“This spellbinding fantasy begs for a cozy chair and several hours of uninterrupted reading time.” —The Washington Post
When Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. Across the forest that borders Ned’s village, Áine, the daughter of the Bandit King, is haunted by her mother’s last words: “The wrong boy will save your life, and you will save his.” When the Bandit King comes to steal the magic Ned’s mother, a witch, is meant to protect, Áine and Ned meet. Can they trust each other long enough to cross a dangerous enchanted forest and stop the war about to boil over between their two kingdoms?
“Barnhill is a fantasist on the order of Neil Gaiman.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[The Witch’s Boy] should open young readers’ eyes to something that is all around them in the very world we live in: the magic of words.” —The New York Times
“This is a book to treasure.” —Nerdy Book Club
A Washington Post Best Book of 2014
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2014
A Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of 2014
A Chicago Public Library “Best of the Best” 2014
In a story of an unexpected hero, a thief's daughter, and some very tricky magic, Barnhill weaves a powerful narrative about the small tragedies that happen when parents fail their children, even with the best intentions. After Ned's twin brother, Tam, drowns, his mother, the village's Sister Witch, binds Tam's soul to Ned, who grows up as an awkward, stuttering boy ostracized by the rest of his village. ine's widower father loves her, but he loves his life as a Bandit King more. The magic that touches both Ned and ine draws their lives inexorably together as they are caught up in the machinations of King Ott's selfish empire-building. Barnhill (The Mostly True Story of Jack) makes bold character choices: Ned is soft, but never weak, while ine is tough, prickly, yet sympathetic. Peripheral adults are well fleshed out, from Ned's father, devastated by the loss of one child and afraid to show his love for the other, to a sensible queen who knows the value of a good witch. Barnhill elegantly joins the story's diverse threads in a complex tale whose poignancy never turns sentimental. Ages 9 up.