More Cybils reading!
One Witch at a Time by Stacy DeKeyser. Simon & Schuster, 2015.
This book is the sequel to The Brixen Witch, which I haven’t read, but I deduce from references in this book was a Pied Piper retelling. The village of Brixen has not been doing well – winter is lasting too long, and there’s not enough food to go around. Our young hero, Rudi, is sent off to market in the neighboring town to sell one of his family dairy’s few remaining cows. Susanna Louisa, a neighbor girl only nine years old, comes along, and ends up selling the family cow for a handful of beans that she claims are magic. Magic beans! These were sold to her by a pretty but clearly dangerous girl that Rudi learns is named Agatha, who’s dressed in the style of people from Petz, even though they are rumored not to be able to leave their village. From this point, we know this is going to be a Jack and the Beanstalk story, with the added wrinkle that each town in this country has its own witch. Brixen’s witch is the more traditional style: a crotchety old lady that no one wants to cross, but who really has Brixen’s best interests at heart. Right now, though, it seems that Brixen is being affected by magic from the neighboring town of Petz, whose witch is a large and much less kindly male giant. It’s up to Rudi, Susanna Louisa, and Agatha to stop the giant from destroying both Petz and Brixen, keeping in mind the rules about witch’s magic that the Brixen witch tells them.
When starting midway through a series, my first question is always, “Can I understand what’s going on or do I feel left in the dust?” Here, I could definitely tell that things had happened to Rudi before, but this was another adventure. I didn’t feel left behind, but if you have time, you’d probably enjoy this one more after reading the first one. It is a historical setting, but Rudi’s voice is fresh enough to keep it feeling approachable. This is a fun fairy tale-inspired adventure, with strong characters of both genders. Rudi is plucky enough to respect, but isn’t the Hero of the Day, even though the story is told from his point of view, a refreshing change. It’s also great to see a fairy tale story starring a boy, as there are not nearly enough of these for balance – too bad it doesn’t look like it from the cover. This is a fun, fast read for fans of both fairy tales and fantasy adventures. It would pair well with Liesl Shurtliff’s Rump and Jack.
Official disclaimer – this book is nominated for the Cybils award, but this is my personal opinion on the book, not the opinion of the Cybils committee.