Published by HarperTeen on April 15th 2014
Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.
Josephine Hemlock, like her mother, grandmother, and all female relatives before her, is a witch. She lives in a world where all magic is considered “dark.” Only a witch’s choice to consume (bad) or control (good) determines whether a witch is evil or virtuous. The Hemlocks are held in high regard for being a family of powerful – yet controlled – witches.
In House of Ivy & Sorrow, all magic comes with a price, a warning and rule followed scrupulously throughout this book. Whether it be a toenail, flesh, or loss of speaking or taste, the witch who casts a spell must make a sacrifice in order to complete her task.
I loved how magick was portrayed in House of Ivy & Sorrow. It was very original. In most stories, magick is achieved through inherent and limitless power or merely by objects and mystical ingredients. Using magic in House of Ivy & Sorrow is dangerous. When every spell you cast requires an equal trade, the witch has to think twice about what she’s trying to accomplish and if it’s worth it. The greater the sacrifice the greater the reward.
I talk about “shes” a lot because the only ones born with magick are females. The many magickal families (some big, some small and some now extinct) are based on a Matriarchy. Witches leave the father of their children shortly after birth in order to protect them from the pain and casualties that come from being around magick.
A lot of this book revolves around Josephine and her Nana trying to stop a curse that’s killed numerous witches, including Josephine’s mother. With strangers appearing, oozing of dark magick, and numerous threats made on her love ones, Josephine is forced to go to make some of the biggest and most dangerous decisions she has ever had to make.
Josephine was a likable and well-rounded character. She kept her priorities in check by balancing the roller-coaster of emotions revolving around first dates and a boyfriend, with her determination to protect her family and friends. Whipple made Josephine into a relatable teenage girl while also making her a magickal force to be reckoned with.
My one criticism is that at times this story was difficult to follow. I had to re-read a few parts because I couldn’t figure out what decision a character had just declared. The plot didn’t always flow smoothly which made me feel detached. Some parts dragged, while others, especially the big moments of clarity or action, felt rushed.
Overall, House of Ivy & Sorrow was a fun read. Whipple created a richly-detailed world, that although I’d never want to live in (it’s dangerous!), I still enjoyed reading about. With a life-ending curse approaching and little hope of stopping it, I was determined to get to the end to see how it all panned out.
An ARC of this book was provided by HarperTeen in exchange for a honest review.