The Shadow Wand: The Black Witch Chronicles, Book 3

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Shadow Wand: The Black Witch Chronicles, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Witch turns into warrior in sexually charged third book.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Parts of the author's magical world come from very old sources: magic runes, talked about least since the 6th century; and the five elements (air, water, fire, earth, ether) that have been part of medical and philosophical traditions around the world for centuries. The Gardnerian leader is a fanatic set on ethnic cleansing. There's plenty of real history to study about how devastating and dangerous these movements can be.

Positive Messages

Fights against religious fanaticism, enslavement, race supremacy, genocide, and the subjugation of women. The good guys embrace and celebrate diversity and fight for the rights of all different peoples in this fantasy world. Don't give into fear.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Elloren works to become a warrior here, knowing she will need to fight against a powerful evil. She buries her strong feelings of fear and loss to become what the world requires of her. She also explores her own sexuality in a committed and equal relationship and stands up for herself as a woman who grew up in a culture where it was expected that she be submissive to her husband and even put up with abuse. Elloren's allies and friends are diverse both in race (Fae, Lupine, Icaral, Selkie, etc.) and in sexual orientation.

Violence

The death of one major character by assassin is heavily mourned. Others attacked by assassins who carry swords, knives, throwing stars, and wield elemental magic with brief descriptions of gore. A group of young fae are massacred. Giant insects attack and cause major injuries that are magically healed. An explosion kills many. A woman of the servant class is cornered and nearly raped by employer's son, then told to wear "less tempting clothes" by the her employer. Another incident of sexual violence ending in the predator being severely beaten. Talk of rampant spousal abuse. Whipping and beating of prisoners. Talk of a child beaten for being different and others mind-controlled to feel shame about themselves and obey.

Sex

Sex between "fasted" or married partners described in vivid detail, with talk every time of using contraception. Much crude innuendo at fasting ceremony where "bloody the sheets" is often shouted in another language.

Language

Rare swearing includes "bitch," "whore," "asses," "bastard," "hell," and "damn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking of both low-alcohol spirits and hard liquor, once to drunkenness to dull the pain of an injury.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Shadow Wand, the third book in the Black Witch Chronicles, has much more sexual content than previous books in the series. If teens are in that phase where they're thinking about their own sexuality and what kind of partner they want to have and to be someday, there are good messages here about using birth control and being a committed and equal partner. That said, the "fasted" or married couple's first night together goes on for pages and leaves little to the imagination. There's some sexual violence, too, with a man nearly raping a woman in the serving class (only to have her employer tell her to wear "less tempting clothes") and an attempted rape that ends in a severe beating of the predator. Other violence includes the death of a major character who's heavily mourned, the masacre of young fae, the whipping of prisoners, and attacks by assassins and giant magic bugs that cause major injuries. As the series gets closer to all-out war and genocide, characters recall stories of being beaten as children for being different and running for their lives to escape enslavement or death. Other mature content includes some drinking, heavily once to mask the pain of an injury, and rare swearing, including "hell," "damn," and"bitch."  The main character, Elloren, besides experiencing a sexual awakening in The Shadow Wand, fights her own fears to become the warrior that her imploding world needs now.

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What's the story?

In THE SHADOW WAND, war is brewing between Mage Vogel and the Gardnerians in the West and all other races in the East. Amidst the growing turmoil, the Wu Trin fighters in the East take Elloren to test her wand. They know she's the Black Witch of prophesy and want to see just how powerful she is before they train her to defeat her own misguided people. When Elloren decimates everything around her with one simple candle-lighting spell, most of the Wu Trin think she's too dangerous to keep alive and attempt to assassinate her. The outliers help her escape and urge her to seek Mage Lukas Grey in Gardneria for protection. This presents a huge problem, because the last time Elloren saw Lukas, he'd forced her into a magical ceremony binding them as betrothed. This, even though he knew she was in love with someone else. But Lukas is a powerful mage and is not as aligned with fanatical Mage Vogel as he seems.

Is it any good?

This fantasy series' third installment has more of a romantic bent, but it's still densely packed with wild magic, assassins, evil creatures, and has plenty of depth. There's a lot of romance here actually, but it's layered around ideas of gender equality. Elloren faces a horrific ceremony before she loses her virginity, where men are shouting "bloody the sheets" and talking about her responsibility to breed powerful mages. There doesn't seem to be anything harder than being a female hero in this world, and somehow she begins to manage it. It's fun to watch Elloren cast off her gender expectations, embrace her own sexuality, and then her role as a warrior.

Most of the book is in Elloren's voice, but some other voices emerge as well: Elloren's gay brother Trystan who's fled Gardneria to fight against his people, a broken Gardnerian soldier forced to massacre innocents, an Urisk woman trying to escape enslavement, an icaral taught to hate who she is, a water fae who finally gets to reveal herself after years in hiding. They are all preparing for war against the evil Mage Vogel, whose full power we're only beginning to grasp in The Shadow Wand. More time could have been spent with these characters -- it seemed strange to introduce their stories at the beginning and only touch on some of them again at the end -- but they are sure to occupy more pages in the next exciting installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the sexual content in The Shadow Wand. It's more than you see in many young adult books, but what else is it? How is Elloren empowered by her relationship? How is this relationship contrasted with other relationship models in her culture?

  • What point is the author making about women's roles in society? Do you see male fantasy writers addressing gender inequality in the same way, or at all?

  • Will you read the next book in the Black Witch Chronicles? What do you think is in store for Elloren?

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