Review of House of Ivy & Sorrow by Natalie Whipple

House of Ivy & SorrowHouse of Ivy & Sorrow
By: Natalie Whipple
Release Date: April 15th 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Electronic ARC via Edelweiss

An electronic copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Rating:

Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

My Thoughts:
Sadly, House of Ivy & Sorrow didn’t blow me away. I enjoyed the beginning and had high hopes for this book based on those initial feelings. The writing started off strong, with beautiful descriptions and an intriguing concept. I loved Whipple’s take on witch’s magic being dark. So to cast spells and call upon their power there had to be payment often including pain or other negative consequences. I thought I was ramping up to read a dark, witch tale but the further I read the more juvenile the story became.

Granted, this book is targeted to the young adult audience so I should have expected it to have a less mature feel. For some reason the plot and character interactions felt very hollow. I never once became connected to any of the characters and some of their actions and reactions were ludicrous. As mentioned above the price for magic was steep and so there are occasions where the main character and side characters have to mutilate themselves for spell components. This aspect didn’t faze me…what did get to me was the glossing over of the pain and the lack of seriousness paid to what they were doing. It all seemed so easy which, for me, pulled away from the brunt of the reason behind the sacrifice to begin with. I wanted more angst, pain and depth.

Jo, our main character, often times missed obvious clues that I felt she should have seen. This was cause for a bit of frustration on my part but overall she wasn’t a bad character. She did fall into some YA tropes though, the biggest being ugly duckling that happens to blossom (in one night) into the most beautiful girl in town. The romance was really lacking for me as well. They fall head over heels over each other but I never felt anything between them. I think a love triangle was hinted at but it never felt realized to me since I didn’t feel chemistry between anyone.

The entire reading experience was not negative since some of the ideas behind this story were interesting and I was invested enough to continue reading to find out the mystery behind the main plot. I feel that there will be people that will enjoy this book if they can find a connection to the main character, enjoy some of the more high school moments and find the conclusion fulfilling rather than a little too neatly tied up.

Final Thoughts:
I was disappointed with House of Ivy & Sorrow because the characters felt hollow to me and many of the situations seemed juvenile and under-emphasized. I wanted a bit more depth and darkness because the moments Whipple did share were well done.


  1. says

    It’s so unfortunate that you didn’t like House of Ivy and Sorrow. I think it looks intriguing, and like it might be a good book to read when I’m in the mood for something atmospheric. I do get frustrated with oversimplifications and underdeveloped characters, though. Hopefully I connect to the main character more than you, if I read it! Thanks for the review!

    • says

      I hope you enjoy it much more than I did. If you can connect to the MC I bet you’ll have a much better go of it. Good luck and I’d be curious to hear what you think!

  2. says

    NOBODY likes this book. And that’s really sad b/c the blurb sounds great. I know what you mean about expecting less mature situations in YA, but like you, a lot of times I don’t b/c there’s so much good YA, fantasy especially, that is very mature in content. That’s why I read a lot YA fantasy and scifi and not contemporary. I’m sorry this was such a let down, but thanks for the honest review!

    Jessica @ Rabid Reads

    • says

      I’ve yet to see a positive review either. It just wasn’t that good 🙁 It started off pretty good but bleh. The further I read the worse it got (for me anyways). I’m with you–the majority of the YA fantasy is more mature and it’s a favorite of mine too.

  3. says

    I’m so sorry to hear you didn’t love this one. I have it preordered and given the amount of not so positive reviews I’ve read for this one, I’m not looking forward to it as much now… I can only hope it’ll work a lil better for me!
    Great honest review, Kristen!

  4. says

    Interesting, I keep seeing not great reviews for this one, but I wonder if I’ll feel the same now since I do enjoy younger books (MG even). Do you think that would make me like this one more?

    • says

      I don’t know Anya. It didn’t really feel MG it just wasn’t that great? I’ll be curious if you will like it…I’m betting it won’t be a favorite of yours but I hope I’m wrong.

  5. says

    Sorry this wasn’t for you — I didn’t request it. I’ve also been having the “too young for me” reaction to a few books recently. I know that YA ranges from 12-adult, but that’s a big spectrum and it’s helpful to know which books fall more on the young teen end of it.
    Jen @ YA Romantics

    • says

      Yes, it really is a very wide range. I tend to enjoy the more mature books. I’d love to see someone that really did enjoy it and read their review. Perhaps I shall check GR 🙂

  6. says

    I’m always wary when it comes to books about witchcraft. For a long time these books weren’t my thing at all but today I at least get to read some that I like. That’s why I wanted to wait and read some reviews before I got this one. I mean the cover is very compelling but I guess I’ll stay away from this one then. The characters are the most important part for me in a book and when they feel hollow I don’t think I would enjoy the story.

    • says

      Cover is VERY compelling. The title works for me too…I had pretty high hopes and with poorly developed characters I just couldn’t get invested.

  7. says

    Aw, I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this book much Kristen. Though yeah. I’ve seen a lot of people unhappy with it. So I pretty much know that I would not like it as well, hih 🙂 It just sucks when you cannot connect with the characters. Sigh. Anyway. Amazing review. <3 thank you for sharing 🙂

    • says

      I hadn’t read any reviews before I started so went into it thinking it would be great. I wish I could have enjoyed it more. I doubt you’d like it Carina.

  8. says

    For me, I really detested this one. It was way too fluffy to the point where i wanted to puke and didn’t feel YA at all. Should have been categorised under MG, in my opinion. I agree with what you said about the romance. I just wasn’t seeing the chemistry.

    Great review, luv! <33

  9. says

    Great review! I hated this book haha. I agree that the darkness of the magic is compelling – at first I was really into it but the silliness and MG feel of it all really caught me off guard and had me rolling my eyes so much! Jo was such an idiot, right? Omg! Haha. I also expected a very gothicky novel so my expectations def. weren’t met which I’m sure affected my not liking the book.

    • says

      I rolled my eyes so much too…it made me so sad because it had potential. I would have loved for it to have been more gothic than silly. It really did just feel comical (but not in a good way). This was my first Whipple book so perhaps her style is more MG and light hearted? I just wanted something so much deeper.

  10. says

    I’m so disappointed that this is yet another unsatisfying witch story. I really enjoy reading about magic, witches, and what not, but the newer releases regarding this theme all seem to have failed miserably and fell into some hopeless romance drama. I hope I can find a good one soon!

    • says

      Have you read Half Bad? It was darker and I enjoyed it for the most part…it wasn’t centered on the romance so that was refreshing. I feel that the witch trope has so much more to offer and it just hasn’t been realized. Maybe sometime soon!

  11. says

    The summaries for this author’s books always sound great, but then I start seeing reviews like this. I’m not partial to witch stories, but I was hoping this one would be good, especially with that cover. Thanks for your honest review…and for helping me mark another book of the review pile, sad as it is. 🙁

    • says

      This one was pretty much a bummer. I wanted so much more depth and less of a MG feel. This was my only Whipple book I’ve read so I had no clue about her style. Wondering if they are all written in the same style?

  12. says

    I’ve heard not so good things about this one and I know I will definitely skip this one.
    Wow, glossing over the pain and consequences of casting magic? That’s pretty bad; If I read a book about magic, I’ll be very interested in seeing the consequences, not having it glossed over and barely looked upon.
    Add a clueless main character (I can’t stand people who are totally and completely clueless) and a sparkless romance, and yep, I will definitely avoid this one.
    Too bad I’m not reading this one; the cover is PRETTY.

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