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Well Witched
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Well Witched

4.0 4
by Frances Hardinge

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Ryan and his friends don't think twice about stealing some money from a wishing well. After all, who's really going to miss a few tarnished coins?

The well witch does.

And she demands payback: Now Ryan, Josh, and Chelle must serve her . . . and the wishes that lie rotting at the bottom of her well. Each takes on powers they didn't ask for and


Ryan and his friends don't think twice about stealing some money from a wishing well. After all, who's really going to miss a few tarnished coins?

The well witch does.

And she demands payback: Now Ryan, Josh, and Chelle must serve her . . . and the wishes that lie rotting at the bottom of her well. Each takes on powers they didn't ask for and don't want. Ryan grows strange bumps—are they eyes?—between his knuckles; Chelle starts speaking the secrets of strangers, no matter how awful and bloody; and Josh can suddenly—inexplicably—grant even the darkest of wishes, the kind of wishes that should never come true.

Darkly witty, wholly unexpected, and exquisitely sinister, Frances Hardinge's Well Witched is one well-cast tale that readers didn't know they were wishing for.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

British author Hardinge's (Fly by Night) supernatural thriller takes off slowly but then becomes inescapably chilling. Stranded in a forbidden location, three friends steal coins from a wishing well to come up with bus fare. To their shock, they find themselves endowed with disturbing powers that emerge in nightmarish forms: Chelle can't stop voicing the thoughts of others, Josh affects electrical currents, and Ryan's knuckles sprout warts with eyes. Before long they realize that they must grant the wishes made by the persons who tossed in the coins-and, it emerges, to grant not their stated wishes, but their unconscious wishes, which prove increasingly menacing. Adhering to the point of view of Ryan, the most stable of the trio, Hardinge lets readers share the impact of his gradual discovery of Josh's sinister side. The author leavens the creepy tone only slightly with Chelle's positive transformation and Ryan's growing tolerance of ambiguity; she shows great faith in her cast's and in her readers' intelligence. Taut as the plotting is, insightful as the characterizations are, the language, especially the imagery, stands out even more: "[Chelle's mother] was always very busy in the way that a moth crashing about in a lampshade is busy." A dark, polished gem. Ages 8-12. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
AGERANGE: Ages 11 to 14.

Tweens Ryan, Carrie, and Josh do not realize the price they will pay when they steal coins from an old wishing well. The stolen coins bind them into the service of the spirit who inhabits the well and grants wishes. The three friends are given special powers to aid them as they begin fulfilling their obligation to the Well Spirit. They realize, however, that the spirit does not always have the wishers' best interests at heart. As Ryan and Chelle begin to disobey the Well Spirit, Josh's character takes a sinister turn as he embraces his new power. In a final showdown with the Well Spirit in her underwater lair, Ryan and Chelle rescue Josh and earn their release from the spirit's enchantment. This novel is alive with quirky, idiosyncratic characters. There is the mysterious Miss Gossamer, who has a history with the witch, and the agoraphobic wisher Carrie, among several others. The main plot is distinctive and fresh with unexpected, dark twists, such as Josh's gradual transformation as he becomes drunk with power. Unfortunately the book's slow start and extensive length make it difficult to complete. The author or editors could have removed many of the ponderous middle chapters of the book and crafted a much tighter read. There is no doubt that the book's hypnotic cover and inventive plot will attract many readers. Yet these same readers may "well" find themselves "wishing" for the book to move along at a quicker, less tedious pace. Reviewer: David Goodale
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)

Children's Literature - Kathleen Foucart
Ryan, Josh, and Chelle miss their bus back from the forbidden town of Megwhite, and that is where all the trouble starts. They can take another bus, but they have no more money for the different ticket. Josh, the leader of their little trio, comes up with a plan. There is an old wishing well in Megwhite, and all he has to do is climb down and get some coins. After they all return home, however, strange things begin happening to each of the children. Ryan gets warts on his hands that turn out to be strange little eyes, Chelle speaks people's innermost thoughts aloud, and Josh makes clocks stop and light bulbs explode. Then the spirit inhabiting the well appears to Ryan, and Ryan agrees to do as she asks so she will grant the wishes for the coins they used. Wishes are apparently never what they seem, though, and soon the children are caught up in more than they ever bargained. With simple, yet powerful, imagery and complex characters, Hardinge creates a place in the modern world for the folklore and mythology of the past. Well-placed humor lightens many tense moments, and overall, this is a fantastic book recommended for readers of any age. Reviewer: Kathleen Foucart
School Library Journal

Gr 4-7

From the author of Fly by Night (HarperCollins, 2006) comes this contemporary fantasy. After Josh, Ryan, and Chelle steal coins out of a decrepit wishing well in a nearby village, they discover that they are now in the debt of the well witch, who expects them to serve her by fulfilling all the wishes made by people who have tossed coins into the well. At first they go along with the idea; having received special, if unnerving, powers from her, it's an intriguing challenge to make wishes come true. But some wishes are vengeful, misguided, or downright evil, leading Ryan and Chelle to finally stand firm against the angry witch. Josh, however, becomes swept up in his own increasing powers. There is an undercurrent of creepiness that runs through this story, whether it's the sinister, centuries-long influence of the malignant well witch or the ways that ordinary people can become warped, and many scenes and images are deliciously shiver-inducing. The tone is down-to-earth, quirky, and quietly witty, just like Ryan, whose intriguing perceptions of the people and things around him are a vital part of this book's appeal. Fans of dark fantasies such as Neil Gaiman's Coraline (HarperCollins, 2002) will find this tale irresistible.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library

Kirkus Reviews
A fascinating premise, atmospheric description and a collection of quirky characters combine in this British import. Bullied by their peers, 11-year-old Ryan and his friend Chelle are happy to tag after charismatic older boy Josh. Then one of Josh's ideas goes awry and the kids find themselves stranded. Stealing a few coins from a wishing well for bus fare seems like a good idea until each of them develops an odd ability: Chelle can read other people's thoughts, Josh shorts out-and then controls-electrical equipment and Ryan develops wart-like eyes on his hands. The setup takes its time, deliberately introducing unfamiliar place names and apparently irrelevant background information. Eventually, Hardinge ties together Ryan's recurring nightmares, the unusual behavior of an elderly friend of Chelle's family and the source of Josh's hostility, moving events along to a watery and authentically chilling resolution. Adult characters are well-drawn but it is the children themselves who figure out the nature of the spell that affects them and, more importantly, how to free themselves from it. Vivid and imaginative. (Fiction. 10-14)
Horn Book (starred review)
“A deliciously creepy tale...There is a vividness and energy to Hardinge’s imagination that makes almost every moment of this absorbing story shine with light or glossy darkness.”
Booklist (starred review)
“Richly layered with fine, figurative language, quirky but believable characters and old magic . . . there’s no denying Hardinge’s power as a storyteller.”
Horn Book
"A deliciously creepy tale...There is a vividness and energy to Hardinge’s imagination that makes almost every moment of this absorbing story shine with light or glossy darkness."
"Richly layered with fine, figurative language, quirky but believable characters and old magic . . . there’s no denying Hardinge’s power as a storyteller."

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)
930L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Well Witched

Chapter One

The Flight of the Shopping Cart

For a wonderful moment Ryan thought Josh was going to make it. When they had turned the corner to find the bus already at the stop, Josh had burst into a run, scattering starlings and shattering puddles. The bus's engine gave a long, exasperated sigh and shrugged its weight forward as if hulking its shoulders against the rain, but Ryan still believed Josh would snatch success at the last minute, as always. Then, just as Josh drew level with its taillights, the bus roared sulkily away, its tires leaving long streaks of dull against the shiny wet tarmac.

Josh chased it for about twenty yards. Then, through the tiny crystal specks of rain that freckled his glasses, Ryan saw his hero stumble, slow, and aim a kick at a lamppost.

The bus seemed to have carried away Ryan's stomach, and the last of the summer daylight. Suddenly the dingy string of shops seemed much colder, darker, and more dejected than before. Ryan could still taste the chocolate milkshake that had cost them their ride, and the flavor made him feel sick.

Behind him he heard Chelle's asthmatic gasping and turned to find her fumbling with her inhaler. She took a deep breath, her round eyes becoming even wider for a second so that he could see the whites all around them. She stared at Josh's slowly returning figure.

"He said . . . Josh said . . . he said that the bus was always late, he said there was time for a milkshake . . . I am sososososososo dead . . . my mum thinks I'm babysitting. . . ." Her pale eyebrows had climbed up her forehead in panic to hide behind her blondbangs.

"Shush, Chelle," Ryan said as kindly as he could. It was hopeless. Chelle was unshushable.

"But . . . it's all right for Josh—everyone expects him to get into trouble. I . . . I don't know how to be in trouble. . . ."

"Shush," Ryan said with more urgency. Josh was almost within earshot. Whenever Josh felt bad about something he had done, he got angry with the whole world, became playfully vicious. Ryan did not want to be stranded in Magwhite with an angry Josh.

They were not meant to be in Magwhite at all.

Magwhite was an almost-place. The gas towers and the railway made it almost part of Guildley. The lurid fields of oilseed rape that stretched away to the east were almost countryside. The sad little strings of houses, the mini-mart, and the bike shop were almost a village. The towpath walks were almost pretty.

Someone had once been knifed there, or maybe a finger with a ring had been found on one of the paths, or perhaps the local rugby club came to pee in the canal from the bridge. Nobody could quite remember which, but something had happened to give the name "Magwhite" ugly edges. If Magwhite was mentioned, parents' faces stiffened as if they had picked up a bad smell. It was very definitely Out of Bounds.

There was nothing much to do there, but its out-of-boundsness made it exciting. Feeding fries to the jackdaws outside the boarded-up Magwhite post office was more interesting than feeding ordinary birds in the park. So, ever since the summer holidays had started, the forbidden excursions to picnic by the Magwhite canal had become almost routine.

Magwhite was their place, but now there was nothing Ryan wanted more than to be out of it.

Josh trudged back toward the others, his head bowed, the rain darkening his fierce, blond, scrubbing-brush hair. He seemed to be grimacing at his foot. Maybe he had hurt it against the lamppost. Then he looked up, and Ryan saw that he was grinning.

"'S all right." Josh shrugged and wiped the rain off his yellow-tinted sunglasses with his sleeve. "We'll catch the next one."

Chelle was biting her lower lip, her upper lip pulling down to a point, like a little soft beak. She was trying not to disagree, because she worshipped Josh more than anybody else in the world, but words always seemed to dribble out of Chelle like water from a broken tap.

"But . . . we can't, that was the last Guildley Cityline bus, our return tickets won't work for the Point-to-Point bus, and we haven't got enough money for new tickets for all of us . . . we're stuck. . . ."

"No, we're not." Josh was still smiling. "I have a plan."

It was a simple plan, an odd plan, but it was a Josh plan, so it had to work.

Behind the wall of the mini-mart parking lot, there was a long, tree-tangled slope that ran down to the canal side. In this wood roamed escapee supermarket carts, stripped grass trapped in their wheels, creepers trailing from their wire frames. Josh's plan was to find one of these, take it back to the mini-mart parking lot, attach it to the chain of carts outside the entrance doors, and reclaim the coin deposit in the handle slot.

Suddenly everything was an adventure again. The threesome dropped over the wall into the wood and started hunting through the trees.

It was a strange wood, stranger still now the light was fading. Ryan loved it for its litter. Yellowing newspapers nestled in branch nooks, like a crop of dead leaves strangely patterned with print. A sprawling throne of rotten oak trailed dark ivy and coddled a treasure trove of crushed cans. The twigs of one wavering branch had been carefully threaded through the fingers of a red woollen mitten, so that the little tree looked as if it was waiting to grow another hand and start applauding.

"Ryan, you're our eagle eyes, find us a cart," said Josh, and Ryan felt an uncomfortable swell of pride and doubt. He was never sure if Josh was making fun of him. "He sees everything different from us, Chelle. 'Cause his eyes, right, they're in upside down. You just can't tell looking at them."

Well Witched. Copyright © by Frances Hardinge. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Frances Hardinge is the celebrated author of Fly By night, Well Witched, and The Lost Conspiracy. She spent her childhood in Kent, England, in a huge, isolated old house in a small, strange village, and from an early age she wrote stories filled with magic and vivid characters. Ms. Hardinge studied at Oxford University, where she was a founding member of a writers' workshop. This is her fourth novel.

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Well Witched 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
AuthorMomCC More than 1 year ago
Well Witched by Frances Hardinge is about Ryan, Josh and Chelle, three friends who find themselves indebted to a powerful centuries' old water goddess. When the three face possible punishment for being someplace they shouldn't be, their last recourse to obtain the money to get home is Josh's plan: steal coins from the wishing well. The plan by the group's notorious troublemaker unwittingly causes the well goddess, now a twisted and confused being, to require the friends to fulfill the wishes of the coins they took. Endowing them with "powers," the well "witch" compels them to do her will if they ever hope to be released from her service. Ryan, the "smart" one, figures out what they need to do, but soon the wishes that seemed simplistic on the surface begin to go very wrong. People's lives soon hang in the balance. This was a very creepy book. It was marked for ages 10 and up, but it seemed a bit scary to me. I guessed the characters to be around 11 or 12 years old. It reminded me of suspense, horror, and mystery stories all rolled together. I listened to it as an audio book in the car and I felt like I was in a gray cloudy cocoon even when the sun was out. It gave me chills. The writing is descriptive and transports you to that gray world of Well Witched. The theme of water is carried superbly throughout and was probably one of the reasons it felt like a rainy day everytime I listened to it. The characters were three-dimensional and incredibly average which is what makes what is happening to them so extraordinary. Ryan is the character we follow and he has been bullied in the past as well as Chelle. He practices not causing strife even when it is justified. Chelle is a nervous girl who looks to others to validate her. So when Josh, a slightly older boy who-if not popular but given a certain amount of cautious respect from other children-befriends them, he seems like a savior of sorts. Ryan and Chelle follow his lead. But when Josh becomes obsessed and out of control in his pursuit to please the well witch, both Ryan and Chelle must come into their own to save their loved ones, Josh and the wishers. The book was long. There were 8 CDs and at times I wasn't even sure it would end. The plot was structured and flowed but had many unexpected turns. I had no idea which way the story would go at any given part. It was different for a children's book because of the frequently adult situations the children faced. It shows that they are keenly aware and are effected by what adults say and do. I had to finish it to see the outcome, but it took me a month and a half because I didn't want to give my 6 year old nightmares from listening to it. It is an intriguing book that envelopes you in its world. I didn't give it 5 stars because: 1) the target age group did not seem appropriate. The characters were off by themselves traveling by bus to different towns without much comment from the adults. 2) Ryan figures everything out and explains plot points. There is very little that happens that the reader has a chance to figure out on their own. There are very few clues to the mystery part of the story. I recommend this book for readers who like being creeped out by the supernatural. Reviewed by Cherese Vines
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Three friends miss the bus. Their tickets are not valid for the next bus and they have no money. They can't call their parents, because they are not supposed to be where they are.

Instead, Josh takes money from the wishing well to pay for the bus tickets.

Little does he know that a witch haunts the well and that she will demand payback. They must use their new powers to grant wishes made with the monies.

However, things begin to go very wrong.

A unique tale, WELL WITCHED examines the realization of magical powers and how quickly they can get out of hand.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just started 'Well Witched,' and so far, not bad. you really have to read into it though. A lot in the beginning of the book you will find that it is very difficult to comprehend the different scenery changes of the story. The main idea is fantastic in my opinion. But this book is not for kids in 3rd or maybe even 4th grade. A pretty tricky read if you ask me.