Witchy Reads for this Autumn (part one)

Witchy books I recommend and a couple I want to get to, along with a few popular ones I disliked. I’ve tried to keep the most fantasy-heavy books out of this list on purpose, and keep it more in the magical realism realm. Also, if you’ve got any recommendations – especially with queer witches – send them my way!

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw (full review) for a magical realism story about a small-town by the sea cursed by witches, the protagonist moving to the lighthouse on the island and uncovering the mysteries behind the magic.

Circe by Madeline Miller (full review) for the greek mythology fantasy set around a girl alienated because of her witchcraft and the great journey of self-discovery unlike much I’ve seen in other books. She’s truly going through the process of owning her powers and deciding what she wants in life while she’s in exile. Also greek gods & protecting yourself from pirates, of course.

The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton (full review) for the peculiar magical realism travelling into the fairytale world while following stories of magic and destinies through generations of witches starting with a girl born with wings.

Witch Child & Sorceress by Celia Rees for the child-friendly witchy book with a historical setting. Actually it was some of the first witchy books I really liked. It’s been a long time since I read them, so I’m not going to vouch for still considering them original enough now, but goodread friends seem to all agree with the child version of me that they’re good. I do think the first book is the best one, told through ‘lost’ journals.

The Last Apprentice series by Joseph Delaney also for the kids, but more scary. It’s about this boy becoming an apprentice, which entails hunting after all kinds of supernatural creatures, including dark witches.As the series continues, we go from a boy getting into a cool, but dangerous job to starting to think about moral questions like ‘are all witches evil?’ as new characters are introduced. Still, this series really manages to incorporate just how terrifying some of the creatures are, becoming lost in the magic. Definitely anti-church in some ways that gives it more negative reviews than it should have. And while it has a lot of supernatural evil, it measures it up against the ‘human’ evil the apprentice & the mentor meet as well in their job. It gives you chills, but also makes you think – at least it did for me as a child.

Other witchy books on my TBR:

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey for its bisexual love interest, magical witchy school and and promise of lots of blood, violence and other questionable things. The protagonist has zero magical skills, but tries to outweigh it by having good detective skills, a drinking problem and when all else fails – a witch sister to help (probably). It’s an urban fantasy/murder mystery standalone, and also contains several f/f relationships.

Of Sorrow and Such by Angela Slatter for the protagonist being a secret witch tired of her patriarchal town’s bullshit, and helping a lesbian shapeshifter during a witchhunt. It’s a novella. I found it trough a list of anti-heroine book recommendations, so excited about finding out the reason for that.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor for the fantasy set in Nigeria where the albino protagonist who recently moved from New York gets bullied, but through finding her magical gifts finds a friend-group and her people. Forming a coven, they start tracking child kidnappers.

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning for the small fishing town, mermaids, princes & a witch mourning a dead friend. It might be somewhat of a Ursula origin story.

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn for the King Arthur legends retold with a black girl as the main character. The death of her mother leads her to an early college program where she meets a witch. Well, it’s more of a fantasy so technically there’s this whole race of people called Legendborns that use magic, but they’re descendants of King Arthur & his knights – so in my head they’ll be witches. Also contains lots of queer kids, secret society politics and demons.

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson for its rebellious feminist biracial main character who is marked as cursed from birth in a dystopian, puritanical society with major abuse of power. It’s a horror story of a fantasy, with promises of being gothic, dark and bloody, set in a secluded village with witches in the forbidden forest & lots of village politics. It’s also a debut novel from an author that seems truly cool.

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw (same author as The Wicked Deep) for the haunted fairytale-like woods, a boy once lost in a snowstorm with no memories of how and a witch falling in love with him as she tries to uncover his secrets.

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco for its sicilian twin witches – streghe – living among humans in the 1800s trying to avoid persecution, until one of them is murdered. A new release with a story of vengeance, sarcastic bad boy demon princes and dark magic.

Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft for a short story collection about witches that I’ve only seen praise about, with a diverse cast of characters. I want to read about all the queer witches.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu for the graphic novel about a Chinese-American teen witch who works at her queer grandmother’s bookshop selling spellbooks and investigating supernatural occurrences. Has a non-binary werewolf main character as well. I can’t wait to get my hands on this, I’m expecting a Kiki’s delivery service type of wholesome vibe, only more demons involved.

Books I disliked, but you might like

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins for the teen drama at a witch & supernatural creatures reform school, complete with ancient secret societies and classmates being attacked. You get what you think you get, if in a very predictable package plot-wise and stereotypical characters (not in a bad way, but in a predictable one). It’s fun, the protagonist self-aware & fast-paced. Good for young teenagers looking for a light read.

Half bad by Sally Green is included on this list only as an excuse to link to my old (like five year old) review ranting about how creepy the writing is. It’s a good example of a book being read and liked by people who doesn’t usually read about witches, just because it’s got enough cliches to be avoided by everyone else. There’s little magic, little back-story or any context clues, a lot of running around, a lot of whining about being half-black half-white* kind of witch making life difficult and a lot of angst and torture for some reason. It has an exciting ending. *Not to be confused with skin-color, the protagonist is white, and also describes the love interest what I considered creepily (and in rhymes), including noting her ‘honey’ skin. 16 year old me thought the racial undertones throughout the whole book was problematic, but I can’t remember enough to conclude anything and don’t want to put myself through reading it again.

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton (full review), same author as Ava Lavender, for its witches living on an island where their magical abilities seem to fade with each generation. My problems came with not being able to know enough to buy into the setting of the island or connect with the cast of characters, I felt they lacked depth.

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland | Review

I haven’t written a review in a month and a half, so I’m pretty sure I’ve forgotten how to.

Pages: 418

Genre: young adult, historical fiction, zombies


Jane McKeene goes to Miss Preston’s School for Combat in Baltimore because zombies have taken over the cities and girls like Jane are needed to stop them. The civil war of America never really ended, the two sides needed to decide the undead had become their biggest enemy. Being the coloured daughter of a white Southern woman has always made Jane’s life difficult, but now people with her skin is treated like they’re disposable, fighting the undead to protect wealthy white people. With her curiousity, spontaneity and fighting skills Jane is caught up in a big conspiracy as families in the town are going missing and certain political groups are promising the return to safety.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

I’d heard a lot of good words before the release of this book and was pretty excited to read about zombies and girls who are awesome at fighting with weapons. My opinions on this book is kind of mixed, both because of not personally matching with the surrounding plot and other things that confused me. It’s still a book I would recommend!

My big problem with historical books and westerns – which this book was going towards the last half – is that it’s so boring to read over and over that the girl is constantly put down. Like there’s no feminism, we get it, stop mixing it into every other sentence. And this book created this balance so well, it made points out of how different this society was from ours, without making it completely unenjoyable reading experience, because Jane and her friends were awesome girls who knew their courage and value. The way it dealt with racism was the same, in that racism was everywhere, as it was one of the main parts of the story. But you still got to see these pockets of coexistence carved out, like the estate Jane left, and how horrifically it could go when someone bigoted and racist was introduced to them. There’s so many horrifyingly racist scenes in here, showing how it tears at the characters, and I think that’s very well done and important.

I love politics in books, usually. But I don’t think this book went deep enough that it mattered much. I’m still confused about how I feel about thins. Maybe I feel like the book alluded to things all the time, but I didn’t really get any message from it except maybe how quick racism can develop in crises when someone need to be blamed and how dangerous division is. It’s certainly a book with a awesome, black heroine. It’s not just a book about zombies, though, but it didn’t quite switch over to politics within the story and like the bigger conspiracies either. I think the mix is what I didn’t like personally – it goes from mystery and boarding school to sudden danger and a more western-like survival story with religious fundamentalists everywhere to full-on war with zombies. With funny, snarky Jane moments sprinkled in there. It sounds interesting, but it’s a lot. While I liked some parts, it felt like others weren’t completely cohesive, which contributed to the feeling of it being a lot put into one book.

I’ll most likely read the next book because I’m curious about where it’s going to go, with Jane and Katherine. I liked Jane sometimes, but the mix of grave danger and humor makes me compare her to like Percy Jackson-type lead characters. I can’t really think of any flaws Jane has that messes up or otherwise interact with the story. Like she talks back to teachers, that’s it. She always takes charge, to great sucess, and while it was a relief to see things go down well, the knowledge that it would because of her drew me out of the story.

The Unbinding of Mary Reade | Review

by Miriam McNamara

Pages: 340

Genre: historical fiction, lgbt




A romantic novel based on the true story of a girl who disguised herself as a boy to sail with the infamous pirates Anne Bonny and Calico Jack—and fell in love with Anne Bonny.

There’s two parallell stories told, the first in 1717 of Mary Reade trying to please her wealthy grandma, dressing up as a boy to have a claim to be her heir. Her childhood friend and love is Nat. In 1719 we meet her again as she’s on a merchant ship, still passing as a boy, until it’s raided by pirates and she manages to join them. She joins after seeing Anne Bonny, the girl of the captain Jack, and becomes fascinated with this female pirate, with a sword and a gun in her hands. Sailing with a crew on the verge of another mutiny, she has to decide if she wants to reunite with Nat, side with the captain or risk everything by going for Anne.


My thoughts

Rating out of five: three stars


This book is a romance, with little action. It has grime and darkness, but it feels like it’s put here obligatory to meet some minimum requirement of being a pirate novel. That said, one thing I found interesting about this book is Anne and Mary returning to Anne’s home, a settlement of religious people where her the husband she escaped from has gathered a lot of influence. Nat – Mary’s childhood crush – also have settled there and the two girls struggle under the mysogynistic principles and ideas of what a woman should be (definitely not a pirate and unmarried). They’re fighting for their independence, realizing they have little to stand up with and that they’re trapped. The hopelessness was so strong in these scenes and broke through the apathy I’d weirdly felt for the characters until that point.

 the characters

Well, I didn’t feel anything for the characters except Anne. Mary first describes her as a independent and fierce girl standing on the deck with a sword and pistol in hand, being the only woman on her crew. She comes soon to realize she’s only there because of Jack’s permission, everyone on the crew apparantly dislikes her for being a woman. Anne doesn’t feel very thought-through as a character, she’s very girly and whiny, it’s like being relatively free on the ship after being beaten by her husband in the town hasn’t changed her at all. There’s no development, she’s uncomplex and flat like many of the other characters. I feel the author adressed this at one point, having Mary notice how Anne was manipulating Jack by being sweet and kissy when Mary was in danger from him.

It’s this weird battle through the book of Anne wanting to be free and independent, not tied to any man, at the same time as she haven’t gathered any skills to make it on her own. Mary is sewing dresses, struggling as the town is considering her an unmarried whore who they need to reform. I so wish Anne had been written as girly, yes, but also a woman of skills and personality. If she was “broken” by her circumstances, make that something that lasts more than a couple paragraphs.


the romance

If you want your sapphic Mary and Anne pirate romance, my opinion is that the chemistry is barely there. Sure, it’s a lot of back and forth, proclaiming their love to each other, but I did not feel the romance. Protectiveness sure, towards the end.


their struggles

I’m seeing reviews that expected Mary to be trans, which I do not think was the intent of the book. She certainly struggles with her identity, trying to figure out what parts of her was acting. If you should expect anything from that part of the book, it is that Mary feels like something in between a woman and a man. Both she and Anne faces so much discrimination and little freedom, in different ways and I think the fact that they didn’t understand each other struggles were one of the more realistic things. One is claiming the other have it easier, until they realize they need to both escape.


The feeling this book gave me: it got an extra star for the fact that it made me shed a tear (it was 3 am and that’s my excuse) when it showed the hopelessness of the situation of Anne and Mary trying to be “correct” women and still being beaten for it. other than that i was bored much of the way through, considering to dnf it several times.


Thanks to the publisher for receiving this copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes | Review

Pages: 450

Genre: young adult fantasy


Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.
But what if death finds him first?
Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did it. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.
The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.
The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.
No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back

My thoughts

Rating three out of five:

I enjoyed this book for the most part, especially in the beginning as Thomas are thrown out of magic school and seeks his father Guy Fawkes to get his mask he needs to connect to a colour and get his magical abilities. As he gets dragged into the gunpowder plot to assassinate the king, we learn with him as readers, and I thought it was well-done without too heavy information dumps. Then the middle part arrived and I started to get bored, and confused.

the characters 

The interactions between Emma and Thomas lead to them both learning and one wasn’t there just for the others behalf. Emma is very determined, which I liked, and it’s obvious what kind of girl the author did not want her to be, even if she’s under the care of wealthy people and without measures to get free. We get to see a lot of Thomas’ journey in the middle part of the book, and there were some moments of clarity I really liked. Emma could show him another perspective, his father showed him the gravity of the situation and the Gunpowder plot, he himself saw the conditions “his people” the Keepers were under as they were executed. The moral dilemmas he went through really had something to say for the ending of the book and it was interesting seeing that journey he took.

That said, I had a few things that didn’t sit right with me in this book. As much as I liked Emma’s determination and strong will, it made her very predictable as a character. I’ve read other fierce female characters who avoided this, and when you know she’s going to follow, or eventually break out of other’s control, it makes her plotline very obvious. Still, her fighting people and Thomas standing there silently cheering her and being impressed was awesome. 


The author really spelled out what she wanted to include in this book, like literally on the last pages or afterword. I would not mention this had it not also been very obvious throughout the book. She wanted to show a historical fiction where a female character finds her independence, with moral dilemmas over those in power and including and raising questions around slavery and treatment of people of colour. And all that’s great, but those things had a very streamlined, straight-forward and predictable route even as the plot itself had its twists and was interesting done. It felt too one-dimensional in comparison to the rest of the book, perhaps to make sure the points were clear enough.

the stone plague

Through the whole book I realized Thomas being plagued was like a portrayal of illness/injury and how it can change identity and be an insecurity. Emma talks to him about not letting her darker skin define her, and that conversation was really good. At the same time, with the exception when he’s stabbed and plagued for the second time, he doesn’t seem to really feel it physically. Like he’s worried about people’s thoughts, obviously as it makes him a target, but he’s not in pain and when it’s mentioned how his skin turns to stone it’s more like the skin is a bit tight which sounds so unbelievable. I don’t think the author did anything wrong, it’s just one of these smaller things that doesn’t make sense to me. Let me tell you, as I’m typing this my fingers are hurting because of joint problems, you cannot have a plague turning you into stone and not be in constant pain or uncomfortable, if that’s not explicitly stated. 


the damn White Light

Then it’s White Light as a concept. I’ve read enough Sanderson books to consider it a god in this world (not that I’m comparing books here). But do you want a Light who is able to talk to and know everyone? How the hell would we have the plague in the first place if White Light could guide people like he did with Thomas? The moment I realized Thomas was supposed to have as much power as Dee who had studied it for so many years, when the Light could give him (and possibly others) its god-sized ability, that reduces the credibility drastically. It’s a known trap in fantasy, like that moment made it obvious whatever side Thomas was on would win and ruined the whole finale. Like Thomas could’ve gotten his father out of prison, definitely. The Light could have a whole army of teen boys out there doing its bidding. Also did it want the Keepers dead? I’m confused.

Everything else is so spelled out that I need an explanation to why you have a god with such powers and ability to bend others to his will basically, who knows enough about people to be witty about Emma’s determination, and it comes down to the ending this book has. The characters never questions its intention.

the ending

The ending really didn’t work personally, it was apparent that the gunpowder plot would not go down in the book either, the fact that Thomas didn’t tell his dad about Dee’s bad intention made barely sense in the beginning and the characters went out of character for the whole ending, the way I see it. Thomas could have flipped a switch and become very secure in the White Light, fine, but the rest of them … I was done.

The feeling this book gave me: intrigued, but never satisfied with a big finale or explanations

Thanks to publisher Thomas Nelson for receiving this copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin | Review

Genre: historical fiction, magical realism

Pages: 390

“She’d already lost her face. She could not let the rest of herself (however dark, however broken) slip away. So she traced and she named. She hurt and she raged. She remembered.”


It’s 1956, Hitler has taken over Japan. Yael was put in a death camp as a five year old girl, experimented on and instead of dying like so many others, her looks went from dark to fair. And then she got more magical abilities, which helped her escape. Years later she’s on her own when she runs into the resistance. She competes in a motor cycle race through Asia in honour of Hitler, trying to get close enough to assassinate him. She gets the spot pretending to be another girl, which gets tricky as both her brother and ex-boyfriend shows up.

My thoughts

Rating out of five:


I might’ve bought and started reading this book by mistaking it for another. Never regretted it, I wouldn’t normally pick up a book like this, but it was an amazing read. It’s a weird plot, but it was done so well. I loved the moto race, I loved the characters and how magic is braided into a “historical” event and war crimes.

The girl Yael is pretending to be really was fierce and would do anything to win, something she needs to learn to be if she’s going to complete her goals. It makes an interesting conflict to see her struggling to deal with how far she’s willing to change, what limit she has to cross to no longer feel like herself. How she interacts with the brother and ex-boyfriend (maybe?) puts another level of difficulty on both the plot and writing and it was done really well. The times in the death camp is just heartbreaking, as she watches everyone she loves dying and leaving her all alone. Seeing Yael have small moments of fun even on her journey for revenge means something.

I completely recommend this book to anyone that’s interested, it was entertaining, sad as well as thought-provoking read at times.

favourite quotes

“Live? In a world of fangs and lonely? Or die. In a cage of smoke and needles.”

“Her self-reflection was no reflection at all. It was a shattered mirror. Something she had to piece together, over and over again. Memory by memory. Loss by loss. Wolf by wolf. It was easy—too easy—to pretend. To fill that empty space inside her with other lives. Bernice Vogt. Mina Jager. Adele Wolfe. Girls who never had to face the smoke or watch the syringes slide under their skin. Girls who never had to stare into the eyes of the Angel of Death. Again and again and again. It was too easy to get lost. This was why, every night before she fell asleep, she peeled back her sleeve, traced the wolves, and said their names. Because somewhere in there—in those fragments of gone souls and memories—was Yael. Not chemicals, but essence. The real Yael.” 

“Toasts 7:00 – Dinner 8:00 – Dancing 8:15 – Murder 8:16 – Escape Of course, the final two hadn’t been on the list, but that was where they fit in the timetable.”

Ilusions of Fate by Kiersten White | Review

Pages: 278
Genre: fantasy, young adult


“Perhaps if you gave the sun a bit more attention, it would be flattered and come out more often.” 


Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets Finn, a gorgeous, enigmatic young lord who introduces her to the secret world of Albion’s nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn’t—power, money, status…and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, dangerous secrets that the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits and her determination, can stop him.

My thoughts


My feelings about this book told by the book itself: “I don’t dislike them, nor do I like them. I’ve never understood why one must love children (magical plots) because they are (have lots of all-powerful alpha men behaving like) children.” Edited that quote a bit oops, not that the original quote with children isn’t too true. Fortunately for me, Jessamin feel the same way about the guys, at least at first.

“Paths do not only go one way. We choose which direction to take. I refuse to believe that any outside forces can determine the course of my life.” 

It’s supposedly a historical fiction (with a non-existing country?), or at least it’s placed in England in another time where women didn’t have rights and especially not the biracial ones from foreign countries, who blackmailed their white rich dad to get an education (u go girl).

“He shakes his head dismissively, and I hate him for it. He has dismissed my entire life with that one gesture, whether intentional or not.”

Sometimes Jessamin seems clever and capable, making me want to laugh in glee, but mostly she’s acting even more like kid than the rich bastards involving her in their oh-so-powerful invisible magic war. Can’t even remember what the fighting was about, that’s how much the book explained it. Jessamine’s friendship with the other girl was what got me through that last part. A huge thank you to Kiersten White for not making her the typical “mean girl”.

This book is interesting and the ravens are cool and all, but it doesn’t bring much new. Perhaps if the writing had been better, or the characters less inconsistent? It handles the subjects of politics and racism pretty well, but… it lacks a certain flow and I’m sorry to say the beautiful cover doesn’t match with the story between them.