you rate a book without reading it, you are the problem. There is a difference between not supporting a book because you do not like the author, their political views, or their actions and trashing something you have never read because you have heard things that may or may not be right about plot or characters. I love those people who push propaganda-based opinions touting that they are the go-to for all things right when they have not read or attempted to read the entire work. These are the same people who ban and who have burned books with no real knowledge of what lies within the pages. Ignorance in this form is detrimental to expanding our understanding of the world around us by limiting point-of-view to their narrow scope of understanding. These people are no better that that of the government and “pure race” written about in The Black Witch by Laurie Forest. When you attack, bash, threaten, and demean anyone for having a different opinion than you, you become the villain, you become the close minded, elitist who believes that only your version of truth should be shared, taught, and believed. People who have bashed this book, who again have not read it, have trolled, threatened, and unceasingly harassed people who read and rated the book high on Goodreads and Amazon. Going so far as to find those people on other social media platforms and harass them there as well. The reality is if these people actually read this book, they would see how much they emulate the actions of the racist villains. Then again, from that place on their high horses, they probably missed it, but I digress.
To the review –I received a free copy of this ebook ARC from the author, publishing company, and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Black Witch by Laurie Forest is a YA fantasy novel that delves deep into racism, sexism, homophobia, and so, so much more. We read from Mage Elloren Gardner’s point-of-view. She is a young woman navigating a new world outside her very sheltered life. She is the quintessential embodiment of a young person brought up in a social/racial class that teaches their children that they are superior because their religion, government, and "pure blood" promotes this problematic idea.
Our journey unfolds as our young narrator, Mage Elloren Gardner, is taken out of her very sheltered, small town life and put into the middle of a very mixed world full of the people she has been brought up to fear, hate, and hold herself above. Even surrounded by her "kind" spewing racist, sexist, homophobic, and elitist propaganda our narrator's understanding of the world quickly begins to fall apart and from those pieces she chooses to educate herself, learning the history of her people from the point-of-view of all those races they have conquered. She begins to fit the pieces of her shattered reality back together, but as she does it becomes clear that everything she was taught, everything that she had believed was wrong.
“Real education doesn't make your life easy. It complicates things and makes everything messy and disturbing. But the alternative, Elloren Gardner, is to live your life based on injustice and lies.” ― Laurie Forest, The Black Witch
This book has gotten a lot of hate from people who have not even cracked the cover to peer at what is inside. This book is about discovering that everything you have been taught and brought up to believe, about anyone different than you, were complete and utter lies. That the enemy, the bad people, those that must be feared are often the people who have painted the worse, unsubstantiated pictures of the world outside of their "pure blood". This book is about a young girl coming to terms with the fact that the real monsters are her own people, who have taught her to hate based on complete lies meant to segregate, euthanize, and rule over anyone not of "pure blood".
The Black Witch by Laurie Forest is a poignant look at society, governments, religions, and races promoting hate through lies and unfounded rhetoric. We see young Mage Elloren Gardner react, at first, to others based on those things that she has been taught, those things that are racist and hateful to anyone different, but the rub comes when she quickly begins to realize she and her own people are the monsters that everyone fears and hates. She uncovers her people's history is that of horrible atrocities that have been sweetly colored or white washed and promoted to her own people as the truth, just as much of our own real history has been edited to make us look superior and victorious (example of our real world take away - the internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II, which was never taught in school when I was a kid and is still absent from so much of our US history books).
“People see what they expect to see,” he says sharply. “Through a filter of their own hatred and prejudice.” ― Laurie Forest, The Black Witch
Why is this book important? It is important because we are a society whose connection to people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and the like fade with every passing year. I know people who truly believe racism is a thing of the past when it is alive and well throughout the world. This book is important because it tells our young people to look past the narrow lens of what has been deemed appropriate for the classroom and educate themselves about the real world that rages around them, The Black Witch and books like it remove our blindfolds and ask us to look upon the truth even if it is painful, even if it puts us at odds with everything we have been taught. Real education, real understanding comes from accepting even the most uncomfortable of truths rather than dismissing those truths because they are uncomfortable.
Why did I only give this book four-stars? First, I liked this book for how it shows that “the most beautiful people” can be the ugliest. The Black Witch is well written because we see how history, how behavior, how a specific group of people can come to believe that they are pure, righteous, and worthy of ruling, conquering, and eradicating anyone who is different or stands in their way. This happens every day in our world and is not something we should shelter our children from but educate them about. I also like how we really get to know about our main cast of characters and while this book was most definitely the set-up for the impending implosion of Mage Elloren Gardner’s world as she knows it, I appreciate the fact that her character truly tries to get to know the other races around her not only befriending them but also sincerely wanting to know about who they and who their races are at their core. At one point she asks one of the Lycans (werewolves) about stereotypes that have been ingrained into her own culture, only to find out that they were all lies.
“Often you have to fall into the blackness of utter confusion before you can emerge to see even the smallest glimmer of the truth.” ― Laurie Forest, The Black Witch
The reason I did not give this five-stars is because while Mage Elloren Gardner and her motley crew were fleshed out, so we could get to know them, the villains like her aunt, the new ruler, and her arch enemy Fallon are kind of two dimensional. As well as this book was written, readers would have read another hundred pages to really understand why we hate the bad guys. Yes, we get that they are racist, sexist, homophobic, liars, but we need to know them on a deeper level. Would we have hated Dolores Umbridge, from Harry Potter if we just got a glimpse of her snarky, elitist ways and moved on? No, we hated her because we got to see her torture Harry, we got to see her evil as it spread like a disease infecting Hogwarts. Would we have despised Gollum from Lord of the Rings if we hadn’t seen his twisted, darkness? Beyond the obvious racist, elitist, sexists, homophobic currents, readers need to understand the villains just as much as the heroes.
Personally, I recommend this book for all the reasons that made it a four-star read and regardless of if you agree with me on its star rating and importance AFTER you read it, I accept your opinion and would love to have a civil conversation as to why you see it differently. In the end, I will only respect and accept opinions when they come from someone who has educated themselves by reading before condemning thus stamping out the seeds of ignorance trying to take root.