Ratchet the Reluctant Witch by Sara Pascoe is about a few witches and a cat. Rachel Hollingsworth, also known as "Ratchet", is a young, teenage girl who lives in the foster care system. At the beginning of the book, she doesn't know that she's a witch and it freaks her out when she begins developing some powers. Bryony Braxton is Ratchet's social worker, a witch. She has a cat, Oscar who can communicate to both of the witches and has a few snarky comments to add at each twist and turn. Ratchet runs away from her foster parent and finds herself living with a of pair siblings, Ian and Emma, who run a cafe. After an accident, Ratchet and Oscar are transported back in time, with Bryony eventually following to try and help.
The characters are interesting, but I think that they could have used a bit of fine tuning. I didn't particularly find myself being able to relate to Ratchet, and I found her to be somewhat unlikeable. For the majority of the book, she has an attitude and is often kind of rude or disrespectful to people. Especially with Bryony. Though it's essentially Ratchet's fault that they're back in time, she had a tendency to blame Bryony for not being able to do much about it. Obviously there's not much Bryony could have done, but I think what Ratchet didn't see is that Bryony did a lot to help. She did her best to help them "fit in" better during each strange location and did try to make sure that they kept in contact with others that could help. Oscar is a reasonably interesting character, but I thought that he ultimately didn't really add much to the book, apart from the smarminess. He has a microchip which helps the witches contact the future, but I felt that portion was essentially just a device to keep him in the story further when he didn't have much to add. It could be that Bryony could be micro chipped and it would go just as well. As for Bryony, I think that she was made to look a little bit too useless. For a main character, it just seemed like she was being put down too much and that the author didn't have much for her to do apart from being a comedic aspect. Apart from that, each of them has some good points. The other characters were pretty interesting. Ian and Emma were certainly my favourites. I appreciated their bright outlook and their generosity. Pavel was a bit weird and I felt that he had more to offer to the story than being left in the future. It might have been interesting if he were to help train her further during the time travel, with the mind connection. Jake had some interesting scenes, but I didn't feel like he added much; other than to create guilt for Ratchet. I suppose that was a potential reason for her to experience character development, but she didn't change that much over the course of the book. By the end, she still had a poor attitude and chose to make selfish decisions, rather than considering how they might affect others.
The scenes the author creates are almost magical in themselves. She creates beautiful imagery of the places the trio visit and we go on an adventure with them. The plot is interesting and I appreciate that the author has attempted to give a bit of hope to a character which sort of seems to be a lost cause for other characters. I would have liked a bit more focus to be put on Ratchet's mother and to have learnt more of her in the storyline. For the supernatural and magical aspects in the book, I think a lot of them were not explained very well. For example, Ratchet's time travelling was initially explained as related to her emotions and that she experiences the event because she had been severely distraught at the time. Yet, if that were the case, why was she not able to travel again sooner? She was caught by witch hunters and kept in prison, fed only gruel and experiencing a very tragic time. Surely she would be in extreme emotional stress in this portion as well, especially considering that she knew she would be put to death at the end of it. Her next portion of time travel finds her, Bryony and Oscar in Istanbul at around the same period in time. With no real trying, she finds that she's able to understand the local language and speak it back. Bryony makes comment that this is "time traveller's advantage". So essentially, Ratchet took them there so she gets to speak the language. The author manages to create brilliant scenery and explain the displays at great length, but I would trade much of that in order for a better explanation to these magical events. It just seems that any of these magical happenings are just because that's what's fitting at the time. Another example I can think of is Ratchet's abilities to read peoples' coffee cups. It serves a heap of importance to the story, but it also lacks proper explanation as to why she can do such a thing.
Overall, I liked the book. The main characters were misused in my opinion, but there were some interesting characters in the background. I also think that the supernatural aspects could use a bit more work and I would have appreciated better explanations to them. However, I think the book overall is fairly successful and a less critical person than myself should be fairly pleased with it. At the end of the book, it seems like there are several openings for future books in a potential series. I think many of them might work well, not just from a series that might follow Ratchet, but I think it might be interesting to also look into other witches and magical people in the same universe. Should there be a next book, I think I might like to read it.
I won a copy of this book via a First Reads giveaway and these are just my honest thoughts on it.