This is something I found over on Just Another Book Addict =), and I thought I'd do my own. There are so many great books out there that get overlooked (especially if they've been out for a while)!
Every Saturday, you share (recommend) a book, preferably one that you haven't reviewed yet. It's just a way to get other books out into the blogging world. This is NOT a review.
Today I'm going to recommend The Willowmere Chronicles by Alison Baird.
I thought for sure I had recommended these on Share-A-Book Saturday before, as they are some of my very favourite YA books. Years ago, I'd read Baird's The Hidden World and loved it. So when I spotted this series, I knew I was in for a good story. Was I ever!
(The following descriptions come from Amazon.ca. The second and third books are available there, but the first appears to be out of print. It's available through Amazon Marketplace, though.)
The Witches of Willowmere
Whenever Claire passes by Willowmere, she is intrigued by the beauty and exoticism of the estate, so out of place in the small town where she lives. There is something oddly familiar about the eccentric old house, with its widow's walk, gingerbread trim and lofty turret. Willowmere's owner, Dr. Myra Moore, is equally fascinating. She tells Claire about the Wiccan belief system, which is not about dark spells and magic (as some of Claire's classmates seem to believe), but rather about affirming the goodness of the earth and all living things.
Claire begins to read about witchcraft and natural magic on her own, trying to understand what truth may lie within its ancient lore and wondering if it can help solve the mystery that torments her: Why did her mother leave so abruptly three years ago? And where has she gone?
Claire treasures her new friendship, but she can't shake the strange feeling that Myra is holding something back from her. And although she loves visiting Willowmere, she is haunted by the feeling that ancient events have pushed their way to the present and are beckoning her. Why is she having such strange and terrifying dreams? Why does she feel drawn to the portrait of Myra's ancestor, Alice Ramsay? Could Alice really have been a white witch?
As she struggles to uncover and understand the powers of both good and evil, Claire is drawn towards the past, to the witch trials of the 17th century, and must battle unexpected adversaries in the present. All the while, she searches for the true story behind her mother's disappearance, hoping her newfound knowledge and power will bring them together again.
The Warding of Willowmere
Claire Norton is a revenant - the reincarnation of a 17th-century noblewoman found guilty of witchcraft. While this amazing discovery explains some of the strange vision-memories she's experienced, it doesn't explain what she's supposed to do with these visions or how she'll battle the forces that have been against her since even before she was Mistress Alice Ramsay.
Claire is not alone on her journey. She is guided by Leo, her familiar, an ancient spirit in an animal's body. Leo helps her battle the Dark Circle coven, the black witches and warlocks. As Claire tries to come to terms with who she is, who she was, and who she must be, she also struggles to understand why her mother left her and her father three years ago. Could she have known her daughter's power and destiny? Claire wonders if her mother also visits the alternative dimension Leo has revealed to her. And as she prepares for future battles with the evil coven, Claire begins to wonder if she has the strength and knowledge to fight the terrible threat of their dark powers.
The Wyrd of Willowmere
Sixteen-year-old Claire Norton has come to terms with her new identity as a twice-reincarnated witch, but many things in her life continue to haunt her. Though she now believes her mother fled years ago in order to protect her family from the evil Dark Circle coven, Claire is still no closer to finding her. And although the head of the coven has been weakened by the harmful after-effects of his own black magic, the sinister young warlock Nicholas van Buren is poised to take over as heir apparent. As well, Claire must confront her growing feelings for a boy at her high school and her desire to get closer to him while at the same time trying to keep him safe from the supernatural dangers that surround her.
What shape will her final destiny take? Will Claire be able to defeat her enemies and enjoy a normal life at last—or will the ultimate sacrifice be demanded of her?
I must say, after reading through those synopses and refreshing my memory, I see a lot of similarities with Alyson Noel's Immortals series... though this series was written years earlier. There's the reincarnation aspect (though it's done better here) and also the alternate dream-like dimension that Claire visits that is very much like Summerland. Now that I think about it, it's no wonder I was so disappointed with Evermore and Blue Moon; I was expecting something similar to the Willowmere Chronicles!
One refreshing aspect of this series is Claire's quest to find her mother. In a lot of YA books, we have the absent-parent syndrome. This is somewhat the case here (simply due to the nature of the story), but Claire's parents are important to her. Her father even gets involved when he believes his daughter is in danger. It's nice to see parents who aren't completely oblivious to the fact that their teenagers are out risking their lives while trying to save the world.
Another thing I liked about this trilogy was that it wasn't focused around a hot supernatural guy that the heroine pines over for a few thousand pages. There is romance, of course, but it's not hitting you over the head. These books were written years ago (the first being published in 2002), so perhaps the "template" for YA paranormal romance hadn't yet been set in stone.
In any case, these three books are a fun read with a satisfying wrap-up at the end of The Wyrd of Willowmere. If you enjoy books like Twilight, Evermore, Wicked Lovely, or Hush, Hush, you'll probably find something to like here.