Novels / Reviews

Retro Review: Witch and Wizard by James Patterson

Witch and Wizard by James Patterson was originally released in 2009, just qualifying for our retro review requirement of being ten years old or more. It grew into a five-book series and has a manga version as well. 
I read this book originally pretty close to publication and while I jotted down some thoughts at the time, I never did anything with them. So it was fun to pull up my old notes and look them over. 

I confess, I struggled to get into the book, so this might be UFM’s first less-than-favorable review, but I get the sense Mr. Patterson is not lacking in fans. 

The protagonists of this book are two siblings, Whit and Wisteria Allgood. (Yes, that really is their last name. This novel is…less than subtle.) One day, they discover they have magical powers and must use them to stop an evil government that is out to destroy all witches and wizards. 

There’s a common technique in speculative fiction to make the main character someone who’s unfamiliar with the world so others can explain to him (and the audience.) It’s really helpful, since it allows the world to be explored without a bunch of info-dumps and As-you-know-Bob moments. Witch and Wizard uses this technique as well, but to pull it off, the main characters must fail to notice that their government was taken over by evil dictators. Either the events must have happened in the course of a few days or Whit and Wisty’s parents must have really, really sheltered them in addition to not getting them into hiding when they realized that magic was becoming unpopular. Furthermore, the worldbuilding that did get explained to Whit and Wisty through other characters was not always stuff that needed explanation. I know what a portal does. I can guess what the overworld is when the narrative just mentioned the underworld a paragraph ago. Yet the narrative paused to explain these things as if teenagers are simply too dense to make such connections.

Overall, the book just felt like it dragged and talked down to its audience repeatedly. The characters felt two-dimensional. And on a more minor note, I have all the respect in the world for authors who choose not to add profanity to their books. But for the love of logic, don’t draw attention to the fact that you’re leaving it out by replacing “hell” with “land of the roaches.”

I’m not against reading another James Patterson book in the future, but this one was probably not my best introduction to his widely popular work. 

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