Review: So Mote It Be by Isobel Bird

Note: This is an ancient review, originally published 10 March 2001, that I’m just now converting to WordPress.

Last night I took advantage of the quiet due to having two kids gone on a camping trip to read So Mote It Be, the first book of Isobel Bird’s Circle of Three series.

I’d heard about this series on a couple of pagan mailing lists, but nobody seemed to have actually read them yet. I was, however, somewhat intrigued by the thought of a Wiccan (supposedly one with 20 years of experience and a good reputation) writing books aimed at the teen market that loves Charmed and Buffy and so on. The books were supposed to be better done and more responsibly written than the similar series Silver Ravenwolf has started, and I knew my daughter would be wanting to read them as soon as she saw or heard about them, so I figured I’d go ahead and screen book one.

(Yes, we do generally screen music, books, and movies before our kids are exposed to them—we don’t censor much except graphic violence, but we do choose to discuss our concerns about various media very openly with our kids.)

I don’t really like teen genre books—it’s been a few too many years since I obsessed over looking right at school and whether a particular person would ask me to a dance for me to relate. And I didn’t even like the few that were out when I was a teen—I was reading C.S. Lewis, Robert Heinlein, Frank Herbert, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. But I was pleasantly surprised that the book wasn’t that painful, and for the genre, it was really very well done.

As a pagan, I was impressed with how the rule of three and the rede were worked into the novel and made very real. The main character is Kate, and her conflict between being drawn to Wicca (which is presented as a religion) and being a fairly devout Christian is handled delicately and certainly not resolved in the first book, which is, I think, realistic. Kate’s fears of being ostracized if her old friends (the popular crowd in their high school) found out she was practicing witchcraft are very real. The practicing Wiccans are portrayed very positively, and tarot reading is presented as a method of exploring choices and gaining insight rather than some silly card trick.

In short, I have absolutely no reservations about letting my 10-year-old daughter read this book and the others in the series (although I plan to read them, as well, first.) I do think the appeal of the books will be among 9–12-year-olds, but realize that my perceptions there may be skewed. (Katie just bought her own copy of The Mists of Avalon because she loves that book so much, so she isn’t really reading on what the public school system would consider her “grade level.”)

I did have two little gripes about the books—the author must not know many 9-year-olds, because she portrayed one briefly with behavior and dialogue more appropriate to a 5-year-old. Our kids are 9, 10, and 12 and we have another 9-year-old who spends a lot of time here. We host kids’ gaming groups here every weekend or at least every other weekend when 10 to 15 kids who are 8 to 13 years old are here for much of the weekend. I know kids in that age range very well and don’t know even one who would even think of speaking the dialogue given to Meg. And the idea that the main characters found a book of spells in their high school library tripped my unbelievability trigger—do you really think any public school in the US would have such a thing on their shelves in this day and age when even Madeleine L’Engle is often considered too witchy?

Anyway, we’ll probably be buying the other books in this series as they come out, and I can only recommend them to other parents and their young readers. Do read them and discuss them with your kids. If your kids like these, I’d suggest that they check out Diane Duane’s Wizardry series, too (So You Want to Be a Wizard is book one) and maybe the Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones. Robin Wood’s marvelous examination of ethics, When, Why… If, also provides excellent material for family discussions (and if the characters of So Mote It Be had read Robin’s book first, there probably wouldn’t have been a plot).

Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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