Cover Image: Witches of Ash and Ruin

Witches of Ash and Ruin

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Member Reviews

The main character Dayna is a bisexual witch in a town where witches and lgbt+ folks are heavily frowned upon by the church. She has a wonderful female friendship with a childhood friend who introduced her to magic when they were younger. Reagan knows Dayna so well she can tell when to encourage her to talk or let it go and change the subject. Reagans mother Yemi became a nuturing mother figure to Dayna when life at home became difficult. I love how Yemi accepted Dayna for who she was and gave her a place to express herself freely. When Meiner arrives in town with another coven her and Dayna butt heads almost immediately, but despite being annoyed with each other romantic feelings start to develop. I liked how the struggles of OCD connected them, but it seemed a little unrealistic that they would both have it. 

As for the other coven members it took me a while to remember who everyone was and I dont think the multiple point of view helped make things easier. They didnt fell necessary, but were added because the author couldnt figure out a different way to convey a piece of information. For example the story could have been told without Daynas former boyfriends point of view. His perspective pretty much drops out of the story towards the end anyways. Plus his reaction to the murders was a little off. Even with him being a crime buff he should have been more sympathetic towards the victims, but what he did to Dayna it shouldn't be surprising that he lacks empathy. Meiners grandmother and her fellow coven member Cora questionable motives made them both compelling characters to read about.

The plots main focus was trying to uncover who was murdering witches and why they were doing it, but there was also a sense of mystery surrounding Daynas mothers return and Meiners grandmothers previous use of black magic. I usually enjoy following killers but I feel like it took away from the sense of danger and mystery because I was able to guess their motives and agenda before the other characters. Despite having more insight there was still got a couple reveals I didnt see coming. I found some things that didnt add up like the judge being a little too old to be doing her initation ceremony and the fact that no one mentioned that becoming a full witch would make them a bigger target. Another issue was the constant switch in perspectives slowing down the pace and making it harder for me to stay engaged.

Ive never been to Ireland but this small town felt like it could have been set in America. Besides visiting some scared sites there were very few elements to make the setting stand out as Irish. The contemporary fantasy Ive read in the past were more atmospheric and whimsical or at the very least they were super immersive, but this book just didnt have that. I did like how the magic system consisted of spell and rituals using the cycles of the moon, tarot card, herbs and crystals. I also enjoyed how the way the gods play a part in this world. Despite my issues the sapphic romance between Dayna and Meiner has me considering picking up the sequel when it comes out.
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I'm just really burned out on books that expect me to wait for another book to come out to resolve anything. I don't mind ragged edges, but I do mind a complete lack of meaningful resolution. Too bad because some of the characters and ideas here were genuinely interesting, and I was ready to find out what happened next. Unfortunately, I never did.
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Whew. I think this one suffered too much from a giant info dump. Our MC isn’t fully fleshed out and there is just too many POVs. I wanted to love this one because it had all the elements I thought I’d enjoy but there was just too much everything.
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Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to read this ARC prior to its publication, hopefully I'll get the chance to catch up with it in my TBR in the coming weeks.
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I absolutely adored this book! I loved how the witches' practice was steeped in Celtic mythology. I don't know much about that at all, and it was fascinating to read about. I even wish the mythology had been explored and explained more throughout the book, I wanted to learn all of the things! 

Even though we knew from the start who the murderer was and what his intentions were, I was still engrossed and couldn't wait to see how everything would all work out. Latimer did such a good job of creating suspense and keeping the pace moving throughout the entire book. 

The romance was adorable! As a queer woman I love sapphic representation in books, and this romance, even though it didn't take up a big part of the book, was so much fun to read about. 

I did wish that this book was longer. I think it just needed more story. Like I said, I wanted to know more about the witches' practices and why they did the things that they did. I wanted more of the romance, I wanted more buildup of the murderer. I wanted to see him terrorizing the witches over more time before they had their final showdown. I also wish more time had been devoted to Sam's role. Other than being an informant for Dayna, his scenes could be removed from the book and absolutely nothing would change. I wish he had gotten more punishment for what he did to Dayna, and I wish he had more of a development after he walked away from Bible study and threw his Bible away. What was the point of showing us that if it wasn't going anywhere? I also wish we had gotten more of Dayna's mom. I just...wanted more. 

And that ending!!! I will forever hold out hope for a sequel to this book.
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Many thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Books for an eARC in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

Based on all the good, witchy books that are coming out this year, 2020 seems to be year of the witches. And you know what? I’m digging it. I’m 100% in favor of this. More witchy things! More magic! More blood! More sacrifice! Obviously, that’s what immediately attracted me to this book, because who can resist witches + Celtic mythology + a protagonist with OCD? It’s just such a winning combination.

Witches of Ash and Ruin is full of dark, witchy goodness, with roots in Celtic mythology, lots of spells being cast, and a serial killer running rampant. I came for the mythology, stayed for the mystery.

I had such a hard time rating this one, because the book felt vastly different between the first 35% or so and then the rest of the book. The beginning dragged for me. There were some dark elements that definitely grabbed my attention, but I struggled to connect and get into the story and it took me, like, a week to hit the 35% mark. Around there, though, it grabbed me so hard that I couldn’t put it down and read the rest in one day. How do you rate that?! I dunno. Three bananas, a horseshoe, and half a lollipop. There you go. That’s my rating. *throws hands up and walks away*

What my rating really boils down to is this has been published and marketed seemingly as a standalone, and it really … isn’t. Or needs to not be.

As part of a series? I’d raise my rating to four stars. If, at some point, it’s announced that more books are coming out, I’ll amend my rating. But as a standalone? I’m gonna call it at three stars.

My Thoughts:

- Here, there are witches, my lovelies! Let’s be honest, that’s really what I showed up for, in large part, because … witches. But honestly, it’s so much more than witches, and there’s this weird/interesting interplay between witches and Celtic gods and goddesses, which I just loved and thought was interesting. And these witches are unapologetically witchy. Glorgiously witchy. There’s also all the warm, bubbly feels that come with a coven of strong women who have each other’s back, and I enjoyed that dynamic very much.

- If you’re familiar with Celtic mythology, you might recognize some of the names of these gods. If not, you won’t learn a whole lot about the mythology, but you’ll get a place to start researching. The Celtic mythology was a big selling point for me, and I was a little disappointed with the fact that it wasn’t really explored all that much. Yes, there were Celtic goddesses mentioned and worshiped and prayed to (and spell chants are in what I assume was Gaelic), but they were basically just name-dropped, and they could’ve been called anything else and it wouldn’t have really changed anything.

- Latimer does a great job of creating a dark, sinister atmosphere that fits the serial killer vibe perfectly. The foreshadowing, while a bit on the nose at times, did a great job of creating a tense, charged feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. And boy did it ever. It took a little while for the mystery to really get under way, but by the time the first kill was made, I was hooked. This book isn’t a murder mystery, per se, but there are quite a few mysteries in it. Who the murderer is, is not a mystery, as he has a point of view. However, his motive and how it connects to witches and, in particular, this coven unfolds little by little, and I was eager to find out more with every new development.

- There is all sorts of representation in this book for mental health problems, and I appreciated that. Both the protagonist and the love interest have OCD, and we often get to see both panic attacks and coping mechanisms. More than that, though, there’s also some psychosis (not in a positive light, and not handled well by the characters, but there’s a reason for this that’s critical to the plot), and dementia.

- There’s an F/F romance, and while it didn’t fully work for me the way it played out, I can see it being a draw for some people. This was really a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, it felt like the romance was being primed for an enemies-to-lovers trope, but it felt … off. The enemies part was well founded, and then all of a sudden … they weren’t anymore. That being said … I think it was just a case of not having proper time for the romance to develop for me. Because goodness knows I love my slow burns, especially with hate-to-love. I can see how this would be an awesome pairing, and I’m certain some people will like it. Heck, I would be all for it if the circumstances were slightly different. I just didn’t feel like there was enough time for it to actually develop.

Sticking Points:

- I don’t know if this book is supposed to be a series, but nowhere is it marketed as or claimed to be a series. But really, this is book one of a series. Any reservations I had about a four-star rating immediately dropped by the time I hit the ending and realized nothing was resolved, and I was leaving the book with more questions than I entered it with. In every way, this reads as a first book in a series, including not actually wrapping anything up AND with a cliffhanger ending. It’s not listed as a series, as far as I can tell, anywhere. But this book? Screams of first book in a trilogy. It does not work as a standalone, in my opinion. In fact, the ending very intentionally opens up a whole new arc and potential plot for a second book, so … color me confused?

- I just … didn’t connect to any of these characters. I think it was because there were so many of them, and I spent most of the time trying to remember who was who. There are FIVE point-of-view characters, one of whom completely disappears at the end. Each point-of-view character obviously comes with their own case of side characters. It was … a lot. I’m not against large ensemble casts, but each of them needs to be unique and memorable for me to be able to tell them apart, and that just didn’t happen here.

- This book suffered from trying to do too many things all at once, in my opinion. This book was ambitious, and I have to say that I don’t think it fully pulled it off. It tried to do a lot, and I enjoyed most of it, but I kept getting lost in places, and I think it was because it just wasn’t as cohesive as it could have been. Remember, there are five points of view, and since these are rounded characters, they’re each facing more than just the immediate Butcher problems. Which means each of the five characters have other subplots going on. This is one of those cases of Jack of all trades, master of none. Some of these are powerful, important topics, but adding all of them diluted the ability to really delve into any one of them.

- I have soooo many freaking questions still. I don’t even know where to start. This goes back to the fact that this doesn’t work as a standalone. But more than that, the plot was so convoluted and ambitious that I’m not sure it fully made the connections it intended to. There’s a lot of foreshadowing in this book, which I loved, but it left a lot of things hanging, at the same time, that were just hinted at and not explained. This may not bother some people, but I really wanted an explanation, darn it. I don’t need things spelled out, but I don’t want this many loose threads blowing in the wind still.
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'Witches of Ash & Ruin' is a thrilling new young adult fantasy full of magic, witches, and Celtic mythology. I've had this book on my wishlist for months now, waiting until it finally released so I could get my hands on it. It's one of my most anticipated titles for this year and I will admit that I had really high hopes going into reading it. The description sounded amazing - modern witchcraft intertwined with ancient Celtic mythology and it's a mystery/thriller with murder? It sounded almost too good to be true and I really hoped I wouldn't be disappointed when I finally had the chance to read it. I can now happily say that this surprised me in a lot of ways - great ones. It was actually better than I had hoped and anticipated, which doesn't happen very often. I can honestly say that it's going to be one of my favorite books of the year. Maybe an all-time favorite.

There's so much happening in this story. A small Irish town with a hardcore church and reverend, practicing witches, Celtic mythology, murder, mystery, and diverse characters - some LGBTQ and one that even has mental health issues. That's just a super brief overview of some of the things you'll find throughout this story. I don't do spoilers in my reviews so I can't really talk much more about the plot without giving anything away on accident. I'll just say that I was immediately sucked into this world and I absolutely loved every single second of it. I completely lost myself in the pages of this book and didn't want it to end. It's one of those rare books that you love so much that you will rant on and on about it just to attempt to get someone to understand why it's so amazing and why you love it so much. I'm really trying not to do that now and I apologize if it happens a little bit.

There are multiple main characters in the story - five to be exact. We have quite an assortment between the group and there's definitely at least one character that any reader will connect with. I connected with several of them, which only made me love them and the story all the more. Each of the characters is incredibly complex and realistic. They all have strengths and weaknesses, flaws and faults, and distinct personalities that made them come alive. As I mentioned earlier, there are a couple LGBTQ characters and the story doesn't shy away from that topic. Also, one of the characters has mental health problems - mainly OCD and anxiety - and that topic is talked about too. I love that the author didn't shy away from these aspects of the story and that they're written about in a very realistic way. I personally suffer from several anxiety disorders, which made it super easy for me to connect with Dayna (the character with mental health issues). The way the author describes her panic attacks, her thinking before and during an attack, and just the way that she deals and lives with it really struck me. It was spot on, which is hard to find in books that deal with these issues. I don't know about the LGBTQ aspect personally, but I thought it was written about in the same realistic and personal way. Anyways - the characters were all very realistic and I absolutely loved getting to know each of them throughout the book. The secondary characters were well rounded too and realistic, which I don't find very often - especially with books containing multiple narrators.

Lastly, I have to talk about the writing style. I personally love the first person point of view and believe that almost every book should be written this way. The author wrote this story in the third person POV from five different perspectives. I completely understand why this was done - confusion because of all the main characters, etc. But the thing that really got me was that I didn't mind it at all. Normally a book written in the third person gets a lower rating because of how much I don't like the style. With this book, I was so wrapped up in the story, the various awesome aspects, and the characters - that I didn't even care what style it was done in. I got invested in the characters and the entire story that I lost track of everything. It has to take some really amazing writing to make me forget about things that are usually important to my reading experience. I'm trying not to ramble but I can feel it happening anyway. In conclusion: this book is amazing. Every single thing about it is epic and fantastically done. If any of these genres or topics interest you then you need to read a copy of this book. Now.
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I loved this book so much. This is one of those books where I knew within the first 15 pages it was a new favorite. I loved the writing, the way different perspectives were used, the world building, the complex character relationships, the mythology. All of it. So good.
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I really tried with this one, but sometimes, you just have to admit that a book isn't for you and throw in the towel. I made it about one-third in, but there were just too many narrators and the narrative felt really choppy and didn't grab me at all. A book about teen witches set in Ireland sounded right up my alley, but the setting felt kind of bland and like it could have been anywhere. But this is a very personal opinion, and your mileage may vary.
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I am in love with everything about this book! This is grown-up Charmed* with a murder mystery to die for.

We follow Dayna and several other characters (this is multiple POV) in a small, conservative Irish town. Add in a world of witches, black magic and death we have one of my favourite books of the year so far. I love anything to do with witches, and this book absolutely 100% satiated my cravings. The plot continued to drive forward; it never halted, so it was never, ever dull. I continued to flip page after page as if it was my own personal book of shadows. This book might actually be my book of shadows.

Characters are so three-dimensional that even with this fantasy world of witches, it felt insanely real. Real issues that made me relate, so I appreciated the representations of many of the characters. It wouldn't have worked if it wasn't so beautifully written. Extremely strong prose AND real characters AND fantasy world. Yep, I didn't think we could have it all, but this has made a believer out of me.

If I could cast a spell and get you all to buy this book and read it, then I'm casting it right now with some blood magic and a full moon. You'll thank me later.

*If Charmed included more diverse characters, that is. It's not 'really' like Charmed besides witches. And yes, I'm talking about the OG Charmed, not the fake that's currently on The CW.
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This is original in a world full of teen witch stories. I enjoyed the story telling style most. It is so unusual and took me a journey! I can't wait to share this with my students!
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This book sounded like a great mashup of Sabrina, Discovery of witches and shades of magic. But it felt like exactly that. The main character was a little annoying and overly self involved. It was jumping povs a lot, which personally I was not enjoying for this book. I was not able to completely finish this book. Some people may love it but it was not for me.
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I enjoyed the story. The narrative was well done. The characters were well written. It hit all the points for a great story. My attention was maintained the entire time. I LOVED it.
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Witches and LGBTQ characters sign me up!

I loved this book. I loved the representation. If I had any complaint it is that there were too many viewpoints. One of the viewpoints completely fell off the face of the earth by the end of the story. However I will still recommend this book to YA readers.

Thank you to Netgalley for an earc of this book in exchange for an honest opinion.
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Updated :

Say it with me... Queer 👏 Witches 👏 Mix that with Celtic mythology and my friends, we have a winner! @elatimerwrites has done what I’ve been begging for, for a long time. There was no dramatic coming out story (which don’t get me wrong, is great but has its time and place), there was no teenage drama that makes you cringe. Instead it was full of queerness, angst, and even tackles mental disorders! I applaud her so much and highly encourage you to pick this book up. (The audio is just as great if that’s your thing!)

Witches of ash and ruin is one of the best books I’ve read in 2020. From queer characters to witches; witch hunters to some gnarly rituals, this book is everything I needed and more. 

I’m even though it’s YA there was not an abundance of teenage drama which makes this book incredible! I loved the main character and her potential love interest. Enemies to lovers is always a favorite trope. 

Easy to read and will have you begging for more.
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Witches of Ash and Ruin, by E. Latimer: I enjoyed reading this book overall. Dayna Walsh is a compelling main character, and I found the exploration of somatic OCD to be well-done. It's an important thing to bring to light and I'm glad it was handled with sensitivity.
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This is a bewitching story, and I’m in love with all the characters. I love the way it was written, and getting inside different point of views...Bonus points for bisexual MC’s and showing mental illness.
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Everyone get ready because I’m going to be throwing this book left and right at everyone!! Witches of Ash and Ruin was honestly everything that I wanted in a book about witches and ancient celtic mythology. No one tell American horror story : Coven but…this book gave me e v e r y t h i n g I’ve ever wanted in a story about a coven of witches. It was also the perfect mixture of murder mystery and spookiness!

I want to first talk about the overall spookiness level of this book – it was um how do you say, spooktacular! If you want a spooky October read this year absolutely add this to your TBR. Between The Butchers murders and the witchcraft/dark magic this book had the hairs on my arms standing a couple times. There was even one scene that had me looking over my shoulder while I was reading alone at night! I haven’t read anything that creeped me out in a very long time (or ever? I can’t remember) so for fans of mystery and spookiness I absolutely recommend this book! If it wasn’t for the current state of the world this would have been such a fast read for me regardless of how long this book actually is to be honest with you.

The characters!!!!!! Gosh I love them all so much…even Cora and The King Witch. The characters in this story are all refreshing and complexly their own person. Dayna my little sunflower witch she deserves so much *insert crying emoji* Meiner effing King…Where do I start with her?! what a freaking badass!! Daynas bestfriend Reagan- everyone needs a best friend like Reagan! I love that she was so -on her side- I’ve read so many books where the best friend is usually an annoying problem (which I absolutely hate that cause I would be nothing without my best friend) Cora Cora Cora all im going to say is – now thats a complex character. Bronagh, Yemi, Faye, Brenna – I love the family bond between all of them and regardless of being background characters they didn’t feel pushed to the side. Harriet mcfreaking King…wow what do I even say about her without giving too much away?! I love the notorious King Witch! All I’m going to say is she gives me the creeps and I love her. Then theres Sam who honestly I have no idea where his life is headed but I really hope he supports Dayna in her future endeavors or we’re gonna fight. and I can’t forget Daynas parents – The reverend and Fiona. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the revered but I know his whole ~church camp~ thing freaks me out it reminds me of those crazy church cult stories its hella freaky and Fiona is one of those people that I would not want to be alone in a house with she would probably silently stand behind me in the kitchen and give me a heart attack one I turn around. I really feel like the author took her time with these characters to make sure the reader could feel out each personality and really add depth to the story.

The Butcher – This is the horrible witch killing villain i’ve been waiting for. I felt like his chapters really added that ‘horror’ factor to this book. I don’t want to give away much but just know as a villain he’s cold, ruthless and terrifying!

Despite this book having about 75 chapters I really felt like it was well put together and the pace of this book was not slow for a second! 75 chapters of pure genius honestly. I didn’t have any issues with the writing style and I actually really liked the way it was done and how there was more than one point of view. (Meiner was probably my favorite just saying) This was a really fun read for me I had been looking for something mystery/horror related and the fact that witches were involved was just a plus! I’m finding it so difficult to express my love for this book without giving to much away so I’m just gonna tell you to pleaseeee read it!! my rating for this book is 4.5 out of 5 stars and it definitely left me wanting more! (book 2 please and thanks)
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*4.5/5 stars

My god, this book. I knew I was going to like it - it was one of my most anticipated releases of the year - but MY GOD.

So, straight off the bat we have Irish witchy vibes, following multiple characters of the LGBTQ+ community (bisexual, lesbian), the main character living with OCD, and the angsty hate-to-love trope. Are you in yet? Because that's all I needed to know beforehand. And while that may sound like there's a lot going on, trust me when I say it works . 

Everything about this book just felt right. The witchy atmosphere was instantly believable, and one I fell into without a problem. If anything, I wanted more of it - just slightly more about the general small town community she lived in and its affect on her life. The severity of her secrets being revealed in this conservative town didn't quite reach the mark for me, though with most of the book spent in a separate area almost away from the town, it's easy to see why this might've happened. Still, I was drawn into this book entirely. It especially helped that the relations between characters were just so interesting, ranging from friendly banter and sarcasm, to angsty glares and protective covens. Without question, I wholeheartedly believed these characters were exactly as described, and couldn't help falling into their story.

And what a story it was. Magic and murder mystery? I'm sold. I adored the Celtic mythology ties to this whole gritty murder plot. I'll say right now, it's dark. It's bloody, there's mutilation involved, rituals and sacrifices and everything. But my god is it written well for that dark tone. There were moments where I felt genuine chills run down my spine, reading scenes that sounded like something from a horror movie. It's been a long time since a book pulled that reaction from me, let me tell you. But equally so, there's enough lightness and soft, family/friend scenes to pull the book out of being downright horrific, and it's that balance that toyed with my emotions and made me love the book. 

I feel like not enough people are talking about this, despite it being what so many people are looking for. So if you're reading this and like the sound of Celtic mythology, Irish witches, angsty relationships with the added sprinkling of bisexual and OCD rep, all I can say is READ THIS BOOK!

TW: self harm, OCD, panic attacks
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Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Book Group/Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for the advanced review copy.

Can we talk about how long I have been trying to finish this book? All I have wanted to do in recent weeks is stay home and get lost in this witchy world. Unfortunately, I’ve only really had time for audiobooks while working lately, but I am happy to report, with a couple of extra hours to read before work this morning, I have finished the book and am ready to share it’s awesomeness with you.

Seventeen year-old Dayna Walsh has OCD. Her father’s an overbearing preacher. Her unstable mother has been away at “camp” for as long as she can remember. Oh yeah, and she’s a bisexual witch dealing with homophobia in a small, religious town. Luckily, her coven serves as her chosen family, and she’ll ascend soon, which means she’ll be a fully-fledged member of the coven. Just when things are starting to look up, witches start getting murdered close to home, and a nearby coven, rumored to dabble in black magic, shows up to join forces and fight the evil force. Complicating things even more is Dayna’s growing attraction to Meiner King, granddaughter of the woman who left Dayna’s coven years ago when she was suspected of black magic. They’ll have to join forces to find the killer and set things right.

Despite my inability to finish it quickly, this book does move pretty rapidly. The constant POV change makes the chapters shorter, and left me wanting to read just one more. The mystery surrounding the murders is deeper than just a “who dunnit,” and I really enjoyed the budding romance between Dayna and Meiner. It wasn’t the center of the story, but it provided a nice subplot and further developed the relationships between the members of the two covens. I am 100% always here for queer witches.

I definitely recommend this one for your YA tbr. I enjoyed reading it during the winter, but it would also be a welcome addition for Halloweenish reading. It’s not super scary, but the magic elements, especially the black magic ones and the mystery of the murders is the perfect setting for a fire place, some spooky lighting, and some hot tea with blankets. It’s out now, so definitely look it up at your favorite, local bookstore or library.
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