Book Review: House of Ivy and Sorrow
By: Natalie Whipple
Published By: HarperTeen
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
Page Count: 352
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss
Audience: Young Adult - Paranormal
I love witches so I'm always excited to see a new book that focuses on this paranormal group. I was eager to see how Whipple would put her own spin on witch lore. I loved that she makes her witches powerful and dark. This isn't the happy Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, sort of story. Magic is both dark and light; casting spells requires a balance between desire and payment. I loved that things in this novel largely existed in shades of gray. Even the villains have moments where redemption begins to peek through the evil. This balance between life and sorrow was a theme that ran throughout the novel. In fact, I agree that we cannot possibly have one without the other.
Josephine Hemlock is one of the most powerful witches in her generation, but that doesn't mean that life is easy for her. Up until recently, she was a bit of an ugly duckling who didn't venture out of her social circle. Things have changed though and Josephine has blossomed into one of the prettiest girls at school. When the school hottie, Winn, begins to take notice, Josephine can't help but hope that her life is in for some positive changes. But the course of high school never runs smoothly and an ancient grudge and some serious dark magic threatens to tear apart everything Josephine cares about.
I really enjoyed the characters in this one - including the baddies. I was enthralled by the magic and how it worked. It's also nice to see women who can kick some butt. Nana, Josephine, and the other witches were awesome.
In addition to the paranormal elements, I loved the strong sense of female friendship. The relationship between Josephine, Kat, and Gwen is extremely strong. I also liked that these girls did not fight over boys or have petty arguments. Their relationship is a model for how friendship should work.
Furthermore, I enjoyed the emphasis on family. The relationship between Josephine and Nana was one of my favorite parts of this one. Their time together made me think of memories with my grandmother.
Lastly, I did find the romance in this one to be a little weak. I didn't understand the connection between Josephine and Winn. They happened to be two attractive people, but I didn't feel like they had a lot in common. It made it difficult for me to understand their relationship at times. There also was potential for a love triangle, but it didn't truly materialize, thank goodness. I can handle some romantic tension, but I'm kind of over the love triangle angle.
Overall, I thought this was a fun read that will appeal to those who enjoy a good paranormal mystery. I would love to see this one become a tv show. I think the lore has a lot of potential.
One Last Gripe: The pacing felt off in this one. Some moments dragged a little too long while others seemed a bit rushed.
My Favorite Thing About This Book: I loved how spells were cast and that there was always a form of payment.
First Sentence: They say a witch lives in the old house under the interstate bridge.
Favorite Character: Josephine
Least Favorite Character: Sylvia
Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.