Book Reviews

Review: “Born Wicked,” Jessica Spotswood

February 20, 2012

I received this book for free from Penguin Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: “Born Wicked,” Jessica SpotswoodBorn Wickedby Jessica Spotswood
Series: The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1
Published by Razorbill on January, 2012
Genres: Historical, Witches
Pages: 330
Source: Penguin Australia
Book Depository | Bookworld | Booktopia

Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship–or an early grave.

Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with six months to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word… especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate stars scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.

If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood — not even from each other.

A stunning read! Born Wicked hits all the right notes with its romance, magic and historical New England setting. Readers of Michelle Zink and Libba bray will delight in this 2012 debut by Jessica Spotswood. This book was part of my 2012 Debut Author Challenge

“I just want to be me. Cate. Why isn’t that ever enough?” – Cate

Even if witches aren’t your ‘thing’, you absolutely must try Born Wicked. Jessica Spotswood creates a believable society in which witchcraft is a very real threat; if only for their witches themselves. Although this book is set in 1890’s New England, it’s safe to say that the world of Born Wicked takes place in an alternative history to our own. The town of Chatham is watched over dilligently by the witch-fearing Brotherhood, as well as their counterpart, the Sisterhood.

I absolutely loved our main character, Cate Cahill. She was the eldest sister of three and the perfect narrator for the story. She reminded me a lot of Lia from Michelle Zink’s Prophecy of the Sisters series, so I have no doubt that readers and fans of that series will enjoy this one, too. As a witch in Chatham, Cate has to worry about being the next girl the Brotherhood may choose to arrest for witchcraft. Trying to hide her secret isn’t easy, especially when she is responsible for her two younger sisters, Maura and Tess, who have powers of their own.

Maura, the most rebellious and flamboyant of the sisters, added an interesting dynamic to the trio. I suspected a few things when she suddenly picked up an interest in the new Sisterhood governess, Elena, but her plotline in Born Wicked was still surprising as it played out. Tess, the youngest, was also fantastic to read about. I’m having trouble picking between her and Cate as my favourite Cahill, although at this stage I think I’ll have to stick with Cate!

“I feel us tilting toward each other like trees in a strong breeze. I’ve been craving the sight of him for days, but now its not enough. I’m not sure who moves first. The inches between us are erased until I’m in his arms and my mouth finds his.” – Cate

Cate’s relationship with Finn was one of my favourite parts of the book. When Born Wicked began, I was absolutely sure that Paul would turn out to be the love interest – due to his history with Cate and Maura’s early mention of him before he even made an appearance – so imagine my shock (the good sort!) when Finn began taking up more of Cate’s time! Their romance was brilliantly written and believable; the good sort that makes you all tingly as a reader and eager for their next scene together.

Overall the novel was perfectly paced, with just the right amount of attention placed on all aspects of the plot. Cate stuck to her beliefs and her priorities, and wasn’t one of those ‘stupid’ heroines that acts on a whim without thinking. Instead, she thought things through and acted accordingly. The only minor niggle I had with her was that she didn’t confide in her sisters earlier about the prophecy; but that was justified, as throughout the book she was only trying to protect them. It was refreshing that, for once, a heroine had her main motivation be something other than a boy she’s just met!

“I am wicked in many ways.” – Cate

It should also be noted that Born Wicked ends horribly! A good horribly. I can’t believe I have to now wait for the next installment! From here it looks like the series is only going to improve and I CANNOT WAIT. I’m guessing we’ll get to see New London as well as learn about Cate’s magic growing and improving, and just what the Sisterhood has in store for her. Of course, one of the biggest questions I have is this: What on earth is going to happen between Cate and Finn?

Do yourself a favour and pick up this 2012 debut by Jessica Spotswood. If you’re a fan of historical reads with a supernatural/magical/whatever storyline, this is certain to be the book for you! If you liked The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray or Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink, you’ll adore Born Wicked.

About Jessica Spotswood

Jessica Spotswood hearts books, board games, tea, the color pink, theatre, twirly dresses, and bells chiming the hour. She lives in Washington, DC with her playwright husband and a cuddly cat named Monkey. She also works part-time as a children's library associate for the DC Public Library.


  • Reply Steph February 24, 2012 at 3:28 am

    I’m so happy to hear that you loved it! I’ve been hearing mixed things, so that put me off from purchasing it, but I’ll definitely be getting it the next chance I get. I really can’t resist a witchy-y book.

  • Reply Karen @ Book Light Graveyard February 21, 2012 at 9:24 am

    hmmm…for some reason I totally missed that this was the first of a series–and I’m NOT a fan of series. But I still want to read this one. Especially if the romance is as great as you say it is!
    Book Light Graveyard

  • Reply Kate @ Nomalicious Reads February 20, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    ahhh crap I want to read it even more now!! Well I’m almost finished catching up with my reviews… so YAY haha.

    Great Review… your awesome sauce!


  • Reply Rebecca February 20, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Yay! You got the review faster than I thought! The ending was a killer; I need the sequel now! Glad you enjoyed it just as much as I did! ;D

  • Reply Brett February 20, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    I can’t believe how quick you are getting through all of these now. I’m happy that it’s really good. I almost bought it last Saturday but saw it had the present tense writing style, so I put it back. I have to be in the mood for one of them.

    • Reply Brittany February 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm

      Yes! Me too! I am so glad my reading thing is back! I knew it would return, it just needed a kick with some lengthy Game of Thrones lol.

      To be honest, I didn’t even notice the present tense an I usually hate that also! But this book was really amazing and witchy, so you should give it a go!

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