book blog · book review

Being a Witch, and Other Things I Didn’t Ask for by Sara Pascoe

34186576When you’re fourteen and life has been nothing but hurt and disappointment, maybe it’s time to strike out on your own. But after leaving the boring village and foster home for the excitement of London, Raya finds out she’s a witch, with this annoying habit of time-travelling – by accident. And this sarcastic witch’s cat Oscar tags along for the ride. But why would she fling herself into the midst of the Essex Witch Trials in 1645 England? After being arrested by Matthew Hopkins, one of history’s most notorious witch hunters, her social worker and witch mentor Bryony goes back to try to save them from the gallows. But returning to present day London remains out of reach with Raya’s powers still out of control when they find themselves in 1645 Istanbul/Constantinople. There, life is more amazing than she ever dreamed. Can she stay? And at what cost?


*Thank you to Independent Book Publishers Association and NetGalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

A young witch accidentally time travels to 1645 England where witches are being executed, and then time travel again to 1645 Istanbul. Sounds cool, right? Witch and time travel. Those two words seal the deal for me. At fourteen, Raya’s been through a lot of hardships in life already. Being passed from one foster home to another, Raya decided that it’s time for her to go and live her own life. She’ll go to London. But things didn’t go so well for her. Not only people took advantage of her, she’s also been seeing and hearing stuff that shouldn’t be there. Could she be like her mom who’s schizophrenic? Luckily for her, she met some people who helped her settle in London and who also believed that she’s a witch and all she’s experiencing is part of her abilities manifesting. They even helped her control her magical powers. Everything is going great than what Raya expected. Until she accidentally time traveled with Oscar, the witch cat to 1645 England. A period of time where suspected witches are being put on trial and immediately executed. Unfortunately for Raya, she was suspected as one and was arrested by one most-feared witch hunter. Bryony, her social worker who also happens to be a witch, was sent back by witches HQ to save Raya and Oscar. But for an unknown reason, Bryony’s time travel ability is missing in action and it’s now up to Raya to save them from execution. With her power still out of control, Raya and company find themselves in 1645 Istanbul instead. She was instantly captivated by the place and the life that Istanbul has to offer, she doesn’t want to leave. But things got more complicated and Raya is faced with the hardest decision she’s ever made.

This is the third time travel story I’ve read for this year, actually, in just 3 months. And I still can’t seem to get enough of it. The plot is really interesting and I had such high hopes that it will deliver a captivating story. But as exciting as the blurb sounds, I was left a little disappointed. First, because I had a hard time understanding where Raya’s resentment is coming from. Sure there is some backstory but I feel like it’s not enough to gauge why she’s acting so self-absorbed all the time. Or maybe it did but I’m just not paying that much attention. I get that she’s a young teen with a lot of issues but it’s hard to sympathize with her when she keeps blaming other people instead of owning up to her mistakes. She learned her lessons and had a good character development, though, so I guess that’s fine in the end. The world building of the story is also confusing. I initially thought that being a witch is a secret to the society because it was implied like that. Or maybe it’s just how I think it is. So, anyway, it turns out that witches and magic are known to people. Only there’s no explanation as to how and why things come to that. Even the witch community is confusing. What they can do? What they can’t do? Why they can read someone’s mind and time travel yet they can’t make something float or the likes? So many questions without answers. The ending also seemed rushed that it left some loose ends.

It started really slow and only picks up once the time travel happened. Which is definitely one of the things to look forward in this book. Especially the one on the Essex Witch Trial period, as well as the bits in Istanbul. It is really fascinating with its historical and cultural components. The excitement on both events certainly made up for the slow start. I like Oscar the cat, too. He is amusing and sarcastic and made the adventure more fun. I’d say overall, it is an okay read despite some issues I have with it. If I’m a young teen, though, I’d probably connect to Raya and enjoy her story more.

P.S. All those kebab talks will surely make you crave for one!





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