Review: Witch and Wizard

James Patterson’s “Witch and Wizard” could be summed up as Harry Potter meets 1984, except without any vision, effort or grace. The plot revolves around two teens dragged from their parents by the totalitarian “New World Order.” Prison, terror, ham-handed magic, and kewl “if teenagers ran the world” mythmaking follow before the book reverts to its opening cliffhanger, setting the way for the obligatory—and unnecessary—sequel.

What makes the book so objectionable? The first strike is the obvious lack of effort that went into its creation. Most chapters expire after two–four pages of rote plot progression. None of the characters are fleshed out; the lead voices narrate away in a kind of dashed-off “teen speak.”

Their powers are applied arbitrarily, without any notion of struggle or growth. The villains are single-note enough to be deemed unworthy of “24” fan fiction. The plot leans on tired “chosen one” tropes, the rules of this “New World” are never established, and the betrayals and retreats read like so much plot padding.

Most offensive, though, is the book’s cheap borrowing of totalitarian/eliminationist themes. The New World Order and its prisons knowingly evoke gulags and concentration camps, complete with torture and executions. But the book constantly undermines the weight of its references by failing to consistently apply their menace. The narrators shrug off torture and murder as another total bummer. Quislings are redeemed without the satisfaction of guilt, and the monstrous laws of the New World Order are equipped with a few booming loopholes to enable lazy writing.

“Witch and Wizard” plays out like a cash grab that was written and conceived in the same three-day weekend. The plot summary on Wikipedia offers as much style as the novel itself and is much less insulting to the reader’s intelligence.

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