Book Review: Archibald Finch and the Lost Witches

Welcome, Story Lovers! 

In this episode, I discuss this action-filled middle grade fantasy book, Archibald Finch and the Lost Witches by Michel Guyon. If you’d prefer to listen to this review, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. (This is a spoiler-free post.)

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Archibald Finch and the Lost Witches by Michel Guyon

Published: October 2018
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Format: Paperback
My Rating: Leave It
My GR Rating: 3/5 ⭐

Book Synopsis: 

After Archbald’s grandmother dies, his family inherits her estate. He and his family move into the huge mansion, and Archibald begins to explore his new dwellings. 

We learn that Archibald is not the most popular kid in school. In fact, he gets teased a lot about his name, and he gets bullied on a regular basis. He also has a reputation for being the teacher’s pet. Part of this reason is that he’s really smart and knows everything about everything, which can be quite annoying at times. His peers call him a “dweeb” and “brownnoser.” 

He is also a curious kid, but he doesn’t like to take risks and gets scared pretty easily. However, after learning about his mom buying Christmas presents, Archibald decides to snoop through the mansion for his presents when he discovers a unique, old globe. Without realizing what he’s doing, he activates this magical globe and is transported into another world called Lemurea. 

Lemurea is a realm where witches have been sent to be protected from witch hunters and have been there for about 500 years. We also learn about Marodors, which are these huge, vicious dragon-like creatures that terrorize the witches. This battle between the witches and these creatures has been going on for hundreds of years. Archibald meets a bunch of young witches and quickly forms friendships with them, and eventually, he learns about their world and how to fight these monsters with them. 

Once Archibald arrives in the fantasy world, the storyline splits and goes between Archibald’s adventure and Hailee’s story in our world, where she’s trying to figure out what happened to her brother, where he went, and how to get him back. So there is jumping around from chapter to chapter.

Overall Opinion: 

I’ll be honest, I struggled with this book. Initially, I bought it because of the cover art and illustrations inside, and the plot sounded interesting. But, once I started it, I had a hard time sticking with it. But it is quite an action-adventure fantasy story. It’s pretty unique and very creative.

Book Details: 

  • Length – It’s a normal-length book at 331 pages. However, the chapters are super long, too long, in my opinion. Some chapters can be 20-30 pages. There are breaks within the chapters, but they are some of the longest chapters I’ve come across in a book. The author could’ve doubled the chapters and made them a lot shorter.
  • Writing style – This is the first book for this author, and it can be quite noticeable. It’s not the easiest thing to read, especially for a kids’ book. 
  • Cover art – Aside from an intriguing plot, the cover art is what sold me on buying this book. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful! I almost wished this was a short picture book than a middle-grade chapter book. 

What I Didn’t Like About It:

  • As I mentioned, there are two parallel stories going on, and it gets a bit frustrating because just as you get into one story, you change pace in the next chapter, and so on. 
  • The story started out intriguing, but I had a really hard time getting into Archibald’s story once he landed in Lemurea. It’s a very strange world, and I had a hard time visualizing this place. I think it was a little too fantastical for me.
  • The names of the creatures and the different parts of the lands were weird and hard to pronounce. Half the time, I just skipped over the strange names. Also, the witches spoke in a weird way at times, using strange words, and I just started to get annoyed by this language. 
  • The characters were a little flat and one-dimensional for me, especially the witches. We get a little more character arc with Hailee and Archibald, and we do see some character development for these two characters, but not really anyone else. Also, the character interactions were a little strange as well as the dialogue. 
  • I found Archibald a bit annoying, especially at the beginning of the book. He’s this know-it-all, bratty kid that I didn’t find very likable at first, but he did grow on me by the end. I cared enough for him that I didn’t want something bad to happen to him. Also, some of the witches are a bit annoying as well. 
  • The pacing in the first half was too slow for me, part of the reason I almost gave up on it. It does pick up in the second part of the book, but the first half was a little too slow for me. 
  • The ending is not complete; it leaves you with a cliffhanger, which made me feel, as a reader, cheated. I spent all this time with these characters in their worlds, and I didn’t even get a satisfying conclusion. It felt like a TV series where the last episode of the season ends with a cliffhanger, and now we have to wait until season two to find out what happened. There were a lot more questions unresolved than any resolution. I’ve read a lot of books in series, and they all have some kind of resolution by the end and feel complete, but this one didn’t. 
  • The writing felt a little amateur and could’ve used some finessing from a professional editor. There were some parts that didn’t make much sense. Also, it jumps around between past and present tense and is hard to follow at times, but most of it is in the present tense, which I thought was very odd. I’m used to reading books in the third person in the past tense – that’s my preferred POV. (I did read some reviews that said this was a translated book, so maybe it was the fact that it wasn’t translated well by a professional editor.)
  • I also felt like the author did too much telling and not enough showing. The author overexplains things where it doesn’t feel necessary. For example, there was a section where he explained what the Mona Lisa is and the Sphinx is. But kids reading this book are probably around 12 to 14 years old and probably already know this information. It felt a little preachy at times. 

What I Liked About It: 

  • The cover art and internal illustrations by Zina Kostich are top-notch. As I said earlier, it’s really what made me buy this book. They are beautiful and really help to tell the story. When I couldn’t visualize some of the monsters and creatures, the illustrations really helped. I actually wish there were more illustrations, and it was an almost half picture book. It gave me vibes from Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. 
  • At about 40% into the book, I almost gave up on reading it because I just couldn’t get into it, but what kept me going was Hailee’s story. I really enjoyed her story in the real world more than the story with Archibald in the fantasy world. She started out as your typical teenager who is always on their phone and doesn’t want much to do with the family. But when Archibald goes missing, we follow Hailee on her adventure, where she meets a boy her age, and they try to figure out this mystery of where her brother went and how to get him back. You see her mature and grow up as she is thrown into this detective role. 
  • However, once I was about 50-60% into the book, I finally got more invested and interested in the story and knew that I would finish the book. It did get a little better, and the pace picked up. I enjoyed the plot twist toward the ending. 
  • It is very creative and imaginative. I read some other reviews where people were comparing it to Harry Potter, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and A Series of Unfortunate Events.  
  • Good universal lessons and themes, especially for kids: teamwork, learning from your mistakes, being your own teacher and learning from each other – observing, listening, and sharing. 

Why You Should or Shouldn’t Read It:

If you like highly magical fantasy worlds, action-adventure stories, and don’t mind weird names and silly words, then you may enjoy this book. 

Final Thoughts:

As I said in the beginning, I really struggled with liking this book. I wanted to, I really did, but by the end, it was just meh for me. I don’t know if I will read the sequel. Part of me wants to know what happens since I’ve already invested time into this story, and I feel a little obligated to finish it. But another part of me is glad it’s over, and I’m ready to move on to better stories. I do have the sequel in my wishlist on Amazon, but I don’t know if I will buy it.

If you’re interested in this book, you can purchase it here.

*Please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program and a member of other affiliate programs. I may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made through links in this article.

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