It's a witch-fest as timid teen becomes powerful magician

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 23 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 23 August, 2009, 12:00am

War of the Witches
By Maite Carranza
Published by Bloomsbury
ISBN 978 0 7475 8853 5

Teenager Anaid lives a lonely life in a small isolated village in northern Spain. The 14-year-old is a clever girl, but she is small for her age and so is bullied by her schoolmates.

She keeps her unhappiness to herself, secretly hoping that things will change one day. Selene, her mother, is too concerned about herself to notice her daughter's troubles.

Life goes on in Anaid's home, with the teenager knowing nothing about the secret her mother is hiding.

One morning, Anaid wakes up to find her mother has vanished, but she has taken none of her clothes or belongings.

Has she gone off somewhere with a man?

Anaid cannot believe that her mother could be so selfish as to leave her alone like this. Some of Selene's friends in the village persuade Anaid not to go to the police and assure the frightened girl that her mother will return soon.

But Selene does not come back, and Aunt Criselda suddenly arrives from nowhere to look after Anaid. Her mother's friends know something, but they are not telling Anaid. Has Selene's selfishness, her beauty and her lavish lifestyle finally got her into trouble? Anaid demands to be told the truth.

Her mother's friends agree that now is the time to tell the insecure teen all about Selene's secret life.

What she learns shocks Anaid to the bone. Her mother and her friends are witches. Selene is, in fact, the 'Chosen One' who can end the long and violent war between the good Omar witches and the evil, blood-drinking Odish covens.

You don't have to be a genius to work out what Maite Carranza's War of the Witches is all about. It's just a question of who are the witches at war and which side wins.

Carranza keeps the story from sinking under too many background details by putting Anaid at the centre of the present battle and charting her change from timid teen to powerful witch.

There is a lot of plot in War of the Witches and at times it feels as if the author has crammed ideas for several books into this one novel.

But fans of magic fantasy will enjoy the unusual setting, the carefully presented witching mythology and the brave heroine's journey into the Dark World.

There is a lot of well-written fantasy out there, and War of the Witches - already a bestseller in Europe - has all the right elements to become a world-wide hit.

John Millen can be contacted on