Beyond the Wicked Willow: Chronicles of a Teenage Witchslayer by M.J. RocissonoJoe Rocissono
Published by BookBaby on September 7th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble
FRANKIE FRETINI has had a horrible year. And, just when he thinks things are looking up, well...all heck breaks loose. It happens in home-ec class just moments after the girl of his dreams, Jenny Moran, invites him to the annual town carnival. Still dazed from the unexpected invite, Frankie accidentally plasters the face of school bully, Brick McDuddy, with a giant scoop of chocolate mousse.
Embarrassed, and fuming mad, Brick plots to deliver his painful revenge at the carnival. When Frankie, and his pals, Sam, Beef, and Bookworm show up to meet Jenny, Brick and his nasty bootlickers, Harold “The Horrible” Dunson and Billy “Scat” Pile, chase them into the eerie tent of an old Gypsy fortuneteller named Mala. Trapped with nowhere to run, Frankie makes a pact with Mala not knowing that he and his pals would be swept through her crystal ball to Medieval Italy. Now, their only hope to return home rests in Frankie's hands. He must kill the evil Italian witch, Il Strega Diavolo, and rescue Mala's twin sister, Tsura. But, can Frankie find the courage to face the Strega?
Review of Beyond the Wicked Willow
Beyond the Wicked Willow: Chronicles of a Teenage Witchslayer is a novel by author M.J. Rocissono. The story follows Frankie Fretini, a fourteen-year old boy who, unbeknownst to him, is destined to find and destroy an evil witch named Il Strega Diavolo. Frankie, still struggling with the death of his father who was killed in Iraq, spends a great deal of time with his best friends- Sam, Beef, and Bookworm. When they’re not all picking on each other and harboring secret crushes (though, I wanted to shake Bookworm a few times when Sam drops obvious hints for her affection), they’re dodging the bullying tactics by Brick McDuddy and his cohorts. It is during one of their mad dashes to get away from Brick at a carnival that they stumble across a fortune teller’s tent and are met by a mysterious, magical gypsy.
This gypsy, Mala, ends up thrusting Frankie and his friends 800 years into the past to medieval Calabria Italy where they are charged with finding her sister Tsura and defeating Il Strega Diavolo- thus ending the evil witch’s reign of terror. As the story progresses, fascinating characters are met, and some even join Frankie and his friends on their quest. For example, there’s Ambroggio- an older, one-eyed man who rescues them near the beginning of the story from wolf shapeshifters (who is harboring a secret of his own), and Capricia- an orphan girl with some serious fighting skills and spunk who is looking for revenge on the wolf shapeshifters and Il Strega for murdering her family. There is also an awkward, and sometimes cowardly knight Giacomo (who grew on me steadily through the story and seriously redeemed himself).
I loved the dynamic between Frankie and his friends. Their bond was strong, and I enjoyed their interactions. Sam, being the only girl among her three friends, is tough and confident. She jumps into the fray, is loyal, fierce, and knows how to hold her own in a fight. Bookworm got his nickname for a good reason- he frequently makes references throughout the story to different facts and tidbits of information- his total randomness was refreshing! Beef was a favorite of mine. He has a HUGE love for food (which, right there, endeared him to me) and is the proud inventor of the snack- S’meeps. I was secretly joyful by the blooming feelings between Beef and Capricia- they are just adorable. Finally, I enjoyed Frankie’s journey- mostly from an emotional and mental standpoint. I watched him grow from an unsure, hesitant boy who has not come to terms with his father’s passing, to a strong, confident young man on the cusp of finally healing. When he met his father in his dream and was told to relay a message to Frankie’s Mom…cue the waterworks!
Beyond the Wicked Willow was a complete emotional rollercoaster and a thrilling, addictive adventure! There were monsters galore spattered throughout the story- I’m talking terrifying spiders and snakes, werewolves, vampiric creatures, ogres, cursed warlords, pirates, and flying beasts. There were moments that made you laugh, moments that made you cry- seriously though, I won’t be able to look at a cypress now without getting teary-eyed, and moments that made your heart pound from the intensity. By the end of the story I already wanted to flip back to the beginning and start the adventure over. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to Frankie and his ragtag crew.
Finally, this quote here completely struck a chord with me:
“You must listen, boy. Life is a crucible. It brims with fierce trials. You must either surmount them or submit to them. A third choice does not exist. There are some things in life that simply cannot be changed.” -Ambroggio to Frankie Fretini.
Five stars for Beyond the Wicked Willow!!