A young witch tries to unravel the mystery of who is framing her for dark magic in Georgia Bowers’ creepy YA debut fantasy, Mark of the Wicked.
Magic always leaves its mark.
All her life, Matilda has been told one thing about her magic: You use only when necessary. But Matilda isn’t interested in being a good witch. She wants revenge and popularity, and to live her life free of consequences, free of the scars that dark magic leaves on her face as a reminder of her misdeeds.
When a spell goes awry and the new boy at school catches her in the act, Matilda thinks her secret might be out. But far from being afraid, Oliver already knows about her magic – and he wants to learn more. As Oliver and Matilda grow closer, bizarre things begin to happen: Animals show up with their throats slashed and odd markings carved into their bodies, a young girl dies mysteriously, and everyone blames Matilda. But she isn’t responsible — at least, not that she can remember. As her magic begins to spin out of control, Matilda must decide for herself what makes a good witch, and discover the truth…before anyone else turns up dead.
I had no idea what I was getting into with this book, but I’m so glad I requested a review copy! MARK OF THE WICKED is enthralling, impossible to put down, and filled with the types of characters that are so complex, you don’t know whether to love them or hate them. I started off not much liking Matilda. She uses her magic to harm those she considers her enemies. The only problem is, if she harms someone with magic, she is scarred for life; their name carved into her face. But Matilda has learned how to hide her scars from everyone, so at the outset, it seems like she suffers no consequences for her actions. She’s angry, spiteful, and nearly impossible to sympathize with. At first.
When she meets Oliver, though, we get to see a side to Matilda that was missing — the reasons for the things she does. She reveals her deeper fears and her darker pain that she resorts to magic to help her cope, the way an alcoholic turns to booze to numb the pain. But there is something more sinister than Matilda afoot, with grisly animal deaths that somehow keep pointing to Matilda. But with her mother acting suspicious, her grandmother not having spoken in three years, and Matilda’s blackouts, anything is possible.
MARK OF THE WICKED is superbly plotted, with intertwining plots. Debut author, Georgia Bowers, creates intrigue with her storytelling. The pacing is perfection. Set in a small town in England, with a dark history, similar to that of Salem, Massachusetts in the states, her backdrop comes alive, becoming a part of the story as much as the characters.
Speaking of characters, for me anyway, the ability to create an antihero like Matilda, and make us root for her the way we rooted for Walter White in the first few season of Breaking Bad, is a rare talent and Bowers does it masterfully. Supporting characters, like Matilda’s classmates, Erin, Oliver, her mother, and grandmother, are more than just cardboard cutouts and stereotypes. It would have been easy for the author to make someone like Ashley a less than sympathetic character, but even she has more depth than just the class queen bee.
Top Five Things I Loved About MARK OF THE WICKED
1. Magic. The magical world building is amazing and really adds to the plot and character development.
2. Characters. Their depth and complexity made this a book I couldn’t put down.
3. Plot. The story is unforgettable, with a number of twists and turns that made this a book I couldn’t put down.
4. Redemption. Matilda’s character arc is the opposite of Breaking Bad as she learns some brutal, valuable lessons about life, love, and what it means to be a good citizen.
5. Storytelling. The author does an amazing job of weaving in threads that stick with you, gnawing in your brain, that keeps you reading to find out what they mean.
A stellar debut novel by an author I cannot wait to read more from.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book
Title: MARK OF THE WICKED
Author: Georgia Bowers
Publisher: Swoon Reads
Release Date: August 10, 2021
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon DE | Amazon IT | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | Google Play
About the Author
Georgia Bowers lives in Bedford, a small market town in England. When it was time to decide what to do with her life, she was obsessed with two things: books and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It seemed sensible to follow in the brogued footsteps of Rupert Giles, so she became a librarian, though sadly not the demon fighting kind. But there’s still time.
Ever since her mum told her that witches used to meet in the woods near their village, she’s been obsessed with witchcraft and the paranormal. When she was a teenager, a weekly habit of Point Horrors satisfied her thirst for chilling tales before she moved on to reading Stephen King. These days she likes to give her nerves a break every now and then with a good YA romance.
After completing a course in writing YA fiction she was a winner in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Undiscovered Voices. Since then she has dabbled with stories of chosen ones and ghostly best friends until she conjured up the magical ingredients for her debut novel, Mark Of The Wicked.
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