Publication Date: February 7, 2012
Type: Hardcover, bought
Everybody knows Cate Cahill and her sisters are eccentric. Too pretty, too reclusive, and far too educated for their own good. But the truth is even worse: they’re witches. And if their secret is discovered by the priests of the Brotherhood, it would mean an asylum, a prison ship—or an early grave.
Before her mother died, Cate promised to protect her sisters. But with only six months left to choose between marriage and the Sisterhood, she might not be able to keep her word... especially after she finds her mother’s diary, uncovering a secret that could spell her family’s destruction. Desperate to find alternatives to their fate, Cate starts scouring banned books and questioning rebellious new friends, all while juggling tea parties, shocking marriage proposals, and a forbidden romance with the completely unsuitable Finn Belastra.
If what her mother wrote is true, the Cahill girls aren’t safe. Not from the Brotherhood, the Sisterhood—not even from each other.
Let me start off by saying this was not what I expected.
When I saw the premise of a novel set in the late 1800s, centered around witches, I expected it to be something ala the Gemma Doyle trilogy--set in a normal historical backdrop, with a fantasy element. That does not describe Born Wicked. Quite frankly? Born Wicked is a dystopian, all the way, from the conglomerate countries that have taken over various parts of the world to the oppressive regime and secret rebels. This was a dystopian with old speak and habits.
And as a dystopian, it was lacking in several areas. The world-building was scarce. Most of it is summed up in a few vague sentences. We get very little information about the rest of the world, or even about Cate's New England. I had a very blurry understanding of the setting, and that made it difficult to really place these events or put them in some sort of context.
Also, there was a simple lack of believability. In this novel, girls are treated like total scum. In fact, the Brotherhood's teachings center around just how awful and wicked girls inherently are, and how they must learn to be idiotic, docile creatures. Forget preaching about Heaven and Hell, charity, divine figures, belief in the Lord! All they preach about, all the time, is the wickedness of females. Girls are considered useless, foolish, and idiotic. They must either be engaged by their 17th birthday or declare their intentions to join the Sisterhood. They are meant to look pretty and sit around, holding teas and gossiping. If they act in any way that could be deemed scandalous--say, doing something other than looking pretty and gossiping--they can be convicted and sent to a mental institution or a prison ship.
And even aside from their awful treatment of the female gender, the Brotherhood restricts society as a whole; they've closed the borders, censored books, controlled the post.
But despite all of this, not once, in the past 100+ years, has their been any previous resistance. None. At least not anything the author found noteworthy. And I simply didn't find that realistic at all. The fact that no one, in over a century, had staged a rebellion against this cruel, controlling regime? I simply couldn't buy it.
Also, I was disappointed in the portrayal of the Sisterhood. In novels where there's a group trying to rise against the restrictive government, I do like when the rebellious group is portrayed as more than just the wonderful saviors. I think it's important to remember that it's not a black-and-white portrait, that there are many, many shades of gray. Except . . . with the Brotherhood and the Sisterhood, it came off as more of a black-and-black, with Cate and those close to her being the only white in sight. That was a bit of a letdown, because I think a more complex group would've been more realistic, and provided more of a moral conflict.
However, despite what it may sound like, I didn't really dislike this novel. I quite enjoyed the writing style, despite the occasional hiccup. It seemed suited to the supposed time period, and had moments of real loveliness.
I also liked the characters, for the most part. While I wish the antagonists of the novel had been given some more depth, for the most part, the characters were interesting, flawed, and fun to read about. While Cate did irritate me at times, I admired her spirit and her loyalty, and while at times I wanted to fault her for her selfish choices, I couldn't; because, honestly? In her place, I can't say I'd have done any differently. I enjoyed reading through her perspective, and I liked that her relationships with her sisters played such a crucial role in the plot.
The plot itself . . . was slow. Not much really happened until late in the novel, but despite that, it didn't really bore me. It was entertaining, even if it was fairly predictable and relied on the age-old plot device of a discovered diary. The romance was surprisingly enjoyable, despite featuring a love triangle; it really wasn't much of a triangle at all, since there's only one person Cate really has feelings for, and I quite liked him. Finn was sweet and adorable and he reads. That's a keeper, Cate. That's a keeper.
While I had many critiques for this novel, when it comes down to it, this was a fun read. It kept me interested from beginning to end, and I'm curious to see where the next novels will take us. I would recommend it to fans of the dystopian genre, or to any who just really, really adore a man who reads.