Verdict: OLIVER GRIFFON AND THE WITCH’S CURSE is well-written and entertaining, punctuated with some funny dialogue, a well-paced plot, and vivid characters.
Thirteen-year-old Oliver Griffon and his friends explore an ancient house that had somehow gone unnoticed in their town for hundreds of years—only to discover it’s haunted by a witch. Now, with the help of a mysterious candy shop owner, they must learn magic themselves and defeat the witch before Halloween, or else be killed by the curse.
Many of the plot points, characters, and details seem familiar while reading OLIVER GRIFFON AND THE WITCH’S CURSE, because they had been done before in Harry Potter. Oliver Griffon is of course Harry—the brave, loyal, sometimes foolhardy hero. Oliver’s best friend Franklin is the comic-relief-serving cowardly sidekick, the role that Ron eventually outgrows. Oliver and Franklin are already best friends by the time the book starts. When they go breaking the rules by exploring the old house, they meet the intelligent, eye-rolling Hermione character, Samantha.
The Golden Trio formula has worked in the past, so it’s not surprising that it’s used again now. However, as the book progresses, an astonishing number of characters, world-building elements, plot points—and even the formatting of the title—are dead ringers from the Harry Potter series. Strange things happen to Oliver, inexplicable things that get him into trouble; a magical government oversees the use of magic in the human world; three self-important, rich bullies harass Oliver; a horcrux-type object that must be taken away from the witch; written exams to determine magical ability; a separate world full of magical shops entered through a portal; and more details used throughout the book.
These examples don’t make the book bad. They were entertaining before, and they are not suddenly un-entertaining now. However, the appeal of a fantasy book is in its originality: Harry Potter was so successful because it brought readers to a totally unique, creative, and immersive world familiar to yet distinctly separate from our own. If another fantasy book uses those same elements again, they’re no longer unique and fascinating. And if those re-used elements are written in a way that is less immersive and less detailed, then what is the point?
The children’s ages are hard to grasp: towards the beginning of the book they claim to be thirteen, but they way they talk and act, and the way the adults treat them, makes them seem to be ten years old at most. This does not ruin the book, but can make reading it irksome. But overall, the writing style in OLIVER GRIFFON AND THE WITCHES CURSE is solid. There are some funny lines, a well-paced plot, and vivid characters. Those characters may verge on being tropes or caricatures, but in a children’s book focused on plot and world building, that can be excusable. However, when trope-like characters mix with trope-like world building, the result may not be bad, but it is redundant.
~Sarah Quinn for IndieReader