Ryan and his friends don't think twice about stealing some money from a wishing well. After all, who's really going to miss a few tarnished coins?
The well witch does.
And she demands payback: Now Ryan, Josh, and Chelle must serve her . . . and the wishes that lie rotting at the bottom of her well. Each takes on powers they didn't ask for and don't want. Ryan grows strange bumps—are they eyes?—between his knuckles; Chelle starts speaking the secrets of strangers, no matter how awful and bloody; and Josh can suddenly—inexplicably—grant even the darkest of wishes, the kind of wishes that should never come true.
Darkly witty, wholly unexpected, and exquisitely sinister, Frances Hardinge's Well Witched is one well-cast tale that readers didn't know they were wishing for.
About the Author
Frances Hardinge is the celebrated author of Fly By night, Well Witched, and The Lost Conspiracy. She spent her childhood in Kent, England, in a huge, isolated old house in a small, strange village, and from an early age she wrote stories filled with magic and vivid characters. Ms. Hardinge studied at Oxford University, where she was a founding member of a writers' workshop. This is her fourth novel.
Read an Excerpt
The Flight of the Shopping Cart
For a wonderful moment Ryan thought Josh was going to make it. When they had turned the corner to ﬁnd the bus already at the stop, Josh had burst into a run, scattering starlings and shattering puddles. The bus's engine gave a long, exasperated sigh and shrugged its weight forward as if hulking its shoulders against the rain, but Ryan still believed Josh would snatch success at the last minute, as always. Then, just as Josh drew level with its taillights, the bus roared sulkily away, its tires leaving long streaks of dull against the shiny wet tarmac.
Josh chased it for about twenty yards. Then, through the tiny crystal specks of rain that freckled his glasses, Ryan saw his hero stumble, slow, and aim a kick at a lamppost.
The bus seemed to have carried away Ryan's stomach, and the last of the summer daylight. Suddenly the dingy string of shops seemed much colder, darker, and more dejected than before. Ryan could still taste the chocolate milkshake that had cost them their ride, and the flavor made him feel sick.
Behind him he heard Chelle's asthmatic gasping and turned to ﬁnd her fumbling with her inhaler. She took a deep breath, her round eyes becoming even wider for a second so that he could see the whites all around them. She stared at Josh's slowly returning ﬁgure.
"He said . . . Josh said . . . he said that the bus was always late, he said there was time for a milkshake . . . I am sososososososo dead . . . my mum thinks I'm babysitting. . . ." Her pale eyebrows had climbed up her forehead in panic to hide behind her blondbangs.
"Shush, Chelle," Ryan said as kindly as he could. It was hopeless. Chelle was unshushable.
"But . . . it's all right for Josh—everyone expects him to get into trouble. I . . . I don't know how to be in trouble. . . ."
"Shush," Ryan said with more urgency. Josh was almost within earshot. Whenever Josh felt bad about something he had done, he got angry with the whole world, became playfully vicious. Ryan did not want to be stranded in Magwhite with an angry Josh.
They were not meant to be in Magwhite at all.
Magwhite was an almost-place. The gas towers and the railway made it almost part of Guildley. The lurid ﬁelds of oilseed rape that stretched away to the east were almost countryside. The sad little strings of houses, the mini-mart, and the bike shop were almost a village. The towpath walks were almost pretty.
Someone had once been knifed there, or maybe a ﬁnger with a ring had been found on one of the paths, or perhaps the local rugby club came to pee in the canal from the bridge. Nobody could quite remember which, but something had happened to give the name "Magwhite" ugly edges. If Magwhite was mentioned, parents' faces stiffened as if they had picked up a bad smell. It was very deﬁnitely Out of Bounds.
There was nothing much to do there, but its out-of-boundsness made it exciting. Feeding fries to the jackdaws outside the boarded-up Magwhite post ofﬁce was more interesting than feeding ordinary birds in the park. So, ever since the summer holidays had started, the forbidden excursions to picnic by the Magwhite canal had become almost routine.
Magwhite was their place, but now there was nothing Ryan wanted more than to be out of it.
Josh trudged back toward the others, his head bowed, the rain darkening his ﬁerce, blond, scrubbing-brush hair. He seemed to be grimacing at his foot. Maybe he had hurt it against the lamppost. Then he looked up, and Ryan saw that he was grinning.
"'S all right." Josh shrugged and wiped the rain off his yellow-tinted sunglasses with his sleeve. "We'll catch the next one."
Chelle was biting her lower lip, her upper lip pulling down to a point, like a little soft beak. She was trying not to disagree, because she worshipped Josh more than anybody else in the world, but words always seemed to dribble out of Chelle like water from a broken tap.
"But . . . we can't, that was the last Guildley Cityline bus, our return tickets won't work for the Point-to-Point bus, and we haven't got enough money for new tickets for all of us . . . we're stuck. . . ."
"No, we're not." Josh was still smiling. "I have a plan."
It was a simple plan, an odd plan, but it was a Josh plan, so it had to work.
Behind the wall of the mini-mart parking lot, there was a long, tree-tangled slope that ran down to the canal side. In this wood roamed escapee supermarket carts, stripped grass trapped in their wheels, creepers trailing from their wire frames. Josh's plan was to ﬁnd one of these, take it back to the mini-mart parking lot, attach it to the chain of carts outside the entrance doors, and reclaim the coin deposit in the handle slot.
Suddenly everything was an adventure again. The threesome dropped over the wall into the wood and started hunting through the trees.
It was a strange wood, stranger still now the light was fading. Ryan loved it for its litter. Yellowing newspapers nestled in branch nooks, like a crop of dead leaves strangely patterned with print. A sprawling throne of rotten oak trailed dark ivy and coddled a treasure trove of crushed cans. The twigs of one wavering branch had been carefully threaded through the ﬁngers of a red woollen mitten, so that the little tree looked as if it was waiting to grow another hand and start applauding.
"Ryan, you're our eagle eyes, ﬁnd us a cart," said Josh, and Ryan felt an uncomfortable swell of pride and doubt. He was never sure if Josh was making fun of him. "He sees everything different from us, Chelle. 'Cause his eyes, right, they're in upside down. You just can't tell looking at them."Well Witched. Copyright © by Frances Hardinge. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Ariel LopezThis book is a fiction book and has 11 A.R points. I think this book is preety good because it has a little mystery and i like to solve and be challenged by things.Well Witched is based on three kids who are best friends,and they get are about 13. They all need bus money to get home and it turns out that they don't have any. One of the kids who does not really care for what actions he has decides to go down a well to get some change,and that is how the promblem starts. The well has a spirt that grants the wishes,and she gets mad. After they go down the well bad and weird things start to happen to all three of them. They all decide to have a conversation about it and they start to think it is because of the well,so they start to grant the people's coins that they took out of the well. They all do that because they get powers, and that is how it starts. Read it to found out the rest!
This is a very interesting and unique story, excellently written. Weaving Celtic mythology into modern day lives, Frances Hardinge paints a portrait of believable pre-teens and their parents, with the kids swept up in an other-worldly adventure.
Well Witched by Frances Hardinge is about Ryan, Josh and Chelle, three friends who find themselves indebted to a powerful centuries' old water goddess. When the three face possible punishment for being someplace they shouldn't be, their last recourse to obtain the money to get home is Josh's plan: steal coins from the wishing well. The plan by the group's notorious troublemaker unwittingly causes the well goddess, now a twisted and confused being, to require the friends to fulfill the wishes of the coins they took. Endowing them with "powers," the well "witch" compels them to do her will if they ever hope to be released from her service. Ryan, the "smart" one, figures out what they need to do, but soon the wishes that seemed simplistic on the surface begin to go very wrong. People's lives soon hang in the balance. This was a very creepy book. It was marked for ages 10 and up, but it seemed a bit scary to me. I guessed the characters to be around 11 or 12 years old. It reminded me of suspense, horror, and mystery stories all rolled together. I listened to it as an audio book in the car and I felt like I was in a gray cloudy cocoon even when the sun was out. It gave me chills. The writing is descriptive and transports you to that gray world of Well Witched. The theme of water is carried superbly throughout and was probably one of the reasons it felt like a rainy day everytime I listened to it. The characters were three-dimensional and incredibly average which is what makes what is happening to them so extraordinary. Ryan is the character we follow and he has been bullied in the past as well as Chelle. He practices not causing strife even when it is justified. Chelle is a nervous girl who looks to others to validate her. So when Josh, a slightly older boy who-if not popular but given a certain amount of cautious respect from other children-befriends them, he seems like a savior of sorts. Ryan and Chelle follow his lead. But when Josh becomes obsessed and out of control in his pursuit to please the well witch, both Ryan and Chelle must come into their own to save their loved ones, Josh and the wishers. The book was long. There were 8 CDs and at times I wasn't even sure it would end. The plot was structured and flowed but had many unexpected turns. I had no idea which way the story would go at any given part. It was different for a children's book because of the frequently adult situations the children faced. It shows that they are keenly aware and are effected by what adults say and do. I had to finish it to see the outcome, but it took me a month and a half because I didn't want to give my 6 year old nightmares from listening to it. It is an intriguing book that envelopes you in its world. I didn't give it 5 stars because: 1) the target age group did not seem appropriate. The characters were off by themselves traveling by bus to different towns without much comment from the adults. 2) Ryan figures everything out and explains plot points. There is very little that happens that the reader has a chance to figure out on their own. There are very few clues to the mystery part of the story. I recommend this book for readers who like being creeped out by the supernatural. Reviewed by Cherese Vines
Three friends miss the bus. Their tickets are not valid for the next bus and they have no money. They can't call their parents, because they are not supposed to be where they are.
Instead, Josh takes money from the wishing well to pay for the bus tickets.
Little does he know that a witch haunts the well and that she will demand payback. They must use their new powers to grant wishes made with the monies.
However, things begin to go very wrong.
A unique tale, WELL WITCHED examines the realization of magical powers and how quickly they can get out of hand.
I just started 'Well Witched,' and so far, not bad. you really have to read into it though. A lot in the beginning of the book you will find that it is very difficult to comprehend the different scenery changes of the story. The main idea is fantastic in my opinion. But this book is not for kids in 3rd or maybe even 4th grade. A pretty tricky read if you ask me.