Goodreads: Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch
Series: Eva Evergreen #2
Age Category: Middle Grade
Now a Novice witch, Eva Evergreen is eager to help protect Rivelle Realm from magical weather events known as the Culling–and to prove her worth as a witch. However, she and her mother have recently discovered the true source of the Culling, a powerful wizard who has the trust of the queen. With only a pinch of magic, can Eva defeat the wizard and save the realm?
Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch is an uneven follow-up to its predecessor. Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch was fun, though notable mainly for its similarities to Kiki’s Delivery Service, as well as its failure to provide any meaningful worldbuilding. This sequel attempts to rectify those mistakes with some sloppy and inconsistent worldbuilding, but loses most of the previous book’s charm along the way. Enthusiastic fans of the first book may enjoy Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch, but ambivalent readers will find little to enchant them in a book where Eva’s friends have all but disappeared, Eva’s unique “pinch of magic” is gone, and the new information about politics and magic are more nonsensical than not.
Despite its many flaws, the first book in the series did have a certain magic to it. Young readers probably would not have minded similarities to other stories, and Eva’s personality made her a winning character in an unoriginal plot. What made Eva original was her “pinch of magic,” her ability to find unconventional solutions to problems because she was forced to–she simply did not possess the power to do the types of spells other wizards and witches took for granted. She soon found friends in her new town precisely because she was creative, earnest, and kind. The book had an uplifting message about accepting one’s self as they are, and appreciating everyone for their unique qualities. In book two, however, many of these aspects of the previous story are gone.
Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch separates Eva from her old friends in Auteri, with Davy and Charlotte only popping up periodically to help when needed. Their friendship does not seem as strong, and Eva is more concerned with finding and stopping the source of the Culling than she is about her relationships. Davy and Charlotte barely seem to have any personality, and I could not really remember why they liked Eva so much, or why they had decided to leave their home for her. She certainly did not seem to care too much about them.
Notably, too, Eva’s “pinch of magic” has disappeared. In an effort to ramp up the drama, the book has the Culling appearing every few days instead of once a year or so. And Eva, though barely qualified to be a witch, is running about the whole of Rivelle stopping it, often single-handedly (apparently). How is unclear, because it took her an entire month in the last book to come up with a viable solution to the Culling–one that was creative, if odd. Readers must simply assume that somehow her magic–which is now described as simply very limited and lackluster, rather than unique–is suddenly enough to save the realm. But the whimsy is gone. Eva is now just a poor witch, rather than an innovative one.
Julie Abe does seek to rectify the limited worldbuilding of the last book in this one, but the results are uneven. For instance, readers know there is a queen (chosen from some training academies located across the realm) who is highly revered. She works with a Council of magic wielders. Though the Council holds much power, they ultimately seem to be more like advisors, with the queen having the final say on matters of importance (the exact power dynamics are unclear, though). However, in practice, members of the Council do things like: burst unannounced into the queen’s private meetings to break them up to advance their own ends, call Council meetings without giving the queen prior notice, speak disrespectfully to the queen in public, let random Novices into secret Inner Council meetings because it advances the plot, and call last-minute show trials so they can get rid of people they don’t like without any actual evidence (with the queen mostly just watching on as it happens). So the politics and power dynamics are very unclear, as is why anyone would respect a queen who lets any of this occur.
The magical background is also disappointing. Book one and book two both have hinted broadly about rogue magic and its dangers. The implication has always been that rogue magic was banned years ago, like in ancient days, because it was so destructive. No one knows anything about rogue magic or how it works, and books on it are almost impossible to find because all mentions of it have been destroyed. People who once researched rogue magic or alternative theories of magic are suspect. Yet. The big plot reveal is that the last big incident of rogue magic was less than ten years ago and is connected to one of the most influential people of the realm. It could not have been a secret because people died. But somehow no one knows about this rogue magic, or suspects that this person could be involved with the new rogue magic threatening the realm. Everyone in the Council, if not Rivelle, should rightly know all about this, but somehow they don’t. I have big problems with books that rely on characters’ stupidity to advance the plot, and this is a prime instance.
Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch has a promising premise, but fails to deliver. The shoddy worldbuilding, as well as the backwards character development, and the lack of meaningful friendships, make this book less than enchanting.