Review: The Few

Posted October 23, 2015

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Few The Few by Cathy McSporran
Published by Freight Books on 1st October 2015
Genres: YA
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher

Maggie thinks she is an ordinary teenager. But, when she loses her father in the evacuation of France in the summer of 1940, she discovers within herself a devastating power that could change the future of the war.

To defend the country in its hour of need, she must join a special group of wizards tasked with stopping the Gothi, a coven of German teenage necromancers led by the goddess Freya, hell-bent on crushing British resistance.

As the Battle of Britain rages, Maggie meets and falls in love with Polish Spitfire pilot Michal. Will she be able to keep Michal safe? Will she, her brother and their friends manage to fight the overwhelming occult forces of the Nazi witches channeling the power of the ancient Aryan goddess Freya?

I recently realised that I don’t read enough work by Scottish authors. So, in a bid to rectify this, I read The Few by award winning Scottish writer Cathy McSporran. Her publisher Freight Books (who are Glasgow-based) kindly sent me a copy of this, her second novel and the first book in a new series.

The Few is set in the south of England during World War 2. It’s the story of Maggie, a seemingly ordinary teenager who discovers that she has incredible powers. It is a little known fact that Winston Churchill consulted witches during WWII (I didn’t know this, did you?), McSporran has used this historical fact as the inspiration for The Few, combining real-life historical fact with an interesting fantastical element of witchery.

I think it’s best to start by saying that I really wanted to love this. I love the concept and there are elements of the book I really enjoyed, but sadly it just didn’t grip me in the way I wanted it to. It’s a Young Adult book though, and though it pains me to say it, I’m definitely not a young adult any more. Perhaps this was part of the reason it wasn’t really for me?

Maggie is a seventeen old girl who lives with her father, brother and grandmother on the south coast of England. Her father takes his boat across to Dunkirk to help retrieve survivors, unbeknownst to him his children are hidden in the boat. When the boat comes under attack, Maggie finds an unknown power deep within herself which staves off the attack. In doing so she has caught the eye of a Major and soon finds herself being shipped to London, where she discovers that she isn’t the only one with such powers. Together, this select group are expected to pull together and help to save their country.

Meanwhile, in Germany, there is a similar band of witches, whose intention is the destruction of Britain.

As ever, I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot. Let me just mention the issues I had with this book, and please if you have read it do tell me what you think because I’m fairly sure this is probably just me.

The ‘romance’ in this book was an issue for me but not in the way you might think; it wasn’t overpowering, it was “instalove”. For all I knew Maggie & Michal had just met, barely spoken and next thing they are completely in love. That just didn’t work for me. It was one of a few things in this book that I just though “whoa, where did that come from?”

I think I would have appreciated more detail in some places in this book, and less in others. At points it felt almost “middle grade” with detail and explanation – which I had no issue with until we suddenly go from a MG-like feel to YA with being “shit-faced” and sex. I don’t know if I’m explaining myself here. I just felt it wasn’t quite consistent.

HOWEVER, I feel like I’ve been rather negative and I certainly don’t want that to be the only thing that comes across because I did enjoy this book. I think it is a book that tackles some very important issues. First of all, it brings historical awareness to a YA level. Although it’s a fantasy novel, it is built upon historical fact. So it’s educational in terms of the way civilians lived during the war, as well as the life of spitfire pilots, the evacuation of Dunkirk and Nazi beliefs and actions.

It touches upon conscientious objection too, as Maggie’s father is a “conchie”. This in turn, leads to her and her brother being treated differently / bullied by locals. It also deals with children whose mother has left them, loss, relationships with grandparents and being different, among other issues.

There is fact intertwined with the fantasy in this novel. It’s a book that educates and addresses important issues while weaving the web of the plot.  While I may not have loved it as I had hoped I would, I did enjoy it. I just wish it had been a little more fleshed out in places.

Have you read The Few? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

EDIT – Oh and right now Freight Books are giving away 5 copies on Goodreads – 4 days left to enter (GB only)