MIDDLE GRADE SPECULATIVE (Fantasy) FICTION : Curse of the Night Witch by Alex Aster

On Emblem Island all are born knowing their fate. Their lifelines show the course of their life and an emblem dictates how they will spend it.

Twelve-year-old Tor Luna was born with a leadership emblem, just like his mother. But he hates his mark and is determined to choose a different path for himself. So, on the annual New Year's Eve celebration, where Emblemites throw their wishes into a bonfire in the hopes of having them granted, Tor wishes for a different power.

The next morning Tor wakes up to discover a new marking on his skin...the symbol of a curse that has shortened his lifeline, giving him only a week before an untimely death. There is only one way to break the curse, and it requires a trip to the notorious Night Witch.

With only his village's terrifying, ancient stories as a guide, and his two friends Engle and Melda by his side, Tor must travel across unpredictable Emblem Island, filled with wicked creatures he only knows through myths, in a race against his dwindling lifeline.
Curse of the Night Witch presents a fascinating look at wishes and unwanted responsibilities.  Twelve-year-old Tor doesn't want to follow in his mother's footsteps and be the leader of his village.  But the emblem he was born with guarantees that's the life he will live.  But after wishing for a different emblem, Tor receives a curse instead of the emblem he wanted.  With a shortened lifeline, Tor and his two friends Engle and Melda, Tor must find the Night Witch in hopes of getting her to remove the curse.  This leads the trio on an adventure they could never have predicted, with death around every corner.  With only an old collection of legends as a guide, can the three find the Night Witch before their lifelines end?  And if they find her, can they convince her to remove the curse?
Alex Aster sure knows how to tell a story.  Not only is Tor's story compelling, but it's thought-provoking in it's themes as well.  I found Tor easy to relate to, I mean who hasn't had responsibilities they didn't want and talents or skills they would prefer to have.  But as Tor discovers, trying to change the situation one is in is not the easiest thing to do.  Circumstances have a way of getting in the way of one's hopes and dreams.  But thanks to his loyal friends and their abilities, and a mysterious benefactor, Tor just might find a way to survive his curse.  Of course, that doesn't mean he'll get everything he wants or that he'll have an happily-ever-after.  Life has a way of throwing a wrench into even the best laid plans.  A well-told, fascinating opening book in a series that will require every ounce of skill and determination Tor and his friends can muster. 


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