Healer & Witch
Nancy Werlin, Author
Candlewick Press, Apr. 12, 2022
Suitable for ages: 9-12
Themes: Healer, Witch, Magic, Danger, Deceit, Trusting one’s self, Historical fiction
Book Jacket Synopsis:
Sylvie and her mother and grandmother are beloved, trusted healers in their medieval French village at the end of the Middle Ages, though some whisper that fifteen-year-old Sylvie and her grand-mere deal in more than herbs and medicines. Perhaps they’re a bit . . . witchy? After her grandmother dies, and an attempt to use magic to heal her mother’s grief yield tragic consequences, Sylvie leaves her village in search of a teacher. Accompanied by Martin, the farrier’s youngest son, Sylvie finds herself on a journey rife with strange alliances, powerful temptations, danger and deceit.
In the end, there may be only one wise woman Sylvie can trust in a world that would define her limits: herself.
Steeped in the healing arts and magic, award-winning author Nancy Werlin’s first novel for younger readers is a beautifully crafted, quietly powerful story that follows a young woman gifted with magic as she struggles to manage her powers — and claim her strength — without violence.
Why I like Healer & Witch:
Nancy Werlin has written an enthralling adventure about a girl’s journey of self-discovery, believing in herself, finding courage in the midst of danger, and taking her place in the world. Werlin’s writing is original, lyrical and magical, despite the themes of danger, deceit and evil. Readers will enjoy spending time in medieval France where healers are considered witches and could face Inquisition, This story will encourage readers to form their own opinions about the differences between healing and witchcraft.
The characters are compelling and unforgettable as they reveal their good and evil natures along the way. Sylvie is a 15-year-old healer who has made a terrible mistake. Sylvie is a sensitive and deeply caring individual who knows that her gift is from God and that she must use it for good. Since she no longer has her Grand-mère to guide her, she embarks upon a journey to find a teacher who can help her understand and use her gift. Eight-year-old Martin, is a cheerful, barefoot boy who wants to see the world instead of becoming a farrier alongside his father. He joins Sylvie and his presence offers an unexpected perspective to the story. Along the way they meet Ceciline, a wise women, Monsieur Robert Chouinard, a merchant and businessman, and Madame du Bois, an astrologer. Each character will reveal their true nature and help Sylvie make new discoveries about herself.
The short chapters make for easy reading, and Sylvie’s gripping journey will keep even reluctant readers turning pages just to find out what’s going to happen next. I was surprised by the ending, which is satisfying and hopeful.
Nancy Werlin is the author of several books for teens, including, Zoe Rosenthal Is Not Lawful Good, the National Book Award Finalist The Rules of Survival, the Edgar Award winner The Killer’s Cousin, and the New York Times bestseller Impossible. About Healer and Witch, her first novel for middle-grade readers, she says, “Reading historical fiction was my very first love.” Nancy Werlin lives outside Boston.
*Review copy provided by Candlewick Press in exchange for a review.