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Once a Witch Hardcover – September 14, 2009

143 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Witch Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 9 Up—It's hard to be the only normal one in a family in which everyone has a Talent that allows them to do such things as disappear, control the weather, read the future, or turn people to stone. Tamsin is bitter that she does not have a magical gift and dreams of the day she can move far away. So when a mysterious Scottish stranger, Alistair, shows up at her family's bookstore and assumes that the 17-year-old is her very Talented sister, Rowena, Tamsin jumps at the chance to help him find the family heirloom for which he is searching. She enlists the help of her childhood friend, Gabriel, who has recently reappeared in her life. Tamsin and Gabriel travel through time to find what sinister Alistair wants, and in doing so they will set in motion a chain of events that could mean the destruction of her family. Although Tamsin is a well-rounded character, the other people in the book are fairly one-dimensional. What is lacking in character development, though, is made up for in plot. This is an exciting book, and readers will be captivated until the very end. With a fairly easy reading level, an exciting story, and an edgier heroine (Tamsin drinks and smokes), this book is a good choice to hand to older reluctant readers.—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO END


“[MacCullough] has created an enormously sympathetic character in Tamsin, whose itchy relationship with her family will resonate with teens struggling to define themselves. Characters, setting, conflict—all develop nicely to create a light urban fantasy that goes down easy and will have readers asking for its sequel.”—Kirkus Reviews
“With the glut of contemporary romantic supernatural tales, this will be popular, but the action, drama, and great potential for compelling sequels set it apart from the crowd.”—Booklist
"MacCullough's writing is evocative without distracting from her story; readers will identify with Tam's desire to create a space away from parental expectations and take comfort that even extraordinary families make mistakes."--Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 790L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Clarion Books (September 14, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547223994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547223995
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (143 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,295,563 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Carolyn MacCullough was born and raised in Connecticut and found her way to Scotland, Sicily, Iceland, and even the wilds of New Jersey before settling down in New York City where she writes and teaches creative writing. Once a Witch is her fourth novel for teens. For facts about witches, quizzes, an excerpt, and much more visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By SZAA on August 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
We've somewhat moved on from vampires into other realms of supernatural beings, i.e. zombies, werewolves, fairies, etc. And sometimes it gets tiring, I must admit. There don't seem to be many teen fantasy novels out lately that don't have a main character that's somehow not human, so you can't blame me for being slightly wary when it came to this one. I was slightly afraid of being bored, but ended up pleasantly surprised with a likable main character and a thrilling plot.

Once a Witch, written by Carolyn MacCullough features Tamsin, a 17 year old girl, who completely disappoints her family, simply by being ordinary. Tamsin comes from a long line of incredibly powerful witches and at birth, she was thought to be one of the most powerful in the world. Instead, her magic never came. She is just an ordinary, clumsy, teen stuck in a family of fantastic, beautiful, powerful beings. That will take take a toll on almost anyone!

While working in her grandmother's bookshop, Tamsin is approached by a mysterious man needing her sister's help in "locating" something very important. Instead of filling the man in on who she is, Tamsin pretends to be her sister, wanting to be able to accomplish what the man wants and prove to her family she's not just ordinary. What happens though is a crazy, thrill ride of events, mixing magic, some romance, and a whole lot of danger into Tamsin's slightly boring exhistence.

I loved Tamsin's character (and her name!) and really felt teen girls would understand where she's coming from, (even if her main complaints are because she doesn't have any powers). We all know what it feels like to not fit in and this character definitely has the relatability factor down.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Kate B. VINE VOICE on September 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Generally speaking, I love a good tale about witches. I think that they have fascinating history, and are a great subject to discuss. That being said, Once a Witch is possibly the best YA book involving witches that I have read in a while. The plot was enchanting and fast paced. It included an amazing dynamic between its lead characters, Tasmin and Gabriel. Their constant back and forth banter was amusing, and kept me laughing throughout the novel. In addition, Tasmin was a wonderful heroine. She was smart, witty, comical, just everything that I love in a spunky lead female.

One aspect that I was surprised to enjoy was knowing who the evil character was for most of the novel. (The description also pretty much tells you, too.) While the reader knows the "who", MacCullough keeps the reader in suspense giving only small clues to the "why" every so often. This method worked really well in keeping me on the edge of my sit trying to figure out the bad guy's motive.

All in all, I thought this was a fabulous novel. I laughed, a teared up a bit, a yelled at the bad guy, etc. I am really looking forward to more from this author and the series. There is a lot more that I want answered about Tasmin and her family, and I cannot wait to learn more.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Sheila L. Beaumont VINE VOICE on July 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Born into a long-established family of variously Talented witches, 17-year-old Tamsin Greene was supposed to be the most Talented of them all, but her magic, which should have shown up on her eighth birthday, has never appeared. She spends most of her time at a boarding school in New York City, but helps out in her grandmother's bookstore/magic shop at home in the summer. One day, while tending her grandmother's shop, a mysterious Scotsman, a professor at NYU, comes in, and, mistaking Tamsin for her extremely Talented older sister, asks her to find a lost family heirloom for him. Tamsin accepts the job, and it turns out that finding the valuable artifact will entail a journey back in time.

This marvelously complex story of romance, mystery, intrigue, conflict, magic and time travel is exceptionally well-written, and it's filled with fascinating, lifelike characters. I especially enjoyed the portrayal of Tamsin's large extended family, all with their own quirks and individual magical Talents. And I liked the author's playful treatment of time travel, with its paradoxes and complications, and its danger of catastrophic consequences.

The tale comes to a satisfying conclusion, but it's clear that very soon Tamsin will have more challenges to deal with, which gives us the hope and expectation that we have at least one sequel to look forward to.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Dr JAS Spiegel VINE VOICE on July 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was really excited when I read the description for Once a Witch. Three of our kids are really into the YA paranormal fiction which has come out within the past 10 years. I was hoping Once a Witch would be just different enough that it would appeal to our 16 year old daughter, who has loved these types of books - starting with Harry Potter, and more recently the Twilight series. She wasn't much of a reader until she read the first Harry Potter book. Now she devours books. Our 12 year old son, who's in 7th grade, loved Harry Potter, and now is into the Vladimir Tod series by Heather Brewer. I suspect Once a Witch will appeal to him, because the theme of time travel is introduced. Also, the adventures of Tamsin is the main plot - as opposed to romance - which isn't his main priority right now.

I was so excited by the description of the book that I called "dibbs" on it once it came. After I started reading, I didn't want to put it down - which is what our 16 year old also said. It was a very fast read, with all the elements she looks for in fiction. She will read just about any type of book if the description appeals to her, but she has really enjoyed fast paced books with a bit of the paranormal element. She enjoys some romance, but it's not a requirement in the books she reads - which wasn't a major theme in this novel.

Our daughter and I both felt the ending left us with a real possibility for a sequel. We'll be watching for it!
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