The Black Witch by Laurie ForestThe Black Witch by Laurie Forest

The Black Witch

byLaurie Forest

Paperback | August 7, 2018

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“Maximum suspense, unusual magic—a whole new, thrilling approach to fantasy!”

—Tamora Pierce
, #1 New York Times bestselling author

“A refreshing, powerful young adult fantasy.”

—Robin Hobb
, New York Times bestselling author



Powerful magic. A deadly legacy. A world at the edge of war.

Prepare to be spellbound by
The Black Witch.

Evil looms on the horizon, and for Elloren Gardner, granddaughter of the last Black Witch, pressure to live up to her magical heritage is building. Elloren’s people, the Gardnerians, believe she will follow in her grandmother’s footsteps. But Elloren is utterly devoid of power—in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

Granted the opportunity to study at the prestigious Verpax University, Elloren sets out to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But the university may be the most treacherous place of all for the granddaughter of the Black Witch, and Elloren soon realizes that the world she knows is not what it seems. If she is to survive the coming danger, she’ll have to free her mind from the assumptions she was raised with, and learn to trust the very people she’s been taught to hate and fear.



Critics are raving about Laurie Forest’s incredible debut,
The Black Witch:

“We fell under the spell of this rich, diverse, Potter-worthy university world!”

Justine magazine

“A captivating and stimulating fantasy novel with a whole world of excitement and danger. I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in this world of magic and intrigue.”

—TeenReads.com

“Forest uses a richly imagined magical world to offer an uncompromising condemnation of prejudice and injustice.”

Booklist, starred review

“Exquisite character work, an elaborate mythology, and a spectacularly rendered universe make this a noteworthy debut, which argues passionately against fascism and xenophobia.”

Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Briskly paced, tightly plotted…set in a rich alternative universe with a complicated history that can help us better understand our own.”

Kirkus Reviews, starred review
Title:The Black WitchFormat:PaperbackDimensions:672 pages, 7.89 × 5.35 × 1.6 inPublished:August 7, 2018Publisher:HarlequinLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1335468862

ISBN - 13:9781335468864

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Creative And New Fantasy I don't know where to even start with this review so I'm just going to go ahead and face the obvious thing first: the controversy surrounding this novel. Now, I know before I get into it that there are many other reviews out there that expand on the topic greatly and can say it better than I will but I'm going to put my opinion out there and say that I think this book is getting some undeserved hate. Prior to reading this novel, I knew that there was controversy and that some had labelled it as being "problematic" but that is all that I knew. I didn't know what the controversy was about and that is how I went into reading this book. Now, I have to say that the novel does encounter topics that would appear controversial if they were taken out of context: sexism, racism (in a world where there is a division between all of the fantastical creature races--which the author is clearly trying to dissolve), homophobia, abuse, etc. Honestly, the list could go on where the topics that were involved were misinterpreted and appear problematic. However, this book is DEFINITELY not promoting any of those issues. In fact, the story is identifying prejudice in many different ways and showing how it's wrong. These characters are trying to overcome all of these prejudicial issues. That's all I'm going to say when it comes to that: I feel like this book has gained a negative reputation that it doesn't necessarily deserve. Again, I highly recommend if you are worried about this novel's content to read some of the many well-researched and lengthy reviews. Now, let's move on. This novel was so much more fantastical than I expected prior to reading. I knew it was fantasy but man, if you like high fantasy, check this one out. From the world, to the language, to the creatures, everything was new. The amount of creativity and world building was unreal. I have to say that the main character of Elloren was not my favourite but that by the end, with character growth, I am liking her more and I hope that will continue in the sequel. I don't want to say anything regarding a certain love interest (as I think if I say anything it could be a spoiler) but I will say that I'm invested in seeing where it will go from here. The length of the novel was a downfall because I think there may have been information that was not necessary but I understand the reasoning. Again, it's a world like no other so additional details were included for readers to be able to fully immerse themselves within the story and setting. I'm looking forward to the sequel in this series because as long as this first novel was, it felt like an introduction and now I want more. I want to see where the story goes from here and I want to see what happens to the cast of characters as quite a few of them are encountering difficult circumstances. I know I definitely will be picking up the sequel to this novel very soon. ***Thank you to HCC Frenzy for sending me a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review***
Date published: 2018-10-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great story I really enjoyed this story! It may just be me, but I found a lot of similarities between this book and Harry Potter. There weren’t direct references, but there were a few things that reminded me of the series. For example, Elloren doesn’t know much about the rest of the magical world that she enters when she goes to university, just like Harry didn’t know about the magical world before he went to Hogwarts. They even have a teacher who is a Snake Elf, who teaches their science class. He reminded me so much of Snape. I loved the similarities between this book and Harry Potter, since that is one of my favourite series! Elloren developed as a character throughout the story, as she learned more about the world around her. At the beginning, she was very naive because she was inexperienced. She had never been around different races or species, so she didn’t know what they were like. She took it on herself to try to learn the truth, rather than just follow everyone else’s beliefs. I thought I figured out the ending, but it turns out I was wrong! I’m curious to see how the story continues in the next book.
Date published: 2018-09-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Fantastic Read From the first page, I knew I would enjoy this fantasy tale. My introduction to Elloren, the protagonist, is immediate. Her relationships with other characters are described through authentic dialogue; and her environment is introduced to us not only through description but also through her reaction to it. The world of Gardenia is introduced to us slowly as we read the text. Not only are we introduced to the physical world, but the social world as well. We slowly come to understand the social hierarchy of Laurie Forest’s created world; as well as the customs (such as wandfasting). The attention to detail in this novel is amazing and takes on an epic quality. The various characters are neatly interwoven within the story – everything connecting to Elloren, the lead of the story. As Elloren experiences a new life at the University, we see her grow in understanding of her environment and of the social injustices that exist in her world. The Black Witch is not only the story of a young girl experiencing education at a university – it is a story highlighting the prejudice and the injustices that are found in society. Forest refers to the subjugation of women, the inequality between races, the prejudice that exists against those who are homosexual. I enjoyed reading The Black Witch for so many reasons. It is well written. The story takes me into a fantasy land that allows me to use my imagination. The novel is a reflection of what we see in our present modern world and, while reading, my mind was constantly making connections and reflecting on what I was reading and what exists in the world. I felt I was an active reader. Lastly, I love stories that are epic tales – and The Black Witch is of this ilk If you enjoy fantasy fiction and detailed sagas, The Black Witch by Laurie Forest is a must-read!
Date published: 2018-09-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great read Very interesting, lovely and full of vivid colorful characters
Date published: 2018-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Black Witch I have been waiting for a fantasy about witches, this is a good one
Date published: 2018-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Black Witch Another great introduction to what appears to be an interesting fantasy series
Date published: 2018-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A really great book! When I was at the store, I wasn't sure if I wanted to buy this book, but I'm glad I did! 600 pages seems kind of intimidating to most, but I was sad when it ended! The world was so realistic and the characters were so relatable. I'm really looking forward to the Iron Flower's release!
Date published: 2018-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my new favourites!! This was an awesome read!! I bought this book solely because of the beautiful cover... and boy did I ever devour it! For a book that is 600 pages I flew through it super quickly. I am a die hard fantasy lover but sometimes YA fantasy is so watered down that I end up not all that invested in the story but Forest has managed to create this hauntingly realistic world and characters that left me speechless (in so many ways!). Overall I enjoyed pretty much every aspect of this book and I can't wait for the squeal. (Also there's dragons... COMMON!)
Date published: 2018-05-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Loved it!!! I love this book! Forest has created a magical world that you just get lost in.
Date published: 2018-03-26
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointed Okay, I'm probably going to get lots of hate for this, but I just really really could not get into this book. In fact, I couldn't finish the novel. I could not relate nor connect to the main character- she lived a sheltered life, maybe too sheltered to see the world around her. I was so utterly confused as to what was going on in the plot. It felt like random segments of things were fit together without any correlation to eachother and the story felt very bland in general. :(
Date published: 2018-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engrossing read! An awesome read with a realistic (for a fantasy novel) female main character. I was glad to come upon this series, which deals with issues of race, class and religious tolerance, but within the framework of a fantasy series.
Date published: 2018-01-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Creative book i loved reading this book, i love when there's racial differences and always that one person that comes to realize that there's a need for change and then they become that change and people follow the act.
Date published: 2018-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great First Novel I loved this book. It is definitely not about a girl who is fully formed and finished growing, so look elsewhere for that. It is frustrating a few times for sure, watching Elloren make poor decisions or think problematic thoughts but the changes she experiences are incredibly well done and beautifully subtle. The world is well formed and the characters are full and complete and believable.Their archs are well fitted into Elloren's story and the action is well paced. I couldn't put this book down and am looking forward to the sequel.
Date published: 2017-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved This Don't you think that being pissed off by the racism you see in here is a good thing? It kind of means you're a decent human being who understands the fact that no one should be treated differently based on appearance, religion or sexual orientation. I really don't understand the backlash this has received. I found this to be an admirable effort on Forest's part in writing a story following a young women who is trying to navigate the prejudices her society faces. Put yourself in Elloren's shoes. She's been sheltered most of her life on purpose, but she's been taught one way of life, and that's the Gardnerian culture. Sadly, they're assholes. But then she starts to realize there are different views and opinions in the world, and she does so in a way that we WISH would happen more. Meeting the people "different" from us and talking with an open mind. I thought it was well done! Especially with the Lupines. That kind of candid conversation was wonderful to read, humorous even in the context of the story. I related very much to Elloren because I had the same experience in university myself. All through grade school I was taught on certain subjects that this is how it is, that's what happened, deal with it. But then I took that one class with that one professor who opened my eyes and changed my whole view on the topic. He didn't sugarcoat anything, he didn't try to make one type of group look better than the other. He simply told the story how it happened, and sadly, it wasn't glorious, it wasn't decent, it was rough. The "racism" Elloren faces in her world really isn't all that different from what we see. I mean, Trump was elected f**king president after he called Mexicans rapists and murderers. But the moment he said it, people came forward to call him out, to show his ignorant face that that is NOT the case. People banded together and stood up to that pack of lies. How is that any different from what you read in here? Be offended, get triggered, and rise up and be the change. Maybe we don't have dragons and elves, but that doesn't mean magic is needed to face the ugly monster we see in society. Well, that turned into a rant I didn't expect. Anywho, despite being a little scared considering the reviews I read before hand, I really enjoyed this book. The beginning was a bit rough, with it being a bit too much of an info-dump, but after the first few chapters I found I couldn't put it down. Admittedly, the pacing could have been improved once Elloren is at university. I don't think it was necessary to spend so many chapters going to every single class with her, but it didn't detract from the story for me. Forest did use adjectives a lot, but again, I didn't really hate it. I loved the myriad of characters, but my favourite really was Diana. She's the kind of confident a lot of girls wish they could be. Forest has left a great book, and one that has enough questions to leave me wishing for the next one. Although it's a 4 in my mind, I'm rating it a 5 to offset some of the nasty reviews this book did not deserve.
Date published: 2017-10-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok Very well written but cvould have been ore descriptive of each of the instances that were felt.
Date published: 2017-10-27
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok I couldn't put this book down. There is always something going on that keeps you reading
Date published: 2017-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing! I am loving this book. I stayed up until 430 am reading, i've spent the last 8 hours devouring everything this book has to offer. I'll be done soon... unfortunately... This book is definitely raising the bar for others like it. This book will be much loved and i'm sure ill be reading it again very soon. It is so addicting.. intircrately woven... i love the magical elements it offers. will most definitely be recommending this book to friends and family.
Date published: 2017-09-23
Rated 3 out of 5 by from ok this is such a great book! I loved the plot, storyline, and everything in between!
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from yes this is such a great book! I loved the plot, storyline, and everything in between!
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I ADORE this book This book got a ton of hate online, claiming that it was "racist", "misogynistic", and featured "negative sexual themes" as well as prejudice. Yes, these are all topics that Elloren, the main character, faces as well as is able to overcome. If you have an issue with a fantasy book (like MANY others) discussing topics of prejudice amongst different races due to war and magic, as well as the idea that in this world setting (which is very common) women often stick to trades such as herbology and merchanting, then this book may not be for you. I, however, found these difficulties to add to character development and show that these issues can be overcome. The Black Witch is incredibly written. It features love triangles without making the book a sappy romance novel, but just enough to make the reader connect with Elloren. This book is everything that a fantasy novel should be. My only issue is that the book was released in 2017 and now I'll have to wait a couple of years for the sequel.
Date published: 2017-09-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Give this book a Chance! ***may contain spoilers*** I can't believe how many negative reviews this book got. I nearly didn't pick it up even though I liked the blurb. I'm glad I decided to judge it for myself. It looked big and intimidating when I got it but it was a surprisingly quick read. I enjoyed reading this book and I kept trying to understand what did people see so horrible about it. Yes, it takes place in a racist, male dominated and it also hints at a homophobic society, but in no way does it promote it (my impression anyway). I thought it seem to take issues we're facing in the world right now and use it in a fantasy setting. I liked how the author tackled it and handled it. The beginning of the novel may be rough to get through seeing how naive and ignorant Elloren was but she starts being more open minded. I didn't find her annoying as I usually do with female protagonists. If there's anything negative I can say about it is, aspects of it don't seem very original to me. The protagonist is off to school and is unaware of her infamous status and is bullied by her peers for being famous. It reminded me of Harry Potter. It's also riding on the idea of a girl who's about to spark a revolution. I've been seeing that a lot lately, in the Hunger Games, Red Queen, Blood Rose Rebellion, Divergent, just to name a few. Other than that I can't wait for the next book. I'm dying in anticipation for when it will be revealed that Elloren is actually really powerful (I spent the whole book wondering: is this the moment? is this the moment?)
Date published: 2017-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Summer Read. I received this novel as an advance reader copy. #indigoemployee. As I am a huge fantasy reader I was excited to read this book. It was until I was a third the way in did I realize why its in teen section. The author touch in great length diversity, prejudices and sexuality. It was great to see the main character Elloren not only experience for herself all of these, witness them but overcome these obstacles. She teaches herself and others to be their own individual selves. Sorry I Love this book and cannot wait to read the sequel(s).
Date published: 2017-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great start to a series on diversity I love how much this book focuses on diversity - not just racial/ethnic diversity, but also cultural, sexual, religious, and other types of diversity as well. Though it takes Elloren a frustratingly long time to come to her realizations, it's a realistic depiction in that many people have a hard time seeing past their prejudices to empathize with others. Not only does Elloren empathize with her tormentors (once she starts to understand their views and do her own historical research), but she actually takes action to help them and plots to work against her increasingly xenophobic and totalitarian government. Elloren is a great of example of what we need most in the world - people who look beyond the current hate and vitriol to understand why others feel that way, people who do their own work and come to their own conclusions instead of just blindly accepting "history" or "the truth", and people who act when they see injustice. Elloren is persistent, compassionate, and brings people together to form diverse groups of individuals with common motivations, in a true display of acceptance and celebration of diversity.
Date published: 2017-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing and important I went into this book ready with my highlighter to flag all the prejudice perpetuated stereotypes and ended up forgetting all about that and just really enjoying the book (read the 600 page beast in less than 24 hours). Just to start this off...one of the open-minded professors ("good" and favourite teacher of Elloren) said this when Elloren asked if her clothes were made, essentially, by slave labour/sweat shops and he told her the truth: "Don't thank me. 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." Well I'm apparently just opening myself up to "you're a racist" I guess since I absolutely loved this book. YES, it deals with controversial topics and does not give you a fairy tale ending conclusions to all of them...BECAUSE IT'S A SERIES AND NOT ALL OF THESE PROBLEMS REALLY HAVE SOLUTIONS! 1. If you have not read the book, get your damn rating OFF of GoodReads. You people are literally why I decided to read this because you are skewing the ratings of someone's work and influencing others whether or not to read it. 2. We cannot in YA bitch and BITCH AND BITCH that we want diversity and when someone writes characters that are prejudice, racist, homophobic, etc. and then scream bloody murder that the book promotes racism. Acknowleding and dealing with racism in a book does not mean the author is a part of the KKK and trying to promote segregation! Growth of the characters and people on any topic is how the world will become better (stop with the "I don't want to read about a racist person becoming unracist" because you are missing the point, a part of the problem and doing yourself a disfavour). 3. This book is LITERALLY colonial North American history with a sprinkle of President Donald Trump and magic. So many people are unaware of the horrible shit we did in USA and Canada during settlement and if it takes a fantasy novel like this for people to get upset then fine by me. I am so tired of reading horrible news but I need to stay aware of what is going on and taking these problems and placing them in a fantasy setting make them much easier to digest. 4. Everyone has prejudices (white, brown, black, etc.) that come from somewhere (normally older generations or from a lack of exposure) The main character is raised by her sheltered but obviously feminist uncle who wants to protect her...then you meet her POS of an aunt (who is clearly a villain) along with some trashy other prejudice people from the city (also pretty obviously the villains). The ENTIRE book is Elloren being confronted with a prejudice her people have imposed (as well as the other races having their own prejudices) and then seeing that it's wrong...AND DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Elloren and her brothers are all very aware of this and join a freaking rebellion against Donald Trum--I mean...the racist, sexist, sociopathic government. Basically everyone on the "good" side is in an interracial friendship and/or romantic relationship and all the douches are...well very KKK-esk. I am super excited to read the sequel(s?) and I really suggest actually reading the book and just ignoring the ratings since apparently GoodReads users are just blatenly misusing the site.
Date published: 2017-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Pick this book up! *I received an advanced reader copy of this book from Indigo Books & Music Inc. in exchange for an honest review* #indigoemployee I am practically at a loss for words after reading The Black Witch. It was simply magnificent. I devoured it as quickly as possible, and not once did the 600+ pages seem too long. This novel depicts the story of a young lady named Elloren Gardner. Elloren is trying to find her place in society after being removed from the sheltered life that she lived with a loving uncle. Thrust into the care of a cruel and racist aunt, she is sent to attend University. Lacking any magical skills, Elloren must work towards earning her keep in the school kitchens. She is exposed to many different cultures for the first time, and struggles under the racist opinions of her people. While she does originally foster racist thoughts, Elloren slowly forms her own opinions and eventually joins a rebellion to save all those whom she previously judged. Currently this book is receiving a lot of backlash due to a review that was published on Goodreads and Twitter renouncing the novel as racist and homophobic. I am extremely disappointed in the number of people that have blindly accepted this criticism without reading and forming their own opinions. This is a harsh story set in a brutal world filled with cruel characters, much like Game of Thrones and countless other successful and celebrated novels. The wizarding world that J.K. Rowling created was racist, sexist, and contained many hateful characters. Rowling described a harsh and cruel war in the fight towards equality. Yet, Harry Potter is loved worldwide. It pains me that we now live in a society where authors cannot imagine their own fantasy cultures without being branded as racist and homophobic. Forest merely chose to create a world where racism is present, showing it as a dark obstacle to overcome. The outcry that has stemmed from her novel is a form of censorship, plain and simple, and it worries me how many people have vowed to avoid this story. I personally love The Black Witch, and I will promote it passionately. Let our characters struggle in finding the right path. Let them stumble on the road to greatness. A perfect character is boring and predictable. I personally embrace character flaws, as they make the story that much more realistic and enjoyable. Please give this novel and chance and find out for yourself. I sure am glad that I did. For fans of: The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco, The Game of Thrones Series by George R.R. Martin and the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling.
Date published: 2017-05-02

Editorial Reviews

ABA Indiebound - Summer 2017 Kids' Indie Next List Pick"This briskly paced, tightly plotted novel enacts the transformative power of education, creating engaging characters set in a rich alternative universe with a complicated history that can help us better understand our own. A massive page-turner that leaves readers longing for more." -Kirkus Reviews, starred review"Forest uses a richly imagined magical world to offer an uncompromising condemnation of prejudice and injustice."-Booklist, starred review"Exquisite character work, an elaborate mythology, and a spectacularly rendered universe make this a noteworthy debut, which argues passionately against fascism and xenophobia.-Publishers Weekly, starred review"I absolutely loved The Black Witch and will have a very hard time waiting for the second book! Maximum suspense, unusual magic--a whole new, thrilling approach to fantasy!" -Tamora Pierce, #1 New York Times bestselling author"The Black Witch is a refreshing, powerful young adult fantasy. This strong debut offers an uncompromising glimpse of world-altering politics amplified by a magical setting in which prejudice and discrimination cut both ways." -Robin Hobb, New York Times bestselling author"We fell under the spell of this rich, diverse, Potter-worthy university world!Characters that come alive off the page, tangled relationships, swoonworthy romance!Love the fresh way this also tackles prejudice. Prepare to fangirl!"-Justine magazine"A powerful start to a new series, and a very impressive first novel." -Locus