Meet Daisy Sparrow, a young peasant witch living in Elizabethan England. Together with her beloved Mum, she brews and sells potions and other assorted concoctions at market fairs. But she wants more from life than just helping people who probably didn’t need that much help to begin with, even if she’s painfully shy when it comes to showing off her abilities.
When Daisy learns that the Royal Witch has died, and that the queen is looking for someone to fill the now open position, she decides to apply for the job despite the protests of her mother. Mum is afraid that the grandees of Hampton Court will have no time for a witch from such a lowly background, and that even if they do let Daisy compete, that the court will be too much a hotbed of political intrigue for the young girl to survive, much less navigate successfully. Daisy goes anyway, and discovers to her dismay that her mother was mostly right. But a group of unexpected allies will help Daisy get her foot in the door, even as she and the fabled John Dee join forces to defeat an evil conspiracy against the queen.
Moreso even than being a fun alternate history with fantasy elements, this was a really terrific tale of believing in yourself and allowing reason and kindness to guide your actions. Daisy makes a ton of mistakes in her quest to become someone important, but she learns a load of valuable lessons about both herself and what it means to matter in this highly entertaining, surprisingly twisty graphic novel. And, readers, the way I gasped at the last panel reveal! I probably should have seen it coming, but I totally didn’t. I’m very excited to read future volumes in order to see what happens next!
Benjamin Dickson’s words combine effortlessly with Rachael Smith’s adorable illustrations throughout the book to excellent effect. I was particularly taken with the way Ms Smith illuminated Queen Elizabeth’s face in the panels where Her Majesty appeared. My only complaint with this graphic novel was with the rather narrow lettering, which I felt left too much white space in most of the speech bubbles, crowding words together for no discernible reason.
Otherwise, this was the perfect middle grade book for anyone with an interest in witches or Elizabethan England or just a highly entertaining, relatively quick read. The Queen’s Favorite Witch might be fanciful, but it’s built on a solid historical core, with good characters that it’s easy to root for, and evil characters who are easy to root against.
The Queen’s Favorite Witch, Book 1: The Wheel of Fortune by Benjamin Dickson & Rachael Smith was published today November 16 2021 by Papercutz and is available from all good booksellers, including