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Gindlina: Good Witch of the West

The hardest part about being a reviewer is that sometimes you get to know an author long before you have the opportunity to put a review in writing. By then, the issue is that no matter what you write for the author, it will be colored through the eyes of friendship.

Everyone knows that I would never consider a review of something that I didn't enjoy or wasn't well written but not something that I would normally read. With life getting crazy, I got buried and I am happy to say that I am unburying. In the process, I discussed the want I had to review this Vella with Zombie Phreak.

With his help, we have something amazing put together which comes from him outside of the eyes of friendship.

I have to tell you, it's been really hard because I love getting to know authors and keep making amazing new friends.

So ... while we were off taking a week completely unplugged, Zombie Phreak wrote an amazing review of Gindlina: Good Witch of the West by Azrielle Lawless.

What I can tell you is the thing that drew me to this Vella is strictly the title. That happens on occasion.

Those of you who know me... well you know there was an audition once upon a time. You also know that I love Wicked. In a lot of ways the Witches of Oz were one of the things that shaped my early adulthood.

Because of this, I'm always drawn to characters who are amazing strong female leaders. There's nothing like it in my eyes. You probably see that in Exile despite Eden's occasional far too human reactions despite not exactly being human.

It's the draw to this story with all of it's moving pieces that comes from the magic of Azrielle's story telling and not necessarily the magic the characters hold themselves. So, let's get into that blurb so that I can share with you the amazing Nitty Gritty put together by our amazing Zombie Phreak.

Well hello again friends! Once more, I am stepping outside of my usual area of expertise that involves armies of rotting reanimated corpses that hunger for human flesh and reviewing a different type of book.

The Vella for today is, “Gindlina: Good Witch of the West.” As of the writing of this review, there are twelve chapters out, so that is what this review is based on. Like I said before, if something cool happens later in the story, I’m sorry, but my Delorean is still in the shop, and the Department of Energy has yet to approve my request for some Plutonium. (Damn bureaucracy…).

Now there is something that I want to address right away. Many people in their reviews of stories where there are young witches or wizards in school, people will often say that, “Oh they are just copying Harry Potter.” Or, “Yeah this is just a Harry Potter clone.” First of all, just because one franchise about a young magic user in school was popular, that doesn’t mean that there can’t be others in that genre that go the same route. So, I say to people who think like that, hey… don’t do that. Not cool my friend. Now that we have that out of the way, on with the review!

The year is 1845 and right off the bat we are introduced to Gindlina, our main character. And how do we meet her? Why this scrappy little thirteen-year-old is in a fight defending her father’s honor from another child. A boy who insists Gindlina’s father is a “Dirty old magician!” And right away, I could completely relate to this little girl. As a child I got into a few scuffles, both verbal and physical, over whose dad could out do someone else’s dad, and essentially who had the cooler dad. (To this day I insist mine was the best of the best). And this little girl isn’t afraid of a fight, she gives out as good as her classmate, Harold, can and refuses to back down from him. So yeah, right away I like this kid!

However, during the fight, our young witch Gindlina bites Harold, and this causes some of her saliva to get into his blood stream and poison him and he becomes very sick. Hmmm… a poison that passes from one carrier to another via bodily fluids through a bite and can be fatal to the victim. Oh yeah, you know what I am thinking! *wink* But alas, Harold doesn’t become one of the Living Dead and begin searching for human flesh. Instead, as he falls ill, his father finds out what happened to his son and takes him to Gindlina’s family to get his child some help.

Where this story is different from other stories that have the main character and their family living in a world that is different from them, is that Gindlina and her family do take responsibility for Harold’s condition, and Gindlina apologizes. In a few stories that I have read over the years, I’ve seen characters who insist, “We don’t help the peasantry!” Or, “He had it coming, and he got what he deserved.” But right away her mother gets to work undoing the harm that Gindlina unintentionally did to Harold. And this is something I liked. These magic users don’t see themselves as better than everyday non-magical folks. They use their abilities to help heal the damage that one of their own did. And I like seeing characters fix their own mistakes like that. Because as a very wise web-slinger once said, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

And after it’s all said and done, both children agree that their fight was silly, and they both apologize to each other, and you can tell they really mean it and are sorry for what they did. Now it may sound a strange of me to say this… but I hope we see Harold again. I kind of liked him. Because like I said, I like it when a character can admit their mistakes and grow as a result of them.

Also, during the course of the day when she has this fight, we are introduced to her teacher, Miss Abrams, who we find out is also a witch, and in later chapters we find that her family is more than willing to welcome her into the magical life they have, and also help to educate Gindlina in the ways of magic. However, I have to say that it made me chuckle when the author had her teacher be a little harder on her and not call on her as much in order to not show favoritism. Moving on we are introduced to another member of Gindlina’s magical family, Evgeny, her ten-year-old little brother who is an eighty-year-old ghost.

And here you thought your family was weird! Try explaining that one to your friends when you have them over for the holidays next time!

If you are wondering, yes, her parents are both magic users as well. Moving on we find out that her father has brought news that the family is going to have plans to move to Chicago. Her father has gotten a new job and the family will be moving soon. Some family members are excited, some are not because they do not like change that much. And hey we all can relate. Some of us embrace change, while others like things to stay the way they are. This is a good plot device that lets us, the reader, know that there is change coming in these characters’ lives

Now I want to get to one of my favorite parts of this story so far. When the family celebrates Samhain and the spirits of their dead relatives come back for one night to visit, that was pure gold! I loved how we got to meet so many unique characters that had so many interesting little quirks about them. On top of that it was nice that the family let Miss Abrams stay and celebrate with them. It is also around this time that we find out that she is what they call a “Spirit Witch,” and her being around as these spirits have manifested, allows them to become more substantial than they have in previous years when they have returned for Samhain. And this makes her very welcome to the spirits! By her being there, they can become more fully manifested. So much so that they can even actually taste the food that is prepared by the living and enjoy it as they used to when they were alive.

It's during the tail end of this celebration that one of the ghosts reveals to Gindlina’s mother that she may know what happened to Miss Abram’s mother, and let’s just say it isn’t very nice. If you really want to know, you’ll have to read the Vella and find out.

Over time Gindlina learns more magic spells and about magic itself and even gets her own wand to use with her magic. It’s nice to see her grow like this and honestly, I liken it to when my father taught me how to use a computer. It opened up a whole new world for me. Sure, I barely knew what I was doing, and I was slowly learning, but I was so excited to be able to use this amazing new skill!

Now chapters 11 and 12 are where things really kick into high gear. You want me to talk about them and let you know what happens? Oh no my friend, if you want to know that, you’ll have to read the story. Trust me, it’s worth the tokens!

Kitty: What was your favorite book growing up? Has that changed as an adult?

Azrielle: When I was a kid I really loved ghost stories. I remember a big anthology of Scottish ghost stories that I read quite a bit and really loved. Other than that, nothing really stuck with me. And over and over I've found what does stick with me is the short story. Which is probably why the ghost stories stuck. I can remember all kinds of short stories that I love - Rocking Horse Winner, Gift of the Magi, and as an adult a short story called "The Man Who Painted the Dragon Greole" has haunted me a few years now.

Kitty: Who is your favorite author?

Azrielle: This is a really tough question to answer. There are a few who vie for top position. Ugh! If pressed, I imagine the top of the heap is Katherine Arden - her set "Midwinter Night Trilogy" is truly inspiring. But then there's Naomi Novik (Spinning Silver, and the Temeraire series), and Robin Hobb (Farseer Trilogy and many more) FFS, and then there's Jonathan Stroud with his enormously entertaining, endearing and timeless YA books (Bartimeus, et al) and I haven't even touched the indie writers yet. Just saying, there are a lot of greats out there.

Kitty: Have these books or authors influenced your writing style?

Azrielle: I'd say my long list of favorite writers has definitely subconsciously influenced my writing style and I certainly hope it's true. Insofar as conscious influence, no. I've always had a lot of stories rattling around in my head.

Kitty: After speaking with you, you mentioned you were taking Russian language lessons. Have these lessons helped inspire your Vella?

Azrielle: Oh, absolutely! Thank you for asking - yes. I am a Russophile from way back - and I wanted to write something with a Russian theme. This is certainly where the influence of Katherine Arden and Naomi Novik can be seen. Our stories are all wildly dissimilar, yet still about Russians in an alternate past.

Zombie Phreak: If the series goes on long enough, will we see Gindlina possibly be interested in boys (or girls)?

Azrielle: Yes, indeed you will. And others as well. There are a lot of strong characters riding in Gindy's wake that have their own lives to live which we will be a part of. Gindy's got a looooooong arc. I've three full books planned so yes, Gindy gets a beau. Olya, her little sister who is partly possessed by a personality that has leaked out of her akashic record, will get the girlfriends.

Kitty: Do you have a favorite serial that you would like to recommend to other authors?

Azrielle: Oh wow.... like the books there are so many. Let's see... There's Chris Opaki with Humans are Scary with a surprising little goblin dude as a main character, there's Dark Family Secrets by Hoyt Hallford and he has a couple others as well, A People's History of Magic by Kendra Griffin is a rising star in my purview, and, if it doesn't seem too needy, The Explorers. It's all about the tension and buildup and good story-telling in these serial flows, and the ones I've mentioned have it.

Kitty: How do you feel about Kindle Vella?

Azrielle: WE are the providers of all the content they are trying to amass. And they know they are not perfect so they pay us a compensatory bonus until they get it all good and figured out and internationalized like some of the larger competition they are going after with this platform.

Kitty: Do you have plans for serial fiction outside of Kindle Vella?

Azrielle: At this time, no. I'm gonna ride Zon and see how far she'll take me. I'm just coming back to writing after a 26 year dead zone, so takin' it slower than the younger faster authors who seem to have it all dialed in on multiple markets. SLOW DOWN SONNY! You're makin' this old woman dizzy.

Zombie Phreak: What is your plan for the zombie apocalypse?

Azrielle: Geez well....I tell ya..... if it comes to that, I've seen enough movies that I think I'll just run my ass out to the first sucker who shows up draggin' his feet and greeting me with "uuuuuuuuhhhhhhh" and get myself BIT! Screw this fear and hiding and stuff. Oh no. Not for me.

Zombie Phreak: If you could sit down and have dinner with any one author, living or dead and there was no language barrier, who would it be?

Azrielle: I would kill somethin' to sit down with Katherine Arden for a few hours. I get the feeling we would talk until the light was gone and returned again.

Kitty: If you could go back in time and tell yourself anything about becoming a writer and your writing career, what would it be?

Azrielle: OMG! DON'T STOP because of those A-holes at that major publishing company whose name I won't say for obvi reasons. Keep writing! Let the kids wear Goodwill! Keep writing! Keep writing, ya numpty! Keep writing! and follow your dream BEFORE you're 110 years old.

Kitty: Finally, if you could tell your readers anything about yourself, what would it be?

Azrielle: Hi ya'll. I wanna write for ya! I have so many stories to tell, I just want you to read them. And I'm honored beyond my ability to express when you do. So I guess the real thing I would say is thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading my stuff. You make me cry in that good way.

You can find Azrielle Lawless on Instagram, FaceBook and TikTok.

You can find her serial fiction on Amazon including: Gindlina: Good Witch of the West, The Agent, The Naughty Witches’ Finishing Academy, Heaven is Hypixel: Hell is LAG and Millicent Miggles - The Yuletide Witch, an adorable children's story celebrating the return of the Oak King and has arrived just in time for the season.

We've got a bunch of interviews back and that means I have a handful of reviews that will be coming up in January. Are you excited? I know I am! Don't forget to hit that subscribe button on our news letter and we'll keep you up to date on all things coming to Kindle and Coffee!

Until next time, may you have some amazing holiday adventures!

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