Charlotte, Nolan, Ava and June are all siblings, living in fear of their abusive father. Their lives seem all too ordinary (and all too sad and terrifying) until a strange twist of fate involving a tree-shaped piggy bank and a US state quarter. The state quarter was the one for North Dakota, depicting a herd of bison, and when June puts it in the piggy bank, the four children are transported to a field somewhere in a faraway land, where a herd of magical talking bison roams. The children have found themselves in Nova, a strange and magical place where animals from state quarters come alive, and a pair of wicked witches threaten the delicate balance of life. The children are now caught in the middle of a war between witches and animals, and to survive they have to utilize their own latent magic powers.
Laura M. Snider’s WITCHES’ QUARTERS is nothing if not ambitious. Taking hints from the Wizard of Oz and Narnia books, WITCHES’ QUARTERS takes the strange and bold premise of fantasy world building based on US coinage, and it runs with it. (Strangely enough, it’s mostly just the animals depicted on state quarters: Neil Armstrong, Helen Keller, the Minuteman statue, the Old Man on the Mountain, etc. do not make appearances in this book.) As weird as this premise might sound, the book makes pretty good use of it, with a colorful cast of scissor-tail flycatchers, wolves, bighorn sheep, raccoons and wild horses, all living in a fantastical North American idyll.
But when the story gets bogged down in the politics of Nova, the whole thing becomes hopelessly convoluted and confusing. And to compound this confusion, a few inexplicable elements are introduced to the story. In particular, there is a plot twist revealing the animals are capable of shape-shifting, which was never referenced before and basically comes out of nowhere.
WITCHES’ QUARTERS is very much a character-driven story, and fortunately, the characters are pretty solid. The siblings’ relationship is realistic and well-drawn, with the two older sisters, Ava and Charlotte, fighting over what they think is the best interest of the younger June, and the brainy (and sort of annoying) Nolan. An interesting experiment in fantasy world building, WITCHES’ QUARTERS gets lost in the wilderness, so to speak, with its confusing plot and questionable storytelling decisions.
Nonetheless, WITCHES’ QUARTERS is weird and ambitious, with a colorful (and solid) cast of characters creating an epic fantasy unlike any other.
~Charles Baker for IndieReader