School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Seventeen-year-old Tamsin Greene has finally found the Talent that her grandmother prophesied, yet her experiences still set her apart from her magical family. When sinister Alistair Knight from Once a Witch (Clarion, 2009) reappears, and Tamsin becomes aware that he has traveled back in time to destroy the Greenes, she must stop him. The danger increases exponentially when she becomes a maid to the powerful Knight family, the deadly magical enemies of the Greenes, in mid-19th-century New York City. In the process of trying to save her family, the teen is faced with the reality of her grandmother's prophecy and its life-changing implications for her and her Talent. Deft plotting and sinister characters and setting make for an enjoyable and gripping read, and a gentle romantic subplot adds to the appeal. Tamsin is an interesting and believable character, and the 19th-century figures are briefly but vividly drawn. Although this book will be most enjoyed by fans of the first title, MacCullough's prologue, judicious explanations in the body of the novel, and a satisfying ending will allow librarians to recommend it as a stand-alone novel.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
From the Publisher
Once A Witch
"A fantastic urban fantasy with an enchanting romance at its heart." --Cassandra Clare, New York Times bestselling author of City of Bones
"Carolyn MacCullough casts a mesmerizing spell with Once a Witch. Family secrets and sibling rivalry, time-travel and magical 'Talents' all brew together to create a superlative--and supernatural--coming-of-age story. Add an epic battle of good versus evil and an enchanting first kiss and this bewitching novel commands a sequel." --Megan McCafferty, New York Times bestselling author of the Jessica Darling series
"A light urban fantasy that goes down easy and will have readers asking for its sequel." --Kirkus Reviews
Drawing the Ocean
A New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age
"MacCullough has a gift for using language with spectacularly evocative phrasing." --VOYA
"MacCullough's subtle use of present tense and visually evocative writing create an eloquent portrait." --Kirkus Reviews
"Sadie's narrative voice is absolutely authentic, and the story of her quirky, endearing relationship with Ryan is memorably poignant." --ALA Booklist
"MacCullough's dialogue is flawless. The journey is fascinating." --ALA Booklist, starred review
"Finely crafted." --Kirkus Reviews
Children's Literature - Julia Beiker
The cover of this book deceives the reader into believing the pages reveal a dark, sinister novel; but, in actual fact, the story line is more accessible than the jacket image seems to indicate. The young witch, Tasmin, must travel back in time to save not only her families' talents or powers, but possibly their existence. Going back to the 1800's proves easy, the hard part occurs as she tries to figure out a way to return. It appears hopeless unless she brings along her special friend, Gabriel; except he does not have unlimited abilities to travel back in time without physical damage. Tasmin ends up going alone and finds her way into the household of the Knight family where all her adventures begin and end as a handmaid. Maids in this time frame have a rather short life expectancy. Although the topic of witches in itself can rattle cages this is an entertaining book with its witty dialogue and unexpected events that have the reader turning the next page. Capturing the voice of Tasmin adds to the plot, but at the end I still wonder about her age and how she looks. The traveling back in time gives a little history lesson about the Victorian era in New York City. Reviewer: Julia Beiker
Read an Excerpt
I was born on the night of Samhain. Others might call
it Halloween. Born into a family of witches who all carry
various Talents. Others might call it magic.
Except for me.
I alone in my family seemed to have no Talent. No
gift to shape me or to grant me a place in my family’s circle
around the altar to the four elements. All I had was the
prophecy that my grandmother made to my mother in the
first hour of my life. “Your daughter will be one of the most
powerful we have ever seen in this family. She will be a beacon
for us all.”
And then for reasons still unknown, my grandmother
spent the next seventeen years making sure I doubted that
prophecy at every turn. It took the return of an old family
enemy, two episodes of time travel, and one very dangerous
love spell that nearly killed my sister before I learned three
things. First, I can stop anyone from using their Talent to
harm me. Second, I can absorb a person’s Talent if they
attempt to use it against me three times. Third, I apparently
have a choice ahead of me. A choice that will explain the
mysterious workings of my grandmother’s mind and why
she raised me in complete denial of my Talent. A choice
that’s vaguely hinted at in my family’s book. A choice that
will fulfill the prophecy my grandmother made all those
Or destroy my family forever.
A choice that will be so terrible to contemplate that I’d
just rather not encounter it at all.
“I look awful,” I say, staring at myself in front
of the dressing room mirror. The dress I have just struggled
into hangs like a shapeless tent down to my ankles.
Okay, actually, it clings to the top half of me a little too
tightly before suddenly dropping off into the aforementioned
shapeless tent. And it’s gray. Not silver, not opalescent
mist, as the tag promises. Gray. Concrete gray.
My best friend, Agatha, scrunches her eyebrows
together over her bright green eyeglasses as she examines
me from all angles. “You do look awful. Perfectly, awful in
fact,” she finally confirms.
I stick my tongue out at her. Agatha loves the word perfectly
just a little too much. “Yeah, well, that was probably
Rowena’s intention all along,” I mutter, struggling to find
the zipper. The overhead lights of the narrow boutique are
suddenly too hot and glaring.
“Here,” Agatha says, and with swift fingers she yanks
the zipper down.
With a sigh of relief, I slip back into my jeans and flowered
T-shirt, then steps into my fringed wedges that I found
in my favorite thrift store last week. I can’t resist them even
though my ankles start to throb after more than five minutes
of wearing them.
“Why can’t you wear your rose dress?” Agatha asks
again as she arranges the hated gray tent back on its hanger.
Rowena had pronounced it “ethereal” when she had been
in the city a few weeks earlier and had left me three messages
on my cell to come to store “at once.” However, I never
picked up the phone. Caller ID is one of the best inventions
“Because Rowena wants silver. And what Rowena
wants, Rowena gets.”
“She gives new meaning to that term.” I refasten my
pink barrettes to the side of my head, useless, I know, since
they’ll be falling out in about three minutes. My curly hair
defies all devices invented to contain it.
“Too bad,” Agatha says as we exit the dressing room.
“That rose dress is so pretty and you never get to wear it.”
“Yeah,” I say, keeping my expression noncommittal,
while inwardly feeling the familiar pang. Oh, how I wish I
could tell Agatha that I already did wear it. I wore it when
Gabriel and I Traveled back to 1939 to a garden party in
my family’s mansion on Washington Square Park in New
York City. But if I told her that, I’d have to tell her who I
really am. What I really am. And the truth is, I don’t know
who or what I really am. For most of my life I thought I was
ordinary. The black sheep who got stuck in a very extraordinary
family. Not until I left my hometown of Hedgerow
and came to boarding school in Manhattan did I learn not
to mind that so much. For the first time in my life, I was
surrounded by people who had no idea that just enough
powdered mandrake root mixed with wine can make a
man want to kiss you. But too much can make that same
man want to kill you. It felt good to be among people who
thought I was just like them. It felt normal. I felt normal. I
felt like one of them.
And now that feeling is gone. And I can’t decide if I’m
happy or sad about that.
I gaze at Agatha for a moment and contemplate how
to tell her that I don’t really have a hippie crunchy granola
kind of family, as she likes to think. Instead, I have a family
of witches who actively practice their Talents but who
still manage to live relatively obscure lives. I have a mother
and grandmother who offer love spells, sleep spells, and
spells for luck, good fortune, and health to the town residents
who come knocking on the back door after night
falls when they can’t be seen by their neighbors. I have a
father who controls the weather. A sister who can compel
anyone to do anything just by mesmerizing them with the
sound of her voice. My grandmother's sister who can freeze
someone where he stands just by touching his forehead. A
boyfriend who can find anything and anyone that’s missing.
A whole bunch of other people I've been taught to call
"uncle" or "aunt" or "cousin" who are all Talented in one
way or another.
If I told Agatha any of that, she’d look at me like I was
speaking in tongues. If I showed her that I could shoot fire
from my hands or freeze people into statues with one tap of
my finger, she’d think I was a freakshow.
Or worse, she’d be afraid of me.
Agatha’s one of the first and relatively few people who
made me feel normal in my life. Back when I thought I
didn’t have a Talent at all, when I first came to boarding
school in Manhattan, it was okay omitting certain things
about my family life. It was okay to blur the line between
the truth and a lie. But now that I’ve discovered I do have a
Talent after all, it feels harder.
“So what are you going to do?” Agatha asks, breaking
into my headlong rush of thoughts.
“What?” I blink at her until she flourishes the dress
through the air. “Oh. I’m not buying that thing!”
The saleslady who has been hovering around the
dressing room apparently overhears me. She takes the
dress back from Agatha, stroking it like she’s afraid its feelings
just got hurt. Her long pink nose twitches once, reinforcing
my initial impression of a rabbit. “Well,” she says,
her tone frosted over. “Your sister did say that was the one
she wanted. She specifically asked me to put it aside for you
even though it’s really not our policy to do that here. Not
for more than twenty-four hours and it’s been three weeks
already.” The saleslady blinks a little as if suddenly wondering
why she did break store policy.
I try not to roll my eyes. Apparently Rowena has won
over yet another heart. People seem to want to throw themselves
in front of speeding buses for Rowena. Part of her
Talent and all. Not that she ever would abuse that. Oh, no.
“You know, she is the bride after all. It’s really her day,”
“No kidding,” I reply sweetly. “She been reminding us
all of that for three months now.”
“Still,” the saleslady says, fluttering the hem at me.
“I’m sure it looked lovely on you. Perhaps if you put on a
bit more rouge and—”
The doorbell chimes softly and I look up to see Gabriel
stepping into the store. Okay, I know it’s lame, but my
heart still does this weird fluttery thing sometimes when I
see him. When the afternoon sunlight is hitting his cheekbones
the way it is right now. When he smiles at me—that
smile that makes me feel safe and not so safe at the same
time. When he gives me that look that spells out, I know
you, Tamsin Greene. I know exactly who you are.
Thankfully, someone does.
I smile back and manage to pull my gaze away long
enough to shake my head at the saleslady. “I’ll tell her it
didn’t fit me.”
“Yeah, she was bursting out of it anyway,” Agatha adds
in helpfully. She makes a motion toward my chest.
“Really?” Gabriel says, interest streaking through his
voice. “And that’s a bad thing?”
Agatha bobs her head up and down. “You should have
I clear my throat loudly. “Okay, thanks, everyone, but
Just then the door opens again and another woman
shoulders past Gabriel, a look of desperation on her face.
She swings a little black purse by a tassled cord and I notice
Gabriel take a step back to avoid getting hit in the jaw. “Do
you have the new Dolce Vita dress in purple? It has to be
purple. I’ve looked everywhere!”
Instantly, the saleslady’s face assumes an expression of
sorrow. “No,” she whispers, her gaze wandering to a spot
above the woman’s shoulder as if eye contact is too much
to bear during this difficult moment. “I’m so sorry. We only
carry the Dolce Baci line.”
“Oh!” the woman gives a muffled little shriek. “No one
has this dress and I have to have—”
“Try Lily Lucile on Spring Street,” Gabriel says helpfully.
“They’re carrying it. The purple one that you want.”
A small silence fills the room as all eyes land on
Gabriel. He turns his palms skyward, lifts his shoulders in
a shrug. “Don’t ask me how I know that,” he murmurs.
And then, “Ah, Tam, I’ll wait outside for you,” he says, and
Dusk is falling by the time Gabriel’s front tires hit all the
usual potholes of my family’s driveway. The house is blazing
with light and smoke tinges the air from tonight's bonfire,
which I know is already burning behind the house.
A small clump of my younger cousins chase each other
across the snow-dusted meadow into the darkening woods
beyond the house and fields.
“How pastoral,” Gabriel says, grinning sideways
“Yeah, until you look closer,” I say, grinning back and
leaning toward him. My seatbelt presses into my hip and I
fumble to undo it, then decide not to bother.
Just then the air is split open. “Mother! I said I wanted
peonies, not posies. Posies are ridiculous in winter. Who
ever heard of a bride carrying posies anyway?”
Gabriel turns his head. “Are those Rowena’s dulcet
tones that I hear?”
I shift back into my seat just as my sister storms around
the side of the yard, heading toward the house. The porch
door opens and my mother steps out. She takes one look
at my sister’s face, then another look at my father, who is
trailing Rowena, a bunch of yellow flowers drooping in his
“Mother,” Rowena yells again. “You need to explain
something very important to my father.” She flings one arm
back to identify our father as if our mother is unclear on just
who this man might be. “You need to tell him that I am getting
married in three days. Three days and . . . Mother!”
I grin. The porch door remains closed, but mid-diatribe,
my mother has simply vanished. No doubt she’s
zoomed into another part of the house at her usual lightning
speed. Rowena skids to a stop, and for once her flaxen hair
has escaped from its perfect chignon. She whirls around
and looks at my father, who shrugs and begins slowly backing
up toward his greenhouse, probably wishing right about
now that he also possessed my mother’s Talent of moving
at warp speed. Then Rowena pivots again, her gaze narrowing
in on Gabriel’s car.
“Tamsin,” she calls, her voice imperious as she starts
down the driveway.
I sink down the length of my seat and begin picking at
a tuft of foam that protrudes from a rip in the seat.
“Piece of advice?” Gabriel offers, his eyes tracking
Rowena’s progress toward us. “Don’t tell her you didn’t
buy the dress.”
As we step into the kitchen, carrying our bags, my mother,
who is standing at counter, looks up with a startled expression.
“Tamsin,” she says, her voice vibrating with relief.
“And Gabriel,” she adds, and offers us both a smile before
turning back to the heap of glittering silverware that’s piled
on the counter. “You’re here.” She examines two butter
knives, and then suddenly raises her head again like a hunted
animal to glance behind us. “Where’s Rowena?” she
“I froze her,” I say, setting down my backpack and
stretching my arms to the ceiling. “She makes a great statue
in the garden.”
Gabriel snorts and ducks his head into the open refrigerator
as the knives slip from my mother’s grasp and crash
back on the pile of silverware. “You did?” she asks, a note
of hope throbbing through her voice. Clearing her throat,
she tries again. “I mean, you did what? You can’t just freeze
I shrug. “It’ll wear off. In a week or two. Is there anything
to eat here?” I ask, and bump Gabriel with my hip as
I join him at the fridge. We spend a few seconds in a shoving
match as cold air billows in our faces.
My mother makes a noise like a teakettle coming to
“Relax, Mom. I’m kidding,” I say, stepping back, ending
the fridge war. “She’s chewing Aunt Linnie’s ear off.
Something about the tablecloths not being the right shade
of cream and how Aunt Linnie has to dye them again. Or
the will would come to an end…