23 March 2019

Season of the Witch. Bewitching Reads

Witchcraft and covens. Curses and incantations. Potions and charms. Necromancy and blood magic. These are the some of the words that pop into my head when I think of witches. Lately, I've found myself enticed by novels that feature witches. The portrayal of these women with magical powers breaks from the old hag representation from children stories. If you're in the mood for revengeful witches, cursed towns, eerie atmospheres and deadly spells, these are some bewitching reads.
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw. The Wicked Deep was not only my first book of 2019, but my first five stars reading of the year. It's beautifully written novel. The prose is alluring and every page more enchanting than the previous one. I loved the author's twist on siren/mermaid mythology. But there are many other reason why you should pick this bewitching story:

  • It focus on the 1800s era witch hysteria. The Salem Witch trials might have been over by then, but women who didn't act as the society expected them to were still persecuted for being witches;
  • A two-hundred year curse. In Sparrow, every summer, the sisters take over the body of three innocent girls and lure boys into the sea waters to be drowned;
  • Sparrows. A tiny seaside town, Sparrow is surrounded by a frightening atmosphere. Supposedly idyllic, this town gives so many creepy vibes. The eeriness of this place can be felt through the pages; 
  • The mysterious plot and intertwined timelines. It's a haunting tale awash with emotions - pain and sorrow, hatred and revenge.

"In the dark, Lumiere Island feels eerie and macabre. A place of ghosts and mossy hollows, where long-dead sailors surely haunt the reeds and wind-scoured trees. But it's not the island you should fear-it's the waters surrounding it."
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. I have no words to describe how much I love this book series. Vasya is not actually a witch, but everyone deems her one because she doesn't conform to the patriarchal society (if a woman can't be tamed and doesn't follow the society's rule, she must be a witch) and has the ability to see and speak to folk creatures and deities that few do (with the arrival of Christianity that was perceived as witchcraft). Anyway, if you haven't read The Bear and the Nightingale, here are the reasons why you should do it:

  • Slavic mythology and folk tales. It's a novel rich with mythology and many folk tales and creatures. Every single tale and deity/creature is described in detail;
  • Enthralling wintry settings. The descriptions of the Russian wilderness are breathtaking;
  • Vasya! She's brave and strong. She's fierce and adventurous. Nothing and no one breaks her spirit. She will protect those she loves even if that means becoming an outcast. Born in a time women were expected to get married and have children or commit themselves to a convent, Vasya defies all the conventions to save her home and family.
  • The historical context. The tale takes place during a time of transition from paganism to Christianity, a time surrounded by fear. This time is so well portrayed, conveying all the anxiety and emotions bought by the arrival of a new religion. 

“All my life,” she said, “I have been told ‘go’ and ‘come.’ I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing. I would rather die tomorrow in the forest than live a hundred years of the life appointed me.”
Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier. As much as I babble about my love of everything written by Juliet Marillier, I actually never reviewed any of of her novels. When you love something so much, you fear your words might not make it justice. Since Blackthorn is a healer, which means she might be seen as a witch by some, I decided to feature Marillier's Dreamer's Pool on this list and write down all the reasons you should read this healer's adventures:

  • The story is a beautiful blend of magic and folklore. Marillier crafts alluring settings and characters. The mysteries are so intriguing that you can't pry yourself away from the pages.
  • Blackthorn. Contrary to many many characters, she's embittered. After losing everyone she loves and being locked up and tortured, she is angry, snappish and, most of all, broken. Due to a promise to a Fae, she's forced to postpone her revenge against the man who murdered her family and finds herself embracing her role as a healer again. The storm inside her to keep her promise at the same time that all she wishes is to destroy every single person who crushed her is amazingly portrayed;
  • Grim. He's such a friendly giant. 
  • An unlikely friendship (there might be a platonic romance). Grim is the only one whose words can rescue Blackthorn from the darkness that tends to get hold of her. And, Blackthorn's proximity is the only thing that can keep Grim's nightmares at bay.  

“The day before you died was the longest, slowest day ever. It gave you more time than you could possibly want to contemplate all the things you’d got wrong, the chances you’d missed, the errors you’d made. It was long enough to convince the most hopeful person that there was no point in anything.”

  What are your favourite books that feature witches? 
Have you read any bewitching story lately?
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  1. I LOVED The Bear and the Nightingale! I need to reread that one soon so I can immediately read the next two books! :)

    1. There's just something magical in Arden's writing. I can't wait to read The Winter of the Witch. Happy readings! ;)

  2. I want to read The Bear and the Nightingale. I will have to add the Wicked Deep too!

    1. I hope you enjoy The Bear and the Nightingale and The Wicked Deep. The writing is just brilliant. Happy readings! ;)

  3. The Bear and the Nightingale is still on my TBR list. I need to make time to read it! I've heard nothing but good things about it.

    1. The Bear and the Nightingale is one of the most poetic books I've ever read. The wintry settings are enthralling and the characters are very well developed.

      Happy readings! ;)

  4. Loved The Bear and the Nightingale! I've not read anything by Juliet Marillier yet, but you have me curious now.

    1. Juliet Marillier is a brilliant fantasy writer. Her novels always include Irish folk tales and her retellings are just LOVE - my favourite book from her, Heart's Blood, is a Beauty and the Beast retelling.

      Happy readings Suzanne. :)

  5. I haven't read any of these, but I've heard SO many amazing things about The Bear and the Nightingale. I definitely want to pick that one up. I'll have to check out these other two now too.

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    1. It's such an enthralling and magical book, The Bear and the Nightingale. I hope you have the opportunity to pick it soon.

      Happy readings Nicole! ;)

  6. I've been eyeing The Wicked Deep, ever since I was looking for witch books, and saw it at Barnes and Noble! I'm going to read it for sure now! Thanks for the recommendations!

    Lindy@ A Bookish Escape

    1. The Wicked Deep is the perfect book if you're in the mood for witch stories. Hope you love it. Happy readings! ;)