Witherward (Witherward #1) by Hannah Matthewson

My Five Word TL:DR Review – I thoroughly enjoyed this one

WitherwardThe thing is, I’m quite a lot less inclined to pick up YA these days.  In fairness I’m not the target audience and more often than not I find myself coming away from them with more questions than answers.  Witherward was such a lovely surprise, the world building was impressive, the plot kept me hooked and I enjoyed the characters.  On top of which there is a very low key romance that is simmering away.  Yeah, I had a good time with this one.

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t necessarily say that there’s anything groundbreaking here and it has something of a ‘chosen one’ trope but there are some lovely refreshing elements, good writing,strong foundations and a number of twists.

This is a world with two Londons. One quite hidden and accessed via portals, known as Witherward, where all sorts of magic and supernatural elements exist. The other London – the one we, the readers, are familiar with – is known as Otherworld  Witherward has a number of different factions.  On the face of it they exist amicably, well, mostly.   Changelings are exactly what they sound like- they can shift into virtually any animal, bird or even a different person providing their magic is strong enough and they can hold the image in their mind. The other factions are Wraiths, Whisperers, Oracles, Sorcerers, and Psi – each with their own particular strengths.  There is an accord between the factions to keep them in line, they each inhabit particular areas but the Changelings are relatively new and at this point, not entirely accepted. So, for the purposes of this story we follow the Changelings as they withstand various conspiracies.

Ilsa is a Changer who has lived in the Otherworld for as long as she can remember. Initially at an orphanage until the cruel treatment she received eventually forced her to run away and carve out a life on the streets. As the story begins Ilsa is taken, ripped from everything she has ever known and taken to Witherward. From there, everything she has ever known is turned upside down,  Amongst strangers she discovers a whole new world full of possibilities that she never imagined, although this is of course tinged with constant threats to life and limb.

What did I enjoy about this? Such a lot.  The world building is really well done.  Admittedly, there is a lot to take on board initially but it’s all really well grounded with history and emotions that run deep.  I liked the characters. Ilsa is easy to like. She’s not perfect by a long stretch of the imagination but she is resourceful and independent. I also liked a number of the other characters and it felt very easy to get on board with them.  I enjoyed the way that we discover things along with Ilsa. It felt natural and unforced.  I liked the dialogue that came across easy to read and natural.  The plot was intriguing and there were a number of twists.

Overall this makes a great start to series. We have something of an enemies to love interest ‘thing’ going on which is enticing and well paced and actually was quite unique in the direction it eventually takes and is a definite draw in terms of book 2 (which I’m really looking forward to given how this one ends).

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t really have anything.  This was a really enjoyable read for me that quite outdid itself in terms of my expectations for YA.  I feel like I’m perhaps not giving this as glowing a review as I would like – so, for the avoidance of doubt, this was great.

I received a copy through Netgalley courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars

10 Responses to “Witherward (Witherward #1) by Hannah Matthewson”

  1. Tammy

    I think you and I have similar experiences with YA so I’m definitely going to consider this book. Any YA that my adult friends endorse is one I’ll keep an eye on:-)

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yeah, I requested this with a slightly dubious feeling that it might not work and so it worked out much better than I expected.
      Lynn 😀

  2. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I honestly didn’t even know this was YA – but it sounds like it worked! I think I initially kept away from this because something in the description made me think it would be a weird sort of book. 😛

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think it mentioned YA on the original description on NG -that’s why I had doubts initially, but it worked out really well. I wouldn’t say it’s weird. It’s a split world accessed by portals. There’s quite a bit of worldbuilding early on but I think it’s needed and, for me, it’s that attention to how things ‘work’ that made this more enjoyable.
      Lynn 😀

  3. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Experience taught me there are two kinds of stories focused on young main characters: “classic” YA, with all its more or less overused tropes, and narrative with young protagonists, yes, but developed in an adult way – and this novel seems to belong to the second category. The background you describe sounds very intriguing and I will certainly give this one a peek one of these days 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I think the attention to real world building is what worked well for me with this one. So often with YA I find we’re given a concept and expected to take it at face value, which is fine sometimes, but sometimes, if that concept is simply not plausible I want to know more.
      Lynn 😀

  4. waytoofantasy

    Nothing wrong with treading similar ground if the book still serves its purpose which is, at the end of the day, to have a happy reader. 🙂 I think that I might have to check this one out, Lynn. It sounds right up my alley.

  5. Lexlingua

    Shadow cities are an intriguing concept. Looks like this YA book did a good turn around on them! I’m only sticking to standalones right now, but will keep this in mind, thanks

    • @lynnsbooks

      Ahh, sticking to standalones. Now that sounds like a great plan
      Lynn 😀

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