House of Ivy and Sorrow

15728807Author: Natalie Whipple
Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Edelweis DRC
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Review Spoilers: Moderate
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As an honorary Southerner I appreciate this slowly growing fad of Southern and gothic Southern settings for young adult novels. We’re seeing it more and more with the sort of paranormal books especially and I’m totally down with that. Beautiful Creatures wasn’t so bad (okay, so, I’ve only seen the movie) but it seemed a bit, I don’t know, unnecessarily stereotypical. House of Ivy and Sorrow was not. So it gets some points there right off the bat. Plus it doesn’t rely simply on the setting to add a sense of mystery or anything.

This book reallyy had a lot of potential.

Whipple began to develop a very interesting system of magic and witches. But unfortunately the House of Ivy and Sorrow is one of those books where the world building starts to overpower the rest of the book. Now, don’t get me wrong. I liked the book well enough. But the House of Ivy and Sorrow sets up a much broader magical world that just isn’t expanded upon enough. At times I felt like the author copped out with her explanations and while the whole only-women-can-have-magic thing was interesting… it just wasn’t very well expounded upon. She started to introduce certain types of exceptions to the rule but I just didn’t find her explanations compelling.

I don’t know. I wanted to like this book more than I did, I think.

House of Ivy and Sorrow follows the story of Josephine Hemlock, a teenage witch from a prestigious family of magic users. In this world, only women can be born magic users and so Josephine – named for her father – has grown up surrounded by the women of her family and their closest friends. Unfortunately, the Hemlock line is dwindling and except for her grandmother Josephine is the last of them. A terrible curse has befallen her family and after striking down her mother ten years ago it’s come back after her family again.

The thing is that we only focus on this half of the plot occasionally. I liked that Josephine grew up in a normal town with a normal life and normal friends but the book is almost too normal at times. Whipple created this fantastic history and backstory and series of rules for magic but then she tries too hard to make Josephine seem like just an ordinary person. The rest focuses on Josephine’s uninteresting sort of potential-but-not-really love triangle between her, Winn, and some mysterious guy named Levi or her relationship with her friends. Josephine and her friends are kind of interesting and I enjoyed their relationship but the way they acted all the time was just unrealistic and I really didn’t get why every difficult or stressful thing warranted going home to eat pudding.

I’m just like: FOCUS. People are dying and at risk of dying. Get it together.

Ultimately, I struggled to finish this book only because I didn’t find it that interesting. But I think it might just not have been my cup of tea so to speak. I think that for fans of Beautiful Creatures and other similar books it would be just fine. I came into this one a bit critical and had just hoped for more. That said, don’t let it discourage you from checking it out because it’s definitely a book that genre fans would appreciate.

Final Thoughts: 
House of Ivy and Sorrow suffered from an underdeveloped and poorly explained – though initially quite interesting – secret, magical world. There was a lot of potential but uninteresting romantic plots and unrealistic portrayals in the face of death and danger hurt the overall story. Still, paranormal fans will probably find quite a bit to like about this one.

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