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*Stormwitch* by Susan Vaught - tweens/young adult book review



by Susan Vaught
Grades 6-10 200 pages Bloomsbury USA December 2004 Hardcover    

Ruba is in a bad place - Mississippi, 1969. She’s in a bad way, too - facing a final battle with the Stormwitch who took her grandmother Ba on the beaches of Haiti, with no one to help her or even listen to her. And she’s at a bad age for it - sixteen, just old enough to know what she needs to do, not quite old enough to know how to do it, and two years too young to do anything without the approval of her Grandmother Jones, an upright Christian woman who wants Ruba to forget all her magic and warrior ways, bow her head to white folks, and carry on with life as though the Stormwitch never existed. But the Stormwitch does exist, and soon Ruba will have to find a way to fight her old enemy in her new life, without help or family behind her.

Stormwitch is a frightening and exceptionally brave YA fantasy, and the witch of the title is the least of its terrors. Most fantasies seek comfort from having their heroes solve all their greatest problems by the end of the story. Dark lords are defeated, divided nations are healed, and disapproving families see the error of their ways. But Susan Vaught has pitted her Ruba against the forces of recorded history, and she doesn’t give her an easy way out. At the end of Stormwitch, racism still rules in Mississippi, Grandmother Jones is still set in her ways and disapproving of Ruba’s Haitian heritage, and very real Hurricane Camille has still done its damage. It’s Ruba’s way of handling these problems, of working around and through them, that mark her as a hero and offer comfort against the dark days any reader must know will come.

Stormwitch isn’t an easy book to read, but it is empowering for people of any age, creed or color. It offers problems more complicated than most fantasy heroes ever face but just as elaborate as most real people have to deal with, suggesting a way that the heroism of myth can still save us all. And it does it all while entertaining, not preaching. Ruba’s journey is hard, but you’ll be glad to join her.

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