House of Ivy & Sorrow

House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple
Published: 4-15-2014 by HarperTeen
Get the book: AmazonThe Book Depository

Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.


Design – Erin Fitzsimmons     Lettering – Sasha Prood     Photo – Mark Owen      Rating – 5/5

I really like the detailed hand lettering of the title, the flowery vines branching off of the words, and the unique color scheme. It’s unlike any of the other covers in the YA market right now. I really can’t tell what the photo in the background is of – maybe some treetops and sky – but I do love the blue/green color and the strange shapes of the photo. I like how the flowers are also inside some of the letterforms.

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House of Ivy & Sorrow is a dark story of magic and a curse. Jo lives with her grandmother in a creepy cottage under a bridge, but when a stranger shows up asking about her dead mother, Jo must race to find out how he found her and how to defend her home. Jo and her grandma are the only remaining Hemlock witches, so it falls to Jo to fend off the curse that has plagued their family and defeat the darkness that is slowly encroaching on their home. And speaking of mysterious men, Jo also has to unravel the secrets of the dark Levi and her crush Winn, who just might know more about Jo than she thought.

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  • Levi – Firstly, this is not a love triangle – not really, but there are some lovely sexy bits with Levi. Although I found Winn to be bland and boring, Levi is enigmatic and alluring. He seems like a threat at first, but I think he is a great guy underneath it all. He always shows up to offer to help Jo when she has no other options. I absolutely adored the twist where Levi helped Jo escape from a trap, and also the part where he bargained for a kiss. Really, I found Levi to be so interesting and helpful, while Winn was just boring and largely absent whenever there was trouble.
  • witch lore – Everything in the dangerous mystery surrounding Jo’s family has to do with witch families and the magic passed through each family. I really like the fact that the magic is only passed onto women, especially because so often in fantasy stories everything depend on the man – from inheriting kingdoms to keeping special bloodlines going. It’s also really interesting because the witching families are now few and far between. In the past, they relied on each other for aid and respected each other, but now anyone could be the enemy and there are feuds over the remaining magical properties. 

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  • Gwen + Kat – So, Kat shows up at the wrong place at the right time, resulting in Nana doing some magic to bind her and Jo, so Kat knows all the secret magic things and can look out for Jo. Gwen, however, is just left in the dark and has to deal with her two best friends constantly making excuses not to hang out with her. It’s never really explained why they are leaving Gwen out, except I guess that it’s dangerous and Kat had to pull one of her own fingernails out. Which, by the way, actually turned my stomach. But after all the fighting between the three friends, the final face-off with the villain ends with Gwen and Kat becoming Hemlock witches. So, they all become sisters and it’s all very cutesy and convenient.
  • convenience – There are certainly a lot of complications in Jo’s life, but everything always seems to work itself out at the last moment. For instance, Levi always shows up when Jo is in dire need of help. There always seems to be some last-ditch spell or bit of magic that Jo or Nana can use to get out of a jam. Although there are some close calls, on of which I particularly loved, that vital bit of info is always close by and everything just felt too easy and convenient. 

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My stomach turns as I worry about whether or not Winn can sense my powers. I hate that Levi’s claim about people lying has gotten to me. The way Levi looked at him when we first met screamed of recognition. Levi probably knows how Winn plays into this, and he’s somewhere smiling that evil smile, thinking about how devastated I’ll be when I find out.         – pg. 197

A few drops, and the cauldron bubbles with glee. I pour more of my magic into it until it stabilizes. Then comes the dried hemlock.

“Isn’t that…poisonous?” Kat asks.

I give her a flat look. “No comment on the bear heart, but this concerns you?”     – Kat + Jo    pg. 332

  4robots green

4 Robots

Acquired: bought (ebook)


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