Author: Jessica Spotswood
Release: February 7th 2012
Genre: Supernatural, Witches, Historical, YA
#1 in The Cahill Witch Chronicles
Sequels: Star Cursed (#2), Sisters' Fate (#3)
Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.
Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.
If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.
Torn about whether to give it 3.5 or 4. Now, I am more than convinced that the differences I've had weren't the book's fault but purely mine, so I decided on 4 in the end.
This book. It moved a little slow in the beginning, while really drawing my interest and being interesting, it took a bit to get rolling. And then it did something peculiar, things started to pick up, then dropped. Picked up, dropped. I think it was only me, but I feel I ought to mention it. Sometimes I wasn't as interested in this book as I could have been and others I didn't want to ever put it away. It was a rollercoaster ride.
But. I loved it. The story was somewhat original, because this takes place during the turn of the 20th century and I did like the alternate universe Spotswood created. World-building was nicely as well as soundly done, so I really enjoyed myself. Plus, the cover is absolutely breathtaking.
Writing was so smooth I was amazed. I didn't even notice it was written in present tense until somewhere around page 150, and that's rare for me. Usually I pick up on the present tense right away and take a few pages getting used to, because it makes me a bit uncomfortable. Nope, not with this one. And I just generally loved the writing style, it was so lovely and appropriate for the time back then.
The structure was, despite the sometimes lagging pace, very cleverly outlined too. There were enough climaxes and plot twists that kept me shocked and reading, while also enough of trivial, nice things that were just entertaining to read about, like the tea parties. Said plot twists really took the ground from under me as they were brilliantly thought of, I was not ready for any of them, they all came as real surprises. Except maybe the very last one at the end, but that one was obvious. And scandalous as well, so this book really doesn't bore you. Another thing that stuck out was how well some things were planned and you just noticed later how much sense they made. For example, the Cahill mom tried desperately to have more children, and you don't really get why at first. Later, you find out it's because she didn't want to only have three daughters, as that is, ahem, not a lucky number of daughters to have. It was amazing, once you figured all of these little details out, and it spoke of how much thought went into the novel beforehand.
Now, characters. I absolutely adored Cate. She was just so smart, I really don't see smart characters like her very often. Cate knew when to keep quiet and when to take action, she didn't make rash and reckless decisions and jump into the fray, but she was more calculative and actually thought of the consequences. I hate heroines like Rose Hathaway from Vampire Academy or Alex Andros from Half-Blood that just do whatever they want to and cause all sorts of trouble without thinking about what repercussions their actions might bring with them. I hate those, hate hate hate those with a passion. So Cate was such a relief I swear I could kiss her. There were times where she was a little meh, especially during the beginning when she found it necessary to keep repeating that she had to protect her sisters every three pages. Or when she was a little too starstruck with Finn, but I am absolutely willing to turn a blind eye to that, because she was such a great character every other time. I seriously cannot express adequately how much I enjoyed and appreciated Cate Cahill. You go, girl.
Then there are her sisters, Maura and Tess. I instantly took a liking to Tess, and turns out my initial response to her was right, since over the course of the novel, she just got more awesome and more adorable. Like Cate, she was especially clever and cunning, which I loved. She was wise beyond her years and way too underappreciated, I really hope we'll see more of her in the sequels. She was really badass. Now, Maura is a complicated character, but all her actions fit her, and even though they made it hard to like her, you have to have characters like that, too. The main point is, Maura was completely fleshed out and alive, and a great and necessary addition to the cast of characters.
And then we come to our two boys here. Usually, I take an immediate liking to one of the boys if there's a love triangle. That didn't really happen in this one, and it confused me so much. Especially since I still haven't decided yet. Cate's romance with Finn wasn't as heartfelt as it could have been, at least for me, and their attraction to each other was just lost to me. I didn't feel their chemistry. Nor did I feel her having anything with Paul, although I think I am leaning more towards him because they have a past together. It helps me see their chemistry and I loved the idea of childhood friends falling in love when older. Plus, Paul has green eyes, which is the only combination that I accept with blond hair. I did enjoy both of these guys, Finn was an admirable guy and I liked his awkwardness and protectiveness, as well as his acceptance of Cate's true nature, and just the fact that he was nerdy and liked reading books. However, I couldn't build a connection to either of the romances, which bugged the hell out of me. But thank God that both of these were nice to Cate and truly cared about her, even though it did make the decision that much harder.
The societal issues this book is tackling stuck out, and I loved them. Gay relationships, women's rights, free will to choose, as well as the burden of having (a) deceased or incapacitated parent(s) and having to take responsibilities for younger siblings. I don't have personal experience with any of these; I am straight and I don't really have gay friends (that I know of), I am not yet old enough to vote or audition for jobs, I don't have to choose yet what I want to do as a profession later or whom I want to marry and both my parents are still alive, plus, I'm the younger sibling in my household. And still, all of these themes truly hit home for me, and they were so expertly approached, I bow my head to Spotswood. Truly genius.
I thoroughly enjoyed Born Wicked in all its glory, and even though it didn't make my favorites list, I am looking forward to the sequel.