When Molly shows up on Castle Hangnail's doorstep to fill the vacancy for a wicked witch, the castle's minions are understandably dubious. After all, she is 12 years old, barely five feet tall, and quite polite. (The minions are used to tall, demanding evil sorceresses with razor-sharp cheekbones.) But the castle desperately needs a master or else the Board of Magic will decommission it, leaving all the minions without the home they love. So when Molly assures them that she is quite wicked indeed (so wicked! Really wicked!) and begins completing the tasks required by the Board of Magic for approval, everyone feels hopeful. Unfortunately it turns out that Molly has quite a few secrets, including the biggest one of all: that she isn't who she says she is.
©2015 Ursula Vernon (P)2015 Tantor
"[I]t offers a read with substance and resonance, despite the more whimsical trappings." (School Library Journal)
When letters were dispatched to available wicked witches, wizards, sorcerers, mad scientists, vampires, and beast lords announcing an opening for a a new Master of the Castle at Castle Hangnail, the resident staff did not expect a twelve-year-old girl. Molly has one of the invitation letters, though, and insists she is a genuine wicked witch, and the minions don't want Castle Hangnail to get decommissioned for lack of a master by the Board of Magic, so...
When Molly starts making good progress on the required tasks to be confirmed as the new master, even the most skeptical of the minions, Major Domo, starts to become hopeful.
But Molly has some secrets lying in wait to trip them all up. Especially Molly. And when Molly's "old friend" turns up, thinks start to come unraveled.
This is a really fun tale of a talented and imaginative girl who is determined not to let anything stand in the way of her desire to practice her magic and be the witch that being the wicked twin in her family has made her--without hurting anyone who doesn't deserve it! Or possibly not even those that do deserve it. The plot moves, and I love the characters, especially Molly herself, Cook the Minotaur, and Bugbane the bat. Some of the more peripheral characters are fun, too.
Some will point out that this is a book intended for younger readers, to which I say, yes, what's your point? It's a lot of fun, and Tara Sands reads it very well and entertainingly.
I bought this book.
I forgot I even purchased this, and yet, there it was in my library. I'd just finished a bunch of other fantasy novels, and needed SOMETHING while I was doing kitchen work. Ursula Vernon has never let me down before, and continues to make my day that much more fun and surreal. And earthy. Definitely earthy (but not in a burlesque sense). Practical fantasy.
Ms. Sands's narration took a little getting used to, but after the first or second chapter, I couldn't imagine any other voices except the ones she employed for the various characters. They were all unique and distinct, and not at all distracting from the story itself. I will probably subject my family to this on our next long car trip. Insert evil laughter here.
I liked the distinctions the characters made about the difference between being wicked vs. being evil.
I just really like the way Ursula Vernon writes. All her stories are quirky and fun but with some underlying worthwhile thought: they aren't just silly escapism.
I haven't listened to Tara Sands before. She did a fine job of giving the characters distinctive voices, and she was easy to understand.
I'm a sucker for when people stand up for each other, and there's a lot of that in this book.
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