About the Book:
Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.
Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word…especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.
If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.
For the first time since starting Teen Lit Rocks, our monthly Book Club Pick is not a contemporary story but a paranormal romance. The teenagers were genuinely enthusiastic about Jessica Spotswood‘s debut novel, whereas the adult readers had a more diverse reaction to the story of young witches Cate, Maura and Tess. As with most first books in a series, “Born Wicked” will leave you wanting for more, and if you’re a fan of the genre, this could be just the new series to add to your To Be Read list. Many thanks to Penguin Teen for providing each of us with an review copy. “Born Wicked” (272 pages) is already in bookstores everywhere.
“Young” Reader Average: B+
Kierstin graded the book an A-
I thought that “Born Wicked” was a very good book. Even if it was obvious that there had to be a sequel. As soon as they mentioned the prophecy you had to know it was the girls and you can’t fulfill a prophecy in one book. It was well written and has an interesting perspective on colonial New England from the perspective of a witch. It was an interesting and entertaining read.
Lily graded the book a B+
The Cahill girls (Cate, Tess and Maura) aren’t like other girls. They’re too pretty, too smart and too reclusive. But they have a secret to keep, the girls are witches! If they were to be discovered by the Brotherhood, a religious institution that rules their town, they could be imprisoned or executed. Cate knows she should hide her powers, marry Paul McLeod and live happily ever after. But instead, she finds herself exploring her powers and discovering that the fine ladies in her small town are not who she thinks they are.
I really enjoyed this book. It started out kind of slow, mostly with Cate complaining, mostly about her father going on a long trip. If I could tell these girls one thing, it’s that nothing interesting can happen if you have decent parents! I know my mom and dad wouldn’t let me have pirate adventures or experiment in witchcraft. Even though I was bored at the beginning, by the time I was 1/4 of the way through it was really engaging. I found it to be really predictable, but I couldn’t put it down. If you like Paranormal Romance, I’d really recommend this.
“Adult” Reader Average: B-
Taylor graded the book an A-
I started the book excited to read something different, yet slightly skeptical. It isn’t as if the whole “with thing” hasn’t been done before, and it has often been done poorly. Happily, I was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed it! The characters were genuine and the plot compelling.
The story is set in an alternate version of turn-of-the-century New England. To be a witch is bad; the priests of the Brotherhood (read: the bad guys) ruthlessly attempt to discover any suspected witches. Girls are packed off to the asylum, prison ship, or simply disappear without explanation. I loved that the author had a completely original take on the witch mythology. I’ve never read anything similar to this.
The story moved along at a good pace. I actually read the whole thing cover to cover in one night, while my husband was out of town. Once I started, I didn’t want to put it down!! I was slightly disappointed by how quickly events happened towards the end of the book. It felt a little rushed – but it was still a fun read, and I am looking forward to the other books in the series!
The book is well written, the characters are genuinely enjoyable, the plot was certainly not boring. I just can’t get over the ending, and that it felt a bit hurried.
Jenn graded the book a B+
America at the turn of the century was a restrictive time for women, but the alternate reality Jessica Spotswood created for “Born Wicked” is far more dangerous. A group called the Brotherhood is in power. It maintains its authority by manipulating people’s fear of witches and using it to crush any sign of difference or rebellion that women might exhibit.
The Brotherhood’s control is especially problematic for the Cahill sisters, who are actually witches. After their mother’s death, Cate is charged with protecting her sisters and their secret. But as her seventeenth birthday approaches, Cate faces a difficult decision about her future. Not only does she have two suitors, Paul, her childhood friend, and Finn, her family’s new gardener, but she also has the option to join the Sisterhood, the female counterpart to the Brotherhood. She is terrified of choosing the wrong thing and leaving her sisters at the mercy of the Brotherhood.
At the heart of “Born Wicked” is the sense of duty Cate has toward her sisters. Since their mother’s death, everything Cate has done has been for the benefit of Maura and Tess. Ultimately she has to make the choice of whether to follow her heart or to honor the promise she made to protect her sisters.
As an older sister myself, I empathized with Cate’s fierce need to protect them. I loved the dynamic Spotswood created between the sisters. I thought it was really authentic. I also enjoyed all the twists and surprises that propelled the story forward.
Sandie graded the book a B
“Born Wicked” is a gripping debut novel with a likable heroine and an interesting plot. Witches in New England may be nothing knew, but the world Spotswood creates is full of many further mysteries, like the opposing rivalries between The Brotherhood and The Sisterhood. The first story contains many unanswered questions, but that’s not uncommon in the first of a series.
Spotswood has a great handle on romance, and even when you think she’s resolved the love triangle between Cate, Finn and Paul, she adds another twist to make it obvious that even if she thinks she wants one of them, the future could find her needing the other. One of the best themes in the book was Cate’s sense of duty to her younger sisters. Her love for Maura and Tess is truly unconditional, even when Maura tries her patience again and again.
Unlike some other first installments, which could be standalone novels, “Born Wicked” feels unfinished and even has one of those cliffhanger endings where you just know the second book will have to up the ante to continue the story.
Diana graded the book a C
“Born Wicked” is set in colonial Maine when a group called “The Brotherhood” is in control of New England. The central characters are the Cahill sisters who are secretly witches, the main targets of the Brotherhood. It is a dangerous time and place for the sisters and Cate, the eldest feels it more than her sisters. She promised her dying mother that she would take care of her sisters and protect them no matter what. She takes that responsibility very seriously. The undying devotion that Cate has for her sisters is truly remarkable and commendable. It is one of the hallmarks of this novel.
Cate must soon choose between marriage or the “Sisterhood” the only two options that the Brotherhood will allow for women or else they select a groom. Cate’s heart is torn between Paul, her childhood friend who has made his feelings clear to her, and Finn a new friend for whom she has strong feelings These two relationships are the most enjoyable aspect of “Born Wicked” and I would have enjoyed learning more about both men. Unfortunately, Paul disappears from the plot just when it would have made more sense to include him more. Finn is also an enjoyable character and almost “swoon worthy”, however there is not enough time to get to know him either. Of course, this is the first book in a new series, so hopefully the next book will include both men more prominently
Although I enjoyed Cate’s relationship with her sisters and with Paul and Finn, I did not enjoy the overall story about the “Brotherhood” or the “Sisterhood.” I found some of the plot lines to be inconsistent with the colonial setting and never really found myself completely immersed in this book. For me, it was an okay story, but for magic and wizards, I will reread “Harry Potter.”
Cara graded the book a C-
I went in to this with high expectations. I enjoy historical fiction, throw in witches and I’m in heaven. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my hopes. My primary complaint is that this book does not hold up as a stand alone story. I understand that it is part of a trilogy, but a well paced series allows for each book to be a solid, enjoyable read, one that contains all the required story elements and leads into a continuation. The characters were poorly developed and there was very little focus on the relationships between them. The sisters, the girls and their father, Cate and Sachi/Rory. The love story, or stories, are extremely shallow. I get that she’s 16 and impetuous, but deciding to marry Finn? After a few weeks infatuation? When she never noticed him before? How can she so easily dismiss Paul? It strains believability for me.
This book didn’t hold my attention enough to even want to read the next in the series.