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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Although this book is intended for a bit younger readers than I am, I enjoyed it immensely! I found the characters so charming and the writer has avoided stereotyping them (even Belladonna, the white witch who seems like such a typical, innocent goodie at first, surprises you if you let her. I like the way she so desperately wants to become an evil witch). The humor has wit, pace and an occasional dark turn, just the way I like it. Arriman the Awful is definitely the most wicked and most ENDEARING wizard in all literature. Give this book a try, it won't take long and I bet you won't be disappointed!
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on June 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In the spirit of Roald Dahl, Eva Ibbotson knows that children love stories filled with ghosts, ghouls and witches...this is the story of Arriman, the greatest wizard in the world who can do anything.(except raise the dead) After years of "black magic" Arriman has grown weary of his life and wants to find a successor, but of course he can't find one. So he holds a contest to find a witch to help him produce an heir, but of course the lucky lady is sweet Belladonna, a "white witch".
Can Belladonna be the right witch for Arriman, and will you be just as enchanted as I was upon reading _Which Witch?_.
This is the kind of book that leaves you laughing after you put the book down...the book is magical!
If you liked this one, read _Secret of Platform 13_...that book will leave a twinkle in your eye as well.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you are impatiently waiting for the next Harry Potter book as we were this will definately sustain you. Infact I can't wait for Eva Ibbotson's next book! This book is an intriguing combination of love and evil. Arriman, a black wizard seaches for a wife while the witches in the contest compete the outcome is a total surprise.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
After I had read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, I had read many more books, hoping to find one that was equally enchanting. And it took quite a while for me to find one, until I stumbled onto this gem. This book is absolutely wonderful. Magic was present on nearly every page of this book, making me wonder about what surprises lay ahead. The ending is excellent, just how an ending should be; an ending in which everything was resolved and completed. If you love fantasy, if you love J.K. Rowling's, Rhoald Dahl's, or Brian Jacques's highly praised novels, then you'll agree with me that Which Witch? is a work of art.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is really great. The hero, Arriman the Awful, is funny and charming and just the right amount of evil. I'm not a big fantasy fan, but I enjoyed this comedy of errors--full of cases of mistaken identities, misconjured spells, misunderstandings--that was also full of suspense and a little bit of terror. While some of the witches are sort of gross, they are also very humorous. While I wish the heroine wasn't such the stereotypical blonde, blue-eyed goody-goody, that she wants to be an evil viper-making witch is good--it's like Sandy in GREASE wanting to turn bad. The story touches on the fact that most people want to be liked and will go to extremes to achieve that goal, even if it means not being true to one's nature. But the book isn't preachy--I'm just reading into things.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have to say that I read this book in 2 nights easily, and it was pretty good. As you probably have figured out, the ending was VERY predictable, but there were a few surprises. Arriman the Aweful must get married and decides to hold a competition for the darkest witch to be his bride. Of course, all the wiches are crazy and ugly except for Belladonna, who is beatiful, nice, perfect, and in love with Arriman, but she is a white witch (not evil). The ending can already be predicted from here, but the book takes you on a wild ride to get there. I would say that it is a great read fr those who, like me, enjoy magic and comedy. I am pleased to say, though, that it is not a sleazy fantasy book but a cute fariy tale.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Which Witch? is a funny enjoyable novel strictly for children, but anyone who is in the mood for a funny good read, it is highly recommended. In all of Darkington, the witches are evil and unkindly. Everything is black, and bad manners are expected. When Arriman the Awful holds a contest to find a new wife so that he can have an heir, the contest is a dastardly one -- whoever can perform the darkest, most evil spell, shall become his wife. But in all of Darkington, there is only one girl who just can't seem to be evil -- Belladonna! No matter how hard she tries, she just can't be evil or dark, and she wants to marry Arriman the Awful, though how can she if she can't do anything evil? Wherever she walks, flowers bloom from theg ground, butterflies dance, and soft songs play in the air. She is too kinldy and soft, and she longs to do just something the slightest bit evil. She is doomed forever to be a White Witch -- someone who can never be or do anything evil. But when she manages do something that just might giver her hope to win, someone becomes aware -- and that someone will do anything to stop her. This was beyond funny a novel, and highly recommendable.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Arriman Canker (better known as Arriman the Awful, Loather of Light and Wizard of the North) is a dark wizard in search of an heir after a gypsy fortune teller prophesies the coming of another wizard to Darkington Hall. Arriman is excited about the prospect of a pupil in the dark arts, but it takes his long-suffering castle staff to point out to him that the only way to beget a child is to take a wife. The village of Todcaster is full of witches, and surely one of them would make a suitable bride. But Arriman is picky - he only wants to marry the darkest witch there is. So a competition is declared: the witch who performs the blackest magic is the one that will become the future Mrs Canker and mistress of Darkington Hall.

The competition is declared, and the witches of Todcaster are beside themselves with excitement - except one. Belladonna, the youngest member of the coven, has fallen in love with Arriman at first sight, but knows that she can never win the contest. Belladonna is a white witch, which means that flowers burst to life under her feet, she's surrounded in an aura of sweet-smelling perfume, and cute little baby animals follow her about. Think all the Disney Princesses rolled into one, and then coated in pixie dust. But then she happens upon a young orphan called Terence Mugg and his small earthworm pet called Rover, and suddenly realizes that she has the power of a black witch! Whisking the two of them away, they come to an agreement: Belladonna will allow Terence to stay with her, if Terence allows her to use Rover as a familiar during her display of black magic. But of course, she's got competition - not just from her local witches - but from the regal and sinister enchantress Madame Olympia.

Belladonna is perhaps not the *best* female role model out there: she catches one glimpse of Arriman and is hopelessly smitten, spending the rest of the novel longing to comfort him, play with his hair and rub his feet (no, really) but she's also kind-hearted and sweet-natured, and the romance itself is treated with a healthy dash of sarcasm and eye-rolling by the other characters (and Arriman himself turns out to be somewhat of a big softie) which helps to make up for it.

The best part about the book is of course the contest, in which the somewhat dim-witted witches of Todcaster attempt to impress their prospective husband and the other judges by performing acts of dark magic that don't go according to plan. Mabel Wrack, Ethel Feedbag, Nancy and Nora Shouter, Mother Bloodwort, Madame Olympia and finally Belladonna herself all get their chance to show off in their chosen fields. Not only is it all very funny, but there is an echo of familiarity to it all considering that Ibbotson draws upon real folklore and superstitions in order to shape the competition. This lends the story an unexpected depth and resonance, as when one of the witches attempts to change seven princesses into black swans:

"There is probably nothing sadder or more romantic in all magic than this spell. One minute you have these lively bright-eyed princesses with all life before them, and often a prince or two in the offing - and there comes this ghastly moment when their golden hair becomes black down, their rose-bud mouths become beaks, their pretty feet in silver slippers change into webbed toes...until at last the great black birds fly away into the sunset never to return."

But this in fact leads to an odd sort of discrepancy within the text that I feel compelled to point out. These wizards and witches aren't just "people with magic" who can choose to use their powers for either good or evil, as you'd see in the wizards of J.K. Rowling or Ursula le Guin. Ibbotson's black witches aren't "black" by choice; they are born this way and it's in their very *nature* to be dark and spooky, just as it's in Belladonna's nature to be kind and lovely (no matter how much she may want to be black herself). Black witches are slimy and foul, white witches are beautiful and kind. All of them are born with a full set of teeth, none of them can shed tears, and all need animal-familiars in order to help them with their magic - in other words, they are not fully human, and are no friends to us mere mortals.

Arriman is rumored to be "friends with Beelzebub himself" and tells the witches that: "What I am looking for is power, wickedness and evil. Darkness is all!" One of the witches finishes off her spell by reciting the Lord's Prayer backwards; Mother Bloodwort cannot say the word "white" because: "she couldn't bring herself to say the dreadful word - no black witch can" and we're told that "like most witches, she hated happiness."

As such, it's a tad disconcerting in the final chapters of the book when the witches changes from generically evil to the generalized "they're not that bad." Terence is happy among the witches, and we learn that: "Terence could stand the blackest magic and enjoy it, but unkindness and spite just finished him." Really Terence? There's no difference between "unkindness and spite" and black magic which involves: "blighting and smiting, blasting and wuthering and doing everything to keep darkness and sorcery alive in the land"?

Yes, I realize that I'm over-thinking this, and that this book isn't meant to be some sort of treatise on good and evil. I found the "Harry Potter" detractors as ridiculous as every other sensible person did, and the fact that I'm mentioning this particular fault has more to do with the change in tone and attitude toward the witches which some children may find a tad confusing. Is this a reason not to read the book? Of course not. Everything is written in a light and comedic tone; and the black witches are meant to be taken about as seriously as the Addams Family. I'm giving it three (and a half, if I was able) stars, because it's fast-paced, inventive and very, very funny. The general tone is very much reminiscent of the humour in Diana Wynne Jones's The Chrestomanci Quartet (Charmed Life, Witch Week, The Magicians of Caprona, The Lives of Christopher Chant) series - and of course, J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (Books 1-6) series (in fact, reading several of Ibbotson's other children's books makes it very clear that Rowling has drawn inspiration from her, what with her comedy-infused wizarding world).

It seems a little unfair to bring in a "Harry Potter" comparison, when in fact Eva Ibbotson's books were published roughly a decade before little Harry hit the scene, but if your kids enjoyed Potter, then there's plenty here to keep them happy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
For my book report I chose to read a book called Which Witch? This book is about a wizard named Arriman the Awful. Ever since Arriman was a little boy he showed strange signs of being somewhat abnormal. As he grows older, his parents realize that there is definitely soothing wrong with a baby who sets houses on fire and totures the neighbors with his cruel tricks with out so much as lifting a finger! His parents come to realize that Arriman is a wizard, and an evil one at that. As he grows into a young adult, he moves away to a castle where he is still known today as Arriman the Awful, the blackest wizard of all. After 400 years of sitting in his castle torturing guests, making rabbits turn into fire breathing lizards and generally being bad, the idea hits him that some day soon he will want to retire and he decides that that day is now. There is one problem, however, with retiring at this time. Arriman will undoubtedly be lonely for the rest of his life without anyone to talk to. What Arriman needs is a faithful partner who would love him no matter what. Arriman needs a wife. Arriman makes a contest between the local witches that whoever can do the blackest thing will be Arrimans wife.
The two main characters in this book are Arriman the Awful and a girl named Belladona, a white witch who entered the contest. Throughout the coarse of the story, the two main charters run into many problems and adventures involving their magic. For example, Belladona steels back her "familiar" (an animal that witches can't do their magic without) from the evil Madam Olympia, who is Belladona's closest competitor in the contest. My favorite character is Belladona, whom I admire for her for her courage, optimism and her ability to solve problems in creative ways.
I can relate to Arriman the Awful the most because of the difficult time he has choosing between the two witches he likes best. The reason I can relate to this problem is that I have two friends who strongly dislike each other and sometimes I have to choose between them who I want to be with at that time, without hurting the other friends feelings. Fortunately for me I don't have to make a permanent decision about which friend I want to be with, unlike Arriman, who has to choose a wife for life.
I really enjoyed reading this book because its plot and great detail painted a whole new world for me to imagine while reading. I liked the characters' personalities, and I found the story very exciting and amusing. My favorite part of this book is when Arriman gives Belladonna her score in the contest for her black magic. I love how the book describes the look of amusement on Belladonna's face when she hears of her mark. There is no part of this book that I did not thoroughly enjoy, and I only regret that it ended so soon.
I would strongly recommend this book to everyone I know, including adults. This book has humor, romance, mystery, and sadness all packed into one novel. I found this book to be extremely well written and entertaining.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Which Witch by Eva Ibbontson is about a wizard named Arriman looking for a black witch to marry. A black witch is a witch that does black magic. He needs a wife because it will help him stop growing old so quickly (wizards grow old very fast). The way he is going to find a witch to marry is to hold a contest. You would win the contest by doing the blackest magic trick. Each witch would have one turn to do a trick. The witch who did the blackest trick (the witch that won) would get to marry Arriman. All the witches that live in Darkington Hall, where Arriman lived, were invited. The main characters in the story are Arriman and Belladonna. Belladonna is a white witch that wanted to become a black witch. To see if she can change to a black witch, you will have to read the book for your self.
There are a few conflicts in this story. The main conflict is that Arriman does not want to grow old, so he needs to find a wife that can do black magic. The problem is he is not comfortable going on a date. Arriman has a hard time deciding what witch did the blackest trick. The theme of this book is fantasy and magic.
Overall I like this book because it was very detailed, had a great fantasy plot and it was interesting. At times I could not put the book down because there are a lot of cliffhangers. The thing that confused me the most is that there are a lot of characters to keep track of. I cannot compare this book to another book because Eva Ibboson writes one of a kind books. The fantasy in this book is all the different kinds of magic. All the detail in this book is appealing to me. The author's style of writing is descriptive and suspenseful. Anyone who enjoys books that are full of fantasy would enjoy this book.
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