Healer and Witch
by Nancy Werlin (Goodreads Author)
This YA fantasy takes place in the Middle Ages, and Sylvie is terrified that an Inquisitor from the Holy Catholic Church could denounce her as a witch. She has a special ability to heal which she believes is from God, but being a good Christian won’t save her from being killed as a witch if the wrong people find out about what she can do.
Sylvie tries to heal her mother, but when it goes terribly wrong, Sylvie leaves her quiet French village searching for someone who might be able to teach her how to control her powers. Her little friend, Martin, tags along eager to travel and see the wide world.
I loved this story so much! The narrative is very subtle and subdued with lots of emotional tension under the surface. There are so many great plot twists that surprised me and kept me on my toes!
The writing style is very clever at making you feel what is happening without having to explain things outwardly. The writing just says that Sylvie’s shoulders grew tense, and because of all the other build-up around the scene, the reader immediately knows what Sylvie is thinking and feeling. It’s very emotional and immersive!
The characters have so much depth and development! There are two other characters besides Sylvie who both get these amazing arcs. It’s so satisfying to see how they rise to the occasion and grow through the story!
Sylvie is a very complex and beautiful character! I fell in love with her right away. She is so strong and determined. I loved her independent ways and her courage. But she grows into that courage through difficult situations. She has so many questions at the beginning of the story, and she is a lost soul. It’s incredible the way she finds a path for herself, and makes a new life for herself. Just wonderful!
There is a little bit of a romance in this book that is very subtle and soft. The most they ever do is hold hands and hug, and it is so sweet and meaningful. It was very interesting to see the slow and careful way these two begin to understand one another and develop feelings for each other. They both have trouble trusting people, but they finally begin to recognize that there is someone they can rely on. It’s completely adorable!
I was intrigued by the magical powers that Sylvie is discovering. She can’t control it, but she is sort of testing her limits and trying new things with her power. Sometimes she just instinctively knows what to do, and other times she is completely confused.
I’m not sure why this book is marketed for Middle Grade. It seems very much like a Young Adult genre to me. Sylvie is 15 years old, so that seems a bit old for MG. There are a few mentions of illegitimate children, menstrual periods, prostitution, rape, and abortion. Pretty serious material for a MG novel.
There is nothing explicit. These things are just mentioned as existing in the world around Sylvie. She carries a knife to protect herself from any sexual attack. She is wary around men. One of the characters is ashamed that they were a male prostitute in the past, but there is nothing like that which happens in the “present” of the story.
In my mind, if the main character is old enough to be thinking and talking with others about sex, then it’s a Young Adult or Adult novel. Not Middle Grade. But that’s just my opinion. But I would not say that this book is inappropriate for MG. There is nothing explicit that would be improper for a Middle Grade child (11-13) to read. Some of the subjects are just a bit too mature for ages 11-13.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions stated here are my own true thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.