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 only six months left 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 starts 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.
Born Wicked tells the story of an alternative nineteenth-century US where witches once ruled but were overthrown by the Brotherhood, who believe that witches are wicked and should be punished and eradicated. Cate Cahill is the eldest of three sisters, all of whom are witches. This makes them the focus of a prophecy which states that one of the three will be the most powerful witch in the world, who will either bring the witches back to power or drop them into another dark age.
With a story and setting like that, I was hard-pressed to resist this book, and immediately suggested it as a purchase for my local library, so I could read it. I was expecting danger and magic and witchery and exciting happenings. But that’s not exactly what this book provided. The truth is that this book focuses on Cate, who is determined to keep her sisters safe, per a promise she made her dying mother (who failed to prepare Cate for anything to do with the prophecy). Cate is a bit of a difficult character to like at first: she believes the Brotherhood that witchery is wicked, and that therefore she, too, is wicked. Her constant “but wicked girls don’t deserve x” or “but I’m wicked, so deserve whatever I’m getting” mindset at the start of this story was maddening, and I wanted to reach through the pages and shake her. But she grew on me as the story progressed, particularly once she falls in love with Finn and starts to stand up for what she wants and believes in. I also absolutely loved her relationship with her sisters, particularly the youngest sister, Tess.
Knowing that this book is the first in a planned trilogy, I wasn’t expecting things to be fully resolved. But I was not expecting very little to actually happen. Cate and her sisters get a new governess, Elena, and Cate spends most of the book from that point on being distrustful of her, jealous of her sister Maura’s friendship with her, and generally being disagreeable where Elena is concerned. These feelings are not entirely unwarranted, mind you, but when the majority of this book – which I’d thought would be dealing with magic and witches – is instead taken up with feelings of distrust and the back and forth of “can I trust her”, it starts to get really tedious. There is also absolutely NO forward movement with the actual prophecy; we are just as in the dark about this at the end of the book as we were at the start.
What saved this book for me – and accounts for much of this rating – is the romance between Cate and Finn. I found Finn to be utterly charming, and absolutely loved watching their relationship progress. I do want to mention that there is a second guy in this book, Paul, who is Cate’s childhood friend (and the guy everyone thinks she’ll marry), and there are some love-triangle-ish things happening, but it’s pretty clear whom Cate has the deeper feelings for and which way she’s going to go in that respect. That being said, the ending kind of broke my heart. I get why it happened; as I said, it’s the first book in a trilogy and there’s so much to do with the prophecy left to sort out, so it’s too soon for happily-ever-afters. But I still wasn’t quite expecting that particular ending, and am worried about how things are going to be resolved to my satisfaction (as if I’m the only one who matters, of course).
This book is definitely not what I’d call “action-packed”: there’s a lot of going to teas, visiting bookshops, and weeding in gardens, but not so much in the way of magic. This had a very “historical fiction” feel to it with just little dabs of paranormal. But the romance, for me, was good enough to pull me through the book, and make me eager for the second installment. All in all, Born Wicked is a decent start to a new series, and I look forward to seeing what’s going to happen next.