Bewitching Books

Celebrate spooky season with these new titles featuring witches.

Celebrate spooky season with these new titles featuring witches.

Aguirre, Ann. Extra Witchy. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Fix-It Witches, Bk. 3). Oct. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9781728262468. pap. $15.99. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

Career-minded witch Leanne Vanderpol has been married (and divorced) twice and has no plans to do it again. Then she realizes her local political campaign has a greater chance of success if she appears settled. Trevor Montgomery, on the other hand, has no ambition or direction in life. His failed college relationship started a downward spiral, and his toxic family relationship has left him with no confidence but plenty of depression. These two are the unlikeliest of couples, but each might be exactly what the other needs. This opposites-attract paranormal romantic comedy is the third in Aguirre’s “Fix-It Witches” series (following Boss Witch) but can be read as a stand-alone and is arguably the most riveting installment so far. Leanne and Trevor are likable and empathetic characters with relatable emotional baggage. Their mutually beneficial, steamy relationship will give readers hope that there really is someone for everyone. VERDICT Highly recommended for all public library collections.—Heather Miller Cover

Beck, Hazel. Small Town, Big Magic. Graydon House. (Witchlore, Bk. 1). Aug. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9781525804717. pap. $16.99. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

Indie bookstore owner Emerson Wilde is the youngest president of the Chamber of Commerce in her small Missouri hometown and is determined to pull off a successful local festival. However, she wasn’t planning on an assassination attempt, dangerous situations for her tight circle of friends, or the threat of the world ending. Her life as she knows it is tipped on its axis when she learns of the existence of magic and its deeply rooted presence in her past. On top of all the chaos disrupting her perfectly scheduled life, she finds herself drawn to her stoic friend Jacob. With her friends (now her coven) by her side, she must quickly learn to embrace her magic as they fight to protect their town and all of humanity. VERDICT This first series entry from Beck (the pseudonym of Nicole Helm and Caitlin Crews/Megan Crane) introduces a great circle of friends and lovers, while bringing adventure, mystery, and heart along with small-town charm.—Jenna Harmison

Clare, Jessica. Go Hex Yourself. Berkley. Apr. 2022. 384p. ISBN 9780593337561. pap. $16. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

Clare’s (“Billionaire Boys Club” series) latest stand-alone is a lighthearted and fun romp with a touch of the paranormal. Reggie responds to an ad looking for a personal assistant. Little does she know, her employer and the woman’s nephew are hundreds of years old and have been having trouble keeping their witch familiars. Reggie, who assumes her new boss is losing her grasp on reality in her advanced age, humors all her requests. But when she’s faced with the absolute fact that magic is real, Reggie allows herself to grow closer not only to the magic world but to her employer’s nephew, Ben. When her boss suddenly seems to have been cursed, it’s up to Reggie and Ben to solve the mystery—and to figure out whether a romance between a warlock and a human can last. VERDICT Though fun, Clare’s novel won’t have enough conflict to keep some readers engaged; the reveal at the end demonstrates the low stakes. Recommend to those who prefer light paranormal fare that borders on chick lit.—Claire Brown

Crutcher, Paige. The Lost Witch. St. Martin’s Griffin. Dec. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9781250797391. pap. $16.99. FANTASY

In 1922, Brigid Heron is a powerful witch living off the coast of Ireland on the island of Evermore, devoted to her goddess Brighid and desperately yearning for a child. She becomes pregnant against Brighid’s express wishes but has an idyllic life with her young daughter Dove. All seems well until she finds herself a hundred years in the future, without Dove or any memories of what happened. Local witches Ophelia and Finola are willing to help uncover the truth, especially if it means ending Evermore’s isolation from the rest of the world. Handsome Luc Knightly offers a distraction, but Brigid isn’t sure he can be trusted as finding Dove must remain her priority. Crutcher’s (The Orphan Witch) opening chapter is rushed and muddled and robs readers of the pleasure of experiencing Brigid’s confusion firsthand. Instead, frequent info-dumps take the place of character development, especially for the one-dimensional villains. VERDICT Those who like Irish folklore may enjoy.—Laurel Bliss

Giddings, Megan. The Women Could Fly. Amistad: HarperCollins. Aug. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9780063116993. $26.99. FANTASY

Giddings returns after her critical hit Lakewood with a sophomore novel set in a slightly sideways near-future—one so close you can see it from here—where fears of witchcraft and restrictions against women provide shelter and cover for laws that put all women under male “protection.” That nearly all proven witches are non-white adds racial animus to the misogyny and anti-LGBTQ+ hatred on display everywhere. But is witchcraft real, or is it an excuse? Jo Taylor’s search for the mother she thought walked away is her chance to discover the truth, not just about her mother, but about herself and who she as a queer Black woman. Jo’s journey through a landscape that combines magical realism with social commentary and horror, exposes a world where all relationships are under duress and raises the question of whether or not there is a place where it is possible to be free. VERDICT Combining the misogynist oppression of The Handmaid’s Tale with the sharp insight and SFnal (science fictional) tone of Octavia Butler, Giddings’s latest is a chilling but all too plausible tale.—Marlene Harris

Gilmore, Olesya Salnikova. The Witch and the Tsar. Ace: Berkley. Sept. 2022. 432p. ISBN 9780593546970. $27. FANTASY

 DEBUT Gilmore impresses with this feminist retelling of the Baba Yaga folktale set in 16th-century Russia. In Gilmore’s hands, Baba Yaga is not the evil, old witch of myth, a rumor invented to reduce unmarried, reclusive women to monsters. This Yaga has a mortal father and immortal mother and has not aged past her thirties, even after centuries on Earth. She spends her time healing mortals and lives in a hut that has chicken legs and can understand her. When Anastasia, wife of the man who would become known as Ivan the Terrible, falls ill, Yaga realizes that someone is poisoning her and threatening the future of Russia. She also soon finds that immortals are meddling in the affairs of humans, which launches her on a years-long quest to both fight and find allies among the gods, as the fate of Russia hangs in the balance. Along the way, Yaga will experience heartbreak and love as she creates a found family and learns the shocking truth of who is pulling the Tsar’s strings. VERDICT Gilmore’s immersive prose steeps readers in this wonderfully epic folktale fantasy full of magic and myth.—Melissa DeWild

Harper, Lana. From Bad to Cursed. Berkley. (The Witches of Thistle Grove, Bk. 2). May 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780593336083. pap. $16. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

 Thistle Grove’s annual Beltane celebration is disrupted when one participant is robbed of her magic and seriously harmed by a necromantic curse. As the victim’s cousin, Rowan Thorn is determined to find the culprit. The prime suspects are members of the Avramov family, who specialize in necromancy. To prove her family is innocent, Isidora Avramov, black sheep and demon summoner, reluctantly becomes Rowan’s co-detective. Unfortunately, Rowan and Issa have been archenemies ever since Rowan got Issa banished from volunteering at the local animal shelter. While the two hunt down clues together, their preconceived notions about each other, their families, and their magics are challenged, and both are unsettled to discover desire replacing animosity. When another necromantic curse almost kills Rowan, Issa saves him and opens up her heart and her secrets to him. VERDICT Harper (Payback’s a Witch) continues “The Witches of Thistle Grove” series strong, delivering a second installment packed with mystery, danger, lots of love-to-hate-you foreplay, family drama, and an identity crisis thrown in. Sound like a lot? It is, but still oh so fun. Highly recommended.—Eve Stano

Holton, India. The League of Gentlewomen Witches. Berkley. (Dangerous Damsels, Bk. 2). Mar. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9780593200186. pap. $16. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

Set in an approximation of the Victorian era, filled with pirates who stalk the skies in flying houses and witches who can make objects fly across a room with a word, Holton’s second “Dangerous Damsels” book finds the protagonists at odds when they both attempt to steal a long-lost, powerful amulet. Miss Charlotte Pettifer and Captain Alex O’Riley are sworn enemies; Charlotte is a witch, and Alex is a pirate. They each seek the powerful Black Beryl amulet and must work together to find it despite their animosity. Larceny, violence, and even assassination attempts are treated as humorous larks. References to other books, both subtle and otherwise, are peppered throughout; Jane Austen’s and Shakespeare’s works are particular favorites. VERDICT Nearly every sentence is a metaphor or simile, which may frustrate some. Readers who are fans of Gail Carriger’s “The Parasol Protectorate” series, or tongue-in-cheek humor more generally, will find great enjoyment in this solid choice.—Mary Frances Cely

Into the Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga. Black Spot. Nov. 2022. 300p. ed. by Lindy Ryan. ISBN 9781645481232. pap. $15.95. HORROR

You may know the legend of the Baba Yaga, the revered and feared ogress who lives with her sisters deep in the forest in a house that spins atop bird legs, but you’ve never seen her like this. Slavic in origin but universal in her ability to transcend time and place and to transform, for better or worse, this anthology collects the many sides of the Baba Yaga as she is, was, and could be. Is she a witch, a goddess, or a cannibal? Is she all or none? A mesmerizing blend of folklore and fairytales, this introduces the Baba Yaga as you’ve never seen her before in a haunting collection of original tales and origin stories brimming with magic, mystery, mischief, and sisterhood. VERDICT Written by some of the most popular women in horror today, this is a one-of-a-kind anthology and sparkling jewel that will appeal to fans of fantasy, folklore, and feminist fiction.—Alana R. Quarles

Lozano, Brenda. Witches. Catapult. Aug. 2022. 240p. tr. from Spanish by Heather Cleary. ISBN 9781646220687. $26. F

A Hay Festival and Bogotá 39 honoree, Mexican author Lozano (Loop) tells the story of Indigenous Mexican healer Feliciana and Zoe, a journalist interviewing Feliciana about the murder of her cousin Paloma. They come from wildly different cultures—Feliciana belongs to an agrarian society with strictly defined gender roles, while Zoe enjoys a contemporary urban lifestyle in Mexico City—their lives hold parallels; they are both quiet rebels, while Paloma and Zoe’s rebellious sister Leandra stand out as vivid characters who defy societal strictures more boldly. There is little traditional plot but instead two overlapping narratives that merge and converge in unexpected ways. Zoe’s straightforward narrative contrasts with Feliciana’s, which features long, elliptical sentences and many repeated phrases, and the significance of some events mentioned frequently in passing only become clear toward the end. Paloma is a Muxe, a self-identifying third gender among the Zapotec people of Oaxaca, and it’s worth reading Cleary’s translator’s note to see why she retained some cultural words without translating, and how she dealt with gender when using terms that traditionally only refer to males or females but here are used to describe characters across the gender spectrum. VERDICT Beautifully rendered, this is a book to meditate over and perhaps reread.—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman

Mandanna, Sangu. The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches. Berkley. Aug. 2022. 336p. ISBN 9780593439357. pap. $17. FANTASY

 DEBUT Mika Moon lives a very lonely life most of the time. Orphaned at a young age, Mika was raised by a series of nannies and tutors. Other than infrequent meetings with her fellow witches, Mika doesn’t get to share her love of magic with others, so she starts a YouTube channel where she plays a fake witch. She never expected anyone to realize she was a real witch, but to her surprise, she gets a message asking her to tutor three young witches. Mika knows she shouldn’t take this job, but the idea of sharing her passion for potions and spells with the young witches is hard to resist. Before long, she finds herself a welcome part of their little found family—by all except the cute, grumpy librarian named Jamie. Mika and her new family shine with a glow all their own. This book is like a warm welcome home and is sure to find itself being a comfort read for many. VERDICT Mandanna’s (Kiki Kallira Conquers a Curse) first adult novel is a positively adorable romantic fantasy and a must-buy for all public libraries.—Amanda Toth

Marais, Bianca. The Witches of Moonshyne Manor. MIRA. Aug. 2022. 400p. ISBN 9780778386995. pap. $16.99. FANTASY

 The Sisterhood has lived at Moonshyne Manor and Distillery for over 80 years. Ivy is the keeper of plants and preparer of elixirs (with witchy recipes included). Tabitha is the animal whisperer. Ursula reads the future. Jezebel casts seduction spells. Queenie is magical with inventions. Ruby has shape-shifting and transitioning powers. Although the magic of these irreverent octogenarians is fraying around the edges, they still love their uniqueness. But all is not well, and Ruby has been gone for 33 years, leaving her sisters on the night of a disaster. The others have longed for her return, but they also need her to lead them to the treasure stolen right before she went away. That is the only thing that will prevent foreclosure of the manor. When Ruby arrives their reunion is anything but magical, and they must confess old secrets if they want to save the Sisterhood. VERDICT Marais’s (If You Want to Make God Laugh) latest is a quirky Golden Girls with wands that explores women’s empowerment, friendship, and loyalty and addresses racial equality, identity, and gender fluidity. A timely, fun modern-day fable about women who refuse to conform.—K.L. Romo

Martin, Celestine. Witchful Thinking. Forever: Grand Central. (Elemental Love, Bk. 1). Sept. 2022. 352p. ISBN 9781538738078. pap. $15.99. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

DEBUT Summer fun and soulmate connection will engage readers in this novel featuring a witch and a merman. History teacher Lucy Caraway may know how to conjure magic spells and read tea leaves, but she hasn’t known excitement in her life for quite some time. As she runs into her old crush Alex and a high school reunion looms ahead, she fiercely wishes for more noteworthy endeavors. When vagabond photographer Alex Dwyer’s merfolk parents gift him a house he does not want, Lucy’s talent for interior design is exactly what he needs to find a potential buyer. Sparks flying with every encounter between them, the romance is enjoyable, although the stakes are low. Not all is resolved, but the Caraway sisters’ storylines are compelling and promise more to come. The setting is delightful, and its supernatural aspect is made into the norm with magical whimsy incorporated into the town’s daily life, luring tourists instead of remaining hidden. VERDICT A charming paranormal romance that will make readers want to stay and fall in love in Martin’s fictional Jersey Shore town and wish alongside its resident witches.—Hazel Ureta

May, Francesca. Wild and Wicked Things. Redhook: Orbit. Mar. 2022. 432p. ISBN 9780316287159. $28.00. FANTASY

 DEBUT This compelling queer gothic gas-lamp tale of witchcraft, wealth, and war is filled with brooding atmosphere, sensual details, and a sense of creeping dread. The story is set on a magical island off the coast of England, just after a Great War where the trenches were filled with magic instead of mustard gas, and where the craft that both sides relied upon is facing a Prohibition of its own. The witches of Crow Island face a threat to their existence when the blood debt they accepted for their happiness comes due in a storm of murder and madness. One woman wants to escape, while another finds her lost heritage hidden in the island’s magic. VERDICT May’s debut fantasy novel, a tale of secrets, lies, and mistakenly raising the dead, will keep readers guessing and turning pages to the very end. Highly recommended for lovers of dark, witchy fantasy, especially those seeking read-alikes of Alix Harrow’s The Once and Future Witches or Katherine Howe’s The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.—Marlene Harris

Mesa, Desideria. Bindle Punk Bruja. Harper Voyager. Sept. 2022. 400p. ISBN 9780063056084. $17.99. FANTASY

 DEBUT Rose Lane and her ragtag band of social outcasts take on City Hall, the Mob, and the Ku Klux Klan in Mesa’s debut Prohibition-era historical fantasy. Rose has a secret: she is a Latina, passing as white to provide for her family. But it’s her power as a bruja, an earth witch, that makes the local mob covet her illegal jazz club and her power. They’ll do anything to own her, and she’ll do anything to keep her family safe—even finally using the magic that she’s always seen as more curse than gift. Rose knows the price for being both female and non-white in a time and place that steps on both at every turn. That she wins by embracing her roots, gives the novel a kind of magic that urban fantasy readers will love. VERDICT Mesa’s debut mixes a bit of Mexican folktale, a chunk of magical realism, and tons of period detail into a page-turning urban fantasy that takes the glitter of Boardwalk Empire and combines it with a story of found family, mob violence, and romance.—Marlene Harris

Rue, Gretchen. Steeped to Death. Crooked Lane. (Witches’ Brew Mystery, Bk. 1). Sept. 2022. 304p. ISBN 9781639101641. $26.99. M

 DEBUT Phoebe Winchester’s Aunt Eudora leaves her the 200-year-old family mansion in Raven Creek, WA, and her combination bookstore/tea shop. Matters become complicated when Dierdre Miller shows up at the shop with a large man in tow, demanding that Phoebe sell her the house. Phoebe refuses and later that night the police find a body behind the shop—the man who accompanied Dierdre. When a local shop owner gives her the cold shoulder, Phoebe guesses it has something to do with rumors that Eudora was a witch. As a young teen visiting her aunt, Phoebe always laughed at those rumors, but over dinner with a childhood friend, she discovers she has a power of her own. She may need it when she’s followed several times and overhears plans to break into her house. She shares her suspicions with the police, but an amateur sleuth with new powers just has bad luck sometimes. VERDICT The first “Witches’ Brew” mystery is a compelling debut with a mature amateur sleuth, a solid supporting cast, and a cat to rival Miranda James’s Diesel. For readers who enjoy the paranormal elements in Juliet Blackwell’s and Bree Baker’s cozies.—Lesa Holstine

Sterling, Erin. The Kiss Curse. Avon. (The Ex Hex, Bk. 2). Sept. 2022. 320p. ISBN 9780063027510. pap. $16.99. PARANORMAL ROMANCE

In the sequel to The Ex Hex, life in Graves Glen, GA, has settled down since witch Gwyn Jones and her family broke the town’s curse, returning power and control of the town to the Jones family line. The Penhallow patriarch, however, is not pleased about losing power to a bunch of small-town witches. He sends his son Wells to keep an eye on the meddlesome witches and re-establish the Penhallow name as one to be reckoned with. Gwyn is not pleased when Wells sets up a supernatural supply shop across the street from her own, nor is she happy about her attraction to the uptight, taciturn witch. Their personal and professional rivalries are shoved aside when a witch from Gwyn’s past returns, and Gwyn’s own magic begins to fade. The fast-paced plot doubles as a cozy mystery, with Gwyn and Wells’s relationship developing—and heating up—when they put aside their differences to investigate the new threat to Graves Glen. VERDICT Featuring an opposites-attract romance, this fun, light read has the perfect blend of humor, chemistry, and mystery to keep readers turning pages long into the night.—Heather Miller Cover

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