Sometimes all you need is a pinch of magic…
Eva Evergreen is determined to earn the rank of Novice Witch before she turns thirteen years old. If she doesn’t, she’ll lose her magic forever. For most young witches and wizards, it’s a simple enough test:
ONE: Help your town, do good all around.
TWO: Live there for one moon, don’t leave too soon.
THREE: Fly home by broomstick, the easiest of tricks.
The only problem? Eva only has a pinch of magic. She summons heads of cabbage instead of flowers and gets a sunburn instead of calling down rain. And to add insult to injury, whenever she overuses her magic, she falls asleep.
When she lands on the tranquil coastal town of Auteri, the residents expect a powerful witch, not a semi-magical girl. So Eva comes up with a plan: set up a magical repair shop to aid Auteri and prove she’s worthy. She may have more blood than magic, but her “semi-magical fixes” repair the lives of the townspeople in ways they never could have imagined. Only, Eva’s bit of magic may not be enough when the biggest magical storm in history threatens the town she’s grown to love. Eva must conjure up all of the magic, bravery, and cleverness she can muster or Auteri and her dreams of becoming a witch will wash away with the storm.
If you think the cover for Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is delightful, wait ‘til you read its story. Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is a stellar debut, filled with empowering messages for readers of all ages (but especially for younger readers!), an imaginative story filled with sweets and friendships and overcoming, and a memorable heroine who you won’t help but adore.
The story follows Evalithimus “Eva” Evergreen, a young witch who sets off on her own adventure to earn the rank of ‘Novice Witch’. Except, Eva only has a pinch of magic, causing her to create more chaos than the helpful magic she intends. When a magical storm threatens the town she grows to love, Eva must put her mettle to the test to save her town – and her future as a witch.
My first impression whilst reading Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch was that it reminded me a lot of one of my favourite Ghibli movies, Kiki’s Delivery Service. Although there may be several similarities – about young girls who venture into towns to find their calling, accompanied by a familiar, and have a little trouble flying on their broomsticks – at their hearts, the two stories are very different. Whilst Kiki’s Delivery Service is a coming-of-age about a girl who grapples with change and growing up, Eva Evergreen is more about fighting people’s expectations of you, doing your absolute best anyway, and celebrating the friendships that empower us.
A significant distinction between the Ghibli classic and Eva Evergreen is that the latter takes place in a Japanese-inspired world. I loved that the world in Eva Evergreen feels so much like a love letter to the author’s Japanese heritage. Moreover, I liked that this story felt like a soft and homely diaspora story and how that shone through the worldbuilding. When I imagined Eva’s world while reading, I visualised a world with a quaint co-existence between modern Japanese and Western influences – and I feel like readers will love the cosy yet mysterious world that Abe has created.
What I really loved about Eva Evergreen was this overarching theme of being ‘semi-magical’. On a more superficial level, I really enjoyed the challenges that Eva faces because she’s ‘semi-magical’; the shenanigans and well-intended chaos, but also the fun and inadvertent goodness that follows. More deeply though, I think a lot of readers, especially younger readers, will really relate to this idea of being ‘semi-magical’, or being not enough of something despite our best efforts. This is, I think, something we all struggle with, but what Eva Evergreen does beautifully is that it takes that insecurity, tells you that it’s valid, and takes you on a journey about how being ‘semi-magical’ doesn’t define who we are, and the goodness of our hearts and the goodness we can give to others.
And I think that’s the beauty of Eva Evergreen – that this story is about a young witch who, may indeed be ‘semi-magical’, but is also so much more than that. She’s kind, she’s thoughtful and helpful, she does her best to make things better and to make people happy (even if it backfires sometimes!), and she gives it her absolute all. Eva is a fantastic character, one that’s such a pleasure to read about and you’ll have so much fun being her companion as she goes on an incredible and life-changing journey. Moreover, Eva’s resilience and determination, paired with her genuine moments of vulnerability, makes her such an engaging and empowering character.
Eva’s character fits perfectly with the core message of this book: that there is so much magic in doing your best against all odds. And I think that’s such a wonderful and powerful message for younger readers who may feel a little lost and may feel like the world is so immense with all these counteracting forces beyond their control. Furthermore, this book contains wonderful friendships that grow organically and will make you feel like you’re part of a close-knit and friendly town that elevate this story to something truly spectacular and wholesome. Eva Evergreen wasn’t only a splendid fantasy adventure; it was also a warm hug, a cosy fantasy that feels like a friend and makes you feel like, yes, you can do it!
MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
If you love witchy middle-grade that is as charming as it is delightful, with an exciting and fun adventure and magical shenanigans, an imaginative world and setting, and cute illustrations (illustrated by Shan Jiang!) then you’ll absolutely love Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch. I cannot recommend this enough, especially to younger readers.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A young witch who only has a pinch of magic, must earn her rank as a ‘Novice Witch’, by travelling to a distant town, help its townpeople, and ‘do good’.
Perfect for: Readers who love imaginative fantasies and something a little wholesome and sweet!
Think twice if: You’re not a fan of the fast-paced and eventful action of middle-grade books.
Genre: middle grade fantasy
Trigger/content warning: grief of losing a loved one