The Witch's Boy

The Witch's Boy

By Author / Illustrator

Kelly Barnhill


Magical Realism

Age range(s)



Templar Publishing




Paperback / softback




When Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. But when a Bandit King comes to steal the magic Ned's mother, a witch, is meant to protect, it's Ned who safeguards the magic and summons the strength to protect his family and community. Meanwhile, across the enchanted forest that borders Ned's village lives Aine, the resourceful and pragmatic daughter of the Bandit King, who is haunted by her mother's last words to her: 'The wrong boy will save your life, and you will save his.' When Aine's and Ned's paths cross, can they trust each other long enough to stop the war that's about to boil over between their two kingdoms?

'The Witch's Boy should open young readers' eyes to something that is all around them in the very world we live in: the magic of words.' --The New York Times



This book drew me in straight away - being a sucker for a story with a bit of magic. It is a story that begins with the two main characters - Ned and Aine - telling their own story. Ned is a young boy whose twin brother, Tam, sadly dies (but is still with him!) and Aine, a young girl whose mother has died and has left her competing against magic for her father's affection.

The author, Kelly Barnhill, has cleverly written a slightly unnerving story, which gradually and thoughtfully builds up. It includes sadness, hardship, love and friendship.

After Ned's father had to dive into the river to try to rescue the twins when they were drowning (only managing to save the life of one), the villagers were heard to say 'The wrong boy lived'. This near-death experience causes Ned to suffer greatly. Not only in the sudden emergence of a stutter and loss of words, but also in the way he is treated by his father and the villagers.

In Aine's part of the story, she remembers a time before her mother's death, when she said to her 'The wrong boy will save your life'. It is then that you realise Ned and Aine's paths are destined to cross.

The magic in the story is a character in its own right. It is an old magic that has come from a time before time. Having a will of its own, it needs an iron fist to control it. Yet it also needs respect and must not be used for one's own needs. The way Kelly Barnhill describes the magic entering Ned and how it shows itself on his body was most engrossing. It is spellbinding, the way the magic makes its feelings known.

The story had me totally enthralled. It contains bandits, a witch, speaking stones and a wolf - to name a few. I felt that it contains a few wasted pages towards the end, which the story wouldn't have missed if they weren't there. However, it had me gripped from the start and I couldn't tear myself away from it as I was so desperate to discover what would happen next.

A book for anyone who enjoys a little magic!

372 pages / Ages 9-12 / Reviewed by Donna Ritchie, teacher.

Suggested Reading Age 9+


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