The Black Witch by Laurie Forest will unsettle some. It is both fantasy and allegory. As a fantasy, The Black Witch provides intriguing characters, excellent world-building, and a suspenseful plot. As an allegory, it is an examination of a xenophobic world that ascribes to a superior race doctrine and of the young people who, despite their differences and long-held prejudices, learn to accept others and commit to a resistance of the regime.
Most of Gardneria still reveres the Black Witch who saved them during the Realm War, but Elloren has been sheltered from that sycophantic admiration. She has also had the advantage of her uncle's care which has shielded her from the worst of a society that degrades minorities.
When Elloren finally gets her wish to attend university to study to be an apothecary, she meets the kind of prejudices her country has instilled. She must acknowledge that those prejudices are reciprocal: those that vilify other cultures are vilified in turn. Being the granddaughter of the Black Witch is admired by Gardnerians, but other cultures despise the connection. It isn't an easy lesson, but Elloren does learn, slowly and painfully, that preconceived ideas about other races works both ways.
Allegories can be preachy, but The Black Witch provides interesting characters and a suspenseful plot that we know will reach beyond discrimination of different races/cultures (Elves, Fae, Lupines, Kelts, and "mixed breeds") to something far worse.
I thoroughly enjoyed the novel, even as I felt it to be a bit didactic, because it so clearly fits our own era of divisiveness and fear of others. As a YA novel, it has both good lessons and an exciting story.
Read in July
YA/Fantasy. May 2, 2017.