There’s a wonderfully magic quality to the story of thirteen-year-old Sadie Mae Stevens in The Gordite Witch.
Forget what you thought you knew about early teen adventure stories. This tale is utterly refreshing and original, never predictable, and showcases a strong — yet vulnerable — female lead character that any young girl can surely idealize.
Sadie is abandoned by her frustrated father, who just can’t wrap his head around Sadie’s decidedly bizarre behavior. After all, how many teens are tasked with saving the world from such offbeat — yet lethal — creatures as hairy, smelly Pigwallers, who deceptively double as human children during the day?
Sadie is forcibly separated from her father and two younger brothers, and shipped off to Daufuskie Island, where a formidable lady named Hanna Freeargo is waiting.
Once there, Sadie discovers the truth: her father has sold her to Freeargo for $10,000 so the unscrupulous woman can perform a wide range of tests on her. The objective: to quantify — and hopefully reproduce — Sadie’s extraordinary powers for personal financial gain. Freeargo hopes to sell the results of her unholy testing regimen to the U.S. Army, which could then create an invincible soldier.
But Sadie is having none of that. Overcoming the evil Ms. Freeargo and a blundering henchman, she escapes, along with three other teens who have been held against their will on the island, and go in search of an ally.
They find two: Dr. and Mrs. Brimm — superbly supportive of the three girls and one boy, who have made their way to the Brimm’s home on the other side of the island. The Brimms, as it turns out, are affiliated with something called the Shiloh Company, which is dedicated to helping extraordinary youth like Sadie and the others.
Harrah, Jalind, and Printa join Sadie in exploring the outer limits of their supernatural abilities under the Doctor’s watchful eye. Things get a bit out of hand, however, when Harrah loses control and transforms into something horrific. A decision is made to send her to a foster home while the other three continue their training with the Brimms.
In the meantime, however, Sadie makes a momentous discovery that forces her to face her frightening fate — she must find and defeat the evil Gordite Witch who killed her mother many years ago.
With this grim task ahead of her, she begins training with an unlikely coach — a green, warty froglike creature named Norris — in the separate reality she visits by teleportation each night while her earthly body sleeps safely in her basement bed at the Brimm’s sprawling ranch home.
This novel takes the reader through the fantastic backstory underlying Sadie’s role here on Earth, making eminently plausible the notion that the planet is protected by people like Sadie, who are descended from the earliest inhabitants of the fabled Atlantis, 25,000 leagues under the sea.
YA readers will be particularly delighted with the intricate and absorbing detail that shines throughout this stellar story. The true-to-life verbal interplay between the teens is especially entertaining, with plenty of smirking, eye-rolling, and good-natured sarcasm at every turn.
Will Sadie fulfill her quest to find and destroy the giant zombie Gordite Witch? Who will help her in her time of triumph — or heartbreaking failure?
Getting to the surprising end is only half the fun in this five-star read. You won’t find many better YA books than The Gordite Witch.