Review: Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

Title: Born Wicked, 330 pages

Author: Jessica Spotswood

Publisher: Putnam Juvenile

Released: February 7th, 2012

Interest: 2012 Debut Author

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): 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.

Prepare for some gushing because I positively loved Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood!  I read a number of glowing reviews for Jessica Spotwood’s debut, but I wasn’t sure if it would work for me.  It’s weird, but even though I have a minor in history, I don’t always enjoy historical fiction.  The paranormal twist in Born Wicked really grabbed my interest, so I decided to give it a whirl.  I’m happy to say that within the first couple chapters I was hooked!

Jessica Spotswood has written a novel with lush imagery.  The Cahill sisters live outside of town in the country.  Cate loves to be outside working in her garden, so we get wonderful descriptions of the roses, the trees, and the rest of her garden.  Cate and her sisters often practice their magic in the rose garden, so I often felt like the setting was another character in the novel.  Much of the story takes place in the fall, but with the girls’ magic it often transformed into a spring garden.  I’m always impressed when an author takes the time to describe the setting, especially when this is done without being verbose.  I love the late 1800s time period; Cate’s world is one I’d like to spend a day in.

Like I said, I’m not always instantly drawn to historical fiction, but Born Wicked had me captivated.  A  number of my students really enjoy historical fiction, but it isn’t as popular as paranormal fantasy.  The easy blend of these two genres in Born Wicked could easily appeal to both my historical fiction fans and paranormal fantasy fans.  I’m actually really considering using this debut in my Young Adult II class which will focus on the study of different genres.

I’ve never read Sense and Sensibility, but I love the movie with Kate Winslet and Emma Thompson.  I bring this up because I kept thinking of this movie while I was reading Born Wicked.  The Cahill sisters reminded me of the Dashwood sisters because both sets of sisters are in need of finding a good husband.  The restraints are similar in the sense that they need to marry well-off men, appearances are everything, and women don’t hold much power.  Born Wicked is similar in this regard, but the added supernatural twist and the lore of the Brotherhood and Sisterhood really add to the plot.  Because Cate and her sisters are witches, they are even more intimidated by the Brotherhood because they know they’ll be severely punished if their secret is discovered.  It’s not easy being witches, especially since they’ve grown even more into their powers since their mother’s death.  There are so many secrets and suspicions that really drive Jessica Spotswood’s novel.  Cate doesn’t have many marriage prospects because she’s more concerned with protecting her sisters, but if she doesn’t choose soon she’ll either have a husband chosen for her by the Brotherhood, or she can join the Sisterhood.  Because both groups focus so much on religion and are against witchery, neither options are very appealing to Cate.  It doesn’t take long for some very interesting options to become available and some very unsettling secrets to be unveiled.

I couldn’t put Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood down, and then when it ended I couldn’t believe it.  There’s a jaw-dropping ending that has left me feeling desperate for the second book in the series.  The world of YA is saturated with paranormal fantasy, but Born Wicked is not one to pass up or ignore.  I highly recommend reading it as soon as possible!


  1. Wow – I’ve seen this gorgeous cover everywhere, but this is the first review I’ve actually read. From the Brother/Sisterhood to the gardens to the witchiness to the historical fic twist – It sounds amazing! I really don’t read much paranormal (if any), but I want to get more familiar with the genre since its become so popular with students. Born Wicked has absolutely been added to my list! Thanks for such an enthusiastic review 🙂

  2. carla clifton says:

    i really love this book only problem i have is i can’t wait for the next one.


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