Six Wonderfully Witchy Stories to Charm You
Do you love witchy books like I do?
I love a good witch-focused book, and I've been wanting to put together a Greedy Reading List on this theme for a while, but ultimately I was too greedy even for myself and I couldn't decide which titles to include. It was paralyzing.
I also have a handful of witchy books here waiting to be read (specifically A Witch in Time, The Witch's Heart, and the upcoming Hour of the Witch and The Nature of Witches), not to mention other witchy books I've been meaning to read like Akata Witch, The Age of Witches, and The Black Witch.
I thought some of these to-reads might end up on this list, but I can't wait around forever while I manage my own unwieldy book stack. ("Know thyself" and all of that.) But meanwhile just look at these covers!
Anyway, all of this brings us to this list! Here are six varied books about witches, some I might call modern witchy classics (Wicked and Circe) and some that I seem to keep mentioning on this site (The Winter of the Witch, anyone?). I didn't include some obvious options like the Harry Potter series or Roald Dahl's The Witches, nor did I include the oldie but goodie I was entranced by when I was young as my first witchy read, The Witch of Blackbird Pond.
What are the witchy books you would include as favorites? Interesting newer witchy tales or classics you love?
01 The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
In The Once and Future Witches, Harrow writes about three bitter and broken sisters who learned powerful ways and words at the knee of their witchy grandmother Mags, then were separated by tragedy. These days there's no more witching and no more will for spells and change in the world. Or so most people believe.
When the long-lost sisters do unexpectedly cross each other's paths again at last, the world's seams split, offering a glimpse into another land, a buffeting wind, and a burst of terrible power.
I adored how Harrow intermingled the women's suffrage movement with the reemergence of witching and women's efforts to reclaim power in matters large and small.
While at a few points I felt like the dramatic situations or dialogue distracted me from what felt like the heart of the story (the Eastwoods' helping women advance their everyday struggles to gain more control over their lives), I was willing to suspend my disbelief in order to dive into the witchy wonder here.
For my full review of this book, please see The Once and Future Witches.
02 The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
This is the third and final book in Katherine Arden's strong, fanciful, and often wonderfully dark Winternight trilogy.
The Winter of the Witch is set in fourteenth century Russia, complete with rich folklore, conflicts between those who follow the old gods and those who follow the new, and Vasya's gloriously persistent bravery, which she displays even when anyone with any sense would be tempted to give up altogether.
The weight of the world is on Vasya's shoulders in this book as she attempts to survive while saving the magical Morozko, her beloved horse, and Russia itself.
Katherine Arden finishes out the trilogy in typical mesmerizing fashion, with her usual masterful balance of magic, religion, love, passion, family duty, adventure, and search for meaning—and all with a main protagonist who’s your basic badass young Russian witch finding herself and Handling It all over the damn empire.
I listened to the audiobook, narrated perfectly by Kathleen Gati.
03 Wicked by Gregory Maguire
In case you missed this multimillion-copy bestselling book (or the Tony award-winning Broadway musical based upon it, or the fantastic soundtrack to that musical, or the twenty-five-year anniversary of the book's publication)--well, maybe you should take a look-see at this one. Or maybe it's time to read this modern witchy classic again.
I delighted in reading the Wicked Witch of the West story turned on its head as Maguire traced the origins of Elphaba, a strong-willed, green-skinned young girl; explored the social pressures of Munchkinland; offered a complex back story for the traditional villain character from The Wizard of Oz; and poked holes in the beatific reputation of Glinda the Good Witch.
Characters and situations here aren't black-and-white. Maguire shatters the reader's preconceived notions while crafting a richly imagined world--one which goes beyond L. Frank Baum's details from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and emerges as a multilayered and often unexpected creation all its own. I loved that Maguire was able to shift readers' feelings about characters we've long thought we've known and loved--or believed we despised--toward considering more complicated and interesting possibilities.
04 Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin
Serpent & Dove is Shelby Mahurin's first book in the young adult trilogy of the same name. Louise is a thief who keeps the company of prostitutes and lawbreakers. She's a witch who has sworn off magic; she fled her powerful mother and coven, but they didn't want to let her go. Reid is a straitlaced young man for whom things are black-and-white, clearly right and wrong. He doesn't break rules, and in fact he works for the Church as a Chasseur, hunting down witches for destruction.
Things quickly get complicated, and there's a twist: circumstances demand that instinctual nemeses and diametrically opposed characters Lou and Reid...get married. It's a love that must not be--yet they must bind themselves together! From enemies to husband and wife, and major secrets persist--the drama is great.
Meanwhile, all is not what it seems. There are instances of trickery related to lineage and other similar surprises. Whenever characters believe other people are unequivocally good or evil, just know: they're about to get their heads wrecked.
Serpent & Dove was soooo unabashedly dramatic and angsty, and I was smiling at all of it in delight. I listened to this as an audiobook.
For my full review of this book, see Serpent & Dove.
05 A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
This book--! (Have you watched the TV show based on the books? I am all in for the angsty drama and for Matthew Goode in this role.)
So I'll admit that when I began reading this book, I found myself stifling some giggles and texting my friend Leah who'd just read it to discuss bits of dialogue or minor plot moments. There is a lot more sexy yoga here than I could have dreamed of, plenty of romance, so very much wine appreciation, and copious older-man-guides-the-young-ingenue scenes.
But once I settled in, I gleefully tore through what felt like a mix of the detail and romance of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books and the angst, emotions, and forbidden love of the Twilight series. I could've done with even more more more magic and witchiness.
I think the second book in the All Souls series (Shadow of Night) is even stronger, as it delves more deeply into magical processes and digs into significantly more detail.
There are four books in this series from Harkness, and I found the others even more magical than this first installment.
06 Circe by Madeline Miller
To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.
Circe, daughter of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, is an odd child. She's not striking and in fact, she's seemingly without power. But she grows into her glorious witchy wonder, and her abilities to transform her foes are revealed--along with her dangerous potential to threaten the gods.
When Zeus, fearful of what she might be capable of, banishes her to a deserted island, Circe perfects her witchy powers, tames beasts, considers the world and her place in it, simmers and plans, and entertains well-known figures from mythology, including Icarus, the Minotaur, Medea, and Odysseus.
We are sorry, we are sorry.
Sorry you were caught, I said. Sorry that you thought I was weak, but you were wrong.
Circe is a wonderfully faulted, curious, powerful witch. I was in for this book hook, line, and sinker.