Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega
Scholastic, pb, £5.36
Reviewed by Minna Nizam
Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega is an excellent continuation of Ortega’s career as an author. Published by Scholastic, the book is, much like her previous work Ghost Squad, a cute fantasy adventure well suited for middle-grade students.
The story’s plot follows Seven Salazar and her group of ragtag friends, Thorn and Valley, on a journey to defeat the Nightbeast or else they will be turned into Toads!
Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of this new tale by Ortega is that the story begins with a song of the Nightbeast, which immediately grabs the reader’s attention. Witchlings, in the realm of classic fantasy, spellbinds the reader in an epic, sweeping adventure for young audiences to enjoy.
Seven is a great protagonist, much like another young wizarding boy shipped off to Hogwarts at 11, who is only 12 at the start of her journey. Just like the boy-who-lived, our young hero’s journey starts with the protagonist hoping for a better life and feeling uneasy at the prospect of being called a “spare,” a witch that isn’t sorted into a traditional coven. (It should be duly noted that the reviewer writing this review has strong personal views in support of trans rights and trans issues plus is a nonbinary trans activist. They fully acknowledge that the author of the Harry Potter series has said/done things to cause great woe to the trans community).
Seven is left aghast when during the Black Moon Ceremony, instead of being sorted into a traditional coven, she is, A SPARE! A witch that cannot use her powers to its full potential. She, along with the other spares, is deemed less worthy than their counterpart witches.
The story is super cute and a great addition to Scholastic’s broad range of books. It’s a great successor to Ghost Squad and a lovely continuation of Ortega’s long career in publishing. It’s exciting to see another Latinx author of Dominican descent take the reins of the NYT bestseller list (debuting at number 1), rivalling the likes of Harry Potter.