Seventh Born (The Witchling Academy #1), by Monica Sanz
Publish Date: September 4, 2018
Published by: Entangled Teen
Genre: YA Fantasy
My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5 out of 5 stars)
**Thank you to Entangled Teen for sending me an early print copy in return for a review. This does not affect my opinion of the book in any way.**
Abomination. Curse. Murderer. All names hurled at eighteen-year-old Seraphina Dovetail. As the seventh-born daughter to a witch, she’s the cause of her mother losing her powers and, in turn, her life.
Abandoned as a child, Sera dreams of becoming an inspector and finding her family. To do that, she must be referred into the Advanced Studies Program at the Aetherium’s Witchling Academy. Her birth order, quick temper, and tendency to set things on fire, however, have left her an outcast with failing marks…and just what Professor Nikolai Barrington is looking for.
The tall, brooding, yet exceedingly handsome young professor makes her a proposition: become his assistant and he’ll give her the referral she needs. Sera is quickly thrust into a world where witches are being kidnapped, bodies are raised from the dead, and someone is burning seventhborns alive. As Sera and Barrington grow ever closer, she’ll discover that some secrets are best left buried…and fire isn’t the only thing that makes a witch burn.
I have to admit, when I was first introduced to this book, I had my hesitations about it. It sounded interesting, to be sure, but it also sounded like it had the possibility of being a little cheesy and cliché. I am so glad that I requested it, though, because it ended up being magical, dark, and full of mystery. I was surprised at how quickly I became invested in it, to the point where I couldn’t put it down. Filled with a gothic air and morally grey characters, this book played to my darker side and love of magical mysteries.
I absolutely loved the atmosphere of this book, it being both magical and dark, a haunting combination of gothic and fantasy story-telling that had me both thrilled and chilled. The world-building of this book was very well done, with some hiccups here and there where a lot of information was given all at once. But it was also done in a believable way, with the protagonist, Sera learning about it all as either part of a lesson or in her search for answers. There was definitely a lot of information to the magic system and history of the world, but it didn’t feel all that confusing, save for some tidbits here and there. And the writing was both captivating and intriguing, constantly keeping me engaged whether with action or the revelation of new information, or the descriptions of Sera’s relationships with various characters.
I wasn’t that big of a fan of Sera as a main character, at first, because she was very quick to anger and very stubborn as well. A lot of her personality stemmed from having no memory of her family or past before she was fifteen, as well as from a haunting trauma she experienced before coming to the Academy. This trauma takes some time to be explained throughout the book, but eventually once all comes to light, it does shed a lot of insight on her behavior, and the pacing at which it is revealed actually works well in the overall storyline. By the end, I was able to appreciate her strength and determination greatly, and how much she developed as a person over the course of the plot.
I really enjoyed Barrington’s growth as well, despite coming off as almost a Snape-like character at first. But, thankfully, he quickly became his own character as the story progressed, and as more of his own background and personality came to light. The growth of his relationship with Sera over the course of their working together was very well-written, and lent a lot to his own personal character development. I loved that he wasn’t perfect, and that he balanced Sera well, while she helped him to change for the better, and he her.
As for the other characters, I thought Mary was sweet and a wonderful foil for Sera, and desperately enjoyed their friendship and sisterhood, despite certain events. Timothy, on the other hand, I think I could have cared less for. At first I thought it was cute that he was smitten with Sera despite her being a seventhborn, but there was something about the way that he wouldn’t take no for an answer, that he wouldn’t stop believing she felt the same way as he did, or could feel the same, that had me cringing away from him for most of the time he was on the page. He was just so assuming and consumed with his own emotions that he failed to really see or understand hers. By the end I felt a little bit more sympathetic and appreciative of him, but still not enough to really like him as a character overall.
This book definitely surprised me in how much I enjoyed it, with characters that grew on me, a plotline that gripped my interest, and writing that kept me breathless. It combines the magic of Hogwarts, the gothic atmosphere of Jane Eyre , and the mystery of Stalking Jack the Ripper to make for a story that is both dark, romantic, and thrilling, but still altogether quite unique.
CONTENT WARNINGS: This book does include mention of non-consent (not rape), kidnapping, pain inflicted on others, on-page character death, blood, and characters being burned.