Witch & Wizard
By James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
Read by Spencer Locke and Elijah Wood
Hachette Audio, (2009)
An Unabridged Recording on 5 CDs
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - January 11, 2010
The witch and wizard in this book are a fifteen year old girl and seventeen year old boy, a sister and brother, who discover that they have magical powers in a future world called NO. The government is repressing many personal freedoms, reminiscent of 1984, and wants to kill children because they are inquisitive and think for themselves, recalling The Lord of the Flies.
The writing provokes comparisons with Mickey Spillane, who insisted that his books be published without editing, and the Harry Potter and C. S. Lewis books that were written for children.
Patterson's story has quite a few references to the Bible, such as the evil ruler being called "The One Who Is The One," which reminds readers of God, who is called "I Am Who I Am" in the biblical book Exodus. A judge in the tale is called Ezekiel like the prophet with that name who criticized the Israelites. A character says, "Spare the rod," a biblical quote. A magical act by the girl against the rulers is called a "plague," like the plagues inflicted by Moses. Our witch and wizard rescue a large number of kids, who go through a line of vicious dogs unscathed, while the enemy soldiers who pursue them are killed by the dogs, just like the Israelites passing through the Red Sea, while the Egyptian were drowned. These are just a few of the biblical reminiscences.
There are other symbolic names in the tale. Our heroes' last name is "Allgood." Their first names are Whisteria and Whitford, which sound like names of nineteenth century Massachusetts witches. One evil person is named after the wild poet Byron.
There are attempts at humor. What nation would call itself NO?
However, despite all of this, the book is choppy. It seems to be written in simple language for children but doesn't reach the level of Harry Potter or C. S. Lewis. None of its references – such as biblical hints – are developed in any way. They are like stones dropped in a playground of sand. And the book is not exciting.
Worst of all, the tale does not end. The witch and wizard are about to be hanged. Will they be saved? We are told to read the forthcoming volume.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of fifteen books, including a series of five volumes on the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible, which he co-authors with Rabbi Dr. Stanley M. Wagner, and a series of four books on the twelfth century philosopher Moses Maimonides, the latest being Maimonides: Reason Above All, published by Gefen Publishing House, www.gefenpublishing.com. The Orthodox Union (OU) publishes daily samples of the Targum books on www.ouradio.org.