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