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Light and Dark, Good and Bad

Sonja F. Blanco Author Interview

Witch of Ware Woods, follows an 18-year-old girl whose magical powers can no longer be hidden, seeking refuge in magical woods she must learn to control her powers. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Witch of Ware Woods is strongly inspired by the forest behind my grandparent’s house in Massachusetts. As a child, I spent a lot of time in that forest and found it to be magical.

Another big inspiration for this series is my ancestor, Mary, who was hung as a witch in 1720 at the young age of seventeen. I felt compelled to help her – to somehow change her outcome. I wondered if instead of being persecuted she had found refuge in the forest. Witch of Ware Woods is how I envisioned a better life for her.

Sarah is used to being alone but wants desperately to belong and have a sense of family. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

I think Sara’s struggles are very relatable in that we all battle self-doubt while striving for acceptance and love. And to achieve this, we must first accept and love ourselves, faults and all, which is no easy task. While Sara faces many external tests and challenges, it is her inner development that is most important.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

One of my favorite themes is the play between light and dark, good and bad, and all the glorious shades of grey that drive characters. I think this tension lives in all of us to a certain degree and books that explore this are a way for readers to experience the triumphs and failures of certain decisions—to go on an adventure with the characters—from the comfortable distance of a cozy couch. This multifaceted theme plays heavily in Witch of Ware Woods.

Supporting themes include the power of choice and believing in yourself; the importance of family and friends; the wonder of magic and nature and the striking connection between the two.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

Death and Dragons is the next book in the Witch of Ware Woods series and will be available in February 2023. I’m very excited to share this next installment where Sara has a crash course in how to be a High Witch and is tested by new allies and enemies alike.

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Dark secrets. Dangerous power. And a fate bound to a forest entwined with magic.
Eighteen-year-old Sara is not normal, and she’s losing her grip on hiding her inexplicable power. Hunted by a dark witch and facing devastating losses, Sara finds refuge in Ware Woods—a spellbinding forest protected by witches, shapeshifters . . . and thorny secrets. Here she discovers true magic and an electric connection with Thomas, a wickedly charming and equally headstrong witch from a dangerous family.
But Sara is an outsider who has brought darkness and a fatal prophecy to the forest. To prove she belongs in Ware Woods, Sara is tested and pushed to master new magics, all while concealing the monstrous force that makes her undeniably different.
As the dark witch closes in on her and an insidious blight threatens Ware Woods, Sara must release her full power—and either save the forest and everyone she loves or destroy everything.
Witch of Ware Woods is a contemporary fantasy escape filled with fast-paced wonder, fierce characters, deadly magic, forbidden romance, and a world so fresh you can smell the pine trees.

Witch of Ware Woods

Sara, an eighteen-year-old girl, tried to keep her everyday life safe as best as she could despite her unexplainable powers. With the help of her parents, she has long isolated herself from others, opting for homeschooling over attending the local high school and favoring a dog’s company over any other person’s. However, when Sara’s abilities can no longer be hidden, her parents decide to take a trip, which comes with a tragic and shocking end. Sara must learn to build new relationships, accept her losses, and harness her powers to either save or doom her and the people she has recently met but immediately become something she has been missing —family.

Witch of Ware Woods, by Sonja F. Blanco, is a well-crafted fantasy story about family. This novel was a great surprise due to its inclusion of close-knit families who built a community within themselves. Unfortunately, when it comes to teenagers and magic, characters are often neglected and detached from their biological families, left to fend for themselves and discover their potential on their own. This is not the case with Witch of Ware Woods, where the characters supported one another and made sure to address their issues collectively.

Blanco’s world-building is phenomenal; there is a lot to take in initially as you get a feel for the magical woods. The author dedicates a reasonable amount of time to describing Ware Woods. Detail is paid to every nook and cranny, the homey feel of the families’ culture, providing readers with excellent visualization of what living there is supposed to be like, with or without the magic.

The characters’ dialogue is also note-worthy because they contribute to the important events in the story, no matter how easily a line can be overlooked. Getting Sara’s point of view during the process is also a great help for its readers because she was confused in the beginning and must receive the fast-paced information from everyone with comprehension.

This captivating fantasy novel is an excellent starting point for a new magical world, and I believe its readers will only crave more. Everything that has happened in Sara’s life was not a walk in the park, but to see her slowly begin to adapt to her surroundings and eventually love where she ends up, is an inspiration that goes beyond the pages. I recommend this to anyone who would like to detach themselves from reality but stay somehow grounded in humanity, for the book maintains a healthy middle ground between both.

Pages: 421 | ASIN : B09F5SDZ9L

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Kindreds is the impassioned story of a girl who has experienced tragedy. When trying to adapt and make something of herself, a boy from her past comes back into her life. Together they experience the magic of Carnival Nolianna.

Lilah lost her parents and her twin brother, Aiden, in an accident when she was younger. She lived with her Grandma Pea until recently, when she passed away. Lilah was placed in a home with only 22 months left until she aged out of the foster care system.

While staying with this family, she is introduced to Joey, who is being fostered next door. Joey was Aiden’s best friend growing up and recognized Lilah as soon as they were introduced. Being reconnected has brought up painful feelings from the past and has formed a deep bond between them. This emotional turmoil is explored in deep and meaningful ways throughout the story and I really enjoyed it because B.B. Russell uses it to establish characters, motivations and connections seamlessly. Lilah is introduced to many other kids in the system at her new school. Sebastian, one of Joey’s friends, quickly takes a liking to Lilah and is always trying to provoke her. The three of them form a friendship with both boys trying to get Lilah’s attention. Each of them is unique and intriguing and readers will enjoy seeing their characters evolve as the story progresses.

One night Lilah follows Joey to a hangout she wasn’t invited to. Sebastian notices her following and invites her to join them. Lilah then finds herself looking at a full-blown carnival. Carnival Nolianna only exists for a select number of nights out of the year and only those who are invited can come. This feels so magical and exotic and I was excited when I learned about the carnival. On the last night, ten selected participants will become members of the carnival “Nolies” and live there until a certain age. Each person chosen has a unique set of skills that will benefit the community and the person they are matched with. Joey has always wanted to join and is enjoying every moment spent in Nolianna. Lilah on the other hand is curious as to how everything works and doesn’t quite believe everything she is being told. This helps to ground the story. The dynamic between Lilah, Joey, and Sebastian shifts as she uncovers the truth behind Nolianna. This situation created a lot of intrigue and was one of the reasons I kept coming back to this book.

The writing style in this enchanting young adult romance novel is engaging and fluid throughout. The plot moves quickly, maybe because I was more than willing to follow the intriguing characters. The relationships between characters were interesting, especially the love triangle with the three main characters. The layering of storylines added surprising depth to the book.

B.B. Russell has written a heartfelt story in a creative world with compelling characters. I enjoyed this magical teen mystery story and I can’t wait for more stories in this world because I feel like there is so much more left to explore.

Pages: 319 | ASIN: B098FGHLRM

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