Goodreads: Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch
Series: Eva Evergreen #1
Publication Date: 2020
Twelve-year-old Eva Evergreen possesses only a pinch of magic. And that will make passing her Novice Quest incredibly difficult. She has one month to find a town to live in, and then do enough good for the inhabitants that they will recommend her to the Council–otherwise she will lose her magic forever. Eva’s plan is to do small repair magic to help the locals. But the mayor of her new town insists that Eva protect the town from the Culling–a magical storm of unknown origin that even the most power witches and wizards fail each year to contain. Eva has no idea how to succeed, but she certainly means to try.
Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is proudly recommended on the cover for fans of Kiki’s Delivery Service–and that should come as no surprise. The main premise of Eva Evergreen is precisely the same as that of Kiki. Twelve-year-old Eva must leave her home and live on her own for awhile in a new town, in order to demonstrate that she is a true witch. While there, she has some difficulties making friends, but ultimately proves her worth when tragedy strikes. However, though the premise of the story is the same, Julie Abe adds in extra details to make the book feel worth reading: an antagonistic wizard, rumors of rogue magic, and a series of quests witches must complete in order to keep their powers. Ultimately, Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is a charming read, sure to appeal to tween readers who love tales of magic that are more cute than scary.
Perhaps the main flaw of this fantasy is not the similarities with Kiki’s Delivery Service, but rather the lack of worldbuilding. This is evident from the first pages, where Abe attempts to start in the middle of the action, without being bogged down by “insignificant” details about Eva’s world. Eva is walking into a magical bookstore to undergo some sort of test in preparation for some other event that will lead to some sort of quest. Information is dropped “organically,” but not explained, making it hard for readers to figure out precisely what is happening. For example, one character compliments another’s cooking (a nod to the fact that Eva’s father is a baker and not a wizard). People are addressed by confusing titles (later explained to be stages of magic one can achieve). And a nemesis is introduced (in order to allude to some sort of magical apprenticeship system that is never clearly described in-depth at all). A lot of it does not immediately make sense, and readers just have to stick with it for awhile in order for the worldbuilding to start being explained. Even after reading the entire book, however, I still find that many important details about magic, politics, and geography are simply lacking. This may not bother readers who enjoy books more for the plot, but readers who prioritize worldbuilding will likely be disappointed.
Aside from the lack of worldbuilding, the story is pleasant enough. No unexpected plot twists occur, and readers will probably be able to predict most of the story’s major events, including the big “reveal” of the villain at the end. Still, it is a nice story about a nice girl trying to do nice things for a nice town. A reader wanting a feel-good book that never gets the pulse racing, but merely charms with descriptions of cute animals, families reunited, and friendships made will enjoy the journey. Because, in the end, a story about a girl with magic who proves her worth despite not being as powerful as the rest of the witches will land well in most cases. Readers do love to cheer for an underdog.
Nothing about Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch particularly stands out. It is a reliable middle-grade fantasy that relies on many familiar plot points, but I do not think the tween readers it is marketed towards will complain about its inherent lack of originality. It’s a fun story, and that is likely what will make it enjoyable to read for many. It is certainly book that I would have loved as a child.