A couple weeks ago, my girlfriend decided to pick up James Patterson’s new novel, Witch and Wizard on a whim. She finished it in a matter of two days and, since I had nothing to do, I picked it up to read.
In a way, I wish I hadn’t.
From the very beginning I had a difficult time figuring out if Patterson is making fun of the other magic-themed books out there, such as the Harry Potter series, or if he is trying to cash in on the phenomenon with no clue on how to go about doing that. Having Patterson’s name on the cover lent it some credence and I truly believed that it would be good. But after reading the first couple of chapters, I had a difficult time believing that Patterson wrote it.
OK. Get ready for some angry spoilers.
The book starts In Media Res with the Allgood family (seriously? That’s your symbolism?) about to be executed for the crime of being a wizarding family. Patterson then takes the time to flashback to the events that brought his characters to this situation. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that the ending had absolutely nothing to do with this beginning. Yes, Patterson eventually revisits this point in time, despite having skipped over a couple years from the end of the narrative. However, when he does return to the execution scene, he decides to give the reader a life lesson instead of a story, as if he suddenly changed his name to Aesop.
The second major flaw with Witch and Wizard is that it is told from two perspectives. The narration cuts between the brother/sister team of Whit and Wisty. Sadly, they both sound exactly the same. Patterson must have realized this at some point in his writing process because he chose to designate each chapter by its narrator. I couldn’t help but to think of how incredibly lame this made him seem. Patterson’s dialogue is also ridiculous. Unless teenage girls in the 21st century still use the phrase “far out.”
Patterson introduces characters without giving us any reason to care for or revile them. One example of this is the Byron character, who is clearly an antagonist, but later goes on to help Whit and Wisty. His motivation for changing sides was nothing more than being changed into a weasel, which makes the reader leery of his intentions, until they realize that Patterson hasn’t put anything else forward to show that he is actually a bad guy, other than Whit and Wisty not liking him. And this type of characterization plays out with all of the secondary characters, making the betrayal of the siblings later in the novel by someone they trusted completely not shocking.
If Patterson is trying to create a new magical series to cash in on the genre’s popularity, which is all this book feels like, then he needs to figure out how to do it properly. I doubt he is going to open himself up to new readers if he insists on writing as if they are morons, as he has done in Witch and Wizard. I do believe that the premise of the novel could have been good, but his execution is insulting. He blurs over plot points and instead concentrates his efforts on making up a new, “witty” language to separate his characters from the hundreds of other similar books out there. I would have liked to have some more backstory on how the New Order became to be so powerful, but all the reader is given is that they were elected into power. Why does The One Who Is The One have the abilities that he does, and why is he persecuting magical beings when it seems like he, himself, is magical? We get none of these answers, Instead, Patterson makes a huge production of events that the reader has realized fifty chapters earlier (“You mean that magical drumstick is really a magic wand? And that magical book is really a magical book? Wow, Mr. Patterson, I would never have understood that without your needlessly sentimental ending!”)
Now, I know that there is nothing I can say about Witch and Wizard that will affect its sales in any way. Hell, James Patterson could bind his used toilet paper between a hardcover and it will spend at least 14 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Like I said earlier, the only way this book can be enjoyed is if you take it to be farcical rather than serious. Sadly, with the tagline on the dust jacket that reads “this is the story I was born to tell,” I don’t think Patterson meant it that way. I just wish he had had more respect for his audience and for the genre writers that came before him before sitting down to tell this story. The public is, clearly, more intelligent than he gives them credit for. A word of advice for Mr. Patterson; stick to Alex Cross. You’ve got a winning formula there.