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A new Black Witch will rise…her powers vast beyond imagining.

Elloren Gardner is the granddaughter of the last prophesied Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner, who drove back the enemy forces and saved the Gardnerian people during the Realm War. But while she is the absolute spitting image of her famous grandmother, Elloren is utterly devoid of power in a society that prizes magical ability above all else.

When she is granted the opportunity to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an apothecary, Elloren joins her brothers at the prestigious Verpax University to embrace a destiny of her own, free from the shadow of her grandmother’s legacy. But she soon realizes that the university, which admits all manner of people—including the fire-wielding, winged Icarals, the sworn enemies of all Gardnerians—is a treacherous place for the granddaughter of the Black Witch.

As evil looms on the horizon and the pressure to live up to her heritage builds, everything Elloren thought she knew will be challenged and torn away. Her best hope of survival may be among the most unlikely band of rebels…if only she can find the courage to trust those she’s been taught to fear.

608 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 2, 2017

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About the author

Laurie Forest

19 books3,356 followers
Laurie Forest is a New York Times, USA Today & Internationally Bestselling Author who lives deep in the backwoods of Vermont where she sits in front of a wood stove drinking strong tea and dreaming up tales full of dryads, dragons and wands. She has penned THE BLACK WITCH, THE REBEL MAGES (a compilation of the prequel novels WANDFASTED & LIGHT MAGE), THE SHADOW WAND, THE DEMON TIDE & is currently writing THE DRYAD STORM (Book 5.0 of The Black Witch Chronicles).

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Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
347 reviews923 followers
August 17, 2021
So, I read it.

Honestly, I'm pretty disappointed in those people who condemned this book before giving it a chance.

Yes, a defining motivation for almost everything that happens in this book is racial tension between a handful of fantasy races. No, I do not feel that the author condones racist, homophobic, ableist, etc. ideologies about races that exist in reality.

My opinion? This book was preemptively dragged through the mud for nothing.

Seriously though, since when is portraying characters with shitty belief systems the same as condoning characters with shitty belief systems?

And I must ask, have we not made it past the point where we accept that people are not all good or all bad? That it's the part of ourselves we act on that make us who we are? Wasn't this one of the fundamental lessons in the Harry Potter series?

Speaking of Harry Potter, any of you who ever found it in your heart to sympathize with Draco Malfoy but concluded this book is problematic (likely without reading it) may want to reevaluate. The Black Witch is similar to what we'd be reading if Rowling had written Harry Potter & cast Draco as the protagonist.

Not similar in plot, but similar in that we have a young person, raised with a certain set of beliefs, perpetuating those beliefs for a time, and eventually coming to question whether or not those beliefs are valid when confronted with real world experience & knowledge.

This is exactly the process the main character, Elloren Gardner, goes through.

Elloren is surrounded by people from different races who all hate each other, and for her first bit of time at University she has a lot of her biases confirmed. Everyone in this book is acting on their contempt toward everyone else, and this is the very first time she's been exposed to others outside of the Gardnarians.

Broadly speaking, does it make sense to judge actions of a few & apply them to everyone in a certain group? Of course not.

Does it make sense for Elloren, who has lived an incredibly sheltered life up to that point, to take her first impressions as an initial confirmation for the prejudices her religion has taught her? Yes, in my opinion, it does.

& I have no clue where this "she doesn't learn her lesson" idea is coming from. Elloren absolutely questions whether the religion she's grown up with is bullshit, begins breaking down deeply ingrained prejudices, and ultimately undergoes a large transformation from who she was at the start of the novel.

Is she perfectly "woke" by the end of the book? Well fuck, no, she's not. But this whole story takes place over the course of what, a year?

Let me just real talk for a moment.

When you are faced with working through the tangled mess of indoctrination you've been drowning in for the majority of your life, it's not a quick & painless process. And it certainly isn't going to come full circle in a short time; you'd be lucky to see significant progress over the course of a few years.

Especially when you're walking that path alone without the support/encouragement of people who love you & accept your evolution. It's a process that I myself have been through, and so it's literally amazing to me that Elloren's character is being so harshly criticized for what I consider to be a very realistic amount of growth.

I'm listing these three quotes because I truly don't think an author who writes a book with the intention of bolstering a racist/homophobic/ableist ideology would have the capacity to write these lines.

Quote 1: "Professor Christian is right, I think, it's time to start paying attention to what my own government is doing..."

Quote 2: "People see what they expect to see [...] through a filter of their own hatred and prejudice."

Quote 3: "I know my grandmother did a lot of terrible things [...] Since coming here I've learned that my people do a lot of really terrible things. But don't you think it's possible for someone to be different from everything you've heard about their kind..."

It's my opinion that a lot of the condemning examples I have seen are taken out of their proper context & slanted to fit a certain perspective.

But here's my thing, I'm not going to spend anymore time in this review trying to convince you that this book is not what it's been accused of being. If the premise of this book interests you at all, I encourage you to go read it and find out for yourself what is true and what is not.

This is a wonderful example of why it's so important to educate and think for yourself. Stances with a foundation in ignorance are poison.

As for my opinion on this book outside of the maelstrom of controversy it's garnered, I didn't really find much here that appealed to me.

The best aspect of The Black Witch is the style of description. Laurie Forest's words are infused with whimsy, laying out gorgeously intricate scenes that were lovely to imagine. The details of places & people really leap off the page in a way you don't often see in debuts.

But unfortunately, those beautiful words were not backed by beautiful world-building. There is a decent variety of races present (fae, lupines, demons, elves, etc.,) but most of them are incredibly derivative of what we have seen countless times before in other Fantasy novels. The world-building element of the story also suffered greatly from the choice in POV.

Elloren's story is told in first person, and I found it quite difficult to connect myself to the world because we spend a ridiculous amount of time trudging through Elloren's squabbles with basically everyone she encounters.

We come to understand some of the details behind the tension between races through Elloren's eyes, but we are largely uninvolved with the degenerating situation outside her bubble of existence. There are a handful of prologues written from different perspectives, but it didn't quite resolve the issue.

There is such an enormous focus on Elloren's petty rivalries & revolving love interests that it really destroyed my ability to relate to her. She has a couple shining moments scattered throughout the story & some of her connections to others develop in a satisfying way, but she is so heavily characterized by her relationship to typical, cliche, YA trope characters that I found it difficult to invest in her as the protagonist.

We've got the Regina George-esque mean girl who is unabashedly awful & hates the MC, the quiet, soft-spoken best friend, the male love interest who oozes testosterone & trails along behind the MC just waiting for the opportunity to corner her with a steamy kiss, and adults that don't listen or understand the MC & love jumping to conclusions. Oh & everyone is drop dead gorgeous with one exception that doesn't really follow through on being an exception by the end of the novel.

Forest's dialogue also edges a bit too close to the line of over dramatic for my tastes. I couldn't help but imagine the characters speaking the same way theater performers sometimes do, with so much exaggeration that the performance becomes more of a caricature.

It seemed like every situation Elloren got into was "wildly scandalous" or "wildly embarrassing" or "wildly confusing" or "wildly inappropriate." I get it, her people are conservative, but Forest may be in a competition with Maas to see how many times she can use the same word in a single book.

As with the world-building, the plot of this story also suffers from a lack of clear focus. Elloren is just existing at the University for most of the time. There's a mini plot near the end of the novel, but it doesn't do much to salvage my attention when almost nothing happens until the 80-90% mark.

Not to mention the novel ends in what I consider to be an abrupt place. It's not even a cliffhanger, it just cuts off with some weird, minor plot developments unresolved.

So it's safe to say I didn't love this novel. I knew going into it that I had no intention of softening my opinion of this book if I disliked it; I wanted to write an honest review to the very best of my ability.

My rating has nothing to do with any racist/homophobic/ableist messages & everything to do with the fact that I just didn't like the book.

I'm glad to have read this so I can finally put to rest my suspicions about the controversy surrounding it.

Thoughts Before Reading:

I have no problem with calling out a book for racist/ableist/sexist/etc. themes. If a book supports any of the above then it deserves to be rated poorly.

But I am disappointed to see that most ratings are coming from people who haven't read the book.

Deciding not to read a book that may be harmful to you is 100% valid.

Deciding to use GR's review function as a means of drawing attention to a book and warning others about its content is 100% valid.

But I can't support destroying a book's ratings when it hasn't been read by the majority reviewers or quasi-threatening/blacklisting people who express interest in forming their own opinions about content. This book may be an absolute piece of shit but I won't claim to know that for sure until I have read the damn book.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,946 reviews292k followers
April 27, 2017
"People see what they expect to see," he says sharply. "Through a filter of their own hatred and prejudice."

I don't really know where to start with this book. I recommend that everyone make themselves aware of the criticisms surrounding The Black Witch, if you are not already. And also be aware that this review is my opinion; I speak for no one but me. If you have a problem with that, don't read on.

The Black Witch is, in my opinion, a thoughtful consideration of the prejudices people hold, and the way upbringing and family can play into our narrow view of the world. Elloren is the narrator, and a Gardnerian, with her own set of bigoted ideas about the other creatures in Erthia - Fae, Lupines, Urisks, Icarals, etc. - who, in turn, have been brought up to believe in all the negative Gardnerian stereotypes.

It's a magic boarding school book, which I personally love. It is like Harry Potter, if Rowling had paused to more deeply explore the prejudice held by supposedly "pure blood" witches and wizards. And, unlike Harry Potter, Elloren is not special and does not save everyone. The author places emphasis on the power of cooperation and teamwork, suggesting we are at our strongest when we work together.

Really, it is about the power - the utter necessity - of education. Universities, in both the world of The Black Witch and in our own, bring together people from all different backgrounds. They are the ultimate melting pots that allow people to expand their minds beyond the confines of the small world they are used to. Forest uses this to show how important multiculturalism is - how it fosters understanding and empathy.
"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."

If you don't want to read ANY on-page prejudice, I respect that, and this book isn't for you. It shows misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and racism (even if the races are pink-skinned elves or werewolves) in order to offer social criticism on it. I should point out, though, that all of these things are repeatedly portrayed as inherently wrong, and this book is as sexist as The Handmaid's Tale, or as racist as The Hate U Give.

Many people who have blacklisted this book have said that readers read to feel good; to escape the darkness of the real world. And that is fine, but it’s not me. I read to feel. I read to question. I read to think, dream, explore and understand. If a book makes me sad or angry, it’s probably a new favourite. I don’t expect books to convince me that everything is sunshine and roses, and happily ever after is real - in fact, I’m skeptical of people selling that bullshit. Life is complex and messy and nasty. Just like this book.

I personally don't agree that the bigotry portrayed isn't challenged, as I've seen some others note. It is most directly challenged in the second half of this book, but even in the first half, it is clear that we are meant to question it. From the very moment Elloren leaves her small town life behind, she questions her aunt's insistence that the Selkies aren't human:
"They may look like humans, Elloren, but they aren't."
The very human-looking, terrified eyes of the young woman are burned into my mind.

Perhaps it is too subtle for some readers that nobody comes out screaming "prejudice!", but the author clearly presents all the races as complex and sympathetic. When Echo expresses disgust towards a Lupine man, Elloren notes the "hurt in his eyes".

And here are some more quotes:
"You know, Elloren," Aislinn says, her voice tentative, "talking to Jarod... it just makes me wonder if... if our people might be mistaken about some things."
"I'm beginning to think it's all hogwash anyway," I tell him. "All this stuff about Evil Ones. But that doesn't change the fact that everyone else seems to believe it."
The desire to avert my eyes is gone. I need to see this for what it is.
Aislinn shrugs. "I'm finding that I like meeting new people," she says quietly. "People different from me. I'm tired of being afraid of everyone."
"Since coming here, I've learned that my people do a lot of really terrible things. But don't you think it's possible for someone to be different from everything you've ever heard about their kind?"
"All that wyvern blood floating around," he explains, "interferes rather inconveniently with cherished ideas of racial purity. Which, in and of itself, is the greatest myth of all time."

The challenge to prejudice is most evident when you consider that all the main antagonists are the most shamelessly bigoted. In fact, this was the part I liked least. Fallon and Vogel are two of the very few one-dimensional characters in the book. I'm sure the author made this decision to try to avoid any confusion over her stance against racism, and I feel a little bad for her that she probably cannot win, but it was disappointing to have such mindlessly cruel individuals in a sea of otherwise well-developed, multilayered characters.

To present this as merely a book about a girl who learns to humanize those of other races seems reductive, when all the races in question have a complicated web of prejudices that are deconstructed over the course of the novel. Everyone is difficult and weird and jealous and vindictive and moody and... aren't we all? It would be so very easy to reduce prejudice to a simple Good vs Bad, Heroes vs Villains, Us vs Them paradigm, and yet the author never does that.

Forest shows that prejudice and privilege are extremely complex and overlap in many ways. She shows that bigotry is not something you're born with, but something you learn. And, despite the dark and serious themes throughout, I can't help but wonder - isn't this message ultimately an uplifting one? Sure, it shows all the prejudice and horrors that exist in our world, but it shows something else too-- that they can be beaten.

I did spend a lot of time considering whether I wanted to review this at all. I figure there is a group of people on twitter waiting to tear down anyone who doesn’t instantly 1-star this book and scream “offensive!” And I’m so tired of the backlash people get for going against the herd. But, in the end, if Goodreads isn’t a place where people can express a variety of different opinions and perspectives, then it is utterly worthless.

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Profile Image for Georgina.
20 reviews12 followers
April 4, 2017
What is wrong with you people, now we are commanding artists what they can't and can write in FANTASY just so we wouldn't get triggered?? Don't read it if you can't deal with cruel, sad and dark themes. But you don't get to tell someone they are racist just because they choose to depict a world in which racism is very much alive!? What's the point of that? Are we going to ban history books next?? She writes her story, she created her flawed characters and her flawed world just as ours is, and there's room there to fix that world, too, for her characters to grow and learn! This reaction is outrageous! This is censorship!! Now we are telling others what is acceptable in arts and what not just because you can't deal with some harsh themes?? Unbelievable.

You know what's offensive? Throwing around such harsh words every time something's not acceptable to you! And some people are here losing their mind and calling the author despicable names and they didn't even read the freaking book!! Are you not capable of forming your own opinion?

This book had been receiving amazing reviews and then a couple of people found if racist and now EVERYONE finds it racist!?!? This is an on-growing trend, so I've noticed, something similar happened to Veronica Roth! Some are even rewriting their reviews. It doesn't work like that!! If you didn't find it offensive and racists the first time you read it without any judgement then guess what? It probably isn't racist to you!

And what if it does show racist behavior?? So what? Can't we show such things in books? Jesus Christ. God forbid we dealt with racist themes and violence towards women, God forbid we wrote about racist communities, God forbid we wrote about worlds where women aren't as strong as men. It would be just a bit - REALISTIC! You people can't deal with FANTASY, much less real life. And then there are some who simply just go looking for isms and phobias in every freaking book they read and comment they see. That's borderline sick.

Hell, even Sarah J. Maas gets called on being racist and not ''diverse enough''. She even gets attacked for ''forcing her obviously gay character into a submissive straight relationship''. Because YOU wrote and know her characters, right? Do you people hear yourself? This is getting seriously out of hand! Who are you to demand such things from other people's works of art!? Who are you to tell authors that they don't have enough ''diverse characters'' and that they HAVE TO have gay, black, white, whatever type of characters? Who are you to tell them they can't have racist characters or create a bad, bad world? If my magical world is all white, all black, all gay, all straight, all unicorns, all hate, and all racism, I have the right to make it that way, and you know what, it doesn't make me racist! It makes you incapable of dealing with life, this real one here.

20 years ago, J.K. Rowling created a world with racism in it. She created racist, xenophobic, hateful characters. And many are, dare I say hypocritically, adored by our generation. The only difference being, she didn't make her protagonist have 'racist' views. She chose the easier path. Black and white, morally speaking. But people are not black and white! Many learn, many grow, many are raised in such cultures and are conditioned to be that way, the way the main character in this book is. It would be UNREALISTIC if she were any other way!! And she isn't even racist, she's just a flawed young girl in a cruel world!

Let the characters be flawed, let the worlds be dark, you know better, or at least you should! Let them learn, for crying out loud, that's only human. Let yourself see into different mindsets even when they are wrong, learn, don't be so narrow-minded yourself. Books shouldn't be perfect, characters shouldn't be perfect, worlds shouldn't be perfect! They should be the way authors want them to be, and you should be mature enough to handle it and learn to be critical without losing your shit and seeing things even when they aren't even there!

What you are doing here is ruining the artistry! In a couple of years, all we'll be reading will be cardboard material!! Because authors will be afraid of getting labeled with some freaking ism. You are restricting people's imagination and their craft! You are restricting yourself!

Poor Laurie Forest. Poor authors these days. We live in a censorship that our younger generations are forcing upon everyone! Funnily enough, they are the same ones who preach freedom of speech and #nojudgement. Grow up!
Profile Image for Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net.
242 reviews550 followers
July 7, 2017
See this review and more on www.bookbastion.net

Related review:

Wandfasted (The Black Witch 0.5):

I'd like to start off this review with a little warning to the naysayers for this book: if you're here to brigade me in the comments section and tell me how wrong I am for having an opinion that differs from your own, you can save it because your comment WILL be flagged and deleted. The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and no amount of abuse from the people who think it's okay to squash free thinking with nasty comments and twitter brigades will force me to change it. Don't like it, don't read it. Also, don't complain you're being treated unfairly after you rated a book 1-star before you even read it.

When I first realized what was happening to this book, I was disturbed. When I looked into it a bit more and realized how this all started, I was outright annoyed. Make no mistake: what happened to this book, its author, and its editors/Harlequin Teen was not fair. It was censorship. 

Now that I've read it myself, I can safely say that what happened to this book was wholly undeserved, and very likely perpetrated by a person who saw an opportunity to bolster her own image, while tearing down a debut author at the same time - because who cares if creative expression suffers as long as you prove to your followers how moral you are, right? 

The most disappointing part of all this drama has got to be how many people just went along with it, down-voting this book into oblivion without taking the time to read or think for themselves. 

At the time of my last post about this book, The Black Witch was sitting at a 2.08stars on Goodreads, with 473 reviews and 1,123 ratings. 

Just to update you all, today, the same book sits at a 2.80stars with 637 reviews and 1,173 ratings. It's definitely trending upwards, albeit slowly, and this increase can be attributed to the fact that the majority of those 150+ new reviews that have poured in have been mostly ranging from good-to-favorable. Why? Because those people actually read the book and thought for themselves before rating. Go figure, right? 

I can't review this book without standing up against the culture on Goodreads that made this whole situation possible in the first place. How, how does this sort of thing happen? How do we as readers allow ourselves to become so jaded that we allow one fellow reviewer to totally decide our reading habits for us? One fellow reviewer with a nasty habit of using debut authors to bolster her own public image, I might add. 

Shouldn't we intellectual thinkers do the intellectual thing and actually check out these sort of things for ourselves? I get not wanting to support an author if you think the content is problematic, but at least get thineself to a library stat and do your own fact checking before you jump on every bandwagon you see. Especially when there are people's hopes, dreams and very livelihoods on the line. I cannot imagine spending years of my life writing a book only to have one single review set her twitter followers on me because she's looking for internet morality points. 

And lets be clear here that this is exactly what happened. 

There is something incredibly ironic in the fact that we as a community have placed a white woman's review on a pedestal and completely accepted her opinion on what is, or is not racist in the first place.  I don't mean to imply that I think I have a complete handle on the subject either - but I'm encouraging people to do their own due diligence and find out for themselves, not acting like the creative expression police and asking my followers to torpedo a brand new author's debut book with allegations that are disingenuous at best, and slanderous at worst. 

She hits every buzzword she knew in her review, (racism, homophobia, abelism, assault, self-harm, and even name drops the holocaust along with more) while ignoring critical things like context or the simple fact that what she was reading is something we once celebrated as good storytelling before twitter and tumblr, and now Goodreads crowds decided feigning outrage at  everything was the appropriate response and a healthy way to view the world. She calls this book about a FANTASY WORLD FILLED WITH SHAPESHIFTERS AND MADE UP CREATURES "dangerous".

And the people attacking this book haven't stopped there. They continue to drum up negative conversation around this book, and encourage each other to brigade other books edited by Harlequin Teen. Oh, and they targeted Kirkus for daring to give this book an award.

Also, as a fellow reviewer, I have to say this: You owe it to your followers to acknowledge when the content/theme/or plot of a book was too offensive for you personally, to fully evaluate the literary aspects of the book with any degree of objectivity. There are quite a few moments in that original review where she mentions sobbing, and not being able to finish whole pages in the book because she was that deeply offended by it. It is her right to be offended, but if you're admitting to skipping over passages and allowing a book to take that level of emotional toll on you while reading it, it might be time to admit you've lost objectivity and can't review it without personal stances coloring your opinion of a work of fiction.

There's actually very little literary analysis (if any) present in this original review. Which isn't all that surprising, because much of what this person wrote was originally live tweeted to her followers in the first place. And really, how much context can you truly impart to your followers with 140 characters? The answer - not much. 

Not only does that original review lack context in many areas and dangerously encourages the censorship of creative expression; it was also purposefully done to give this woman's blog, twitter handle and business, visibility while harming the chances of another person's livelihood and success. That's downright predatory behavior in my book, and if you're the type that needs to tear down others and encourage the destruction of another person's career to bolster your own internet identity, you seriously need to re-examine your priorities. Just saying.

It's like I woke up one day and suddenly found myself living in a world where people seek out things to be offended by, and to decry via social media as some sort of proof of how noble and virtuous they are. But you see, the thing is, when it comes to books or any form of creative expression you are not morally, legally or ethically obligated to read/watch/or listen to anything that doesn't appeal to you. 

That also means that you don't have the right to brigade new authors, editors and publishing houses because a particular book might offend you without actually reading it. I've made it quite clear by now that I believe that original review lacks context and purposefully misleads, but at least that reviewer took the time to read the damn book to fish out all those quotes. The rest of you who rated one star didn't even bother doing that. And that's wrong. 

Every time you rate a book 1 star without reading it, because of something you heard, you snuff out creative expression in the future. Also, a fairy loses its wings. This is how you get censorship guys. By demanding every story be told the way you want, you remove opportunities to see things from another perspective in the future. Basically, if you don't think you're going to like it, don't read it, and move on. Stop with the senseless slaughter of debut authors reputations and careers based off of rumor and half-truths. 

{Now, as for The Black Witch itself}

How ironic that the book that garnered so much controversy from keyboard warriors this year for being so offensive happens to be the most diverse book I've read this year, and also one of the most hopeful. 

This is a story about realizing how you may be a product of your environment and upbringing. This is a story about one woman realizing the dangers of the way she had been conditioned to think for her entire life, and overcoming those notions. This is a story about redemption and friendship and the beauty that comes with realizing that there is strength in diversity and multiculturalism. 

What I Loved: 

The world building is so great. Seriously, Laurie Forest thought this thing OUT! Lots of YA fantasy kind of half-asses the world building. If you're lucky you get a castle, royalty, and magic-imbibed human characters. However, here there are numerous fantasy races, and they're all so vastly different from one another. And they all have histories and legends and preconceived notions within their races that force them to challenge themselves and grow, and learn to trust each the people they once feared or hated over time. 

As a result, the world feels vast and real and lived in. It has not one history, but multiple histories and cultures for its creatures. And given that Elloren comes from such an incredibly sheltered background, she provides quite an interesting lens for the viewer to experience the diversity and promise of the world through. 

Similarly, the characters, their races, and their cultures are great. Elloren is obviously the most dynamic and well written character in the book. Given that she's so misguided at the start, I won't lie and say that I wasn't frustrated by her actions from time to time - but that's the point. She's overcoming years of an unhealthy upbringing and by the end I was rooting for the changes she was undergoing. 

And she's not the only one! The entire core cast at the school is so great. I believed in their friendship and I loved watching it grow and bloom over time as they all come to places of better understanding with each other. Their cultural heritages are each unique and so compelling. The characterization was just really well done in this book, and I've got to give it credit. 

There's some really lovely quotes mixed in during all that character growth, that really highlights why it's so important that Elloren and her friends continue to challenge themselves and learn to put aside everything they once knew. Such as: 

"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."

The Magical lore is intriguing and has a lot of potential to get even better! There was a lot of lore around the magic established in this book. Powerless though she may be, Elloren is surrounded by magical creatures and there's a lot of little magical moments thrown in regardless. I'm really excited to see where some of it goes next. 

What I Didn't Love

Elloren's aunt. Seriously, she can go fall in a hole for all I care. But as the source of all of Elloren's misguided ideas about race, she's supposed to be a character you hate, so this is definitely NOT a fault of the writer. 

I had one tiny complaint about a kiss between 2 characters. I'm not going to name them, because spoilers, but it seemed like they had just met and then were kissing. And while it doesn't end up being very important to the rest of story at all and can probably be chalked up to horny teens that comprise lots of YA, instalove still rubs me the wrong way. 

That ending though! I wanted more! It felt a tiny bit abrupt to me, especially because an event (a Ball) that had been spoken of earlier in the book doesn't get to actually take place, having been saved for book 3. I think that sort of made it feel a bit more cliffhanger-y than it absolutely needed to. 

Still, not even those minor complaints can distract from the fact that I loved this book. I kept going back and forth between 4 and 5 stars, but the way the characters develop and the way the world building unfolds really puts this one over the top for me. Besides, enough people railroaded this book unfairly that I think 5 stars from me is more than fair in this case. 

The Black Witch is a wonderful YA fantasy that deserves more credit than it gets. I thought it was so creative, compelling and important, despite what naysayers who have never read the book might have you think. 

If you take anything away from this review, let it be this: 

Please, give this book a chance. At the very least, rethink your 1-star brigade reviews in the future. Allow authors their right to creative expression without getting offended on other people's behalf, especially when you're taking 1 (very biased) review completely at face value without doing your own due diligence. 

★★★★★ = 5/5 "Give this book a chance!" stars
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,406 reviews9,539 followers
October 16, 2020
UPDATE: $1.99 Kindle US 10/16/20

This book was fan-freaking-tastic! Even though I wanted to beat about 1500 people 😄

I love about 15 people in this book! They were so damn awesome!

First off, Elloren, Rafe and Trystan were all brought up by their uncle Edwin. And good ole uncle brought them up to be good peeps. They were all still tarnished by untrue beliefs but it all comes out in good time ladies and gents!

They are all descendants of The Black Witch and uncle is keeping some things hidden from Elloren

Then ole evil auntie comes and takes Elloren off to university where her brothers go. There is a lot in between that storyline but you can read that yourself. Evil auntie wants Elloren to marry this mage named Lukas. When Elloren refuses, auntie makes it hard for her at university.

You see the Garderians think they are the better race. We have elves, werewolves, selkies, dragons, etc. They are called The Evil Ones, which is crap. Well, auntie sets it up where Elloren has to work with some said Evil Ones and bunk with some said Evil Ones. Little did evil auntie know, this is the best thing that could have happened to Elloren because she eventually finds out the truth about these creatures and makes friends with many and so do her brothers. There is even love in the air ❤️ But none of this is supposed to happen so a lot of stuff goes down.

I seriously hope we see Elloren come into her own in the next book. I know she has to be all powerful damn it and I want to see her fire up the world!!!


Sweet Ancient One in the Heavens Above, what a mess we're all in.

I've stolen a Selkie. Yvan's plotting to steal a military dragon. Both Rafe and Aislinn are in love with Lupines, and I'm becoming increasingly close friends with a shunned Elfin Icaral.

This has actually gone way beyond a mess. We're all threading on increasingly dangerous ground here.

What on Erthia are we all going to do from here?

Like I said before, I love so many of the characters but the werewolf Diana is my favorite. She's just bad to the bone!

Mel ❤️

MY BLOG: Melissa Martin's Reading List
May 10, 2017
“Elloren,” Aunt Vyvian breathes, “you have grown into the absolute image of your grandmother.”

It’s a huge compliment, and I want to believe it. My grandmother was not only one of my people’s most powerful Mages, she was also considered to be very beautiful.
This book has an overwhelmingly, unprecedentedly low rating. I suspect it's because of the controversies this book has generated. This is unfortunate, because I believe this book's low rating should be due to the fact that it is painfully bad, not to mention mind-numbingly dull, rather than anything racially offensive within the book.

I've been reading this book for a week, and I can't read more than a few chapters at a time because it is just so bad. There is no complexity in this book; any conflicts within it is so simple and idiotically presented that it might as well have been written for a first grader's comprehension.
There they are. My tormentors. Sitting there, eating spice cake.

“The denizens of hell do not get to eat cake!” I snarl, heart racing.
I don't give a fuck about the racism. We're talking about elves and werewolf type shit here, and I'm too tired to care about any metaphorical offense.

What DOES offend me is:

1. The constant girl-on-girl hatred
2. The fact that the only nice girls are the outcast, ugly ones
Tierney Calix is, by far, the ugliest Gardnerian girl I’ve ever laid eyes on. Reed-thin, her face is sharp, her nose unevenly hooked, her straight hair oily and uncombed.
3. The fact that all the girls are mean and the meanest most beautiful girl wants the guy who's in lurve with Elloren
“Fallon is obsessed with Lukas Grey.”
Ah, him again.
“So...they’re courting?”
“No,” she puts in flatly. “Not to my knowledge. From what I’ve seen, Lukas has little interest in the girl.” My aunt’s face twists into a disgusted sneer. “Even though Fallon throws herself at him quite wantonly.”
4. The fact that the main character is so beautiful and looks JUST like her famous grandma who is the most famousest witch ever!
5. The fact that the most desired boy in the book wants to become betrothed to her after their first meeting
6. The fact that the writing is terrible and laughable
7. The fact that the conflicts between the mythical races in the book are simplistically presented
8. The fact that the beautiful brave main character spends half the fucking book bawling her eyes out
9. The fact that there is a love triangle
10. The fact that this book is fucking long and a waste of my time.
Profile Image for Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky).
256 reviews430 followers
May 29, 2017
I've completely re-written this review. If you read the earlier version, maybe take another look? It is really long… sorry about that lol.

Part 1 is the review. Part 2 is the discussion of the controversy around this book, re-written based on my thinking of, and discussion around this topic here on GR in the last few weeks.


“People see what they expect to see… Through a filter of their own hatred and prejudice.”

3.5 stars

This is essentially an origin story. Poor stylistic choices and an unlikeable protagonist affect the power of an otherwise engaging novel about prejudice, the power of friendship and the value of education.


Honestly, I had a lot of difficultly with Elloren, the protagonist, she is a cry baby and… kind of an asshole. She doesn’t do a single nice thing until approx. halfway thru the book.

That is way, way, way too far into the novel.

Have you heard the common catch phrase “save the cat”? It refers to the recommendation that writers have their protagonist do something nice early in the novel to garner sympathy. Likewise, villians “kick the dog” in the first act. Not every novel uses such simplistic moral frameworks.

But in a novel such as this- where the protagonist is a prejudice, privileged young woman- she should probably “save the cat” early on.

There was nothing admirable about Elloren I could point to, no inherent goodness, that allowed me to overcome my initial distaste. And the other problem I had was her description of a character with a physical deformity. She describes having to adjust to the unpleasantness of her appearance…. Like that isn’t prejudice. That is just you being a fucking bitch Ellenora. Add to that the unfortunate girl on girl hate… hmm.

This is a major developmental problem within the novel and I’m honestly appalled that Forest was not advised by her publisher to significantly re-write the first two acts of the manuscript to correct this issue.

Why did I still enjoy it?

Luckily, it is an ensemble cast. One of the most disingenuous aspects of the critical reviews is that they fail to acknowledge that all of the characters have extreme prejudice. These characters feature heavily in the story. And some of them are downright deserving of a gold star… or ten. ☺

At the core of the novel is a beautiful story about how young people fall in love, build friendships, and overcome prejudice when given the opportunity to get to know one another.

This is true to life.


This novel has a lot of set up and the pacing isn’t always quite right. I always try to give debut novels more leniency, because many of my fave authors started off with sharp weaknesses, which are rounded off in later releases.

There is a lot going on in the background of these novels. Some people criticised this, because every student they know is active in the political and military activity of their country at the age of 17.*

Personally, I appreciated the slow “waking up” of various characters to the grim future staring at them if they continued to ignore the larger world outside their university bubble.

TBH it was sort of a cross between Gossip Girl, (if Gossip Girl addressed serious social and political issues) and Degrassi High, in a fantasy world.

That probably sounds terrible. But actually, it was rather wonderful.

P.S there is a lot of romance and sobbing in this novel. It sounded really kickass in the blurb but actually the story was kinda… girly? Like, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, girly? I think I expected something closer to Mark Lawrence’s Red Sister but I got Dawson’s Creek in Never Land.

*Heavy sarcasm and eye-rolling intended.


Argh, I honestly wanted to be able to rave about this book. But there were a few problems in every part of the triad (character, plot, writing) that shapes a 5 star book that just kept dragging down my overall enjoyment.

Transitions. Forest had the most bizarre transitions. I haven’t seen something this amateurish in a trad pubbed novel in… literally… years.

So Forest would do this thing where Elloren would tell a story to another character about something that happened a few weeks earlier, or recount in her head something that happened a few days before.

I cannot for the fucking life of me understand why she did this. Just tell the fucking story in order. It was almost as bad as the SP books I read where the author keeps putting the character to bed to end a scene. FFS!

I don’t understand why she did this. It was so jarring. So frustrating. So fucking pointless. The first time I highlighted it and thought “ok, everyone gets one free pass”, by the fourth occurrence I was tearing my hair out. What sort of editor lets a writer do this? Had scenes been heavily cut and mashed together? Did Forest have too many scene fragments and this was the solution?

I know it seems like a stupid thing to get annoyed about, but I often find that it is in books I otherwise enjoyed that these mistakes are all the more jarring.

Otherwise the writing was solid, nothing too spectacular, but effective with a clear voice.


I have seen several explanations for the fury attached to this book:

1.) This book is racist, ableist and homophobic.

2.) This book tries to explore racism but ends up displaying and re-enforcing racist stereotypes and troupes.

3.) This book is a “white saviour” novel.

Ok, so this is tricky because I’m really uncomfortable arguing with a POC about whether something is racist or not.

So I’m going to put forward these statements and readers can take them however they like:

1.) A direct comparison between modern race relations in say, America, with the situation created in this novel is very difficult to make. Why? Because the region in the novel has a long history of violence, prejudice and genocide on all sides. I was a bit shocked by the people who were most angered by this novel. To me, the much more obvious analogy in the real world of geo-politcal relations would frame Elloren as a sheltered Israelite, interacting with Palestine people for the first time. Make of that what you will. But it certainly wasn’t a clear- cut story of colonialism or slavery.

2.) Elloren doesn’t save anyone. As of the end of the novel, other characters, many disenfranchised under the current “world order” of the novel, are actively doing significantly more to undercut inequity then Elloren. Her admiration for these characters is obvious. Should Elloren be the title character? Probably not. But as it stands this is very much a team effort kind of story. The exception is the selkie- who is saved by Elloren… But is mostly healed and comforted by other disenfranchised characters.

3.) The prejudice displayed in the novel is challenged, often within the same page. It was very clear to me that you were meant to find the racism repugnant. Nobody would read this with heart- eyed sincerity… Unlike some other very popular books that actually reinforce racism, often unconsciously.

So, what are the themes in TBW- the power of education, relationships and engagement to undermine prejudice of all kinds.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel despite it's flaws. I would recommend it to most fantasy readers who enjoy meaty thematic elements and the beautiful, engaging drama of the YA genre.


So it is no secret that controversies in the book world are at an all time high this year.

Here is the current situation:

• Shawna, Cait and a few other reviewers publish critical reviews of TBW, telling people it is racist, sexist, homophobic and ableist.

• Some reviewers panic and remove their star rating.

• L.L. McKinney and other influential WOC on twitter, in the blogosphere and here on twitter encourage readers to 1 star TBW in protest.

• This leads to an overall rating that currently stands at 2 stars.

• Emily May, Robin Hobb, and a few other influential reviewers, writers and bloggers provide a contrary position. Much drama ensues.

• L.L. McKinney has her unreleased novel 1 starred in retaliation for some supposedly racist comments she made on twitter ("whiteness tires me so"). Many of the people 1 starring her book decried the 1 starring of TBW and are some of Forest’s most vocal supporters (Read here). Those reviews are removed but the reviews on TBW remain. Much drama ensues.

• Some reviewers, who previously gave TBW a high or medium star rating retaliate further by removing their star rating of TBW, even thou Forest had nothing to do with the drama over on L.L. McKinney’s book, A Blade So Black.

This has also occurred in the context of frequent fury over representations of POC in new releases. Some examples include:

Carve the Mark
All the Crooked Saints
Before She Ignites

I’ve had several people ask why there has been so much drama around books lately. Here is my answer:


I suspect the rise in the popularity of book tube and #booktwitter has contributed to the increase in bookdrama and outrage.

There is something instinctively addictive about the drama and when you have big influxes of people who maybe don't usually spend time on GR voting and commenting on every review on a single book the drama gets flooded thru a huge number of readers feeds. The result is that it snowballs into a massive deal.

Previously if a heavy hitting GR reviewer critiqued a book, they were only one reviewer on a page full of reviews. And they didn't usually encourage others to provide fake 1 star reviews with a link to the original review. The exception being when the community felt an author was behaving badly. GR addressed this by blanket banning these sort of pile on's.

In addition, rising partisanship is causing rifts and frustration across all media platforms. There are a whole hosts of reasons for this that are too long and detailed to explain here, but it seems likely that GR and the online book community are actually behind the general community in terms of the outrage chasers.

Every successful blog writer in the world knows the best way to get traction on their site is to post really divisive, controversial pieces. Book reviewers used to do it by posting negative reviews on popular books. They are cottoning on to easier, more explosive ways to manufacture interest.


The other less cynical factor is that more diverse writers, readers and reviewers are gaining influence. This inevitably creates tension/ drama and is actually a good thing. It is a chronic truism that if your reading fantasy all characters are white (except maybe the villains and savages).

A part of this is frustration within the industry for POC trying to be published.

At the back end, I don't see the evidence of this because I read so many popular novels written by writers who aren't white. This is mostly due to survivor bias thou- we readers only see the successful writers and so don't recognise the problem.

That doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

When so many people in the industry are saying the same thing, it seems likely that it is a problem. No wonder they are furious and viciously criticising white writers who get published with "race plots".

The whole thing is pretty interesting because 10 years ago a lot of authors of colour were complaining about being forced to write exclusively about race. Now people like L.L. are say they don't think white writers should be "allowed" to write about race because they are cashing in on the flux of interest in reading about diverse characters/ settings.

I think there were similar for/against arguments regarding male authors being published with books about female MC's above female authors. I couldn't imagine anyone making that argument these days.

Although you still get the occasional accusation that the publishing industry is sexist the statistics suggest otherwise- more women or employed in the industry then men, and more women are making it as mid-list authors then men. Unsurprising as more women read then men.

Like women a few decades ago, POC are a largely invisible reading group. The surprise success of a number of writers, bloggers and novels that deal with diversity has proven otherwise. The same thing can be seen with LGBTQ readers and writers.

The publishing industry will readjust, a lot of the fury will die down and these sort of dramas will fade.

The evidence of change is already revealing itself- last years literary awards were impressively diverse (which caused a lot of old white men to cry into their cornflakes).

It is understandable that people are getting really defensive and angry. Change is within their grasp and likely won't occur unless they are loud enough and ferocious enough.

That is why I am very wary of criticising POC who are fighting for change in the industry broadly. For them, this is war. For me, this is a bit of unpleasantness around a book release.


At the core of the issue is GR's refusal to create a blanket rule regarding what is acceptable and what isn't. When can a book’s rating be decimated and an author’s carrer destroyed, and when is that unacceptable?

If readers comment on an author's convictions for child abuse the review is deleted.

Which makes it baffling that they chose not to delete reviews that accuse a writer of racism on one book, but delete them from another.

The line seems to be- if they said stuff in the book that justifies the accusation, it can stay but if they said something racist in another public forum- that isn't allowed.

Or maybe, if the criticism is included within a book review it can stay but if it is the only thing in the review it will be deleted. It is all so unclear.

The result is people feel unfairly targeted.

But GR isn't interested in resolving the issue and they have never had any real platform competition that offers the ease GR delivers. So why invest time in something bound to piss at least some people off?


I came across another review arguing that the 1 star reviews are a form of protest and thus a legitimate expression of their political/ social power.

This is something I have had a keen interest in since the anonymous DDoS attacks on Scientology and PayPal.

It raises some interesting questions about what protest is in the online space.

I supported the attacks initially until you think thru the consequences- what if every feminist novel had a one star rating on GR due to MRA's brigading those books- having not read them and following the lead of someone they admire with online influence..

What if trump supporters orchestrated DDoS attacks on media outlets that gave unfavourable coverage?

It's a slippery slope.

I'm not pretending I have answers to this. But I do think it is worth thinking and talking about.


Socially enforced morality is the collection of social/ cultural scripts we use to monitor good and bad behaviour in the public sphere. Nerdwriter recently did a great video on this topic which you can watch here if you are interested.

He makes an observation in the video that opinion pieces (just like reviews here on goodreads) have had a resurgence in power, providing persuasive scripts which people are parroting without much thought.

Performance identity used to be something that mostly only famous people or CEO’s engaged in. With the rise of social media, everyone has an online identity they carefully (or not so carefully) curate.

What we say on the internet is forever.

And people are keen to demonstrate that they are “good people”. Some of the “protest” behaviour, where people are 1-starring a book with a link to the orginal review are engaging in social proofing, “look I’m a good person who hates racism”.

The problem being, of course, that sometimes the headlines are just flat out wrong. In which case people are contributing to a public witch-hunt, destroying a person’s life, without having any of the facts of the matter.

It takes each individual who shares the review a few seconds. But this controversy will haunt Forest for the rest of her career.

That is a pretty serious action. You should be absolutely sure the person who you are denigrating deserves that life sentence. And how can you if you read one person’s opinion and didn’t even bother to engage with the original text?

The Western justice system is founded on the idea of fair trail. But we seem to forget that principle when it comes to social justice trials.

We also seem to forget that they are even more damaging to a person’s career, identity and future prospects then a criminal conviction.

Even convicted criminals eventually earn the right to have their past transgressions forgotten, their records expunged.


Before you go advertising your moral superiority by 1 starring this book with a statement like "never, never, never racist af" and a link to one review perhaps you should consider reading the book in question?

You aren't really doing anything to contribute to difficult and complex discussions about how people of colour or women or LGBT characters are represented by jumping on every bandwagon you see riding by.

Starring a book you haven’t read is up to you. I can’t tell you what to do. But because I’m a bit of an asshole here is a helpful guide if you are on the fence about whether to engage in this behaviour:

Did you rate this book?

a.) Before you read it


b.) After you read it?

If you answered (a.) that is pretty stupid no matter what your justification.

If you answered (b.) good job, you understand how to read, rate and review novels.

On a more serious note, I wanted to thank everyone who has commented on this review for their polite, thoughtful and sincere engagement with this difficult topic.
Profile Image for Robin Hobb.
Author 284 books96.9k followers
August 13, 2016
College or University. A time when almost every student discovers that a) not everyone believes what you believe and b) some of what you know is wrong.

The Black Witch captures that time in the protagonist's life as Elloren leaves the shelter of her rustic uncle's home and goes off to school under the guidance of her politically power aunt. Elloren has been 'wand-tested' for magic and found lacking, despite the family lineage of powerful mages. She is still a potentially powerful pawn for her aunt's ambitions, but only if she surrenders her independence and knuckles to her aunt's threats and bribes . . .

This is a strong 'first novel' YA entry by Laurie Forest. It excels at depicting realistically how we react when we confront prejudices, our own and others. The 'come to realize' moment is powerful and graphic. Elloren is a believable protagonist in her sometimes painful growth towards accepting the truth. If you enjoy tales of both magic and coming of age and going off to school, this book will satisfy all three of those flavors.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
January 14, 2018
3.5 stars, rounding up.* Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

In an ironic twist, The Black Witch (2017), a book expressly dedicated to exploring the problem of prejudice and promoting diversity and tolerance, has been accused by many voices of being the very thing it is most devoted to showing as wrong. Words like “offensive,” “racist,” “ableist,” and “homophobic” have been hurled at the author and this book. It’s understandable, because the society and most of the characters depicted in The Black Witch ― including the main character, Elloren, a beautiful and otherwise kindhearted girl ― are prejudiced and dismissive, even cruel, toward other races. It’s also deeply unfortunate and unfair, because obviously the author’s primary purpose is to show how even a nice person can be steeped in prejudice because of their culture and upbringing, and how that can change gradually as they meet new people, have new experiences, and slowly come to know better. It’s actually a great idea for a young adult fantasy novel.

Seventeen year old Elloren Gardner is a member of one of the most prominent families in the country of Gardneria. She has the black hair, forest green eyes and white skin with a subtle shimmer that characterize her people, the Gardnerian Mages, and is also the spitting image of her famous grandmother, Carnissa Gardner, a powerful mage known as the Black Witch who saved her people during a bitter war. But Elloren seems to be lacking in any magical talent at all. Orphaned at a young age, her Uncle Edwin has raised her and her two brothers in the country, far away from the capital city of Valgard and its power politics … and Elloren’s Aunt Vyvian, a member of the High Mage Council.

But now Aunt Vyvian has come to bring Elloren to the city, and from there to the prestigious Verpax University in the neighboring country of Verpacia. Elloren wants to become an apothecary; her aunt is insistent that she first “wandfast” (the Gardnerian form of marriage) with a powerful young mage, Lukas Grey. Elloren resists, even though she’s strongly attracted to Lukas; she’s just met him, and she promised her uncle that she’d wait to wandfast for a couple of years, until she finishes her education. Aunt Vyvian is highly displeased ― and once Elloren gets to the university, she finds out just how many ways her powerful and well-connected aunt can find to show her displeasure, make life difficult for Elloren, and convince Elloren to do what her aunt wants.

Verpax University is a colorful and diverse place, a melting pot of many races: there are various types of fae (water, air, fire, and more), Kelts (a non-magical human race), Lupines (wolf shapeshifters), Icarals (bat-winged shapeshifters with fire-wielding power), elves, selkies, and more. (It’s a bit confusing, actually.) Elloren is assigned two Icaral-type roommates as part of her aunt’s punishing regime, and is forced to work in the university’s kitchen amongst humble non-Gardnerian workers of various races ― most of whom hate her on sight, just because she’s a Gardnerian and part of the oppressive ruling class. More hatred comes Elloren’s direction from Fallon Bane, a talented Gardnerian Mage and a romantic rival for Lukas’ attention.

At Verpax University Laurie Forest begins delving more deeply into the theme of prejudices, particularly the lies that people can tell each other and themselves about their history, how awful people are who are different from them, and how their own race or nationality is better than any other type. The Gardnerians think they’re best and are disdainful toward other races … but we also see prejudice and unkind treatment based on racial stereotypes from practically every other group. Prejudice isn’t limited to just the Gardnerians, the ruling class. But they are the ones currently in power, and their leaders are actively looking to become more powerful.

Elloren narrates this story in first person present tense, and some readers will find it just too painful or off-putting to be inside Elloren’s head and hearing her voice as she says all kinds of bigoted things, which she does very frequently, especially in the first half of the book. But it gradually becomes clear to Elloren that she and her society have been wrong. It takes most of the book, and even as she’s slowly changing she still says and thinks a lot of stupid things. But that’s entirely realistic. Change is not an immediate, magical process, and not all prejudiced people are evil and ugly and villainous … and they shouldn’t be depicted as such, even in a YA novel. Many people are biased just because they don’t know and have never been taught any better, and that’s what is going on with Elloren in The Black Witch.

The world created by Laurie Forest in The Black Witch is a fairly traditional fantasy world with races and types that are largely recognizable, with a few original twists like the Urisk, a people with a magical affinity for gemstones. The university setting owes a fairly large debt to Hogwarts and the HARRY POTTER series. There are a fair number of broad hints that, despite Elloren’s current lack of magical power, at some point she’ll have a breakthrough and become the new Black Witch of the prophecies, so The Chosen One trope is definitely in play here as well. It’s the additional factor of the widespread prejudice, bigotry and cruelty in this world, and Forest’s focus on that problem, that set The Black Witch apart from otherwise similar books in the YA fantasy genre. It’s encouraging to see not just Elloren, but many other characters of different races, come together and learn to be more accepting of each other. The climax of the story is a perfect example of interracial cooperation, where multiple characters play a vital role.

The Black Witch has a few other literary weaknesses: There are some key characters who are strictly cardboard portraits of hatred and bigotry. Elloren’s enemy and rival Fallon is one: a standard vicious queen bee character who is desperately jealous of Elloren’s relationship with Lukas. It would have been preferable to see a rival for Elloren who has some good points (other than her great magical power) and some subtlety as a character. Lukas’ character may offend readers who don’t like romantic interests in the form of hot guys who are alpha jerks, though this can be excused given the way their relationship shifts over the course of the novel. Additionally, Forest’s inexperience as an author shows through occasionally with “saidisms” and other trite or overused phrasing. In Chapter 14, for example, I counted six times in eight pages where a character “spits out” a laugh, a comment, or a sound of derision.

As much as anything else, The Black Witch is the story of a young woman who is slowly clearing the webs of prejudice and bigotry from her head. Being forced together with Icaral roommates, the most despised of all other races, beginning to fall for someone who is of another race … and who is perhaps even more different than she initially thinks, and watching some of those who are closest to her do the same, all help that process along. This change process may happen too slowly or painfully for some readers, but it does add a different flavor to this romance- and adventure-oriented YA fantasy, the first in a planned series of four books.

*Re rounding up my 3.5 rating: To be honest my first inclination was to round down; it's closer to a 3 star read for me than 4 stars. But (a) I give the book some extra credit for taking on the very difficult subject of prejudice, however imperfectly it handles it, and (b) with all the 1 star ratings out there based solely on jumping on the bandwagon, I felt like doing my very small part to help offset that.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. Thank you!
758 reviews2,350 followers
July 23, 2017
This book is literally everything I wished Harry Potter would be !!! I LOVED this book so much, oh my god, LAURIE FORST GIVE ME THE NEXT BOOK NOW!

No, this book was NOT homophobic or racist in any way. And if you're gonna comment otherwise and start bullshit, I'm warning you now: fuck off because I am not in the mood for this bullshit today or tomorrow. Oh wait, more than half of you didn't even read the book so,,,, 😑 you can't even argue.

Anyways, I'm so glad I read this for myself. I'm so glad I gave this book a chance because it's one of my favorites now. I can't believe people are one starring and trashing a book based on ONE persons review, while a bajillion others read it and found nothing problematic about this book. Honestly, stop rating a book one star without reading it?? You have no idea what a shit you are by doing that.

I strongly suggest you don't follow the one star trashing of this book and give it a chance because honestly, it's so fucking great.

I'm going to get unfriended by so many people, aren't I? Lmao, anyways, let's do this, I'm so pumped.
Profile Image for Shenwei.
462 reviews222 followers
March 17, 2017
EDIT: If you have the stomach/spoons for it, here's an in depth review of all of the awful things in the book.

I can't believe we have to tell people that calling mixed race people "half-breeds" and advocating for the genocide of other races is not okay.
ETA: Also
1. "wow my family is a bunch of genocidal racists oops" is the worst plot twist ever.
2. POC do not need to go through 300 pages of a white-coded girl being racist toward POC-coded characters to know that racism toward us is wrong and awful. This kind of storyline is written for clueless white people who need hand-holding to realize that prejudice and discrimination is fucked up. It hurts POC and uses them for the sake of a white girl's character development. Gross.

ETA2: Because people are arguing that this book is "necessary" to understand racism...
Even assuming this book uses fictional races as an allegory for POC, it's a horribly constructed and executed allegory. It does nothing to address the SYSTEMIC nature of racism and instead depicts racism as inter-group resentment and individual prejudice and discrimination. It flattens an issue of power into an equal playing field for all groups, which is simply not true in the real world. It's like writing about real life racism as being the KKK but not mentioning the U.S. government's role in enacting white supremacist policies that denied/deny POC rights and make them second-class citizens. If you're going to read a speculative fiction book that tackles racism, this is the last book you should be reading since it lacks any semblance of nuance and insight into race and oppression.
This book is a disaster.
-Signed, Someone with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Ethnic Studies
Profile Image for Always Pouting.
568 reviews697 followers
March 2, 2022
There's been a lot of discussion around this book and I wanted to indulge my self importance and read it and add my opinion which is what this is so if you disagree that's cool totally tell me but I just want to say that if you are just going to tell me that I don't know something or I'm ignorant I'm just going to get defensive and mean and I don't want to be mean I really do try to be nice and reasonable but I get riled up if I feel like I'm being attacked so lets just try to keep this pleasant and please try to actually explain what you think instead of just telling me I'm shit because I already I'm shit so thanks. Also I can't promise there won't be spoilers so just don't read if you're trying to stay spoiler free.

For anyone who doesn't know the book follows Elloren Gardner who lives with her uncle after her parents died in war. She is a direct descendant from the Black Witch, her grandmother, who is reveared by her people, the Gardnerians. Yet despite looking like her grandmother Elloren lacks the same powerful magic her grandmother possessed, or at least it would appear so. There is something about her magic that her uncle is hiding and he's kept her and her brothers away from the larger Gardnerians society, raising them as he feels is right. Elloren is turning eigthteen soon though and her aunt starts putting more pressure on her brother to let Elloren join her and learn more about the Gardnerian society. Elloren's uncle comes up with a plan as a compromise to let Elloren attend university with her brothers and Elloren is excited to finally have that dream come true.

So through out the book we have Elloren who is sheltered and doesn't really have any of her own opinions of other people from other places, I don't want to use the word race because it doesn't really apply so I'm going to say ethnicity because I think it fits much better with what's portrayed in the book. Then she goes off to spend time with her aunt, who has a lot of prejudice and is a devout nationalist to the Gardnerian state. Before this she hasn't dealt with people as widely and so I think it's not surprising that she looks to others for cues on how to behave. I think people keep blaming her for picking up these ideas but she has been kept isolated and I don't think it's fair to expect her to come out of no where and have these ideas of justice and equality with no learning or interaction with people outside of her family and a small village.

The way she behaves at first with the people at university might seem horrible and unfair when you're seeing it as a third party coming in with your own ideas about how to behave and morals but if you put yourself in her shoes and realize that she is still growing and learning and trying to make sense of things I don't think it seems horrible at all. I think the problem most people expressed is that Elloren is supposed to be some symbolic representation of white privileged people in america but I don't think that's true at all. I think many of you are projecting because through out the book it's made clear that the hatred and stereotyping runs deeply on all sides of this. Everyone hates everyone and everyone has tried to kill and oppress one another. Elloren's people didn't just go round up people from somewhere else and bring them to a country they stumbled upon where other people were already living who they slaughtered.

By going into this book and expecting it to be a certain way I feel that a lot of people let their own experiences and feelings cloud how they felt about the book, which I understand because these are really sensitive subjects being addressed. It just isn't consistent with the plot how ever and I don't think it's fair to expect a character to project a certain mind set just because that's what you want to see. This book is about Elloren and so of course she's going to mostly think about herself, and it's going to focus on her own growth as a person and no one just wakes up one day and suddenly realizes everything is wrong or has some innate knowledge that what they're being taught or picking up from their culture is hurting others until theyre exposed to the consequences.

This is also my own personal problem with people who get angry at others when they just try to help. I understand where the anger is coming from but being angry at singular people for something they really didn't put into place only alienates those people and makes them feel justified for being part of the system that is oppressing you. It's unrealistic to expect others to behave a certain way because you can't control it, you can only control how you behave and so there are better ways to change people, like actually making other people like you and want to help you and taking the time to explain to them and if they don't understand then at least you did your part.

Anyways I don't think at all that the author handled the transition badly, it seemed pretty realistic to me and the message seems solid, more education and exposure to those different than us builds tolerance and acceptance. I do how ever understand that some of us have had experiences that the book may remind us of and that can be hurtful and I'm not trying to take away from that or the fact that these things do impact us, I think if these are things you're dealing with and sensitive then the book may make you feel bad so maybe don't pick it up. I just personally don't see anything in the book on its own outside of the context of personal experiences or insecurities that is harmful.

Also stop comparing it to Harry Potter, why do people always need to say the book is like x other book like it probably isn't you're just going to make people's reactions to the book worse let it stand on it's own.

I do wish there was more time spent on the magic aspect of things and that story line but I really enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down even though it was really long and it's one of my favorites and I really want to read the next one. Hopefully the next one spends a little less time on the prejudice thing or only in the context of politics because I do really want more of larger lens and how the conflicts in the region are going to work out, I'm like invested in it now.

I'm going to crawl away now because I think I'm pretty much done saying what I wanted and I hope it made sense because I basically just babble when I write reviews.
Profile Image for Ben Alderson.
Author 23 books13.2k followers
March 18, 2017
I have removed my review.
The past two weeks discussion over this novel has taken place online and If have a moment please read this review -

I have read the entire review!
Having thought about this and read Shauna's points, quotes and direct references I can see I have been completely wrong.

I also want to add this quote from Shauna..
"I'm doing this not to tear down a single person, but to tear down a system that publishes books like #THEBLACKWITCH"
The publishing system needs to change.
Profile Image for Heather.
319 reviews287 followers
June 15, 2017
4.5 stars
Review to come

Buddy-read with these truth seekers:
The one who puts my reading to shame
That other guy

Holy crap this book is actually pretty awesome

For the majority it is definitely a slow build and a character driven story but I actually like slow build stories and character driven stories so ... this is not a negative for me. For others who might not like these things this could be a bit of a drag for you.





I am SO crazy excited for book 2 like seriously

oh and as an afterthought .... yeah this book is not glorifying racism homophobia or anything offensive at all so you can get that out of your system.
Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,014 reviews97 followers
April 26, 2017
To see this review and others please visit www.readrantrockandroll.com

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest is a coming of age story about a girl named Elloren Gardner. I saw this on Netgalley and the cover and blurb pulled me in.

The story begins with Elloren, the granddaughter of a Black Witch, Carnissa Gardner. After spending her life in a village, she's now being sent to the Verpax University to finish her education.

I think the author is good at writing and I enjoyed her writing style. The story had a good amount of action and romance. Certain parts of the book were thrilling to me and there were also some slower boring times as well. There are many characters and I liked the world the author creates because it's very magical, creative, and detailed, but for the most part, this was just okay for me. The book is a little different than I expected.

I was really surprised to see so many 1 star reviews on this book and many from people who didn't read the book. I certainly think it deserves more than 1 star. I do believe the university is a very hateful place and the story contains racist and prejudiced characters, but you have to get past that. It takes awhile and you must read a good portion of the book to get there, which takes forever because the book is so long, like 600 pages. If you can get past two-thirds of the book and witness how Elloren's character starts changing, you'll understand why I think the author wrote it this way. Eventually, she starts to view things differently and starts realizing that everything she's been taught may not be correct. I definitely don't think the author wrote the story this way to celebrate these types of behaviors and feel like by the end of the story everything comes together.

I still liked the book, but didn't love it. I'll probably still read the next book.


Thanks to Netgalley for sharing a copy with me...
Profile Image for Shaila.
Author 5 books637 followers
March 13, 2017
I received an ARC for an honest review.

WARNING: Expect a major book hangover after living in this world.

I fell in love with the world building in this book...the beautiful setting, the depth and variety of characters, the complexity of the relationships, and how amazing it is to see the progression of Elloren's growth--and that was an important part to me. Their violent history and racial divides set up a complicated backdrop to this coming-of-age story. It was hard not to empathize and draw comparisons to reality, but with Elloren's resilience and steadfastness, you can't help but feel hopeful and have faith in people.

I'm still thinking about these characters thirteen hours later, and all I want to do is grab a cup of tea and delve right back into the book. I rarely want to reread a story, but the richness of this one has me thinking I had to have missed something the first time through. Well, that's the excuse I'll be using to reread it anyway...not that I need one ;)

Book 2 cannot come fast enough!
Profile Image for Mary Books and Cookies.
544 reviews407 followers
July 23, 2021
july 2021 edit: as someone pointed out in the comments, i can leave the review up, but remove the rating, which i just did. For further explanation about things, read below.

I'm adding something to this review:

TBW was the first and only book I rated without having read it. I trusted the opinion of someone who had read it and chose to rate it negatively because I believed that person was right. Also, I felt like I had to perform as an ally and that was a way of doing it. I felt pressured, in a way, and acted out accordingly. Everyone was doing it, so I thought I had to do it too. This being said, I no longer stand by this review - but I choose to leave it there as a reminder to myself that just believing something because someone said it isn’t the best option. Yes, it’s good and it’s recommended to be informed, to look for different opinions, to learn, to get educated - but don’t forget your voice in all of this.
I believe everyone has a right to read what they want, to consume whatever media they choose and to form a personal opinion about it. I’ll always encourage people to do this.

A lot of people have pointed out the blatant racism in this book, along with a load of other problematic stuff, which make this book a huge NOPE.

For a play by play: https://twitter.com/b00kstorebabe/status/841039340474122242

Complete review: http://b00kstorebabe.blogspot.ro/2017/03/review-black-witch-by-laurie-forest.html
Another review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1901700760?book_show_action=true&from_review_page=1
Profile Image for Carrie (The Butterfly Reader).
1,016 reviews91 followers
February 26, 2019
Actual Rating: 4.5 Stars


So by now I'm sure everyone has heard of this book. You've been told this book is racist, sexist, homophobic, and lots of other horrible things. If you've been trying to talk about this book on Twitter in any positive form, then you have likely been called these things, I know I have. Well, I'm here to say that this book is none of the labels that have been stowed upon it by SJWs and neither are you for wanting to read it.

This book follows Elloren Gardner, from a small town called Halfix in Gardneria. She's very sheltered not knowing anything about other races other than what she's been taught, which aren't good things.

Right on the first page it shows how she's been raised to think: "The evil Icaral-demons." Her Aunt doesn't help this way of thinking either when it comes to other races, calling other races 'heretic races' (page 47), They may look like humans, Elloren, but they aren't." (Page 53)

So this is the kind of viewpoint that she had been made to see for 17 years. No others, of course she would be prejudice. It's all she knows how to be. Though what I love about this story is that she changes, even in the beginning you can see that she doesn't quite think the way the others of her kind do by the way she told Fenil'lyn to call her by her name. (Page 58) If she was truly racist then she would not want her to use her name and still use her title, because she would think she was better than Fenil'lyn.

Then when Elloren is in the dress shop with the girls her Aunt sent to accompany her they are vile to a little Urisk girl and Elloren takes a jab at Fallon just for that. "I think of her treatment of the little girl and can't help myself." (Page 81)

Then she arrives at Verpax University and even some of the others there don't help her in seeing the truth any faster, she's bullied when she first starts work at the kitchen by people just as prejudice as Elloren is. Or the Icaral that tried to scare the crap out of her.

I think it's so important to say here that not everyone is as you'd think they would be. Just because someone did you wrong that does not mean that everyone from that group is just like them. So I can understand why the Icaral's wanted to scare her as they didn't want her to hurt them. They probably thought she was like others of her race and thought they were all evil. See how bad prejudice is?

The more she's around these other races, the more she sees that everything she was taught was wrong. These races aren't lower than hers, they are just like her. They are all people. One of her best friends even becomes Diana the Lupine girl (whom I love btw).

One of my favorite scenes in the whole book is where Elloren, Rafe, Diana, and Jarod talk about the things they've heard about the other races. You can see that it really never occurred to them to believe anything different than what they were taught. (Pages 335-341)

Even one of Elloren's friends starts to see the truth, "It seems we may have been mistaken about them." (Page 341)

Also her little group soon works together to stop those in the Gardnerian army from their awful plans. They take down a freaking military base! Someone who doesn't change and thinks she's better than all these other races would never do this. Just saying.

This book does have racist and prejudice characters. The author is showing how bad these things are. It's so heavy handed, the author shoves it down the readers throat that this kind of behavior isn't good! You can tell she is completely against it. Though people are still calling her horrid names on Twitter.

Also I want to address something else, a lot of people are saying that Elloren didn't change fast enough for their liking. Um, hello, you are raised to think one way for 17 years. You will not change overnight, but she did change fast once she saw the error of her ways.

I want to express how much I loved the teamwork in this novel, it wasn't just one girl saving the world. Nope, they banded together and worked together. It was glorious! The ending left me dying for more and I just can't wait to get my hands on the next one of this series.

This book is great and I think everyone should read it. It's got a great plot, great character development, and the writing is easy to follow. Also I want to add you should read this book for Yvan Guriel because I want to know what is up with that guy and what secret he's hiding...

All I can say is don't be scared to read this book. Don't let others tell you what to do or how to think. Think for yourself, don't let some else's voice be yours. You have your own mind, make your own opinion. Be an individual. Be you!
March 21, 2022

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I originally had no intention of reading this book. The furor surrounding THE BLACK WITCH was too extra, and I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. However, I'm a woman with opinions, who doesn't like being told what to think, and when I saw people on both sides actively trying to shut one another down, using their thoughts on the book to leverage their various political platforms ("you're a racist!" "no, you're an SJW!"), I began to wonder what the hell was going on. Then the book dropped to $1.99 on Amazon and I thought, "Screw taking the high road."

First, let me be very clear: as a straight, white woman, I fully acknowledge that my familiarity and experience with racism and discrimination are going to be very, very different from others. There are many areas where, to speak frankly, I don't know shit. If reading this book made you feel uncomfortable, then it made you feel uncomfortable, and I am not going to tell you that you are wrong or argue with you about the validity of your experiences felt while reading this book. THE BLACK WITCH is a book whose entire concept revolves around race and discrimination, which is a really painful subject for a lot of people - especially right now, when racial- and ethnic-based discrimination seem to make headlines every day. 

However, even if you set the matters of race and discrimination aside, as they pertain to the book, THE BLACK WITCH is still not a very good book.

Here's what I think the author was trying to do. I think Laurie Forest was trying to do with WWII what ANIMAL FARM did with the Communist Revolution in Russia. The Gardnerians are fascists, and in particular, their rise from a terrible oppression from another race (the Kelts, AKA Europe/UK?) and their scapegoating and mass-genocide of the Fae, not to mention the fact that their leader has them wear white armbands, seem to suggest that this society is supposed to serve as an allegory for the rise of the Nazi party during WWII. I do not think that this book is saying that fascism is a good idea, nor do I think that it is saying that Nazis are a good idea: in fact, I think this book is trying very, very hard to say that the opposite is true. As those who have rated the book positively have said, the main character, Elloren, learns the error of her ways when she is sent to a magical school filled with other races, through dialogues and interactions with people who are different than her. She learns the value of different perspectives, and that history is told through a different lens depending on who's telling it. She learns that her country is the bad guy.

That could have been interesting. The problem is that this book is filled with so many mixed messages that the author's intentions are thoroughly muddled. I suspect it's because the author did not want to write an unlikable main character. It's difficult to market an unlikable main character, particularly in young adult books, because teens generally want characters they identify with and parents buying the books want good role models for their kids. So in order to make Elloren sympathetic, all of the other characters pick on and bully her for being Gardnerian. And Elloren uses their anger to rationalize her racism, and is constantly talking about how "pure" her race is. She seeks out one of her professors to inquire about their perspective on history, but then starts looking for loopholes and whining about how hard it is to balance so many perspectives. All I could think about are those idiots on Twitter, who RT every single mainstream news article they can find about social justice and caption it "FAKE NEWS! FAKE NEWS!" I can definitely see why this made people uncomfortable. It made me uncomfortable. It felt like a cheap way to get some sympathy for a character I had already decided, from the very beginning of the story, that I did not like.

Being uncomfortable while reading a book can sometimes be a good thing. It can mean that you're confronting facts that aren't easy to listen to but that just means that they're even more important. THE HATE U GIVE made me uncomfortable, but I learned a lot from it, too, and it ended up becoming one of my top reads of 2017. I didn't experience that with THE BLACK WITCH

Elloren is easily one of the most selfish, unlikable, ridiculous main characters I have encountered in a while. She's racist, obviously, and it takes forever for her to change her views. She has to cause multiple people a lot of pain before she realizes, "Hey, maybe I'm not the good guy." She uses her crush, Lukas Grey, to bully others and get revenge on her behalf, including killing the pet of her demon roommate and threatening a small child with deportation and slavery. She cries at the drop of a hat, bawling over petty insults that pale in comparison to the hurts she inflicts on others, and she's cowardly, too, choosing to run away or hide behind Lukas rather than fighting her own battles.

She does so much harm.

And then one of her main turning points is watching another character being bullied and then feeling bad about it. Not doing anything about it or speaking out, but just feeling bad about it. Like we're supposed to credit her for that. Sorry, but no. You're not getting that cookie. In the second half of the book, she finally has some character development, but it feels sudden, because it kind of happens all at once - mostly, I think, for the sake of the plot. Every page, Elloren has a new revelation, and it's just kind of like, "Okay, I get it. All of your previous beliefs are wrong now. Go you."

Then there's the fact that the writing in this book simply is not good. The world building is not well thought-out and there's so many names and races and other details just haphazardly thrown in that it felt impossible to try and keep track of it all. The quality of the writing is not good, with multiple adverbs used, sometimes two or three to a sentence, giving the writing a disjointed, clunky feel. The names are silly. All of the characters are two dimensional. Elloren is a Mary Sue of the highest order (the hot dude literally decides he wants her as soon as he lays eyes on her, which of course drives the resident mean girl up the wall and causes all sorts of bullying and girl-on-girl hate/slut-shaming), and all of the villains are cardboard cut-outs. The descriptions of the characters read like someone's fanfiction, with purple-and-black haired characters with piercings who could just as easily double as Hot Topic models in their downtime. I felt like I was reading Quizilla stories in 2004.

I respect the author for trying to tackle such a difficult subject. It's just a damn shame that it went so badly. Sometimes, attempts to start dialogues don't end well - the book, REVEALING EDEN, is solid proof of that. THE BLACK WITCH doesn't seem to be as tone-deaf as REVEALING EDEN came across as, though. It feels like a less successful attempt at what ILLUSION by Paula Volksy so beautifully accomplished. ILLUSION was an allegory for the French Revolution, and the focus was more on class-discrimination rather than race although it dealt with both. It was a good book because it not only had a well developed world and characters whose motives were not only believable but also chillingly familiar and/or relatable, it also did a good job of writing a heroine who was incredibly privileged, selfish, and entitled, who also had a character arc that involved not being a bigot anymore by making her flawed and selfish and human. Unlike Elloren, however, Eliste was resourceful, clever, and interesting. Those were the traits that ultimately triumphed over her less pleasant attributes.

There were some good elements in this book. Diana's character was great, and anything involving or pertaining to dragons always has my vote. I even appreciated the details the author put into the story to make it work as an allegory - allegories of world history as fantasy and science-fiction are kind of my weakness #HistoryNerd. The problem, I think, is how the message of this book was handled and the fact that it hits just a little too close to home with regard to what's happening in the news every day. Maybe this book just came out at the wrong time. Regardless, I can't recommend it.

Hopefully I managed to explain myself without making a proper mess of my opinions. :-)

12/8/17: Edited a typo.

1 to 1.5 stars
Profile Image for Vika.
106 reviews136 followers
March 19, 2017
Update #3: Okay, so people have pointed out the author has children of colour who have read the book as sensitivity readers. Firstly, we shouldn't look to them for any blame for how terrible this book turned out to be. It is not their fault that the author wrote a garbage truck full of all the -isms & -phobics. Do not even think about blaming children for the authors mistakes. The fault lies with the author and the whole team behind the book. Editors should have caught it. Agents should have caught it.

Update#2: No one cares Erin.

Oh hey, update (#1), Shauna wrote an in depth review. Read it here.

Listen, there's all kind of red flags from reviews about the blatant racism in this book. I am obviously shaking my head at people who have praised it because of their ignorance. Yes, sometimes we miss this stuff... but the premise of this book is alarming and even the first pages have said to be problematic af. Don't plan on buying it.
Profile Image for Scrill.
407 reviews232 followers
July 5, 2017
"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."

Okay, so here's the deal. There are a plethora of long reviews (both bad & good) going over this book. So, I have decided to make this as to the point as possible. Before I start, let me just say one thing. I am incredibly glad that I read the book instead of heeding the reviews imploring people to stop supporting the writer & publisher.

The Story-Elloren Gardner comes a family that is descendant of a famous mage that essentially lead a revolution against the races that were controlling and killing their kind. She is now at the age where she can either be wandfasted (married) or go off to university. Her uncle is steadfast in having her wait to be wandfasted and has her go to university. Throughout the book she has to deal with the pleasures and ramifications of her genial history. The major conflict she must deal with is the prejudice that has been ingrained into her society against every other race.

The World Building-Laurie Forest did an amazing with the world building. She has taken quite a few of paranormal creatures and molded them into a new world rich with history, violence, and hatred. From elves, werewolves, mages, to some adapted creatures such as Kelts, Urisk, etc. I found it incredibly fascinating to find so many types of races and being who I am, I took a great interest in trying to find out where some origins came from. I question things like are the Kelts supposed to be Celtic? The Elves have several races within the race, such as a Smaragdalfar, a green scaled elf, is that rooted from smaragdnine which basically means emerald in color? Are Icarals rooted from the winged God Icarus? Forest did such a wonderful job integrating all these races and creating history for each of them. She really made it plausible as to why the Gardnerians are SO racist. From the history they are taught, to religious aspects, to even their toys, they are raised to hate everyone and put themselves on pedestals. The fact the Elloren changes at all is a miracle since every other race is pretty much super awful to her. Why would she want to be more accepting of them?

The Characters-This is the one place that I felt the book lacked, but it wasn't enough to dock even a half star for me. I mean, I adored Elloren for the most part, but really, is Lukas Grey really worth all the torment she's getting? I was really proud of reading her transform her opinions, even if it does take almost the entire book for her to drop most of her prejudices. But honestly, she's 18 years old and her environment is not exactly promoting the change, so lets give her the benefit of the doubt and appreciate the fact that she even does get past how she was raised. Also, could Fallon Bane be any more of Regina George?

I mean I was really expected a little bit more than teen drama when it came to boys...

Anyway, I loved the book, and I can't wait to read the next installment and see what other secrets we can discover about the world.
Profile Image for Nick Borrelli.
359 reviews321 followers
August 16, 2017
I'm absolutely convinced that 99% of the people who gave this book a 1-star rating didn't actually read it. And by reading it I mean not just looking at all of the bad words with your eyes and then being immediately offended, but truly absorbing them into your brain and processing them in the context of the overall plot. Because had they actually done that and not just knee-jerk reacted to all of the vile beliefs/thoughts that the main character espoused, they would have understood what the author was doing. I thought The Black Witch brilliantly showed how despicably ignorant people can gradually begin to see things in a different way with further life experience and exposure to opposing viewpoints. Did I have to read some pretty awful shit to get to that point? Oh yeah. A lot of it was pretty tough to get through quite frankly. But sometimes to truly feel the full impact of how a person can change for the better, you have to experience the hateful feelings first-hand through the main character's head by way of dialogue. I really doubt that Robin Hobb (one of my favorite authors whom I respect greatly) would have given this book 4 stars if it was truly as racist and bigoted as some say it is. I thought The Black Witch was amazing and plan on reading book 2 as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.
Profile Image for Alyssa.
233 reviews124 followers
July 19, 2017
Edit 7/18/17 : The Iron Flower is the title for book two in The Black Witch Chronicles, coming June 2018 ❗️ Srsly, I'm so excited 😊

5 STARS ❗️

“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.”

I'm going to start this review off by saying that The Black Witch by Laurie Forest was absolutely brilliant. Now, this is merely my own opinion and you can disagree with me, but I really don't care, honestly. I loved this book and I'm not going to let anyone tell me otherwise.

Elloren Gardner:

I'll admit, I didn't entirely like Elloren at the beginning of the book. Obviously, she was mean and ignorant and really self-assured. She walked around with her head held high everywhere just because she was the Black Witch's granddaughter and it got on my nerves at some point. But right when it got to my breaking limit, she completely changed. And in a good way! Elloren began seeing things from the perspectives of other people and not just from a typical Gardnerian person. She wanted to know things, especially the history of her world. From a Gardnerian's point of view, she thought was biased and politically incorrect. But when she actually made an effort to expand her knowledge, I'll admit, I was proud of Elloren. She definitely turned herself around 360 degrees and put the lives of the people she loves before her, as well as their care and well-being. If you've read this book already or are planning to read it in the future, you will most definitely notice her change in personality and nature. From selfish and annoying to being strong-willed and resolute, I can proudly say that Elloren Gardner will always be on my list of "All-Time Favorite Female Characters."

Lukas Grey:

I'm just going to say this: I don't like Lukas Grey. Never have, probably never will. Though he was pretty much absent more than 2/3 of the book, from what we learn about him at the beginning, I honestly don't know his motive regarding Elloren. He just swoops in, make friends with Elloren and wins her over. If you look at him with Elloren, they have a really loose relationship. With one kiss on the night they first meet each other, Elloren falls to his charm, and that annoys me so much! I feel as though their relationship is based merely on their level in society, the fact that they both are Gardnerian, and are good looking. Their relationship is balancing on a tightrope and won't stay up any longer.

Yvan Guriel:

TEAM YVAN HERE ! Really, Yvan and Elloren have a rock-solid relationship versus her and Lukas, which is pretty much balancing on a tight rope. If you guys know me, you would know that I love mysterious characters. I love those that we don't know much about, those that are quiet and keep away from everyone. Not to mention, I love the guys that are the underdogs to the other idiot guy, in this case, Lukas. So Yvan fits under this category. Though he may seem a little intimidating at first, trust me, he really isn't. And underneath his outer layer of mysterious, he's such a softie and adorable guy. PS. Yvan is mine so don't take him ladies unless you're willing to fight me and blood will be spilled. Good day!

One Word Descriptions of Side Characters:

Let me know if you agree with me on these words I chose for all the side characters :D

Fallon Bane: Bitch

Rafe Gardner: Compassionate

Trystan Garnder: Mysterious

Diana Ulrich: Feisty

Jarod Ulrich: Kind

Aislinn Greer: Adorable

Tierney Calix: Beautiful

Ariel: Cunning

Wynter: Sweet

Aunt Vyvian: Gross

World Building:

You know what would have been really helpful, a dictionary or some sort of guide! I was really lost and there should've been a page or two on all the types of people in this world and a short description of them. Would've been super helpful because honestly, I was quite lost during lots of scenes in the book.

Anyways, TBW has such a unique and fascinating world setup! Really enjoyed the complex history of all the different types of people and how everything played out as a whole. Again, the author could've done a little better in describing the world as I had to constantly go back and reread paragraphs to remember the world setup. But overall, absolutely brilliant!

“People see what they expect to see,” he says sharply. “Through a filter of their own hatred and prejudice.”

Addressing everything this book was labeled as:


Sure, this book has plenty of racism, but really, why is it such a big deal? TBW is a fantasy novel and completely fictional! Our world today has racism all over, so does other books! Some people fight for equal rights for all, but unfortunately, you can't always get what you want.


Though Elloren may have freaked a little at first when Trystan came out and told her he thought Yvan was beautiful, ultimately, Elloren is just scared for her younger brother. Scared, but still loves him. She did tell him that she'll always love him no matter what ends up happening to them all. And I totally understand when she freaked out. In this world of TBW, that certainly isn't common because their traditions state you have to fast to someone, right? So it's just never been exposed in their world yet, but probably will soon. Basically, the only reason she freaked was because it's not a common topic and never been introduced to them before. Really, that doesn't sound too homophobic to me at all.


Last I checked, there wasn't anyone in the book with any disabilities or any form of discrimination towards them. If you read something like that, definitely let me know.


The Black Witch by Laurie Forest is ultimately one of the most amazing and well-thought out books I have ever read. Don't let the low ratings and other people's opinions control if you want to read this book or not. Now, I'm not saying that my opinion is the superior one, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. But just give this book a shot. Don't rate it one star just because all of your friends have. Seriously, that ain't cool at all. A reviewer is supposed to read the whole book and then judge for themselves, not based on what other people say.

Please, if you haven't already, pick up this book. I promise you, you may end up enjoying it just as much as I did. Also, does anyone know if Ms. Forest is going to be continuing the series? I would really love to see what happens next and how everything ends. And also if Yvan and Elloren admit their feelings for each other <3 This may be by far my longest review written yet :D

"Welcome to the Resistance, Mage Gardner."

My most favorite line in the whole book! It just sounds so epic :D

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / 5 stars
Lead Male Character: ★ ★ ★ / 5 stars (average of all male characters)
Lead Female Character: ★ ★ ★ / 5 stars (average of all female characters)
Plotline: ★ ★ ★ and a half / 5 stars
Genre: Fantasy, adventure, romance
Will I recommend this book to others?: ABSOLUTELY
Will I reread this book?: HECK YES
Overall story summed up in one word: STUNNING

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It's time to see if this book is really what everyone says it is. (I really hope it's not and that it'd be better so, fingers crossed :)
Profile Image for Beth.
676 reviews572 followers
November 8, 2017
I want this in book form ASAP! It was soooooooo good! Four Stars!

I don't want to start this review in a negative way at all, but I really do need to say something about the rating of this book from people who haven't even read it and based their opinions from other peoples reviews. Normally I'm not one to say something, but this really did go too far with the cries of Racism etc. That is 100% not the case. This is about Elloren the main character seeing through these prejudices. It's honestly like calling Lord of Shadows racist because of the prejudices against Downworlders, or LOTR with Legolas and Gimli not getting along because one is an Elf and the other is a Dwarf it's not the case. I've just read so many reviews that rate this book 1 star and they haven't even read the book. WHY?! You can't base such a strong opinion, when you haven't read the book yourself. I've also seen a review stating if you support this book, you're racist. Girl bye. I don't think I've ever felt so much anger towards people rating books without reading the book, but here we are.

I've read a review that is so accurate I can't not include it.

So here is Bentley's Review everything he says is SO accurate, so please read.

Moving swiftly on...

What did I like?
- I think we got a lot of back story, but not too much so we can find out more in the next book!
- So we see Elloren as all high and mighty (and not very likeable to begin with her actions are questionable) BUT her development as a character was just undeniable. She grew from strength to strength and you could see things falling into place on how wrong certain things were.
- Building of friendships! In fact the whole friendship circle!
- DIANA IS MY QUEEN! Her sarcasm and strutting around naked... love
- Dragons!
- Icaruls attacking (I know it's not nice) but the whole chapter lay out was so good you could picture how these things happened!
- Winter is so sweet
- The back story of the cookies and the wings, little details (as morbid as they are) please me very much!
- Winter and Dragons together!
- Ivan (I have no idea if this is spelt correctly, damn you audiobook) is so intriguing!

What I didn't like?
- Her Aunt is vile
- The whole chicken thing was slightly disturbing
- Where was this dance?! We better get this in the next book

Overall, I really enjoyed this, the world building was beautiful you can picture things so clearly. I honestly urge people to read this before judging it on someone elses review, you'd be missing out on a really great book!

I can't wait to continue this series.
Profile Image for Samm | Sassenach the Book Wizard.
1,144 reviews244 followers
August 13, 2019
Cool so my original long ass review just disappeared. Thanks! Much appreciated! Didn't put work into that at all. Anyway, the community seems to have finally gotten off the "burn the book! It's acknowledges racism" horse and read it. Congrats to Laurie for jumping up to over 4 stars!
Profile Image for BabyLunLun.
795 reviews103 followers
August 29, 2017
Update 8/8/2017
Its insane seeing this book went from 1.1 rating to now 3.16 rating and the number of 5 stars are catching up to the 1 star

And with the publish of this article, there will be more people picking up TBW

I need the next book :(

3 stars for overall enjoyment, 1 more stars for how well racism is addressed in this book

This book is not what I expected. The cover doesn't appeal to me and so does the blurb. I expected it to be really dark and disturbing. Racist sentences after one another in every page.

But no. I literally flew through this book. I usually find it such a struggle to read a 601 pages book because story as long as that tends to drag. The Black Witch is an exception, there wasn't a single dull moment. It has a lot of drama and I find myself laughing giddily at the romance.

I never read Shauna's review in detail and I don't intend to. She read the book and have all those "proofs" at her blog. So everybody find that convincing and resort to rating The Black Witch 1 star before even reading it. She read the book so yup perhaps she have a very different take on racism compared to me. OH what is that term SJWs love to use?

" White people are too privileged to understand racism. POCs know better , white people does not"

So why are you buying into Shauna's review? Funny they said they listen to what POCs said when that POC didn't even read the book and only reference Shauna's review.

I am POC. I am not mentally retarded or have so poor of a english that I need to get review writing tips from Shauna or Cait. Or let SJW tell me what to read. I find offense when yall treat POC as lesser beings (Quote Cesar here) and can't decide what to read for ourselves.

Anyway I urge those of you who are even slightly interested in reading this book to pick this up. I am surprised I can even disagree with the mass population rating this 1 star because obviously its easier to read Shauna'a summarized "proofs" and tell yourself you know what this book about than read through all 601 pages of The Black Witch.

I am seriously amazed at how well Laurie Forest potrayed racism in this book. The cause and the results , she had them very well covered.

The world of the Black Witch is divided after the war. And Gardnerians rules them all. Our main character Elloren , a Gardnerian with a glowing heritage is being sent to University. University forced every race to integrate. Urisk, Lupines, Icarals, Kelts etc etc.

1) Racism is caused by misunderstanding of the culture of one race.
Elloren and Aislinn have some misconception about Lupines(werewolf). They think of them as uncivilized savages. There is a scene where Elloren , Aislinn and the Lupines twins discuss about their differences. Elloren realized the Lupines are not what the rumors says

2) Don't judge the whole flock of sleep based on one sleep.
A lot of the characters in here have prejudiced against one another. Gardnerian think Lupines are uncivilized. Lupines think all Gardnerians are arrogant. But as Diana, one of the Lupines interact with Elloren, she realized there might be Gardnerians that are good after all

3) You can only cure racism by understanding.
Elloren's brother Rafe is one of the most likeable character in here. He reads up about other races. He understands meanings behind their ritual.

4) History can be subjective
Elloren realized the history she is being taught in school is biased. She look for Professor Kristian who is a Kelt to understand the other side of history she hadn't know of

5) No one's god is more superior than the other.
Diana's insists her religion is the one true religion. Rafe argue that everyone have their own religions and beliefs. Different race believes in different things

6) The seed of racism is planted by parents
Aislinn's sisters and her niece and nephew comes to visit. Her sisters repeatedly tell their kids that Lupines are evil and tell them to stay away

7) Racism is everyone's fault.
How do I phrase this? The Kelts rules whole of Eritha before Gardnerians overthrow them. Gardnerians is treated badly under Kelt's rule, hence Gardnerians think they are justified to murder as much Kelt as they can. While Kelt think the same thing when they are being treated unfairly under Gardnerian rule. This is an unfortunate situation. It shows that both sides is at fault here but still they resort to blaming each other

8) Laurie Forest shows us the many faces of humans when being thrown into a multirace society
Rafe - the one who bother to understand about the culture of other races

Elloren - she is being brought up in a secluded place and known very little about the world. She heard a lot of unpleasant rumor about other races.But she is slowly learning that all her previous assumptions are obviously wrong

Fallon - the stuck up arrogant Gardnerian who would publicly attack someone of another race. You can't have the good without the bad.

Jarod - who tried to fit in

Lukas Grey - he is such a hottie. He makes me melt

The message of this book is apparent. I don't get how anyone can twist it to something so awful.

Before read
So I decided to read this even though it isn't my kind of book , the number of pages scares me and honestly I am kinda disturbed by the quotes I read from this book. SJW been all over this book and is willing to tear down whoever that gives this book more than one star and wrote a review for it

Emily's review
Said SJW said that Emily don't get a say in how racist a book is because she is white. Because she is white, she donno what is racism. And this SJW will listen to reviews of a POC and if the POC said its racist then its racist to her, dont matter if she doesn't read the book yet because she is a white woman she cannot have an opinion and the word of a POC is god so she must listen.

What has become of freedom of speech I ask you? Why a person's opinions is not valid because that person is white? That is racism to me.
U want a review of a POC? I am Chinese and I am a minority in my country so I will give you a review of POC and I WILL READ THIS MYSELF AND TELL YOU

Kjell's review
Kjell been given a ARC personally by the author and he is one of the person that I really admire. Said SJW said Kjell is willing to sell his soul for an ARC and for a little attention. SJW said that its dangerous if someone read Kjell's review and buy the book and become a cry baby.

Please, if someone is affected by Shauna's review blindly then so what if they are affected by Kjell's reviews? If he/she choose to read it after reading Kjell's review then its not in our place to tell them not to read it. I am sure a smart person would read multiple reviews and decide whether to buy it or not? And if they are blind to jump into a book after only reading Kjell's review then who are us to tell them no?


Also, why is it that makes yall think POC are weak? Can't POC think for themselves? Can't they not touch a book if they think they gonna affected by it? Can't POC choose what they wanna read?
Profile Image for Nemo ☠️ (pagesandprozac).
859 reviews397 followers
June 9, 2017
honestly the thing i was most offended by in this book was

first thing: i didn't think it was racist.

if you did think it was racist, then you're perfectly entitled to that opinion, because guess what - everyone reacts to things in different ways. it's part of the diversity of human experience. people are allowed to say this is racist, and they're allowed to say it isn't. nobody should be jumping down other people's throats and calling them "special snowflakes" because they think it's racist, or calling people nazis if they thought it wasn't racist. can we please debate in a rational and mature way.

it's clear from the beginning that racist views are being presented by the author as Bad, and i thought elloren's character development was really interesting, because it is really hard to shake off views that have been ingrained in your psyche since birth. shit, i'm a trans bisexual PoC and i still have a bunch of internalised prejudice i'm trying to get to fuck off, so.

i also didn't think it was homophobic. sure, elloren said that her brother had to change, but that was because she was scared for his life on account of the fact that he would literally be killed if the government found out about it. and then five seconds later she's basically like "ok i don't actually care because our religion is a bunch of shit tbh, but be careful otherwise you'll die!!" so yeah.

in fact, i should have loved this book!! the characters were actually fantastic and pretty well-rounded; they probably saved this book from getting a one star.

here's what i didn't like:
- love triangle. it's a somewhat atypical love triangle, but it's still there, and that annoyed me quite a bit.
- it's TOO LOOOONG. it could have been cut by about half and i'm sure i would have enjoyed it far more; there's just so much unnecessary things here. a lot of passages should have been shortened for the overall clarity of the book.
- plot was relatively predictable, there was nothing that was a really big surprise.
- writing was nice at times but again, too lengthy and drawn-out, which kinda drew emphasis away from the good parts.
- linking in with this point is that the pacing was far too slow and nothing was really happening for like 75% of the book.

honestly? the length was what let this down. unnecessary length and slow pacing are my Ultimate Pet Peeves and they can really ruin a book for me, i'm afraid.

all in all, it's not a great book, but this isn't to do with the way the narrative deals with racism, because i actually found it did that pretty well. the writing just needed some serious pruning.

and the author is definitely not a racist; even if you think the book is racist, you have to admit Forest had good intentions even if you think she didn't execute them very well. it's very unfair to brand her as a racist. i'll admit, i did that at first after reading some extracts, but after cooling off a bit i decided to read this. and again, yeah, i thought it wasn't a good book, but not bc it was racist.

i guess i'm glad i read it, if only because i gave it a chance. but i'm so disappointed because there was too much potential but it was drowned in slow pacing :'(
17 reviews82 followers
June 27, 2017
After reading all the malicious reviews, I picked up this book to see what the fuss was all about and was extremely surprised by it. It was nothing like what I'd heard about it and turned out to be one of the best books I've read this year. I found it to be real and thought provoking.

I'm honestly disappointed by the goodreads community for the unfair treatment this book has been subjected to. we as readers are supposed to be more accepting instead of finding things to be offended by. Don't we all read to see the world through different perspectives? To understand? Are books only meant to be written about perfect societies with no real issues? Everyone of us is guilty of harbouring a prejudice about something or the other. Are we not ? Isn't this the reality we live in? But having the ability to look beyond what we're conditioned to think and believe. To see the truth of it and re-evaluate our beliefs. Isn't that what makes us grow as people?

This book is accused of being racist and homophobic and what not. Aren't these issues prevalent in every society? I cannot understand how this book can be labelled as racist when it is all about fighting against the system. It follows the journey of someone blinded by her prejudices, realizing the truth for herself and taking a stand against it. The beliefs and the views of the characters are not made to seem right or just. There are certainly things I didn't like about it but it does not take away from the essence of what this book is truly about. It is the story of people fighting against injustice, for equal treatment for all races and for a better world. Atleast that is how I saw it. Everyone derives something different from each book. Just because the book features themes of racism and social injustice. It does not mean the author supports the same or is promoting racism in any way.

I really hope people read the book for themselves and form their own opinions instead of joining the club to bash the book and review it without reading it.
Profile Image for Ava.
263 reviews315 followers
March 18, 2017
I would give this 0 stars if I could. And nope, I won't be reading this book. Don't @ me about giving it 1 star, or judging it before I read.

I am not going to stand by and let racist, homophobic, ableist, and hurtful books be promoted and do well. Not again.

here is an in depth review (8.7k words) complete with quotes and pictures of the text that shows exactly what's wrong with it. There is a lot.

Don't support it. Don't defend it. Don't read it. Don't buy it.

It's easy. Just don't.
Profile Image for Laurie.
Author 19 books3,356 followers
March 21, 2016
Excited to finish The Black Witch - and can't wait to find out what the cover design will be!
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