And so, a review of The Witch's Boy, by Kelly Barnhill.
The Witch's Boy was a chance encounter, much like All The Bright Places. It happened to be a newcomer on display in the kid's section of the library, the cover was good, and the synopsis included a dead twin. Why wouldn't you pick it up?
And it delivered! I'm a bit used to being deceived by good middlegrade possibilities (not so much as by good YA possibilities, though) but I am pleased to say that The Witch's Boy never slowed down, though the eerie mysteriousness that made the first twenty-odd pages so good went away - necessarily, I think.
I hate to say too much about it - I think you need to go into it knowing nothing more than what's on the inside flap. Suffice it to say that the two main characters are delightful, the world is familiar yet with enough twist to make it interesting, and the magic system! The magic system is so wonderful, and the backstory behind it... definitely one of the best I've ever read, especially in the middlegrade category.
Also, since it is for A Book Written By A Woman, I should, I suppose, point out that, for those of you who care, the female characters are fantastic. Áine is great. Sister Witch is awesome. The Queen is so much fun! As much as I loved Ned and Tam, even I have to admit that the ladies stole the show, for all the book is called after Ned.
So if you're looking for a light but not necessarily light-hearted low fantasy romp through a great world with great characters, I would definitely recommend The Witch's Boy.