Well of Witches: The Thickety, Book 3

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Well of Witches: The Thickety, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Strong empathy messages in exciting, scary teen witch tale.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The story takes place in a fantasy world, so there's little formal knowledge about our world. But there's a strong pro-education theme, as Kara longs for school and dreams of a long gone academy for witches.

Positive Messages

Strong messages of courage, friendship, family, loyalty, self-sacrifice, problem-solving -- and also of finding ways to work with people you don't trust a bit without being betrayed or killed in the process. Also, being honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Kindness pays off in many ways, even when you're not so sure it's a good idea.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A bit more sure of herself than in previous volumes, Kara is highly focused on the task and responsibility of rescuing her father, and she's concerned with using her powers (magical and otherwise) for good. She's devoted to her younger brother, Taff, and protects him. He's brilliant and kindhearted, both of which aid him in making friends and helping the cause. A number of family and friends are good people, but the dark, violent times lead them to make murderous decisions and do things they normally never would, all "for the greater good" -- as when the spirit of a fanatical witch-killer from years past possesses the kids' father and turns him against them.

Violence

As in previous installments, evil witches and their monsters are killing, mutilating, and soul-stealing up and down the countryside, and the witch-hunters are equally vicious in pursuing and killing them. Lots of creepy scenes, including witches being dragged screaming to the underworld and witches who can't work being turned into faceless monsters.

Sex

Thirteen-year-old Kara and her childhood friend Lucas, now a young man, have romantic feelings for each other, but due to the demands of their quest they never quite kiss.

Language
Consumerism

Enough references to events in earlier books that a reader who picks up the story here won't be lost, but no real promotion.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An ally helps the kids escape by drugging their guards. Grimoires -- spell books for witches -- have a destructive, drug-like effect on those who use them.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Well of Witches, the third installment in the Thickety series, finds its two central characters, good witch Kara, now 13, and her younger brother, Taff, fleeing would-be killers -- including their own formerly loving father, who's been possessed by the spirit of a ruthless persecutor, thanks to a witch's parting spell. In the cosmic clash between the evil witches and those who hunt them, there's gore, murder, soul-snatching, and assorted monsters, and the kids' quest to save their father takes them to the underworld, where witches are enslaved and then turned into zombie-like "Faceless" when they can no longer work. Against this dark background are many positive messages, especially about kindness, empathy, and forgiveness, as Kara and Taff struggle to do the right thing and save their loved ones.

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What's the story?

Following the events of Book 2, 13-year-old witch Kara, now without her powers, and younger brother Taff are on an urgent mission to save their father, a quest that takes them into the underworld WELL OF WITCHES. That's their only hope of reversing the spell that turned their loving parent into a ruthless witch-hunter hell-bent on killing them. And that's not to mention the evil witch recruiting vulnerable girls for her planned takeover of the world and the gusto with which she and the witch-hunters torture and kill one another. As cosmic conflict looms, the kids dodge death and betrayal while trying do the right thing. Along the way, acts of kindness often have many unexpected benefits -- often at just the right moment.

Is it any good?

There's lots of action, plot twists, creepy images, and heartstring-tugging as J.A. White's young heroes face human and supernatural monsters in a desperate quest to save their father and their world. Striking a nice balance between world-building, character development, and thrilling adventure, Well of Witches sets up the finale in Book 4. Along the way, it delivers many messages about kindness and empathy that resonate strongly with our own world as well as the Thickety's, such as this, from the founder of a magic academy, on why witches in training had to submit to a period of living as ordinary people with no special powers:

"[It] would have been a very poor school indeed if we focused only on how to use magic and spent no time on the when and why. In my day those with the gift were revered and admired from birth. They were exalted above all others. Imagine if you had been told your entire life that you were more important than other people. Something truly terrible might happen. You might start to believe it! You might begin thinking, 'Why should I help any of these sheep around me?' For those with true power, such thoughts are the first steps down a dark, dark path. That's why it was crucial that students experience firsthand what it was like to be powerless, poor, downtrodden -- to understand life from a different perspective. Nothing quells the dark temptations of power better than empathy."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about magic and witches in Well of Witches. Why do you think magic is seen as a good thing in some stories and an evil thing in others?

  • How would you feel if you were really good at doing something and then you could never do it again?

  • In Well of Witches, one of the characters is willing to sacrifice herself to the dark side to help a good cause. What are the dangers of such a choice?

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