I did not go into this with high expectations, but I could rant all day about how wonderfully surprising this novel was.
Jessica Spotswood weaves a story that is absolutely addicting. The sheer scope of the world the Cahill witches/sisters inhabit is breathtaking. Spotswood pays attention to detail and character development, alongside plot and world building in this refreshing debut.
Characters like Cate, Tess, Maura, Finn, and Sachi jump off the page with their personalitys and decisions. This novel is very character driven, in the sense that each character is in a very strange predicament. Each of them has several choices that they could make that could change everything. The stakes are very high because of this, and there are some key players like Cate, Tess and Brother Ishida who have very clear ideas of what they want and what they will do to achieve these things. Each of them is truly ruthless in their own way;brother Ishida is cruel, self righteous and, well, a lying no good son of a bitch. Elena is clever, tricky, and desperate to have the sisters of the prophecy join the sisterhood and destroy the brotherhood once and for all. Cate herself will do anything it take- even mind-magic, to protect her sister. She is entirely selfless in the way that she is willing to betray her own morals to save them.
World building was great and I hope to see it expanded on in the next book.Mentions of countrys like indo-china and others had me hooked on the political system of England and how it navigated itself with the other countrys who didn't have the brotherhood. I also liked that way things were handled, like LGBT people for example: they're left out a lot of the time- I guess authors like to just pretend they don't exists or something, but Jessica Spotswood handles the issue head on. In novels like matched, where a man and a women are paired together by the government, LGBT people are just not mentioned, and whatever your views on it, it just takes away from the world building for me. Like, hey, gay and transgender and genderqueer people exist. Throw at least a sentence or two of explanation in there, and then you can brush them off if you don't want to work with that topic, but just do it for the sake of your novel, y'know? Jessica doesn't have this problem though. Not only does she give examples of her books worlds views on LGBT people, she also includes wonderful characters like Maura which just makes the book that much better. I also really liked the fact that readers got time to learn about this character, and make their decisions about them, before they got that nice little surprise about he characters sexual orientation. Because really, whether it was Jessica's intention or not, any homophone who reads this book and loves this character will get to that part of the book and it will be an instant wake-up call to them. So A+++ Jessica for that!
Another great thing about this book? The romance. When Cate and Finn kissed for the first time, I got shivers, and I squealed like the little fangirl that I am. I only do that when the romance is done well. When it is started in a good way and it grows and grows until t escalates to an epic first kiss, or moments when they're together just talking and it makes you go crazy because THATS HOW HARD YOU SHIP IT.
The love triangle was done well, and that was a surprise because . . . wow- risky move creating a love triangle in the first book. IT's one strong author who can pull that off. I did hate Paul with the fiery passion of a million old wood-stoves, but I understood his necessity to the story, and why Cate cared about him, and why she considered marrying him- which is also the sign of a strong author.
All in all just a great book to me. I loved the themes of sexism ad the way it was handled. If there is one thing I can not stand in this world it is prejudice and racism and sexism/misogyny and I really hope the brotherhood just gets it in one of these books. I would love to see them have the superiority slapped right out of them by the witches. Although I'm not sure we can trust the witches either, and I really like that parallel of 'the good guy is just as bad as the enemy'. A popular use of it is Coin and Snow in the hunger games, and we don't see it enough in YA these days.
This book is just awesome.