Blog Archives

Hex Life – Witch Books Fearture 🧙🏻‍♀️😉

To celebrate today’s release of Hex Life: Wicked New Tales of Witchery Edited by Christopher Golden and Rachel Autumn Deering today, I’m doing a feature on some recent witchy book releases. 
Hex Life is a masterful anthology of eighteen tales of witches. A mix of creepy, kind, feminist and vengeful. Some are even set in their authors’ existing worlds – although these tales stand alone for those, like me, who haven’t previously read their work.
I’ve always been a fan of witchy books so much so that it was one of the ‘I read’ badges I ordered from Felfira Moon. 
For me it probably started with The Worst Witch (Mildred Hubble at Cackle’s Academy) and solidified with Harry Potter. Who doesn’t like the idea of having magical powers or going to magic school? I’m still waiting for my Hogwarts letter! 

The last few months have seen a bonanza of Witch themed books released and my Halloween loving heart is going to have an amazing October reading them all.

Sabrina: Season of the Witch by Sarah Rees Brennan
A prequel to the Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina sees Sabrina casting a spell to see how Harvey feels about her.

Sanctuary by V V James
The death of a star quarterback sees his ex-girlfriend, the daughter of a witch, accused.
Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
An unlikely marriage between a witch and a witchhunter will surely go down in flames.

Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan
Sisters, Sacrifice and witchcraft as twins remove to a strange mountain town where teenage girls go missing.
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
A complicated woman’s investigation at a hidden school of witchcraft and wizardry.

I just want to highlight one of the tales from Hex Life, though it’s hard to pick a favourite with a collection this strong – and beautiful. Look at that detail! Widow’s Walk By Angel Slatter gave me Practical Magic’s “aunties” feels with the elderly witchy residents taking wayward young women into the fold. It twists tropes and has a purrfect ending.

A huge thanks to Titan for the gifted copy hardback copy of Hex life. The other books featured are a mix of gifted review copies and book subscription box featured books. A bonus mention to my stunning replica of Defence Against the Dark Arts by AlarmEighteen which I’m partway through reading.

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton – Book Review

Synopsis

All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. But as a descendant of the Witch Rona Blackburn, who famously cursed her family over a century ago, Nor is no stranger to suffering. She has a reason to hope, however, that she may have escaped the thornier side effects of Rona’s curse.

Then a mysterious book come out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. The author – Nor’s own mother- is performing magic that should be far beyond her capabilities. And such magic always requires a sacrifice.

A storm is coming. It’s coming for Nor.

Author

Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest, a setting that figures predominantly in both her novels for young adults. Her debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, was published in 2014.

Twitter @LeslyeWalton

What I Thought

Like a cross between Practical Magic, Charmed and The Craft with Dark Willow thrown in for good measure. This book seems to have garnered mixed reviews but I really enjoyed it. I have not read the author’s previous novel which I believe is in the genre of magical realism. This is a very different book to that. More an urban fantasy horror.

The story takes place on Anathema Island and the environment and nature plays a huge part. Our protagonist can hear plants and animals so they become characters in the story and shift and change based on the mood. Personally I’d have liked to hear from some the animals a little more. Some of their conversations provided little spots of humour in an otherwise dark novel.

Nor was a conflicted heroine with the dual burdens of being a witch and having an awful mother taking a heavy toll. Luckily her grandmother Judd and her partner Apothia fulfil the loving family element although they take more of a back seat later in the story, with the next generation leading the charge.

There is some romance and friendship and small town shenanigans but this is at its core a horror and therefore a perfect read with Halloween on the way. The Prologue was all about the matriarch of the Blackburn Witches, Rona. I’d have loved to have had her story in even more detail too.

We start with a girl who isn’t comfortable in her own skin and end with an epic showdown. Nor’s mother Fern the author of The Price Guide to the Occult is most definitely bad to the bone and she has no redeeming features. Nor’s father felt very inconsequential – and this fact is played out. Fern has everyone – even the President of the USA under her spell and and the comedown from the magic high is briefly explored at the end of the book. Nor’s comfort may be fleeting, and it made me wonder if we will be hearing more from Nor (sorry couldn’t resist).

Trigger Warnings for Self Harm, Suicide and Parental Violence.

Thanks to Walker for the copy for the purposes of this honest review.

Spellchasers by Lari Don – Book Review and Guest Post 

It’s my spot on Lari’s blog tour for her Spellchasers trilogy. Below I have her guest post where she shares her views on witches. First I’d like to outline the first book in the series and tell you what I thought. 

Book 1 – The Beginner’s Guide to Curses

Molly is a human girl whose encounter with a nasty neighbour leaves her turning into a hare whenever a dog barks. She’s been cursed and she needs to learn how to break the curse before she ends up as a dog’s dinner. She’s thrust into a world of witches, dryads, kelpies, sphinxes and fairies. 

Molly joins a group in a curse breaking class where they are set a number of tasks to help them learn how to break the dark magic holding them and, in some cases their families, captive. 

The first part of the book is a great introduction to the world and by working with the others Molly’s eyes are gradually opened to what is around her. There’s a good mix of humour and action as well as developing friendships between the children in the class that are severely tested at times. 

The tension really increased when the curse-hatched crows start trying to foil their plans and I found myself reading the last third of the book at super hare speed. 

I really liked Molly’s character and her role as moral compass in the group. And just who is the Toad in their class? 

Does the whole class gets the promised result of lifting curses? You’ll have to read to find out. 

It reminded me a little of the old TV show Woof. I wonder which of my readers are old enough to remember that! 



Lari Don on witches

 

 
I have mixed feelings about witches. Particularly at this time of year (pointy hats, broomsticks, black capes and dropping chocolate eyeballs into plastic cauldrons…) I’m never entirely sure if I’m meant to find witches funny or fascinating, terrifying or tragic. Perhaps we love witches because they can be all of those things at once?

 
Ever since I was a child, I’ve been absorbing mixed messages about witches. For example the idea that witches could be good or bad probably came from reading L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. The idea that witches were just ordinary people – male or female – who were unjustly tortured and killed definitely came from studying and performing in Arthur Miller’s The Crucibleas a teenager.

 
Fairy-tale witches, like the ones met by Hansel and Gretel or Rapunzel, were clearly villains. But reading local Scottish folklore showed a more nuanced picture.

 
In those traditional tales, witches had a living to make, just like anyone else. You could buy a fair wind or a love potion from your local witch. If you annoyed a witch, your child or cow might fall sick, but the best solution was to buy a bit of help from the next witch along. So the old tales weren’t really about good or bad witches, they were about witches who happened to be on your side or not.  

 
And witches weren’t all powerful beings, just folk with a bit of skill and knowledge. Though they had wonderful abilities too. In the lore of the North East of Scotland, I discovered witches who could shapeshift into animals, often into hares.

 
 

That vivid piece of witchlore inspired my most recent novels, the Spellchasers trilogy, about a girl called Molly who is cursed (by a male witch) to shapeshift into a hare at inconvenient times, and seeks help from a female witch who runs a curse-lifting workshop.

 
So Molly encounters different kinds of witches – malevolent and helpful, male and female – and she also encounters other magical beings who argue about the wisdom and ethics of dealing with ‘dark magic’ at all. 

 
I write adventure books for 8-12 year olds, so there are chases, ambushes, monsters, and excitement. But in amongst all the shapeshifting and cliffhangers, I couldn’t forget the historical reality of those accused of being witches.  

 
I had many of the initial ideas for Spellchasers while walking round my local park: Lochend Park in Leith. And it was by that loch that a woman called Bessie Dunlop claimed she once saw fairies. Bessie Dunlop was tried as a witch and burnt to death in 1576.  

 

 
I couldn’t just ignore that history, and the history of hundreds of other women and men accused, tortured, tried and executed, when I was writing about fictional witches.  

 
So Molly’s research into curses for the curse-lifting workshop uncovers the tale of a local woman being burnt alive as a witch. Molly is disturbed by what happened to that long-ago witch, and I hope the readers are too… 

 
I’m inspired by old tales and lore about witches. I’m keen to explore ideas about witches in my fiction. I’m happy to have fun with classes of kids making up spells to put in my brass cauldron. But I am also, under it all, disturbed and distressed by the history of witch persecution.  

 
So, here, have a chocolate eyeball for your plastic cauldron, but please don’t forget the dark history behind the stories…

 
Lari’s favourite books about witches (and favourite witches) 

Diana Wynne Jones – Howl’s Moving Castle (Sophie) 

Gill Arbuthnott – Dark Spell (the whole coven) 

Vivian French – The Bag of Bones (NOT Truda Hangnail) 

Robert Burns – Tam O’Shanter (Cutty Sark) 

Arthur Miller – The Crucible (Tituba)  

 

***

 

Lari Don is a full-time children’s writer and storyteller. She grew up in the North East of Scotland and now lives in Edinburgh. She writes in her garden shed, helped by purring cats and hindered by lurking spiders. Lari has written more than 20 books, including adventure novels, picture books and retellings of traditional tales. She can be found on Twitter @LariDonWriter or at 

http://www.laridon.co.uk

 

The Spellchasers trilogy is available and out now.

Do check out the rest of the spots on the tour for more. 

%d bloggers like this: