Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe (Eva Evergreen #1)
Publisher: Little Brown Books For Young Readers
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Cover Artist: Shan Jiang
Summary: Sometimes all you need is a pinch of magic…Eva Evergreen is determined to earn the rank of Novice Witch before she turns thirteen years old. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose her magic forever. For most young witches and wizards, it’s a simple enough test: ONE: Help your town, do good all around. TWO: Live there for one moon, don’t leave too soon. THREE: Fly home by broomstick, the easiest of tricks. The only problem? Eva only has a pinch of magic. She summons heads of cabbage instead of flowers and gets a sunburn instead of calling down rain. And to add insult to injury, whenever she overuses her magic, she falls asleep. When she lands on the tranquil coastal town of Auteri, the residents expect a powerful witch, not a semi-magical girl. So Eva comes up with a plan: set up a magical repair shop to aid Auteri and prove she’s worthy. She may have more blood than magic, but her “semi-magical fixes” repair the lives of the townspeople in ways they never could have imagined. Only, Eva’s bit of magic may not be enough when the biggest magical storm in history threatens the town she’s grown to love. Eva must conjure up all of the magic, bravery, and cleverness she can muster or Auteri and her dreams of becoming a witch will wash away with the storm.
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Eve Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is a delightful fantasy adventure about a witch-in-training named Eva who learns to embrace her skills as she undergoes an important quest that determines whether she will keep her magic! From the delightful prose, whimsical and enchanting world-building, in addition to the cozy slice-of-life adventures, Eva’s story was both heartfelt and captivating in every way.
Despite focusing heavily on YA books here on the blog, I do love middle grade and when I first heard about this book a few years ago it had to be put on my tbr, no questions asked. Though it took me time to pick it up, I’m so glad to have finally read it (also with much eagerness from my sister over on twt @/storiedshelves who adored this <3). As you can also probably tell from recent posts, cozy fantasy has literally been my entire personality recently and it inspired me to finally read Julie’s middle grade debut asap. Originally this was my first Julie Abe book and although I posted my ARC review for The Charmed List first, this cozy & magical middle grade was my intro to her work. As a fantasy, this easily reminded me why the genre is so incredible and ahh- I’m going to say Eva is my most favorite of her books thus far!✨
So Eva, alright miss Eva is truly the most precious and needs to be protected at all costs! Her journey was not only one full of adventure, but growth as she learned to use her semi-magical nature in ways that best helped her on her journey to become a witch.
Eva (or Evalithmus Evergreen) has been training for the day to embark on the required witches quest to earn her rank as a Novice and hopefully beyond that, like her mother. But Eva’s got a pinch of magic and faces quite a few obstacles along the way. Yet, as she finds herself gaining confidence and proving her skills (more importantly to herself) while doing her best, she learns that it’s important to embrace who she is and keep on trying.
The writing voice shines through as it highlights Eva’s eagerness, but also worries, anxiety & lots of humor which made her character come to life on the page! However, another plus is that the world, so imaginatively crafted, invites you with its many towns, witch culture, delicious treats (Contomelon rolls sound so delicious <3), and magical creatures (flamefoxes for instance). It’s through the details Abe weaves into the world that make it expand far beyond Eva’s hometown and Rivelle Realm.
It reads like a classic, hero’s adventure story but it’s also episodic in a way, leaving the reader to get bits and pieces of the world as Eva embarks on her quest. At the start of the novel, Eva is at a well-known bookshop to get the books she needs for her journey, but from not getting accepted right away, to accidentally falling asleep on her journey and landing in a town that hasn’t seen a witch in ages, the story felt reminiscent of a cozy RPG as it captivates you with its charming storytelling.
Once Eva lands in the town of Auteri, despite her rocky start with each opportunity she uses her skills in unexpected ways to prove herself as a capable witch of earning the Novice rank. From helping the townspeople with their problems to opening up a small repair shop, she sets out to show that she’s the witch the town needs.
Told through a first-person POV, it was truly the best most magnificent choice for this story! Eva’s voice not only carries the story with such charm, but also brings such a unique presence to how we see the setting because she’s such a young protagonist, but also knowledgeable about witches. As a reader, we also get an in-depth look into her fears and struggles as she worries or doubts herself. That feeling of being unqualified compared to those around us was such a core element of not only her character, but the thematic thread of the story that I believe anyone can relate to. Yet with her spunky attitude and empowering presence she brings a confidence that even she doesn’t realize, which makes her such a fun, all-around delightful character to follow.
I genuinely loved how the book explored this important idea about embracing our own inner strengths and no matter where we are on our journey, we should never let ourselves fill with doubt about being “behind” or not what others expect because we each go at our own pace and have our own strengths that empower us.
More on the worldbuilding, this book was genuinely such a wonderfully planned out, described world that I can tell Abe put so much care and imagination into crafting such a fun setting for the characters and with that, the reader, to explore. Abe’s whimsical, enchanting prose is further showcased not only in how she brings such a joy + vibrant energy to Eva, but in how she infuses the most compelling of details that exquisitely place us in this magical world she’s created. From the ranks of witches: Novice, Adept, to Elite, to the delectable foods she describes, even to the descriptions of various towns and locations, uniquely special to them with their own foods, festivities and daily life (especially with how it differs from magical vs. non-magical folk). I loved the endless imagination that stuck with me throughout Eva Evergreen.
If anything I believe that as an adult reader, this lovely book reminded me of how fortunate younger readers are to have such ingenious middle grade fantasy worlds to dive into with what’s being published right now. Again as an older reader though, there are moments for me Eva’s thoughts about her worthiness and vulnerabilities can be a bit repetitive and the underlying storyline about the Culling (a magical force of nature) did feel established in the beginning, but doesn’t get explored too much until the end which made that element feel rather rushed.
However, by the end I was left with so much wonder & joy at seeing where Eva’s journey would take her with her embracing her magic, among lots of other surprising twists!
Eva Evergreen Semi-Magical Witch was an enchanting middle grade fantasy with delightful prose, great world-building and a fantastic protagonist paired alongside a remarkable story about embracing your inner strengths. Delivering a well-developed cast, intriguing and wonderfully explored magic system, alongside a dazzling, adventure-fueled plot, Abe’s debut leaves you in wonder!