by Karen Frazier, Managing Editor
Paranormal Underground Magazine
Witch and Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
“It’s ovewhelming. A city’s worth of angry faces staring at me like I’m a wicked criminal — which, I promise you, I’m not. The stadium is filled to capacity — past capacity. People are standing in the aisles, the stairwells, on concrete ramparts and a few thousand are camped out on the playing field. There are no football teams here today. They wouldn’t be able to get out of the locker-room tunnels if they tried.”
…”I see my mother crying quietly. Not for herself, of course, but for Whit and me.
“I see my father, his tall frame stooped with resignation smiling at me and my brother — trying to keep our spirits up, reminding us that there’s no point in being miserable in our last moments on this planet.”
So begins the latest by book, Witch and Wizard, written by the extremely prolific James Patterson. Better known for his hugely popular Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club series of books, Patterson casts his lot with the teen set, probably hoping to cash in on the gap left by the completion of two wildly popular youth/teen series, Harry Potter and Twilight (both to which he pays tribute in Witch and Wizard.)
In the book, Patterson and Charbonnet tell the story of Whit and Wisty Allgood – a teen-aged brother and sister leading normal, unremarkable lives when they are ripped out of bed in the middle of the night and imprisoned by the newly elected totalitarian government called the New Order – a government characterized by its slavish devotion to all that is logical scientific and proper.
Much to their surprise, Whit and Wisty are charged with being a witch and a wizard – crimes punishable by death in the New Order. Lest you think this is a modern commentary on the Salem Witch trials, however, the story has a twist. Although they didn’t know it, it turns out that the teens are actually in possession of magical powers that have remained latent throughout their childhood.
Once the pair is imprisoned, however, all bets are off. Whit and Wisty discover that they are, indeed, magical. Not just magical, but powerfully so.
In Witch and Wizard, Patterson and Charbonnet attempt to follow the winning formula set out by previous books of the genre. They create their own world where magic co-exists with the real world. They create their own vocabulary surrounding their magical world. They create their own history and future. Unfortunately, the formula seems to fall flat. Instead of being an engaging story, Witch and Wizard seems more like nothing more than attempt to become the next Harry Potter.
The authors have some success in creating the New Order, but it is never fully fleshed out in a way that allows the reader to understand – or care – what is really going on. That could be by device, however. It’s difficult to tell whether the reader is supposed to feel the same confusion that the story’s protagonists do, or whether the confusion arises from sub-par plot development.
Speaking of the protagonists, the characters are really rough sketches more than fully developed characters. One of the things that made Harry Potter so endearing to so many was Rowling’s full development of her characters. Raise your hand if you think you know Harry, Ron and Hermione pretty well. Or if you feel you know what drove Lord Voldemort to do what he did. The same can’t be said of either the heroes or villains in Witch and Wizard. There’s nothing there to make you like them, hate them or even really relate to them. Of course Rowling had a whole series to develop her characters while Patterson and Charbonnet are still on their first book.
Instead of any kind of a satisfying ending, Patterson and Charbonnet pretty much wrap the book up with “to be continued.” While creating a story arc is obviously important in a book that is intended to be part of a series, I still am one who believes that each book in the series needs a beginning, middle and end instead of a beginning, middle and to be continued. Witch and Wizard fails to provide any kind of a miniature wrap up.
Another distraction is the new vocabulary, which is sprinkled throughout the book, but never explained until a glossary at the end of the book. This once again seems to draw on the Rowling formula, by creating words specific to the fictional world in the book. Unfortunately, the device falls flat here and ultimately winds up being pretty jarring and confusing.
In the end, Witch and Wizard seems to fall well short of its apparent goal of filling the abyss left in the hearts of young readers (and sometimes their moms) of Harry Potter and Twilight. Instead, it winds up feeling like a quick attempt to cash in. I think teens (and their moms) just might be slightly more discerning that Witch and Wizard gives them credit for being.
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