Themes: Magic, Mystery, Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Released: May 28, 2019
This is definitely my favourite kind of fantasy. Although there are exceptions, I’ve never really been into the whole sword and sorcery sub-genre, generally preferring those stories set in our world but with a fantastical twist. These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling falls squarely into this category. It takes place in the US during the modern day, and focuses on the covens of Elementals, Casters, and Blood Witches who exist in secret alongside the non-magical community.
Given its notorious history, the town of Salem, Massachusetts, is the perfect setting for a novel of danger and witchcraft. Local goths and tourists alike revel in its magical past, none of them suspecting that the real deal lives and practises among them. Since the deadly witch hunts where so many of their kind were burned at the stake, the witches have been forced to conceal their powers, and this need for discretion and the ever-present threat of discovery adds to the intrigue of the plot.
Hannah, a seventeen-year-old Elemental, is the book’s incredibly strong heroine. Heart sore over her ex-girlfriend’s betrayal, it would have been so easy for her to surrender to Veronica’s pleas for another chance, and yet she stands firms, remaining adamant that it’s over between them. Then, when someone begins targeting her coven, Hannah demonstrates immense bravery and a determination to see whoever it is caught. She also possesses rather a smart mouth, and I loved that about her!
As with any mystery where a faceless attacker lurks in the shadows, every character is a suspect and no one can be wholly trusted. All the same, from the moment Hannah meets the new girl in town at a house party, I couldn’t help but like her. Pretty and graceful as the dancer she is, Morgan exudes a compassion and genuine sweetness that made it impossible for me not to warm to her, and her and Hannah’s tentative steps towards a romance is too adorable for words!
My only slight disappointment with this novel, and it is a slight one, is that I figured out early on who was behind the attacks on the witches. There’s nothing quite like that oh-my-God moment when everything you believe about a book gets flipped on its head, the culprit turning out to be a character you never even suspected, and this ending lacked that wow factor for me. That said, there were still plenty of twists to keep me reading, anxious to find out what would happen, and I’m really looking forward to the sequel.
For a debut which blends magic, mystery and romance in a way that’s both thrilling and original, These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling gets 9/10 rainbows.
About the Book
Hannah’s a witch, but not the kind you’re thinking of. She’s the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she’s ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.
But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah’s concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah’s sure it’s the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.
While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she’s going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem’s witches become deadlier by the day.
About Isabel Sterling
Isabel Sterling is an LGBTQ advocate and educator by day and a YA author by night. When she’s not writing about magic and murder, Isabel can be found lost in a good book, marathoning her favorite shows, or relaxing by the lake. She lives in central NY with her wife and their brood of furry children: cats Oliver and December and a beagle-mix named Lily.
Isabel is the author of These Witches Don’t Burn (out now) and This Coven Won’t Break (coming June 2020 from Razorbill).