Tuesday, May 6, 2014

[Review] The Witches' Kitchen - Allen Williams

Author: Allen Williams
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2010
Rating: ★★★1/2

Description: When the Toad awakens in the dark of the Witches' Kitchen, she has no idea how she got there, or even who she is. Determined to recover her memories, she sets out on a journey to escape. But in the Kitchen, nothing is as it seems. It is pitch-black, infinite, and impossible to navigate, a living maze: It's alive, and constantly rearranges itself. Worse yet are the Witches themselves, who have sent a procession of horrific, deadly monsters on her trail.

And though at first she finds that she can't tell friends from foes by the scales of their skin or the sharpness of their teeth, the Toad picks up a ragtag team of unlikely allies to help her on her quest: an iron-handed imp, a carnivorous fairy, and a few hairy locals. So with a little help from her friends, the Toad just might find herself--and her way out--yet.

My thoughts:

At first, I was surprised when I found out this was intended for a Young Adult audience. From the description and the writing style of the first few chapters, it seemed like it was meant for a younger audience, like Middle Grade. It's written in third person omniscient, too, which tends to come off as a bit . . . childish, for lack of a better word. However, once I got to the end, I kind of realized why it was marked for YA. There's some dark and disturbing things going on.

The story is rich with creative descriptions, and the illustrations every few pages are positively creepy. I'm certain if I was a little kid reading it, I'd have nightmares. I enjoyed how the author, who was originally an illustrator, did the drawings himself. In my head, I actually started picturing the story as a stop motion animation along the lines of ParaNorman or The Boxtrolls.

I'm not sure I felt a connection with the main character. The Toad doesn't know who she is or where she came from, only that she woke up being held aloft over a bubbling cauldron. In terms of personality, I thought she was a little bland. She's very brave and selfless though, so I have to give her kudos for that.

Peculiarly, I found myself sympathizing the most with Sarafina, one of the witches. Emilina, her cold, calculating sister, has a way of putting her down all the time, and it makes me wonder if Sarafina's evilness came from years of emotional abuse, rather than it being innate. She also has a bit of a soft spot or, as the author puts it, less of a hard spot for small, beautiful items. Unfortunately, she's a bit clumsy and the things, like her dolls and such, tend to get worn or broken under her touch.

I also like Horsefly, the grim warrior fairy who has been cast out of her tribe and who must use what used to be her wings as swords. There's also Natterjack, the imp who becomes the Toad's closest friend, but I felt like he could've been a tad bit more mischievous. It would've added more humor to the novel. I also feel like his ending was a bit unresolved. 

I found this book at a closing Border's a couple years ago. It was one of the few books left in the juvenile section. Ordinarily, I might not have purchased it, but I couldn't leave such a lonesome orphan unadopted. Overall, it's a quick and cute read with a bit of a morbid streak. A shame more people don't know about it.


  1. Never read this story, but I would like to hear your thought on Divergent when you finish it.

    "I'm not sure I felt a connection with the main character."- I actually almost never like the main character in books or anime. I'm not sure exactly why.
    Hunger Games (Katniss), Harry Potter (Harry), Legend Of Korra (Korra), and Escaflowne (Van) might be the only exceptions for me. But in Naruto, Fairy Tail, Percy Jackson, Avatar, Bleach, Digimon, X-Men, Elemental (book), and many more I end up liking a supporting character much more.

    I would love to hear how your agent search is going, Joey. Any luck? DO you check CC often?

    Best, Cesar

  2. Hey! I finished Divergent a few days ago. I'd give it four out of five stars. Have you read it? I don't want to spoil it if you haven't. My main reason for liking it is the main guy character, Four. I'll agree with you that I usually like secondary characters far more than the main. I think this is because the main characters tend to be the blandest. In the case of Divergent, I think it's just because she's female and I prefer male protagonists. Hmm. Maybe I'll post a more in depth review on Divergent. ^.^ I usually don't review the really popular books because I figure, who cares what I think? lol

    I only sent 8 queries out so far and have pretty much been rejected from all, although two haven't responded yet. I've been really slacking. I have to get the synopsis written and it is just kicking my sorry ass. 83,000 word novel in two pages? Dafuq. It doesn't help that there's a lot of POVs and crap going on in my story that it's hard to narrow it down and make it sound coherent. Also, I changed the name "Garthna," since I hate it. It was always meant to be a placeholder. Now it's Edaeros, but I'm not too sure how well I like it. How is your agent search going?
    Oh, and I checked CC. Thanks for the critique! I'll try to pay you back soon. I check CC out of habit, but I haven't done anything on there lately. I should get back on. D:
    Great hearing from you!

  3. Well, I stopped my queries, just for a bit while I finish my website for the novel.

    Once the website is done, probably a week or two, I'll continue on with the query's (and the rejections :( )
    I'll make sure to tell you when it's done. I had a few artists do some pics of my characters and cover. So the website will have small bios.
    It's a simple website, nothing big, but I still like it.

    Yes, I finished Divergent. I give it a 2 out of 5. It was just , meh...

    I've been working on the sequel to ELEMENT WIELDER, i'm 40,000 words into it. I also been putting my other novel series, THE LOST AND THE WICKED, though CC like a madman.

    Yes, I wrote a 9-page synopsis and a 2-page synopsis of my story, and it was a gigantic pain.
    How do you describe your story in just 2 pages. Grrrrr....

    Anyhow, I hope you're doing good.

    Best, Cesar

  4. Ah, websites. I took a web design class senior year of high school, but I completely forgot how to use Dreamweaver, so I'm making my boyfriend do it. It's going to be simple as well. I don't have much to put on in it, though the character bios sound fun. I can barely come up with content for my blog.
    I dunno, I liked Divergent, but I don't think it's quite as good as it's hyped up to be. I liked it mostly because of the guy. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I don't think I'm going to like the person who plays him. Not very good looking.
    I haven't read your other series yet. I'll have to get to it. I haven't been doing much writing lately. Mostly because I'm too busy playing Skyrim. :( If I don't have an agent by the time I'm done revising The Kingdom's Champion book two, which will take me a few months, then I'm going to self publish book one. Maybe. We'll see. I'm just so anxious to get published! It's killing me that I'm not.